Lem opened the front door to his cabin quietly. A lop-sided cone of light from the kitchen spread out in the living area gracing the rough-hewn furniture with a shadowy gold softness. He walked noiselessly through the living area into the kitchen and put his arms around his mother who was stirring a pot of porridge.
“You frightened me Lem,” Evanor gasped and nearly fainted. “You mustn’t creep up on me like that. My poor heart!” She managed to turn around in Lem’s arms and return his hug with equal warmth. “Did you miss me?” she murmured to the top of his buried head. Lem shook his head, indicating he had in fact missed his mother very much during the week he was gone. “Good,” she said and squeezed him to her. “How was your visit with Yani and her family?”
Lem sat down at the breakfast table and told Evanor about the visit while she stirred the porridge and reached for a bowl to serve him. Lem told her about the group of grown-ups like Yani and him who had visited Kivo and Thana on their way to a place called the Refuge somewhere in another place called the uncharted area across a big river. He told her they wanted to see Yani too.
“Mama,” Lem mentioned between spoonfuls of porridge, “they told Kivo that all the people like us were going to the Refuge with their families… It was the only place where we could be safe.”
“Well I don’t know,” Evanor said sullenly. “I’m starting to get used to the place here. I’m not so sure I want to pick up and move somewhere else.”
“Mama, we can’t stay here forever,” Lem put down his spoon and looked at his mother seriously. “One day somebody is going to follow you back to the cabin from the village. He’s going to tell somebody else about you. Rumors will spread through the village and people will become curious. Somebody will come to visit our cabin and they will see me … or they won’t see me, but they’ll suspect something is not right because you’re not like them. You’re different. You don’t go to church and you don’t visit them and you don’t invite them to visit.”
“Lem, you know something’s going to happen, don’t you,” Evanor said feeling something, knowing it without being able to say it.
“Yes Mama,” he said.
“Within one month, eleven days, six hours, twenty-two minutes, and three seconds, a large rock wrapped in a flaming oil-soaked cloth will be thrown through our window to smoke us out of the cabin to catch us and hang us upside down from the skag tree in our back yard,” Lem said in a monotone, as though he were reading somebody else’s newspaper account of their lynching.
“What will we do Lem?” Evanor pleaded for some other future other than what had been dealt them, some alternate fate that somehow hoping could make so.
“We’ll be long gone before then,” Lem said as though looking up brightly from the newspaper account he had been reading. “Oh and we’ll have company!”
Five weeks after Lem had come home from his visit, there was a soft knock on the door of their cabin. Evanor slipped her arms into her robe and went to the front window to slip the curtain aside so that she could see who was knocking at the door so early in the morning. It was Kivo and his wife, Thana, and their little girl, Yani! She rushed to the door to open it wide for them. “Come in quickly,” Evanor said urgently. “What’s happened? Why are you here? You look like you haven’t slept in a week!” She turned from Kivo to Thana, and then to Yani. “Oh, you poor dears! Come to the kitchen … The porridge is still warm … I’ll make another batch.” Then Evanor turned to the stairs and called out, “Lem! Come down and see who’s…”
Lem was already standing next to Yani and looking back at Evanor.
They all went into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Kivo spoke first. “I don’t know how she knew, but Yani had been trying to get us to pack up our things and leave our home … I told her she was imagining things that would never happen. I told her she shouldn’t worry her pretty blue curls. I told her …”
“I told Papa to look out our front window at the path from the village up to our cabin,” Yani interrupted, a little bit of pride mixed in with her tiredness. Thana was rubbing the sides of her head continuously.
“… I went to the window to prove there was nothing to see,” Kivo said and didn’t finish, lost in the memory of it.
“… Oh yes … I could see the torches coming up the path from the village. The flames were small at first, but they grew larger as they came closer… I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. Thana ran to the kitchen and dumped whatever food she could from the pantry into some bags, while Yani ran upstairs to throw some of clothes into other bags. She dragged the stuffed bags down the stairs. They tumbled down and almost knocked her over. She dragged them over to me, looked me in the eyes, and said it’s time to go Papa! … We barely got out in time. We ran up the path to the place we had our picnic with you… About half-way up, I turned around and saw our cabin down below go up in flames… They probably thought we were inside it because nobody came after us.”
Kivo stopped to eat his porridge. He had eaten very little in the last week. He nearly vomited from eating so fast.
Thana had eaten her porridge while Kivo had been telling their story. Now she took over the telling of it. “It took us seven days and nights to reach you… Yani guided us all the way. She showed us where to drink, told us when and where to sleep, and when to keep going. She told us Lem had made a map for her when he came to visit us, and it was in her head.”
“I swear to the Lord Almighty,” Kivo said solemly, “I don’t know what witchery our children have in their heads, but our little Yani saved our lives! If it weren’t for …”
Evanor said, “It took me some time to get used to it, but I’d trust Lem with my life … He got so grown up, so fast, the day my Thort was murdered… I think we must trust that our children know what’s best for us and follow them blindly, because that’s what we are compared to them: blind as a day-old gorm.”
“They won’t be coming to our cabin for another four days,” Lem said, “but we should still get ready to leave tonight to get a head start on them, and be well on our way to Sector 127 and the uncharted area.”
Kivo’s family was already packed. Evanor cooked and baked for the long trip and packed their clothes. Lem told Yani to have her parents sleep upstairs on their beds so they’d be refreshed to continue that night.
Yani fell asleep in Lem’s bed. He lay down beside her and wrapped his arm around her. Lem stayed awake the whole afternoon, thinking about the uncharted area and the Refuge.
That night the two families left the cabin quietly, slipped over the ledge, and descended into the gulley.
Four days, six hours, twenty-two minutes, and three seconds later, a large rock wrapped in a flaming oil-soaked cloth was thrown through the front window of Evanor’s and Lem’s cabin. The curtains quickly caught fire and smoke began to billow out of the broken window, but nobody came out coughing and blinded and begging for mercy as intended. The good people of the village nearby were forced to wait until the cabin fire had died down before they could check the ashes for the charred remains of that godless woman and her evil guest, who surely lived with her in sin.