Cyclopaedia Chapter Twenty-Three: Turning Back
Turn back, Hare said, or you will miss Fox.
Eirik stared at the stones he'd placed around the fire, the fire now out, the cold morning air making him shiver. There was frost on his thick wool blanket. The crystals melted when he touched them lightly. Likewise he habitually wiped the frost off his kit. He shook his hand to get get the cold water off. The forest was quiet. He'd heard birds announcing dawn, but afterwards they became silent. He thought about doing a quick drawing of the mountains he saw from this point on the ridge, which had taken him the better part of the previous day to ascend. The view was familiar—he'd seen this vista on his way to the village, so he was relieved that he hadn't gotten lost.
But Hare said he should turn back. It was the third consecutive night that the Hare sat with him by the fire, eyes like brown jewels, nose twitching, sitting alertly on his haunches, then eventually relaxing a little and carefully distributing his weight, still ready to run.
Would Hare travel with him the entire way? Sometimes Eirik stopped on the trail, a sound of movement in the leaves to this side, and he would catch a glimpse of ears or a patch of fur. Was it the same hare? At night it was. He'd spent a good part of this life on distinctions, cataloging specifics, he knew it was the same hare.
These journeys were methods of adjustment, Eirik thought, to realign oneself for an environment like the Capital and modern civilization that had created him. Even with a lengthly trip it wasn't enough time to transition and he worried that he might be one of those Compilers who doesn't come back. They become embedded in place. They solidify somewhere. Through love, or fear, or exhaustion, they give up on the Capital and on civilization, they chose to remain where they explored, discovering some revelation of themselves. He wondered if he could spend the rest of his life in the village. What about his position at the Cyclopaedia, could he so easily discard it? He wasn't sure.
But he had to turn around and go back to the village. Hare was right. He couldn't let Fox change it. He sighed. Maybe he'd cut enough of a path here that the way back would be easier. He rolled up his blanket. His kit felt heavy. He looked around casually for any sign of the Hare, he saw nothing. The sky was becoming sullen, he worried about snow but took a deep inhale of air, vigorously sniffing, assuring himself that it didn't smell like bad weather.