1. A New Dawn
The howling wind outside the cave grew louder as he crawled toward the corner where he slept. But sleep escaped him again for the third night. The hunger that had been gnawing him from the inside was gone, leaving a deep, numb, hollowness. He felt lighter and emptier, as if he was dissolving into thin air, soon to melt into the wind blowing across the valley below. For a moment he wondered whether the bodies laid outside the cave would freeze in the cold night.
In a flash, the realization finally came upon him that he would soon die, like his kins who were slowly hardening in the bitter wind outside. It was strange that he had not truly believed this fate before, since every one in his family had met with his or her fate after a protracted period of starvation. Yet, deep down in his heart, he had not been able to accept that he was to follow their steps.
Perhaps, his confidence came from his youth. He was 15 years old, by far the strongest man in the clan and fully in his prime. All others were either several years older than he or too young to take care of themselves. He had been the most powerful hunter and invincible warrior. He had killed the most vicious saber-tooth tiger and killed the most enemies who had tried to rob his family of food. He had defeated his older, weaker father and uncles in the wrestling matches to become the head of the family. He had seen plenty of deaths, including his first wife who died during childbirth and his mother who died, not long ago, after eating some leaves she found by the spring. She was driven to despair with hunger and ate anything in sight, like everyone else.
Now, they were all lying stiffly against the stone walls outside the cave that had been their home for generations, as was the custom. Tomorrow morning I would have to crawl out and lie next to my current wife and our child, he thought, and die.
When the morning came he was surprised to observe that he was still alive with even a little more strength than last night. He stood up and walked outside, a hand on the cave walls for support as his legs were getting weaker by the hour.
The morning sun shone on the bodies leaning or lying against the slope of the mountain side around the cave, bringing him only a hint of warmth. Most had not begun to rot because of the cold weather. They were hard and blue. He stared at the small body closest to the doorstep. It was his nephew, only a baby, and one of the first to die along with his mother. Lying next to the baby and his mother was a body of another man, a younger cousin, who died only yesterday.
Suddenly, in his hunger-induced despair and hallucination, a wild idea came to his mind: a story he had heard as a child, a warning, a long-buried memory. He grabbed a stone-knife and began to cut off a piece of flesh from his cousin's emaciated body.
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