***

Elena woke to sounds of branches hitting the ground.

“What are you doing?” she said groggily.

“Making a shelter,” Pavel said, turning back to look for more.

“But why? I thought you just wanted to know the road.”

“It’s going to start getting colder soon.”

“Maybe something else can be found to keep a body warm. Like animal skins.”

“That won’t help in the rain and snow,” Pavel continued determinedly.

“If you sewed them together and maybe carried a few choice poles, you wouldn’t have to be stuck in one place.”

Pavel stopped and looked at her. “I thought you would want something homier. Something that was your own.”

“I don’t want to tie you down, nor to be tied down myself.”

“Doesn’t it seem that it would be better to have something to go to rather than just away from?”

“The thought makes me nervous. Stacking and locking pieces of wood together makes them seem so confined. How would you like to be so bound?”

“I don’t think the wood cares.”

“I do. Trees are marvelously independent. It’s like you’re tying their arms together. What did they do to deserve that?”

“Are you against all buildings?”

“Pretty much.”

“Wait till you get cold. And why don’t you mind taking skins off of animals?”

“If they’re dead they don’t need them anymore. Before you ask, I’d prefer to find them already dead than to have them killed.”

“Are you a vegetarian?”

“No. I guess I feel that an animal has a chance, so it’s a fair fight. A tree is stuck to the ground and can’t run away. And one doesn’t really make stacked buildings with animal skins. Sewing them together seems more of an act of establishing communion with other animals than imprisoning.”

“Are there no buildings that you like?”

“No. They are all about chains. They bind you with their cost, their maintenance, and the mental work of justifying them.”

“Even if one is modestly built with fallen branches?”

“Maybe not theoretically, but it still makes me nervous that you are making one here right now.”

“You’re afraid of being tied down. Are you worried they’ll come and find you if you quit moving?”

“I don’t think they’ll try that in person. I need to keep moving in order to outpace the ghosts that keep chasing me.”

“The memory of things that happened and were said?”

“Not so much that as trying to justify to myself why I don’t want to be around them.”

“You want it to not be your fault.”

“Nor my obligation.”

“There are stories about people who left even legitimate situations to become solitaries.”

“That is what I would like. I’d also rather find a natural cave.”

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