JOURNAL OF SAMUEL GENUNG — JANUARY 7TH, 1817 I have done something I fear even God in his infinite grace cannot forgive. It is his judgement I fear, not yours. You’re no more than a voyeur, looking back at history with a righteous indignation afforded to you by comforts I have never known. I know this because I have done the same to my progenitors. But can you be so sure that you — in the same circumstances as I — would not do just the same? Perhaps you wouldn’t. Perhaps you wouldn’t have the courage to do something so … hideous. It was not courage, I confess, which induced me to sin. It was fear. A fear borne from watching my children shiver helplessly by the fire, as they pray that I, who am meant to be their protector, might deliver them from starvation. Their coats do well to hide their sunken frames. But I hear the shallowness of their breaths, I feel their ribs stick out through loosened skin. Mary denies the truth, but I knew they could not go on like this. Nor could I bare to watch them starve. “You mustn’t go out there, Samuel,” Mary scolded me on that horrid winter day. All we could see from the ice-etched windows of our cottage were barren trees stabbing through a vast white expanse. She feared I’d be lost to the cold as foolish men often are. But our store of last year’s potatoes had dwindled, and those alone can hardly nourish a growing soul. I couldn’t bare another day of watching them starve. And so I set out for Lansing at first light where there was to be some stores of wheat. I was not a mile from home when I saw the body. It lay face down in the road, already a dusting of snow upon its back. I rushed to the body and turned them over, hoping they might still be alive. But their face was frigid, cracked with ice, eyes frozen in a state of permanent shock — eyes that I recognized. It was Ezekiel Foote. You must know that my first thought was only of sorrow, for this was a man I knew well, a descendent of the first settlers of Freeville. His brothers would want him home before the snow could hide his body from all but the wolves. I wished to bring him home — but did I have the strength? I had my own family to look after. And it was as I wavered beside Ezekiel’s body that another thought struck me, one I am not proud of, one I never thought I was capable of considering. His frozen flesh was perfectly preserved in this cold … Immediately I shook my head with disgust and tried to force the thought from my mind. I rose, determined to continue my journey to Lansing. But with each step through that looming expanse of white I could see my children’s ghastly frames withering before me. They taunted me! They jeered, they said I had not the courage to do what must be done. I shook my head knowing it to be a sinister ruse conjured up my own starved body. But in that snowy haze, the line between madness and crystalline sanity were blurred. No one would know what had happened to Ezekiel ... Only I would know he froze on this very road ... And would Ezekiel not want his body to be of use? Would he not want to help the children of Freeville live on through such cruel times? My thoughts were shrewd, articulate, relentless — and it was not long before I turned back on that vacant road. I am not proud to say that as I dragged Ezekiel’s body back to our cottage, I never wavered in my decision. To the contrary, I plotted and schemed, for Mary and the children could never know my sin. And as I skinned and carved Ezekiel’s body in the dark confines of our barn, which creaked and moaned in the bitter wind, I expressed the same gratitude to him that I have to deer in year’s past. And in my state of delusional lucidity I found myself comforted by the thought that Ezekiel himself was grateful to be of service one last time. I brought the meat home in indiscernible chunks to Mary and the children. In my paranoia I expected an interrogation. But she showed only delight and went about stewing the meat with great haste. Perhaps she did not want to know the truth. It was not long before the smell of seared flesh warmed our nostrils. The children were delighted. And the look of joy and relief on their faces is one I shall never forget. That was weeks ago. And for a time, I thought my sin would go without punishment. But something wretched lives inside me now. The natives here speak of a sickness that comes over men who eat another’s flesh, turning them into some unholy abomination. I can feel the sickness crawl in my skin now, which boils with a heat no fever could produce. I can feel my bones bulge and stretch, and it is all I can do to hide my agony from Mary. I know not what will come of me. But as I write this, I see my children by the hearth, full for the first time in weeks. And though my sin may never be forgiven, know that I would do it all over again. 200 YEARS LATER Indigo stared out the passenger window, bored and restless. Trees zipped by, their last leaves clinging to fragile limbs. Soon they too would join the rot below. “Are we close?” She asked her father, who did little more than grunt in reply. He was a man of few words. Her mother, ever hopeful, often pushed him to open up. “You need to spend more time with them,” she’d say. “Soon they’ll grow old, and then they won’t want to spend time with you.” That was how this trip came to be, after all. A way for a father to reconnect with his kids. Indigo did not share her mother’s hopefulness. “Stop tapping your feet,” her father said. Indigo sighed, but she did as she was told. She was anxious to be out of this stuffy car. Somehow, even trapped in a tube of metal beside her closest family, Indigo felt alone. She wished she could be more like her brother, sniffing the glass on his Nintendo Switch for hours on end. But she’d yet to find a game as captivating to her as simply being outside, laying in a field of grass, gazing up at the clouds above. Even back in Boston she felt stifled by the great swaths of concrete that masked something much more magical. Finally, just as the sun was beginning to set, their car began to slow. Indigo sensed they were close. She sat up in her seat watching the evergreens along the road slip past them. Her dad turned down a short gravel driveway that wound through those very evergreens, before opening up to a cabin that sat nestled in a grove of Norwegian spruce. “We made it!” Indigo said to little fanfare. Her father nodded, while her brother hardly looked up from his Switch. But she would not be deterred. She beamed with delight as she stepped out of the car, breathing in that delightfully crisp fall air. “Hello, trees!” She shouted up to the swaying evergreens, in what felt to her as the only polite way to greet such old and majestic life. “They can’t hear you,” her brother admonished. She smiled. “Maybe not. But I like to think they can.” He rolled his eyes and followed his father into the cabin. Indigo, meanwhile, ran to the closest tree and gave it a hug. She was immensely grateful to be out of the car, and a tiny part of her felt this tree might understand her more than her own family. Even if its bark was a bit prickly. Then, just across the lawn before the cabin, Indigo spotted what appeared to be the opening of a trail. She darted across the grass, hopping over the fire pit, skidding to a halt at the trailhead marked with a sign that read: Indy’s Way. She wondered who Indy was, but more than anything she wondered what adventures this trail 19

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