I believe in the god because the god must exist; nothing else can explain the simple majesty of our world. The god is in the trees and in the fields and in the crops; the god is in our animals, our flocks and our dogs. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can feel the song of the god, the pulse of his great heart deep below us, under the soil.
But these past few weeks, when I close my eyes and listen for the god, I don’t hear his heart. Instead I hear a scrabbling sound, like that of nails against wood. Sometimes I also hear dark, heavy noises: the unfolding and unrolling of flesh. I have been to an abattoir and I know very well the sound that fresh meat makes when it hits a hard surface.
I’ve told Father Nerve about the change in the god’s song. I tell Father Nerve everything: he’s both my guardian and my mentor. Father Nerve isn’t sure what the change means, but he’s told me to keep listening. If the god has a message for me, I need to be there to hear it.
I close my eyes now as the bonfire burns. I can’t hear or feel the god, though. The twins bickering behind me and the distant crackle of the bonfire drown out his song.
“What was the woman’s name?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” says Ray. “She was blonde. Older but not older-older. College age.”
“Wait, are you talking about Mara?” Ro asks, perking up. “Mara Roseneath. I know what happened to her. She got married and left town. I think her husband is from a temple in the north. Our father–our actual father, Father Piedmont–knows them.”
The name Mara is familiar to me, too. I get a sudden impression of a cloud of blonde hair and a sharp, strong face. I remember she was a loud person, and loud people aren’t looked upon fondly in the faith. I remember… feeling embarrassment around her. Which is a poor thing for a member of the faith full to say about another, I admit. But I am not perfect.
“She died here,” Ray insists. “In the snow. Months ago. I think I saw her. I think…”
He goes silent, a spoon still laden with potato paused on route to his mouth. I can see he’s trying to order his thoughts, to make sense of his own memories. It happens sometimes, when you are close to the god–your thoughts become scrambled. When you love the god, you love him so hard, with all your body and soul, and the rest of the world fades into the background.
“I wish Father Nerve was here,” he says finally. “He’d understand.”
“Mara Roseneath,” says Ro. “Maybe she was murdered. Maybe we’re involved in a cover up right now. Burning the evidence.”
“Oh be quiet,” says Ray, but I can see his brother’s words have unnerved him. He touches his wrists and rubs his hands together uneasily. “You’re probably right, Ennaline. Mara must be with her husband–”
“Twine,” I say. I don’t mean to interrupt him but the word and the thought has jumped suddenly into my head. “I… remember twine. Something about twine. Will you excuse me?”
The twins stare, and nod.