Chapter 02: Sartoris

Sartonis was not quite an outcast, but still kept to himself. He eschewed living on the south ridge, and instead lived just out of view on the east ridge. The east ridge was more secluded than the rest, it lacked the ad-hoc community of the south ridge plateu, and the historical proximity of the town, when there was still a path back. The north ridge had supported larger settlements because it caught more sunlight and had more prosperous crops. However, the settlements became so large that as the isolation crept in and the valley filled, they were the first to die off or evacuate from lack of contact and resources.

Natures reclamation of the land was swift. The now untended, most fertile end of the valley quickly wicked up the side and spilled into the manicured cropland. Weeds quickly strangled perennial crops and perched themselves on top of the abandoned shacks, and the north ridge from above looked as though the poisened valley had just vomited.

The east ridge was an entirely different story. It had never been settled, never been close to a trade route, and its undisturbed growth was an aggressive buffer against the brambles of the valley. The closest settlement was the peculiar south ridge compound, which he had made his way through years ago.

Today, Sartonis was outside. He stood over a pile of “wool”, a large club in either hand, beating against the pile. By “wool” I mean that there were not many sheep on this side of the ridge, and he made due capturing and shaving whatever wildlife he could. This made for interesting textures in his “wool”-meal that he was grinding. Sheeps wool typically comes off like chicken skin. Its a thick wooly coat that sticks together like it were a pelt. Boar wool is not like that. Neither are bird nests.

Sartoris was not yet middle aged, but his years in the wilderness left him haggered. His hair was cropped short on the sides: cut with the shard of a broken mirror, and guided, not coincidentally, by the rest of the mirror. He usually had pretty lousy haircuts, which didn’t bother him because he was a fucking hermit who bothered to cut his hair.

His years of hunting animals to shave (and occasionally kill and eat), had left him lean with a strong hunters sense. Living in the wilderness had taken its toll, but he acclimated and today was marking the beginning of spring, where he had sheared the wildlife of their oppressive coats that was making them sluggish and easy to capture. Today, he was making his trade.

Sartoris was beating the fur into felt.

Lumber can build a strong structure, but it is difficult to insulate. Being wholly cut off from any textile manufacturing, and really, society as a whole, there was an annual need for new layers of felt which could patch cracks in trailers and insualte new rooms in remodeled shantys. Sartoris found with good hunting skills and a little perseverence, that he could produce an easy currency by making felt. So he hunted in the woods, and shaved the pelts. He caught animals in the warm weather and took their fur. He stockpiled, and kept it well mixed in a separate room in his shack. When spring finally rolled around, he cleared the small space in front of his shack, laid down a tightly bound mat of wood, and unloaded the room full of animal hair, armload after armload into a pile. He then pulled out his home-whittled felt clubs and smacked the fuck out of the pile of animal hair. And thats exactly what he was doing when we met him. Just now.

At times, he would take a quick break, walk behind his shack and drag back a large bucket of soapy water he had prepared from the winters rain, and pour it across. Then he would mash some onions in it. Popular folklore dictated that having onions mashed into all your fabric somehow made it keep viscious animals away. And probably y’know some kind of vampire. The onions were unprepared and were just flung haphazardly into the wilting pile, skins and all, to be beaten away in the next round.

He had been going since early morning, and the end was not in sight, and oh his inner monologue was incredible:

“KILL IT KILL THE FUCKING FUR BASH IT MAKE FELT KILL THE ONIONS”

And so on. The onions were wilted and sprouting, but maintained the acrid, tearful stench of an onion untamed. The day wore on, and he bashed the onionated, wet, soapy pelts to a coarse mash. He beat the fibers into the ground until he had slogged, on hands and knees, across the whole fabric and smashed every last fiber against the ground.

He stood up quickly, and walked back to the shack. He wiped his hands and knees with a felt towel, and sat for a minute. Thinking. His thoughts had toned down, but he was still so deeply stuck in the world of bashing fur into the ground, that he was having some trouble recovering mentally.

He sat slumped in the chair for a while, thinking idly what he could do, or at least could be doing otherwise. He thought of hunting trees rather than animal fur, he though of suffering the indignity for the social benefits of the south ridge. He tried to think of something other than mashing fur into the ground. The sun was not setting, but he didn’t have the option of stopping, the mush needed pressing.

He dragged himself off the chair and made his way back to the days project. He kneedled, grabbed the first stick of the mat and rolled it over. Then another, and another. The mats kindling pulled tighter and grew into a larger and larger roll. Sartoris, at the end, was leaning at a 30 degree angle, shoulder to a roll of wood and felt larger than him and crawling with his feet against the ground to push it forward.

At last, the mat rolled over itself, and Sartoris collapsed to the ground. He managed to flip over and look up in time to see the roll, well, roll. It inched towards the edge of his settlement, and then bowled over. Sartoris sprang to his feet and bound after it. The roll easily tramped over the underbrush and kept rolling. Think, now, that this is a raft of small wood built 10 feet long and 40 feet wide, like a giant sushi mat. This is rolled with a layer of wet soapy animal fur, and onions, ground into a mulch. A mulch greater than 3 grizzlies made of two by fours.

Sartoris ran futilly after the rolling behemoth. Occasionally, it would catch its side on a larger tree, but its mass just made it spin like a giant wooden groundflower in a Wal*Mart swimming pool. It didnt stop. The same thing that made felt great weatherproofing and insulation was the same thing that turned a tight pile of sticks into a heavy solid mass. The wet felt easily absorbed the shock of massacring down the hill and the rare stick that did break was held in place by the coarse fabric. It literally was a cylinder of small trees held together internally by a primitive, animal-fur based duct tape.

It was fucking unstoppable.

Sartoris held up well for a while. The roll had flattened so many things in its wake, that he had no problem keeping an unobstructed course. He stumbled, then sprinted directly after the rolling havoc, watching birds flee, and pissed off bunnies coming out of their holes on the sideline and waving their angry bunny fists. He sprinted and jagged following the roll as it spun.

In the end, his stamina ran out, he had spent his energy clubbing and rolling wet fur and onions into the ravaging roll of destruction it had become. His big toe caught a rock and he flew headlong into a matress of crushed ferns.

He woke with swollen eyes, face down. The path ahead of him was cleared, and the roll stood stationary, blocked by the chance of hitting two large trees roughly a third of the way in on either side. Sleeping stolidly was a young caracal (google it, yo). Slowly, Sartoris dragged himself to standing, and walked cautiously toward the wreckage.

He lumbered toward the roll and the caracal didnt move. It was breathing heavily, and looked asleep, the problem was that it was on his roll of profit (oh yeah, felt is way profitable, thats totally why he does it). Sartoris poked at the farthest end of the roll, and the cat sprung alive. It faced him, backed arched and growling. Sartoris wisely back off, trying not to stare it down.

He backed away considering his options.