Peat Moss could not rid himself of the ghosts. They raged at him from all sides, dragging over him like transparent branches as he ran through the forest. Their screams and hollers of madness grew louder as he leveled tree and brush up the hillside. Ahead of him, sneaking in and out, from behind this tree then that, Peat Moss caught glimpses of the stoic spirit of Buford Longpost. The dead man’s apparition would glance sidelong at him with an unchanging expression of indifference. As if Peat Moss were beyond his care, unimportant. The monster followed him, altering direction to wherever Buford had last appeared.
Jess Bethel was unaware of the monster’s approach. Of his chase to catch Before Longpost and his own sanity. The young monk was in the yard of the chapel preparing to bring the day’s water from the creek. Rampaging Passions being the furthest thing from his mind, he thought it was but another beautiful day in the valley forest.
There were hiccups, of course, in the beauty of the day. Every day had unexpected bumps. Grit had wandered off again in another frenzied, enigmatic search, and Honeysuckle had ventured to the river. This surprised Jess the most. The peaceful Passion it seemed had at last conquered his fear of the waters.
The strange changes in his families’ behavior were not lost on the monk. He could sense something; a change in the winds of the world. But how that change might affect him, he did not know. How could one give a face to gravity if they never knew it existed? Jess had been sheltered for so long a time that the outside world or any danger it wrought was simply not a bother. In fact, he had always felt secure in the forest by the chapel. He had known nothing but goodness, first from Brother Patricio, then from Honeysuckle. The only great change that had come along had been that of Honeysuckle, and that was a welcomed wind. One as sweet as the scent of jasmine.
But now, this new sense of change—there was something menacing about it. Even more menacing than a sky full of heavy clouds threatening floods. He thought to himself that Grit was perhaps right to be concerned. Still, what can one do against the unknown? Against what’s yet to happen? So, Jess continued about his day in normalcy and routine.
Behind him, as he reached for the water bucket from where it hung by the chapel door, Jess heard a ruckus such as he had never known. He turned quickly and saw to his amazement birds, squirrels, raccoons, and all manner of forest creature fleeing out of the bush as if being chased by a violent predator or great forest fire. The creatures flew, hopped, and scampered past him, disappearing again into the opposite flora.
Then, with a crack like thunder, a great tree was struck apart and fell to pieces, the wood splintering in a myriad of directions. The seething mass of quivering muscle which stood in its place could be none other than the Passion Peat Moss. The very one Honeysuckle had mentioned on quiet, desperate occasions when he took to mourning. The forest seemed to shrink around him as he heaved and twitched and growled.
At first, neither of the two reacted. Jess simply stared with mesmerized fear and awe. Then, the monster’s eyes seemed to transform from blind rage to a kind of glazed familiarity. Jess could not know that at that moment Peat Moss no longer saw him as a peaceful monk, but now perceived him as his lost Buford. He could not know that Peat Moss thought to take him back to the cave and make love to him forever. All Jess saw was a crazed grin creep across the Passion’s troubled face.
The monk began to retreat slowly backward to the chapel. But Peat Moss was on him at once. With one mighty swing the wall of the chapel tumbled to the ground and Peat Moss threw the struggling monk over his shoulder. Jess kicked and hit, strenuously defending himself. Peat Moss was tired of the struggle now, though. The spirits still pecked at him with their cries and goads. To have this man, the one he saw as Buford Longpost, being contentious as well would not do.
He threw the monk to the ground and hit him, knocking him out. The blow was not a hard one by the monster’s standards, but it was sufficient. Jess fell limp and the Passion picked the man up again and disappeared into the woods.