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Fields Dark with Night

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John had been afraid they would not both fit on the narrow cot in his quarters, and had offered to sleep on the floor, the dusty African earth as his pillow. Helena had laughed, and told him that she wasn’t so big anymore that her husband could not lie beside her. Hours later, Helena asleep in his arms, his hand curled over her flat stomach, John wishes he had gotten to see her grow in anticipation of their son coming. It really was not beautiful, Helena said, and anyway, it can be a surprise for you next time. And John had smiled—next time—and then tried to tell her that there was no act or change or disguise that could make her anything less than the most beautiful woman who had ever lived. But Helena cut him off and smiled in the amused, fond way she did when he got tongue-tied, and kissed him.

Perhaps it is the excitement of having Helena back in his arms, the sweet scent of her dizzying his head, but John cannot sleep. The past nights, he has not slept much. He has had violent dreams, and woken in a cold sweat. He hoped, once the lions were gone, he would get to sleep again. He mastered his fear, and he made the camp safe. He should be able to sleep now.

Once the lions were gone, his dreams changed. He no longer sees the Ghost and the Darkness chasing down his family. Instead, he watches through some animal’s eyes as it skulks through the fields dark with night, the tall savannah grasses just sensation on his lean predator’s body. The fields are empty. There is no prey here, only hunger.

John has been taught that animals do not have souls, and therefore cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, but he wonders, as he wakes reeling, if he has damned the Ghost and the Darkness to an eternity of empty-bellied hell. He is not sorry for what he did—he did what had to be done for progress—but he wants to sleep at night. He wants to finish building his bridge, and he wants to take his family and go back home, and never dream of lions again.