Out there the forest was dark and soaking. Damp grounds of dirt and clay that sunk his boots into the black Earth. Howard marched in the wild thickness, his eyes bound in wet cloth and hands tied in cable. Other men followed him from all sides, pushed along by cold, metal barrels that dug deep against twisted backs. After a while, when the air had cooled, they stopped and he was pushed to his knees. The cloth was cut from his eyes and for the first time Howard saw the reaching of the Baobab trees. Thick, colored trunks that pushed high to thinning branches of loose leaves. Some men looked up, others to the wetness of the crushed grass. On opposite sides stood two men with paper masks, their heavy chests rising and falling like pumps. One drew out from the kneeling group a young girl with sunken cheeks, rearing her to the wet ground. Howard closed his eyes and imagined the snow that lay farther north now than he had ever been. Deep, carved precipices of alabaster rock and glowing caves where he had met the girl. He imagined opening his eyes to her blood steaming in the soil, but it was quiet now. His rolled his wrists and felt, then, the sudden sharp end of cable bound around his hands. He saw the frightened girl, her breathing labored. And the other men, their backs turned in talk. He brought his hands forward, passing them under his feet and walked with silent steps in the sinking Earth until he could hear their twisted tongues. Howard reared his hands up, pressing them together like a faith healer.