So many times I was a hairsbreadth from turning my sword on myself, so many times someone else has taken its blade in my place. I am harrowed and pursued. Never more than a half-league behind, they are like dogs licking at my heels. My every day is fleeing; it has become my life. I am on a vast mountain glacier, the sheer size of the icepack is enormous. I have been walking for moons among the pines of this winterland forest. I am clad in furs from head to toe and what is left of me is burnished steel. I am hunting. But even if I could see the entire winter wasteland stretched like a maquette, I would not have seen a single plume of smoke from my enemy.
They are camped all around me. I live in a net, and its holes – always a hole. Too few of them, they converge on me like madmen, men possessed. It is so easy for me to assert myself. They rain down upon me and are split apart like liquid. Dead bodies stiffening in the snow. When was the last time I ate? Squirrel probably, the most delicious thing to taste. And I keep moving, a shadow in a star lit moonscape. I am heading steadily North. There is no way they can keep up with me. They have the numbers, but they are unused to this barren tundra. Each day the snow gets deeper. It falls gently by night. Every now and then I capture one or two of them. Spies, scouts. Spot them and capture them and kill them or let them free to tell the others: I am the master here.
Their numbers are enormous. Staggering. Fourteen nights tracking the herd when I stumbled upon them miles down the gorge – a line like gunpowder, each grain an ant. Two massive campaigns I found, moving down out of the pass into the valley, so large I had strayed into the midst of their tide. A population in motion, an empire moving through the wilderness. It was a genocidal campaign and they would leave none alive. They sent a half dozen after me as soon as my scent was known, and when the half dozen didn’t return they sent 48 men.
For days I battled my way to the edge of a hanging valley. A massive shelf dropped away in a flurry of snow and the earth began to move like on skates. I am skimming through earthquakes I am gone … miles away this avalanche has taken me – might as well be an eternity through these epic alpine mountain ridges. I am in a more temperate forest that is flat like a plain.
But now – movement among the pines again – too many, I run. They have been tracking me, so hot on my tail. Wind whistles through my furs. There are no horses in the mountains so I run through the deep snow. My katana run with me, they crave vengeance on these cowardly beggars, and my survival ensures it. They make no sound, there is no wind. The land is like a photograph, if there ever was such a thing, black white and still. The sun shines down on the drifts, my footprints mark a trail clear as a jackhammer. There is no need for that, they are all around me, black whirring shapes, eyes closed to mine. I cut one down savagely at the base of a tree, the killing blow my mercy. My only cue is survival. Another behind me; he is dead on my blade and slumps like a load of rice over my shoulders and onto the ground. The noose closes in, close enough to see the spittle frozen on their lips, the whites of their eyes. The net is cast, no more holes. Now it is time, no running I am gone. I turn my sword on myself and we share blood for the last time.
I am awake in my bed. Sweating, yet calm, clear. Such a powerful dream. Never have I felt so strong, so sure of myself. I felt the warrior’s spirit. The date is Tuesday, December 31, 2086.