Uit: The Orenda
“I awake. A few minutes, maybe, of troubled sleep. My teeth chatter so violently I can taste I’ve bitten my swollen tongue. Spitting red into the snow, I try to rise but my body’s seized. The oldest Huron, their leader, who kept us walking all night around the big lake rather than across it because of some ridiculous dream, stands above me with a thorn club. The weight these men give their dreams will be the end of them.
Although I still know little of their language, I understand the words he whispers and force myself to roll over when the club swings toward me. The thorns bite into my back and the bile of curses that pour from my mouth make the Hurons convulse with laughter. I am sorry, Lord, to use Your name in vain.
They’d all be screaming with glee, pointing and holding their bellies, if we weren’t being hunted. With a low sun rising and the air so cold, noise travels. They are clearly fed up with the young Iroquois girl who never stopped whimpering the entire night. Her face is swollen and, when I see her lying in the snow, I fear they killed her while I slept.
Not long ago, just before first light, we’d all paused to rest, the leader and his handful of hunters stopping as if they’d planned this in advance, the pack of them collapsing against one another for the heat. They whispered among themselves, and a couple glanced over at me. Although I couldn’t decipher their rushed speech, I sensed they talked of leaving me here, probably with the girl, who at that moment sat with her back to a birch, staring as if in a dream.Or maybe they talked of killing us. We had slowed them down all night, and despite trying to walk quietly I’d stumbled in the dark through the thick brush and tripped over fallen trees buried in the snow. At one point I removed my snowshoes because they were so clumsy, but then sank up to my hips in the next steps, and one of the hunters had to pull me out, biting me hard on the face once he’d accomplished the deed.”
Joseph Boyden (Willowdale, 31 oktober 1966)