I was a golem, a hollow lump of clay. A figure with no features, save holes for eyes, crude stubs for arms and legs. I stood myself at the bottom of the river and looked upwards.
A thousand clay particles were suspended in the water above me, and shafts of sunlight pierced the murk and made them gleam. The silvery silhouettes of small fish darted above me, around me, in between the branches of the silent, sunken trees. This still, flooded portion of the river was where they came to lay their eggs, to let the fry shelter in the safety of the trees, as the birds did above them.
It had been flooded for several years now, ever since Muma Balaur had dammed the river, to starve the trees and keep Mother Forest from advancing northward any further. But there had recently been an upset. The water had drained, the river suddenly becoming swift again. Fish had flopped, gasping, in the drying trickles of their nursery. And innumerable creatures had emerged from within the forest to consume them.
Muma Balaur had dammed the river back up soon afterwards, so that the muddy plateau was flooded once more. The large fish came back to lay their eggs once more. All had returned to normal.
Normal, was it? Queer to think that this ‘normal’ had only begun so recently. The river flooding, that was. Things could change so quickly and yet seem like they had never changed at all.
The fry of a river pike, its small mouth gasping silently, swam straight across my field of vision. I tracked its progress as it slowly drifted downwards, towards my feet. There, stark against the dull river mud, were a series of protruding white bones.
The fish slipped between a gap in the broken ribcage, its round eyes wide and unblinking. For the hundredth time, I let my eyes trace the shape of the skeleton, which had been exposed by the recent disturbance. So small. Not child-sized, but not fully grown. Regrettable.
What was more regrettable was that no-one was coming down to see it. I had been waiting for quite some time, patiently, in the cold water: preparing my trap. It had seemed utterly predictable that she would come to seek the bones. The desires of a dybbuk were quite powerful. I knew that well.
But not, it seemed, powerful enough to sway this young golem.
In the murky gloom underneath the river, I let my cold clay lips form a smile. Was it wrong to be pleased that such a creation had been birthed by my own hands? She grew so quickly, in leaps and bounds, by my reckon: and she had been made by a creature without a soul. If only I could watch her grow, guide her…
Alas, I had no choice but to destroy her.
The little fish that had congregated near my feet scattered in a burst of silver as I began to walk along the river bottom. Silt clouded the water, and I incorporated it into myself, reforming the shape I wore on the surface world: a tall woman, with long hair, soft eyes, slender hands…
(Adamina. Adamina had been her name. A Rabbi’s wife, quick to smile, slow to anger, slower still to forgive. But he had loved that in her- at least he told her so.)
I stepped on a rotted branch, and it burst into a dozen fragments, whirling within the sun-dappled murk. The river bottom was sloping upwards, and now I drew from the different minerals within the earth to give my disguise color: black for her hair, grey for her eyes, red for her lips. All of it was there. Indeed, from dust they came, too- the human beings.
(Her spirit had clattered within me, those first few years- clattered and shouted and lamented her own death- I had not known what she was, what I was, why I was. Only that the world I had come into was filled with terror.)
The finest details, the individual strands of hair: they could all come from clay, with a patient enough sculptor. Even clothes that moved with the appearance of real fabric, down to the woven fibers. Would anyone look so closely? No, but I had a certain amount of pride in my appearance. It had served me well for a very long time. It had served Mother Forest well, too.
(The Rabbi made me to protect the last remnants of his congregation, battered and bloody, covered in wounds, hiding within the synagogue. He awakened me in the doorway and commanded me to stop the men with swords from getting in. Oh, I stopped them. I stopped them forever. When I was finished, the Rabbi reached towards my forehead to destroy me. A wise man. He knew the tales. But he did not expect me to turn around and speak to him with the voice of his newly-deceased wife…
Ai, it is a peculiar thing, the tendency of a vengeful Jewish ghost- a dybbuk- to seek out golems- wander too close to their remains, and we may become posessed. Perhaps they think we will protect them, as we did in life. But the dead need no protection.
No, Adamina, though you took command of my shell as though it were your own, and bade your husband to stay his hand, I got the last laugh. He loved a dead woman in a clay shell, and he never noticed your spirit fading away over the years, scattering to the winds like a dandelion puff, the fragile thing you were. He knew not the difference between us. If he had, he would have destroyed me when you were gone, dear one…
I know where his bones are, too, all twisted up in tree roots.)
Up I walked, up and up, and where the river bottom became too steep, I climbed, thrusting my fingers into the pliant mud. I never tired, nor found myself wanting for strength. It is the terror of the golem. It eats nothing, sleeps naught, never stops but for the word of its master. And if the golem has no master- well, it presents a problem, does it not?
Most golems possess the most rudimentary intelligence- infantile, grasping, but most importantly, voiceless. Perhaps their minds could grow and expand if given enough time, like little children. But one does not want an intelligent golem, the same as one does not want an intelligent spade or wagon wheel. Or an intelligent sword.
When I had crafted the young golem, I had not realized that I did so over the spot where a Jew’s bones lay buried in the mud. I had been careful enough, or so I thought, making it so far from the village; I did not check the spot further. How could I have known? The moment she first called out to me, in her sweet, sad voice, I knew that she was doomed.
How peculiar, the tug of that word in my hollow chest. A clay creature, a non-entity, a mistake, truly: she had called me Mother. That is why golems should not get voices. I could not destroy her just then.
At least she could be useful for a time- so I thought, and I hid her from Mother Forest, gave her simple tasks. If the dybbuk ever revealed itself, Noroc would notice- I had no illusions about just where the ghost had come from. If it did, I resolved that that would be the moment I terminated the young golem. But she never let the ghost take control. No, all I saw was her gentle, innocent self; not her soul, for golems had none, but whatever it is that fills up the hollow space within our chests. It was a cruel irony that she was the one the strigoi had happened to steal.
Who had told her? The Blajini? It was impossible to root out the worst of them from the forest; like the rats whose heads they took, they were canny little survivors. It had to have been them that let word slip out that the witch in this forest made golems for servants. I had thought Noroc’s presence would stop them from spying on me, but clearly, he was not intimidating enough…
Ah, Noroc. It was too bad that he had escaped. Even filled with hatred as he was, he ought to have realized that Mother Forest was offering him a kind of immortality as her servant. He was free now, but not for long. I had seen the thing that still tied him to this earth. You do not have much longer, cat. Time moves quickly, tick, tick, tick.
I smiled again. Time never moved quickly for me.
Out of the river I came, shedding water in trickles, squeezing it out of my clay. My disguise was perfectly back in place, so that anyone who had seen me stepping from the water would only have seen a mysterious woman, not a clay automaton. It was not the will of my mistress, but my own personal preference. Perhaps vanity.
The muddy meadow lay open and quiet before me, the feathergrass waving in the morning sunlight. Big, messy tracks showed me where the young golem had walked away. There were none left from her mysterious companion, the dark figure I had seen swimming through my river. I did not know what he was, but I suspected strongly that he would interfere if I tried to dismantle the golem. Best not to suffer another mishap like the one with the strigoi. Oh, that strigoi- why had she not finished this unpleasant business for me?
I mulled over this, peering down at the tracks at my feet- big enough to lay my head inside- when something dark hissed beside my shoulder.
I looked up, jumped back- but somehow, it was swifter than I, and caught my arms in a freezing grasp, lighting up flickering green as it did so. For a moment the face was only a miasma of shifting nonsense, but then human features emerged: a young man, black of skin. He looked at me with great mistrust, and no matter how I tugged, I could not free myself from his grasp.
I knew the thumping noises were the footsteps of the golem, returning to the meadow. I felt a small surge of regret. I would rather not have had her seen my face. Well, in truth, I would rather not have had to face her when she knew of my ill intent. It would remind me of the Rabbi, when I had strangled him.
“I caught something, Kezia,” said the cold creature, twisting my arms behind my back. “I told you I felt like someone was watching us.”
With a rustle, the young golem emerged from between the trees, and I wanted to sigh at the sight of her. She had changed again, upon reclaiming her larger shell (how she had managed to separate herself from it I still was not certain of) and now bore yet more complexity from the last time I had seen her. But the changes were more subtle now… a shaping of joints, a curving round the chest and thighs as a mere suggestion of certain traits. Overall she still seemed decidedly golem-ish, that is to say, she still looked like a humanoid figure only clumsily sculpted out of clay. Surely by now she knew the extent to which she could reshape herself- so she chose to look this way. Interesting.
Her face, when she saw me, registered no expression, though I would have been surprised if it had. For a human being, expressions are effortless, and difficult to control. For a golem, they are a conscious act, and in true moments of emotion we often forget to model our exterior to match the interior.
That syllable hung between us like a fragile strand of spider-silk, but she cut it before the word was formed. Instead she said, “You.”
“You know this creature?” said my captor. “What is it?”
“It is another golem,” said the young one, her tone flat. Aha. So my suspicions had been correct: the strigoi had told her all. What a woeful failure that plan of mine had been, and when I thought I was being so neat and clever, too.
“Really? Are you sure?” The dark spirit squeezed my arms, testing them, but I gave my clay the malleability of flesh under his ethereal fingers. His brow furrowed, marring his otherwise lovely face.
The young golem said no more, merely gazed at me. Now, what thoughts were spinning through that hollow head? She would have changed in more than just exterior, and I had not spoken to her since the day she had gained free will. I could not predict her reaction. Perhaps she would seek revenge. She could try to find my silver letters and pull out the aleph. Not that it would concern me very much, her trying.
She had stopped herself from calling me her mother. So, that bond was severed. The first and likely only time somebody referred to me by that term.
(Well, unless that somebody yet again mistook me for Mother Forest.)
“If she is also a golem, she’s your kindred- isn’t she? Should I let her go?” The dark spirit’s voice sounded even more doubtful than before. It seemed that even he had picked up on the silent turmoil going on within the young golem. Gently I moved my arms very slightly in his grip, twitching my fingers- he did not seem to notice. From his touch, I thought I was beginning to get a sense of just what he was.
“No, do not let her go,” said the young golem. “She is Mother Forest’s servant. She will tell her we were here. We should get out of here now.”
“You want to bring her with us?” asked the spirit, the wrinkle in his brow growing deeper.
“No! Well… I do not want to set her free until we are out of this forest. I do not trust her.”
A certain trepidation came to her voice as she spoke the last, a tremor, and I felt slightly amused. She must still struggle to slough off that obesiance to me. Though her eyes were still hollow, I could feel her gaze searching me, looking for some kind of reaction. Perhaps it had not yet dawned on her that anything of the sort would not be involuntary on my part. Perhaps she had not yet really accepted the fact that I was a golem.
“So we drag her with us to the edge,” the spirit was saying, when I gave up my solidity and simply flowed down through his fingers. He gave a surprised yelp and grabbed at me, but I slid my sleek, muddy self along the ground like a trickling shadow and emerged again between him and the golem.
The spirit was still staring at his hands, and looked at me with a kind of angry awe; I suspected he was not used to being thwarted. The young golem had gone stiff.
“You are in no danger from Mother Forest,” I said, and as an afterthought added, “Child.”
“I am not your child,” the golem said at once.
“I created you,” I pointed out, “and I prefer child to servant.”
“I am not your child or your servant,” said the young golem, crossing her arms. The spirit’s eyes were darting between the two of us, his face slack.
“What brought on this rebellion?” I asked, as though I did not already know. “You left me, and now Noroc is gone as well, and I find myself alone.”
I put just enough emotion in my voice to have her freeze again. Ah, she was still so innocent. I could see her struggling to push past the guilt.
“You tried to destroy me,” she insisted. “And you have hurt Gabi very badly.”
“A mother may destroy her child,” I said, “if she becomes a danger to herself and others. You did not need to have free will.”
“I like my free will! Do you mean to say that you would not destroy me if I did not have it?”
“I certainly would not,” I said, though it was not really the truth. Only wishful thinking. “You do not realize what free will can do to a golem. And to those she cares for.”
She was hesitating, wavering. I knew it. I knew she had not lost the desire for Mother. A greedy sense of urgency spread through me; it was in poor taste, but I wanted to hear her call out to me once more by that word.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Kezia!” snapped the spirit, cutting through our mutual focus like a knife. “She is trying to trick you, I can tell! We should just run away now. I won’t let her hurt you.”
With a mistrustful look in my direction, his form seemed to dissolve, and he fell to the ground as a dark puddle, imitating my movement from earlier. He slid to the young golem’s side and popped up again, glaring.
“I- I know you are right,” said the golem, woe in her tone. But she did not want him to be right.
Ai, she was so soft and malleable still. I remembered when I was so young and gentle.
“You may leave if you wish,” I said. “I will not tell Mother Forest of your tresspass.” (I had hidden the young golem’s existence from her in the first place, but there was no need for them to know that.) “I will not chase you, either, for your companion is right- I cannot harm you when he is by your side.”
It was amusing to watch the dark spirit’s face contort, as he tried to puzzle out the meaning of my words, searching for the deception. They were all true, of course.
“Kazimir, I think that she is being honest,” said the golem, touching the spirit’s arm, and this pleased me all the more.
“But I would like to speak to you for a moment before you go,” I continued, shifting my expression into one of subtle worry. The spirit narrowed his eyes at once. The young golem clasped her hands together.
“Kezia,” warned the spirit. “Don’t.”
“It is only some advice,” I said. “Few will know you as well as I do, child.” (I could see the word strike her, good; let her realize that she was still my creation no matter what.) “We are, after all, two of a kind. Golems that can speak.”
“Other golems can not speak?” asked the young golem, and the spirit opened his mouth, frowned, and shut it again.
“No. We are a creation of mortal men, and mortal men cannot fashion new life from clay. We are supposed to be an imitation of that, a pale shadow, and thus, we are made mute. But you and I are able to speak due to our association with the dead.”
“Yes. Something that should not have been given to us, we stole.”
“No,” said the young golem, “I did not steal my voice. The one who had it could not use it anymore.”
“That does not make it yours,” I said, which seemed to strike her dumb. “No, child, we are both… unfortunate mistakes.”
“If you created me, that means I am your mistake,” she bit back.
I let myself smile. “Not entirely an unhappy mistake. But a worrisome one.”
That was the spirit, who was gazing over at me with a kind of grudging curiosity.
“You talk as though you think you’re less than a mortal, but I myself am not a mortal creature. And I would laugh to think that either Kezia or I could be bested by a human being.”
He spoke matter-of-factly, but his chest puffed out slightly nontheless.
“You are certainly correct,” I said, “but even you have your limitations; you can feel pain, for instance, and you grow weary from time to time. A golem has none of these restrictions. Pain and weakness are meaningless words to us.”
“There isn’t anything wrong with that!”
“Do you think so too, child?”
I addressed the golem with this, and she blinked her hollow eyes.
“I… do not think so. Except that I might get lonely when everyone else is sleeping.”
It was such a sad, wistful, familiar statement that I had to smile again.
“Such loneliness is the beginning of the end for us. Have you killed anyone yet, child?”
“What? No, I have not!”
She put one hand to her chest, the picture of polite horror.
“You will. Poor thing. And you will not care.”
“I would so care! I would never do such a thing!”
“That strigoi,” I said, “you care about her, do you not? You have stayed by her side for so long by your own free will.”
“I do not think that is any of your business,” said the golem. “I would not stay by your-”
“Are you frightened of her?” I asked.
Stunned silence. Then,
“If I am, then it is your fault! You forced her to- to try to kill me!”
“Not kill,” I said, “destroy. What is not alive cannot be killed.”
“It is very much the same to me!”
“If the strigoi knows how to destroy you,” I said, “then there is only one thing to do. You must destroy her first.”
The spirit gave a sudden growl, and I saw the golem, humanlike, clench her fists.
“I will never, ever, try to hurt Gabi.”
“After you destroy her,” I said, “you will come to destroy me, because I, too, have the knowledge that could end your existence. And when I am destroyed, you will seek Mother Forest-”
“Why do you speak as though you already know what I will do?” she burst out. “I have no reason to do any of those things!”
“Pitiable child,” I said. “You know nothing about what you are. About golems. But I warn you, if you do not let me have your will again, all this will come to pass. I know it.”
“She is trying to trick you,” hissed the spirit.
“I am trying to thwart tragedy. You know not what you are capable of, child.”
“I know that I trust Gabi. She will not try to hurt me!”
“It does not matter what she would or would not do by her own will,” I said. “You know that, do you not?”
“Kezia, let’s leave this place!”
“Him,” I said, pointing at the dark spirit, “him you will destroy as well, I think, when the time comes.”
“Kazimir, I would never!” cried the young golem, and the spirit put a hand on her shoulder.
“I know that. She’s trying to frighten us both; but it won’t work. Anyway, there is no way you could kill me!”
“Oh, that is right,” said the golem. “I would not even know where to start.”
“I could tell you,” I said. I had gotten the measure of him by now, from his touch, his features. “He has the look of a creature that thrives on light, so the method would be easy- all you must do is shut him in a place without-”
“Be quiet!” shouted the spirit, eyes flashing green. I chuckled.
“Are you frightened?”
“Not of Kezia!”
“Then let me tell her how you may be destroyed. Surely it will never come to mean anything. As I was saying, you must put him away somewhere that-”
“I said be QUIET!” roared the spirit.
“Kazimir, I would not hurt you!” urged the young golem.
“I KNOW!” he shouted, but he was flickering green all over, and his form was distorted, his facial features blurring in his agitation.
“Perhaps your companion knows more about golems than he tells you, child,” I said. “About why we should never gain free will.”
“It is frightening to think of, in truth. Such a creature, so unstoppable: no pain, no fear. At every given moment, your existence rests within her hands.”
“As your existence rests within mine!” cried the spirit, and ignoring the golem’s frantic cry of “Kazimir!” lunged at me.
I was quite ready for him now, and honestly quite pleased that my assesment of his weakness (which had been the barest of guesses) seemed to have turned out to be the truth. I made no motion to move out of the way, and so when his curled fingers caught my face the blow was strong enough to dislodge my entire head and send it flying somewhere out towards the trees.
I stood there a moment, headless. The spirit stumbled back, his eyes quite wide, and the young golem covered her mouth with her hands.
The spirit began to stammer, looking quite fearfully between the two of us.
“I- I didn’t know she wouldn’t-”
I cut him off. A wave of mud rose from the riverbank and crested over him, wrapping ’round his slender form like a cast.
“Kazimir!” shouted the golem, and she grasped him and tore away at the mud before it could cover him completely (she must have guessed his true weakness as well) and he burst out of it with a gasp.
In the meantime, I reshaped my head, patting my cheeks into place. The golem clutched at the fainting spirit, who was panting heavily.
“Are you all right?”
He pushed away from her, staggering, and managed to get his feet back underneath him. He shot a furious look at me before replying.
“Let’s get out of here already, Kezia!”
“But I do not understand what just happened! Mo-” She looked at me and seemed to start (how human of her), apparently only now noticing that I had got my head back.
“You do not understand what I did?” I asked, tapping one foot upon the ground. “But you should. As you should understand how fragile all others are.”
The spirit made as if to move, whether to flee or to do more violence I could not tell, but the young golem caught him by the arm and arrested his motion. He looked at her for a moment, his arm trembling as though it chafed, but then visibly calmed himself.
“Even if everyone is more fragile than I am,” said the golem, “it does not mean that I will hurt them. You talk as though it is going to happen no matter what, but I do not think that is true. Why do you?”
“I am what you are,” I said. “I know what is true. As I am an abomination unto God, so are you, and like anything that was not meant to exist, we shall unravel over time, fall to pieces, cause suffering in our wake…”
“Stop!” cried the golem, and I stopped talking, only to realize that she had meant the walls of earth slowly creeping up around her and the spirit. I relaxed them, and they crumbled apart. The spirit jerked up and shoved himself away from the young golem.
“I understand,” he said, his eyes darting around the muddy meadow, “I understand, all this- this mud here, this earth- it’s- it’s a part of her body!”
“That is impossible,” said the young golem, but slowly, and she looked at me.
I looked back at her- understand now, child, what you could do- and I lifted part of myself below the waving feathergrass, so that it roiled and rippled like a living green carpet underneath their feet. The spirit cried out and leapt up into the air, and the golem spread her legs to steady herself.
“Impossible!” she said again, though now with a hint of awe.
“No,” I replied. “All that you are is earth, child. The ground we walk on may well be our own flesh, if we allow ourselves to become connected to it.”
Age and experience played a rather large role as well, and the skill of the one who had cast those silver letters in the first place, but I did not mention that. I was aiming to impress at the moment.
The spirit, meanwhile, was climbing a tree, his bare feet scraping and slipping on the branches. I felt for the roots of the tree, coiled underground thick and strong, spanning a distance greater than the bough itself, and considered toppling it all over. But Mother Forest would be displeased to find that I had turned over one of her trees for mere sport.
The golem pressed one of her feet to the earth, staring with her frowning mouth gaping, then raised it and pressed it again.
“Give me your hand,” I said, and stepped forward, towards her, extending an arm. “I will show you what to do.”
She looked up at me, and raised her own arm slightly, and then suddenly stumbled back, shaking her head from side to side.
“No! I do not trust you, and I do not need to learn anything more from you. I am leaving this place to find Gabi again, and I will not come back if I can help it.”
I lowered my arm, slowly.
“Then I am afraid that I will have to continue trying to destroy you.”
“It does not matter to me what you do,” said the golem, placing one hand on her chest. “You are not my mother. A mother would not say that to her child. You are- you are wicked.”
I kept lowering my arm, and lowered it slightly too far, so that for a moment it stretched and drooped below my kneecap. Hastily I pulled it back up, but I did not understand her words. Wicked? By what logic? I had only told her the truth.
And I was her mother. Her creator. Would a mother say that to her child? Yes, because I was her mother and I had said it to her.
Wicked- I had not done anything wicked. It was baffling. I did not even want to destroy her. Perhaps if I had my own free will I would not do it.
Rapidly I quashed that last sentiment- free will, free will, I would have no free will. I would want for no free will.
No golem should have free will.
“Kazimir, come down from there,” the golem urged, reaching up towards the dark spirit in the branches, as though he were a treed cat. “I promise that we are going now. I am sorry.”
The spirit looked at me, and hesitated: I saw a little flash of fear in his eyes. A powerful thing, gone so long without vulnerability of that kind. It had rocked him. And I knew that he would no longer look at the young golem in quite the same way.
As I told her, it would all unravel.
But for the moment he grudgingly put his hand in hers, and let her lift him carefully out of the tree. He put his feet to the earth with a grimace, still clasping her clay hand tightly.
The young golem turned away from me, and I felt a brush of some sort of wistful feeling, the like of which I had not felt in a very long time. If only I could reach through her body and make her part of myself again. But she had gotten far less malleable in our time apart, and doing such a thing might make me lose myself instead. Such was the trouble with pitting golem against golem.
Perhaps Mother Forest would rather I subsume her anyhow, regardless to the risk of my own consciousness, for it would mean that she would lose her free will. But Mother Forest still slept, thankfully for my own existence. I had felt her stir, far away, when I had rolled the feathergrass in the muddy meadow- too flashy of a manuever, in retrospect. I stood still, ignoring the retreating pair, and felt carefully through the ground, groping my way along- roots, twisted, tangling roots, and in between them the burrows of small creatures, some occupied, with warm little breaths, and more roots, and more, and carcasses that were slowly disentegrating and changing from flesh back into what I was once more- deer and wolves and ravens alike- I extended my reach as far as it would go.
For the dark spirit had not been wrong, to think that I could make portions of the muddy meadow a part of myself, but at the same time he had been too limited in his scope: I was not merely the meadow. I was the floor of the forest itself. At the edge of every boundary line was also the edge of myself, and I had grown with the forest, churning the earth and keeping it fertile for the Mother, who loved my talents, weeding out the trees that took too greedily, feeding her white, blood-starved children with animals I crushed to death in their burrows. I was her ever-devoted slave, bound by the silver letters tangled deep within the earth, deep within the roots of the tree that stood in the very center of the forest.
And I felt there now, for my mistress herself: she still slept, but there was a restlessness to it. I twined my senses around the roots of the great tree and shifted it just so to soothe her. Not yet, Mother. Do not wake up just yet. It is not time to bloom. Summer’s end, summer’s end- it comes soon.
Like a child, her sleep calmed, and I withdrew, pulling back so that I could turn my attention towards the golem and the spirit, out of my sight, but not my touch: they walked upon my vast belly even now. And well, well, what was this- in another place, I could feel another figure entering my forest: a horse. Likely bearing a rider. They were moving towards the young golem and her companion. Perhaps it would be good to spy on them…
So thinking, I began to move, but then stopped: there was someone else, a third, just now stepping into the forest. How odd, how odd indeed.
As I was considering all of these developments, I felt the golem give me the slip: she had stepped beyond my range of touch, like a pebble dropping out of sight beneath dark water. A moment later her spirit companion vanished as well. I felt the horse and rider change their course to go after them.
Well: that was that. I could do no more with them for the moment. There were many other tasks I should attend to in any case…
So thinking, I still found that I could not help but be curious about that third figure, the one that was still walking deeper into the forest. It was moving slowly, terribly slowly. It moved like an old man.
Oh, I knew who it was.