Miklak felt rested now, so he donned his pack and crossed between the rows of stones to the stand of willows. Underneath their shade, he found another surprise, a set of concrete benches surrounding a concrete pillar with a flame that still burned. Below that, there flowed a stream of fresh, clear water.
Miklak approached the glowing, blue flame cautiously. He’d never seen stone burn before. This was definitely fancy technology, he thought. Unbelieving, he held out a hand.
‘Ow!’ He yanked back his hand and frowned. Now, he knew he was someplace the Survivors held sacred. His Father had often told him how they once used candles and flame to personify the Grand Almighty.
Miklak fell to his knees. He prayed what he could remember of the old prayers he heard Eran use. ‘…Grand Almighty, forgive me…thy will be done. But, Grand Almighty, I only wanted water to drink. I am very thirsty, you see.’
When the flame did not change, Miklak took that as an assent to fill his cup in the stream and drink his fill. ‘Thank you, Grand Almighty, you knew I needed this to survive. Thank you.’
Miklak looked up to what he could see of the sky amid the branches. The sun was slowly sinking well into late afternoon. Soon, it would be dark. Miklak frowned for a moment, waging an internal war. He knelt again, before the blue flame.
‘Grand Almighty, you know I can’t make it back to the trail before dark. Your garden of stones is so beautiful and your fire is so warm. If you will allow, I shall make camp here with you tonight.’ Again, the flame burned on and Miklak smiled, and took it as assent.
Miklak decided to make a bench into a bed, then went to explore the stream further. It was shallow enough to be perfect for a swim, which he did. The cold water soothed his tired limbs and cleaned the smelly sweat from his body. Afterwards, he cut a sapling and fashioned a spear with one of his father’s steel points. He used the tall green grass to fashion a braided length of rope that he would use to retrieve his prey.
Miklak walked a short distance upstream, but downwind of any likely game. He crouched down behind a tree and waited. Soon, as if the Grand Almighty had ordained it, a rodent hopped to the stream’s edge for a drink.
In slow motion, Miklak raised his spear. Then, with all his strength, threw it at the rodent’s side. It made impact and the rodent screamed in a death cry. Miklak held the rope he’d tied to the spear tightly as he emerged. He killed the rodent quickly and proceeded to gut it out.
Back in the fire’s circle of light, Miklak stared at the flame. It didn’t seem right, he thought, to cook his meat in the holy flame. Yet, he still needed to cook it.
‘I’ll build my own fire, nearby.’ He decided, and went to gather some wood. He built up a small fire, borrowing a starter flame from the Grand Almighty’s garden altar. Spearing the rodent with a small sapling he jammed it into the ground where the meat would hang over the flame and roast to a delicious crispiness.
In due time, he was feasting. ‘And the Elders said I couldn’t hunt because I can’t run. Phooey on them!’ Miklak laughed as he licked his fingers. After eating his fill, Miklak situated himself back against one of the carved stones surrounding the flame and closed his eyes to sleep.
Grand Almighty = God, Yaweh, Jehovah, Great Spirit, whatever you choose to call your Creator.