Yesterday, deep in the woods, I thought I had the trees to myself. Such was not the case, as familiar heavy footfalls disturbed the normally smooth silence of the forest. I knew who had come before I turned and saw his immense frame. Black, rough hair covered a wide, powerful body that dwarfed everything around it. Proportional naked feet flattened solid wood as easily as giving blooms.

Krostick Jem (1).

“Finally, I have found you. After many steps on many mountains, here I am. Do you have any idea how long I have been searching for you?” complained Jem in his customary, almost ritualistic way. He always complained about the journey he must take to find someone, yet on parting he always wishes it.

With a stride that covered two meters, Jem moved to a nearby log and lowered his mass onto it, too exhausted to notice the crushing death of his new couch. He exhaled slowly, a long sigh meant to cleanse the body of fatigue. His eyes were closed. I took my place at his size thirty feet, cross legged. I felt like a child, sitting in this fashion, yet truthfully, I had felt a child for a long time already. Krostick Jem was no surprise to me.

I recalled his last visit to me, when I was much younger and much smaller. A child, left by his mother and my own Krostick visiting another band of our people. I was left with only my father to care for me, a virtual stranger who I only knew from the times he delivered meat to my mother and took feathers from Krostick. Bored and lonely, Jem met me in the forest that time as well, greeting a child who gathered sweet berries for comfort.

Jem’s eye’s opened. He blinked several times and with a tiny nod addressed me.

“Here is young and small Ej of the band Meh before me, though he is not so young, nor so small. It has been many years since we met and I am glad of it, and may it be many more before we repeat it.” So far, all the words were nearly ritualistic, having been said in same fashion since dust became dust.

“But holy crap of a mammoth! I was nearly run over by a Mack truck crossing the highway over there.” he strayed from the script putting a hand over his black, hairy face at the memory. “What’s happened with the world? Every man rushes as though he would live but a shorter time than before! Those cars and planes and such! If they knew of me, or rather my shape, I would never rest for visiting so many!”

He peeked from his hand at me, remembering me, perhaps feeling what I felt.

“Nevermind about that. You are the last one. When you pass to the ancestors, I will be able to be forgotten and then I can have a vacation for once. Maybe I will get a cabin or something out here, it’s not too bad.” he started. Then he returned to the job at hand.

“Ej Meh, the trees, the bushes, and the grass ask for you. The earth and the trails that cover our mountains wonder at the lack of your feet. The sun and clouds also wonder. Fear not, I have told them you are well.

Ej Meh, the runners, the swimmers, the flyers all wonder why why you no longer hunt them. Why you no longer crave their flesh. Has he passed to the ancestors, they ask. Fear not, I have told them you are well.”

I felt sad. I missed them, the game of my world, the foods and sights of my former life, now thirty millennia removed. To think I will never see a Spear Bearer again! Jem continued.

“Ej Meh, many of those who go upon two feet look for you. The bands not of your nation, the heavy ones, those who also hunt but know naught of you or your footfalls. Whence has he gone, they ask. Fear not, I have told them you are well.

“Ej Meh, your nation weeps at your loss. Gone is the meat you brought to their homes when a kinsman of your cannot hunt. Gone are your stories and gone are your spearheads. They worry for you. Fear not, I have told them you are well.”

My own eyes were closed now. I did not want to hear what Krostick Jem would say next. I bowed my head.

“Ej Meh, your hunting partner and brother has lost you and knows you cannot be replaced. His heart is empty and sees you in the trails and tastes you in the meat of his prey. Worry not, little Ej, I have told him you are well.

“Ej Meh, your Blue Eyed Sparrow, sings no more for she has lost her husband, and I have seen her weep with much pain. I have visited her in her grief for the man she so loved is gone. Worry not, gentle Ej, I have told her you are well.

Tears wrenched themselves from my heart. I did not, really did not want to hear what Krostick Jem would say next.

“Ej Meh, there are three who miss you the most. Three little ones, strong sons who must grow without their Krostick, who must learn to hunt by their other kin. They have cried themselves to senselessness many times. They ask for you, but get no response. They are alone and I have visited them many, many times. Yet, brave Ej, worry not for I have told them you are well.”

Jem stood, his work done, his duty discharged. I remained where I was, weak with grief. I looked at me with sadness. He cradled my head a moment in a skull crushing hand, passing towards the forest again, to his next journey. He finished the ritual comfort as he blended with the green, his voice lingering in the air.

“Ej Meh, the trails you have left will forever connect you with those you have lost, but the trail stretches is both directions. You have new friends and new family before you and soon the two great worlds which you inhabit will touch through your traces and both will be richer for having known you. Fear or worry not, for I have told all that you are well.”

And Jem was gone.

1. A krostick is the maternal uncle in the kinship system of Ej’s people. The krostick acts as the equivalent of the father in our own system. Ej’s father would be closer to a distant uncle in our system. Thus, Ej is bored having to be babysat by his father and misses his mother and his krostick. Krostick Jem is an adopted krostick who belongs to all those who miss something or are lonely. In my interviews with Ej, I cannot tell if Jem is mythical to him, or somehow real. He seems to present him as literal in this article, yet Jem clearly fills several cultural functions that are not affected by time.