After a long, awkward silence the stranger finally spoke. “Yes, I enjoyed consuming it, … very much.” There was little emotion in his odd, monotone answer. The rest of us were still too startled to address him but that wasn’t about to stop ‘the straight shooter’. In another example of the mouth working faster than the mind, Jim blurted out even more cringe-worthy questions. He seized the brief moment of mutual communication to quench his burning curiosity. Admittedly the rest of us were just as anxious to find out about the enigma in our midst, but only Jim dared to pursue the matter.
“By the way, what did you say your name was again?” Of course Jim knew fully well (as did the rest of us), that he had never introduced himself! I’m sure you could’ve heard a pin drop as we nervously anticipated his terse response. An involuntary shudder passed through everyone as an unexpected breeze bristled against the back of our necks.
“I …am the one …called …Anak.”
A deafening silence followed. It was only the third time we had heard his voice, and it was just as chilling as before. Now, at least we had a name to associate with the looming visitor to our camp. I breathed a sigh of relief after the tension of those uncomfortable questions dissipated slightly. Only then did Jim seem to realize the magnitude of his interrogative meddling.
His social awkwardness was responsible for revealing ten times more than we knew before, but we still didn’t really know anything about ‘Anak’. Secretly we were grateful that Jim broke the ice, however. We kidded him occasionally about being short-changed in the common sense department but maybe being direct was not a curse. His blind boldness and absent ‘filter’ accomplished what our polite tact and cowardly ‘respect for privacy’ could not. One thing was for sure, Jim was genuine and that wasn’t about to change. Meanwhile, ‘Anak the lurking giant’ (as we referred to him when he wasn’t around), made his makeshift bed beside the fire again. As before, he was gone shortly before sunrise the next morning.
For over two weeks he continued to appear each night around supper time. We came to expect his silent presence beside the campfire, and then his pre-dawn departure. Everyone was too distracted to pay his imposing presence any mind. The ranch hands were all exhausted from long hours of tracking the wolf that was stalking and killing our livestock. We had placed several traps in the valley to catch the illusive beast but it appeared to be too cunning to be caught. Eventually it’s luck would run out and we could get back to our regular routine. Once we settled in each evening, there was always supper and story time to look forward to.
Mark told a spook story his Granddad told him when he was still a little cowpoke; complete with rattlin’ chains and creakin’ doors. Then Sammy described a 2 headed snake that couldn’t decide which direction to crawl in. The entire time, I observed that Anak appeared to be completely mesmerized by our assorted campfire tales. It was by far the most animated I had ever witnessed him.
After Sammy’s snake story (and to everyone’s great surprise); the silent giant announced that he had a story to tell! You could have knocked us over with a feather! We were very eager to learn more about him and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Every wrangler and ranch hand within earshot blurted out in unison; “Sure, go ahead!”
In all the time he had been coming to our camp, Anak had probably spoken less than fifty words; and even those were simple responses. Now he was going to open up to us. We were all ears!