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October 18, 2018

40. Flint’s Riddle

It’s best to have your history behind you and your future before you. Flint Morales believed that was his life. Here is Flint’s riddle.

* * *

At the feet of the southernmost Appalachian Mountains, in the foggy and misty morning, a green glow emanated from the dew off the sharp needles of the evergreens. A graininess imbued nostalgia in the magical and beautiful trees and mountains. The point of view panned across serenity.

Whitetail deer stared through trees with roving ears, taking slow and precise steps, making sure to make not a single noise. A rabbit scuttled along quietly and took no heed of its surroundings, confident of its current security. The bushes were quick with red cardinals and yellow finches. The light from the early afternoon sun speckled and painted the floor of the wooded mountains. It danced along the trees and branches overhead and dappled the fallen leaves. The air was brisk and almost visible with cool humidity.

Here surrounded by these mountains at Flint’s cabin, that he felt most serene. Ironic. It was also here that he found refuge during those years without them, when his memory could only recall them so that he continued to push them out again to fight their loss. The land never forgets and surely it has memory of all of this. Here, the cabin, was his first experience in solitude and now his home in congregation with nature, his primal family, his proxy family. Thoreau was kin, his likeness. A slow and meandering tune hummed along. Light leaks shown on the fringes as the reel pressed on. 

Flint had just hunted and killed a bear. Not for sport. The meat and fur would be invaluable and last through a biting and unforgiving winter. Flint cut out what he needed, skinned the animal and left the rest. On his walk back to his makeshift cabin he stopped for a handful of blackberries that stained his skin. What a strange episode with the bear, he thought to himself. And finding that thing in its belly—no wonder the bear was easy to manage.

A cool wind blew through the limbs and waved and moved along their branches and fingers. A beat skipped and the trees waved ahead of themselves. As film jumps, a frame was left out and blipped within Reality. Flint walked onward, pulling a cobbled sled with his belongings behind him. He looked downward, knowing this path from memory. But as he looked up there was a figure. A man stood in his way, cloaked. He dropped the cord to his sled of bear meat.

“Ezekiel Osbourne, you’ve found me, you old fool,” Flint said. Disappointment was saturated in his recognition of the man. A thick dark mustache sat atop a white, almost transparent beard of significant length. The contrast was unsettling.

“You remember me, Flint Morales? Of course you do. Let’s reminisce,” the cowled Ezekiel said. “We are philosophers and archaeologists, asking why and how and digging into ourselves to find the answers. We are digging our graves within ourselves. The price of truth is knowledge. And knowledge is a dangerous thing, Flint,” Ezekiel spoke quietly and slowly. The point of view saw Ezekiel from below, giving him a height and impression of power and dominion.

“Stop the charade, Ezekiel. I’m out of your cult. I walked away from your gang and your henchmen. You stole my life and I am rebuilding... here, away from you,” Flint spoke flat and calm. In the thick of the woods, the sun seemed to set prematurely and a redness filled the area.

A squealing white noise groaned and spun. Flint turned his back and left his sled and belongings. The Departed met him at the edge of trees. Three of them, their faces distorted and changed, shoulders bloated and ominous, each with clenched fists. His mind floated above himself and reason seemed unattainable.

A fury overcame him and he picked up a fist-sized rock and lunged it at one of the Departed. He pulled his skinning knife and deftly placed it in the neck of a second. 

“Rejoice! Flint! Disciple after mine own heart.” Bushes and foliage glowed florid behind Ezekiel. A certain ruddy hue followed his feet up to his habit.

The final Departed swung a bulky arm and missed anything. He pulled another punch upward and still missed. Flint kicked a leg out and made clean contact with the Departed’s knee, bringing it down in a howl.

“Flint don’t you remember... these are the Departed, not of this world, not of our flesh. They are not so easily swayed,” Ezekiel said. He had remained still up to now. A monument of potency and enigma. The other two were upright now, at ease and at the ready. The one pulled the knife from its neck and threw it down in the pine straw. Flint now knew only to run. And so he did. Music tensed and sharpened as he left what he knew, as he ran beyond the territory of his knowledge of the land.

“Give me your suffering. Let in the light, Flint,” Ezekiel called from behind him.

As night fell, a din of crickets swirled above and all around. Flint was perched in a tree, above a clearing. He had been here, statuesque and motionless for hours. From here he could see the red glow emanating from Ezekiel and the Departed. They were fanned equidistant in formation taking their high steps through crunching autumn leaves and brush.
“Suffering is not interference. Testing and purging is purification; cleansing our affliction; filtering the dross of life.” Ezekiel’s words were full of meaning but empty of value. Flint knew this. He also knew they were aware of his location. No act of hiding could truly shield him from their vision. They took their formation around the base of the tree.

Flint’s heart was racing. A swelling orchestra thrummed all around. Through a moment of clarity he realized his location. Only now. He had taken down the bear and cleaned it just beyond this very tree. It was dark now but it must be just beyond Ezekiel and the Departed.

“Ezekiel, I have a riddle for you, old friend. Tell me, what is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a bear?”

“I don’t have time for games, Flint. You know this. Come down and join me or the Departed will do their diligence.”
“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet,” Flint continued. He knew his next steps. The film skipped a little. He knew his role. He leapt from the tree, very near to Ezekiel, the least physically intimidating, and sprinted to the bear carcass. It was farther than he’d expected but approximate and correct. 
The Departed had pursued him up to this point and stopped. The bear was between them and Flint, who stood over the bear. They heaved in slow motion, their frames halved in speed while Flint moved quickly in contrast. His hand dove into the carcass of the freshly killed brown bear.

* * *

Hours earlier, in the charm and fragrance of the late morning, Flint had come across the bear. In silence he stood a generous distance behind the unwitting bear as it ate the sweetness of a bee’s hive. A swarm surrounded and trilled around the mass of the bear. Flint had not prepared to kill the bear but a coming winter and necessity made itself available. And this bear was subdued, perhaps injured. He pulled back on an old compound bow, usually used for the deer. The bow silently and instantly protruded from the bear’s lungs. It turned it massive head to Flint, and as if in gratitude, it laid its head down. Flint approached slowly, bees still swarmed in anger, calming now. The bear was still alive but by a thread. Flint slit its throat and said a prayer. He then used his skinning knife to deconstruct the bear. And here in the belly of the beast… A double exposure revealed something new. But instantly it was gone again. This must have been what ailed the giant animal.

* * *

Flint took the thing now. He aimed it steadily. The Departed witnessed it all, amongst themselves. Ezekiel took a halted step backward.

“Let in the light, Ezekiel...” Flint exhaled. The film tore from the roll and exposed darkness. Clicks of the wheel continued to run on.

This piece was informed by Samson’s Riddle from the Book of Judges 14:14–18. “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet” […] “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Judges 14:14 and 18. Additional style was borrowed from film director, Panos Cosmatos and playing with film through prose.