He’d always believed—he’d believed for 50 years—but he’d never seen it. And now, here it was. The evidence. The proof. The miracle. The justification of his existence.
The dirt was upturned in huge streaks all across his field, as if a massive colony of snakes had decided to burrow to the surface en masse for hundreds of yards. But Jude, with a knowing, nodding smile, realized that mere ignorant reptiles didn’t do this. No. This was the work of The Blood of the Earth Come Live. The Ancient Heart of Bedrock. Orroman Gyr.
He’d always known, but here it was. Jude went down to his old knees.
His granddaughters, side-by-side with their mother, scanned the crops in awe. Melanie, 14, had heard more of her grandfather’s stories about Orroman Gyr than Violet, 7. She had concluded when she was 11 that the old man’s stories were something you just grew out of, like Santa. The more the rules of reality set in, the less likely Grandpa’s rambling tales of a giant stone serpent god became. In fact, Melanie had Googled the symptoms of dementia more than once by this point, convinced that Mom would have to soon bear the burden of caretaking the old farmer in his declining mental state. And now, suddenly, while the sun was rising on another weekend at Grandpa’s farm, here were some notes reality had hastily scribbled and handed her over the bowl of cereal that was getting soggy back at the kitchen table. By the way, kid, that serpent god thing? Real.
Mom looked like she was dealing with a storm of ambivalent emotions. Violet asked if she could play in the burrowed dirt.
“Oh, no,” Grandpa turned and said with tears in his crevassed wrinkles. “No, honey! This earth is sacred! We need to preserve it! We…we need to tell the others, and then we can all decide what to do from there…”
Jude glanced at his daughter. She was hugging herself with a pensive expression on her face. As he stood, her lips pressed thin and her shoulders shrugged.
“Should I leave?” she asked.
Her father appeared to give this some consideration before answering. “No. I want you here. He,” he said as he pointed back behind himself, “he wants you here.”
“Paul wouldn’t,” she quickly retorted.
“Why not, Mommy?” Violet inquired.
“Because your daddy had different ideas,” Rebecca found herself trying to explain to her little girl. She knew she was failing.
“What do you mean?” the girl followed up.
“She means your daddy was a fool,” Jude piped in, and Rebecca looked up at her father as if the back of his hand had just landed against her cheek. She snatched her children by their arms.
“We’re going home,” she hissed.
“What?” Melanie was bewildered. “Wait, I need to get my phone—“
“We’ll get our stuff, and we’ll leave,” Rebecca stated, turning around the pair with her. She started marching them toward the house across the field, then pushed them forward by their backs. “Go. I’ll be in in a second.”
Melanie looked pissed, Violet confused. They both turned from their mother toward the big white house on the other side of the gentle hill of wheat.
“Don’t move my grandchildren out of Reisman, Becca. If there is a conflict, they’ll be safer here,” Jude argued. Rebecca Perigard, just a hair shorter than her father, with dark curls blowing in a dry gust of wind and the slack her knee top-length aquarmarine dress pressed against her, approached the old man in a few quick, fierce strides.
“I’m the bloodfoster of Aggivaius Pinn. That will never change,” she said definitively. “My girls will go where I go. And I go where Aggivaius Pinn needs me.”
Rebecca walked away from her father. Jude spoke as he hung his head, more in remorse than anger, and his deep but somber voice reached her. It was nothing he’d concocted on his own—it was a recitation, one she’d heard countless times growing up being directed at those who ostensibly fell out of line with the workings of Orroman Gyr.
“Your bones will salt his veins.”
The woman twisted around to answer this with a saying that, once upon a time, she’d heard her deceased husband use with soul-stirring effect.
“When the pendulum swings to cut, the pendulum never stops.”