The blacksmith’s heat that hammered the Prairies had spread west that summer, bending the people like horseshoes under the clang of it. The sun’s rays nailed through the forest canopy, hot and resinous, steeping the air to a green tea.
The canoe was beached on shingle, at the apex of the sea loch that brimmed westwards as far as the eye could see, emptying out into the Pacific, a day’s journey away. The turquoise water was photograph still. A jeweller’s alchemy of glacier blue and reflected chlorophyll from the galaxy of trees that stood high on all sides. The silence stung his ears, as though the sense of hearing had been ripped from him. He shouted. He had to check that noise existed there, that sound would still travel from his mouth and into his ears.
The naïve mountains around him said, “We’re bare as time.” He stripped off his clothes. His own nakedness seemed reciprocal and right. The only sound came from his heart and lungs, and from the gargle of water split apart by the wooden paddle and bow of the canoe.
When he’d gone far enough he lay on the duckboards and let the canoe drift to a stop. Eagles mixed overhead on the rising thermals from the forest. The silence threatened him. He was afraid of capsizing and drowning in the vacuum, making no sound, like a toppling tree in a lifeless forest. He loaded a cartridge into the shotgun, aimed at the void and fired. The water and trees and sun absorbed the report as though a single branch had snapped in the multitude—its insignificance not worthy of an echo. The stillness re-encircled, leaving him parched of air and smothered in sky.