MY FATHERS VOICE
My father’s voice cracked when he spoke.
“Mark this, boy,” he said and the wind caught his words and snatched them away across the glacier’s edge.
I drew the bearskin and shuffled to the edge of the crevasse. It dropped into smoking darkness between the walls of ice.
His fingers were numbed by the cold, but he opened the bag without fumbling and lifted out the idol of the Nameless God, still wrapped in skin. “Do you see?” he added.
I tried to answer but my lips were too bitten by ice to form words. I nodded instead, feeling the tears freeze on my cheeks. We had hiked for days to the glacier’s summit and I was so weary I could vomit, if only there had been food in my belly to bring up.
There was little kindness in my father’s eyes, then or ever, and I feared he would strike me for my weakness, but he held back his fist. He looked instead at the bundle in his hands, then peered over the edge of the crevasse.
“There are some things, boy,” he said at last, “that cannot be forgotten, though we wish them to be.” He held out the object wrapped in skin at arm’s length. “Do you know what this is?”
I nodded but his face hardened. I tried to speak.
“Yes,” I stammered at last. “It is the Nameless God.”
“Have you seen it with your waking eyes, boy?”
I shook my head.
“Nor shall you. Ever. But you are wrong, boy. The God has a Name.”
The wind had grown stronger and its whistles took on a piping sound, like distant flutes, that seemed to come from beneath our feet, from the ice crevasse itself.
“The God has a Name,” my father repeated, shouting above the gathering wind, “but every man that knows that Name is dead. Yes, all of them dead” he added, “all of them but one. That Name will not be said again to trouble the skies. No. Nameless the God shall be. Nameless and Forgotten.”
He threw the bundle. It dropped into the crevasse. The wind caught the skin covering and snatched it away as the object plummeted. I had a brief impression of dark stone and the curves of something like a fish, then it was gone. The idol was gone.
My father stood panting. His shoulders heaved and his strong arms, still outstretched, trembled.
The wind screamed between us.
“Father,” I cried to him. “May we go now?”
It was too perilous up here, in this dreadful place, but my father did not move.
“Not while one man still knows that Name, my boy.”
He turned to face me, his eyes crinkled into an unfamiliar expression. Tears sparkled on his cheeks too.
“That man is me.”
Something opened up beneath my heart, a sucking darkness as deep and cold as the crevasse behind my father.
“Father, forget the Name,” I called to him. “Come away home.”
His unfamiliar expression was a smile. He shook his head.
“Then swear an oath,” I pleaded, “on the ice and the winter wind. Swear never to tell the God’s Name to anyone.”
He laughed. It was a mirthless laugh.
“Shall I command my tongue to keep that oath while I sleep? Or my nerves to keep it under torture? No.”
He looked into the crevasse then back to me again.
“Mark this, boy,” he said and stepped backwards.
Then he was gone and the wind caught my cries and carried them away over the glacier’s edge.
It is years ago that he left me there, beside the crevasse. I am of his age now and my children are striplings, as I was then, learning to hunt the great mammoths with their flint spears. My wife is pregnant again. Life is good.
Yet the winters grow colder and the glacier advances, year upon year. The mammoths move south and we must move too, yet I linger. I would not lose sight of that glacier for I know what is on top of it: the windy crevasse, the plummet into darkness. The Nameless God rests under the ice. Deep it fell, but not deep enough.
I feel fear in the spring thaw and relief when the snows return and the ice advances. One day, ice will cover the world and then there will be no more dreams.
Because the wind that blows from the crevasse blows through my dreams and carries a Name in its piping tones. It is a Name that is on my tongue when I awake but fades with the dawn.
I must return to the glacierbefore the night when I call out that Name in my sleep. I shall say the Name out loud and give it to the child that grows in my wife’s belly. It is a Name that comes from the depth of the ice. It is a Name that comes to me in my father’s voice.