Stone. Earth. Fire. A length of twig draws careful circles in the dust. An ancient ritual begun.
Arms outstretched. Eyes closed tight. A torso, smeared with clay and mud, extends, yearning for something greater. Frozen, now, in perfect faith. Rigid. Stoic. Waiting.
The smoke carries familiar smells which sit sourly in the nose, creating headaches and visions. Spirals upward. Upward. To the treetops and beyond. Ambassador to the Great One, able to reach the heavens, beg for mercy.
Whispers the smoke: "Here I am. Here, I wait. A lowly creature bound to this land. Sentenced to find Your beauty here among the thorns and rocks and river currents. Here I am. Here, I wait."
The smoke summons the courage; tells the long history; fills the eyes with tears.
A sound from within. A low groaning; a pain of the heart. It grows, contorts, takes shape into a cry. Not for help or pain. A cry for knowledge. For reassurance. For answers.
The cry stops. The echoes trail away. Deep and deeper into the woods, progressively fainter, until at last . . . silence. Vast, infinite silence.
The world has stopped its turning. No movement in the trees. No answer from the sky. The crackle and spark of fire have ceased, leaving an immediacy, an intimacy . . . a ribbon of smoke. A golden silence.
The Great One is listening.