Inside Kim—beneath the skin of his civilisation, and despite his language and rationality, his intellect and tolerance, scepticism, self-awareness and humour—there is a lonely savage from the caves, bent on pure first-degree survival, blown by chance and the primal drives of instinct and emotion, alone and uncertain on a dart from birth to death. It grunts, howls and gibbers, under his surface, throughout the brief warm span of his existence. And beyond those noises there is silence. Kim’s Olympian compassion is apt to obscure this savage in him, but it must still be there somewhere, even in him; which is enough to make Herb want to lay it bare.
Herb lands a hook into Kim’s deep-buried savage, wrenches Kim out of Jaymi’s grasp, whisks him off and lands him in an ancient sliver of primeval woodland hidden in the depths of an English moor, marked on no maps but called Spindle Wood, where the rasp and caw of rooks in pink-fruited spindle trees is the same as it was a thousand years ago. I know this place, thinks Kim’s savage in the wood. Ages ago, with the tree-snakes. Back when the screech-owls, black upon the sky, sat hunched on the branches above me in the dusk.
He finds a girl in a clearing, with long black hair and the warmest eyes of brown. As her eyes take him in, her smile fades. “I can see myself in your eyes,” she says with growing paranoia.
Night sinks around them.
She looks at him more, then in sharp terror cries “Oh my god”—then recovers, but refuses to explain why she cried out.
She stares … then she sees it in him. “You're a closet murderer,” she whispers.
There’s no one else here in Spindle Wood except him and her. But out beyond that fearful gap of two or three metres that always surrounds him, separating him from the rest of the human race, he can almost sense a multitude of figures gathered as far as he can see, up the banks of a grand bowl of moorland beyond the wood, arrayed in muttering quiet while their eyes all chant at him, accusatory: “Murderer… Murderer… Murderer…”
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