I reach the top of the mountain but what I am expecting is not there. Sitting cross-legged in its place is an angel with black, shiny feathers, smiling and waiting for me to realize my mistake. With his foot, he knocks over a bowl of flour onto the ground and with his hands, he is tying knots onto a piece of string. I look across the valley towards the other mountain and realize that I have climbed the wrong one. I am standing on Gerizim and I was meant to be standing on Ebal. Even though the other mountain is far away, I can clearly see what is happening on it:

On the plateau of the other mountain, another angel is naked and on his knees. His hands are being tied behind his back and his eyes are upturned towards heaven. He is breathing deeply in and out and the muscles of his neck are tensing and I recognize his face from a painting. He is now looking directly at me from across the valley and speaking, but the wind is too loud for me to hear what he is telling me. Behind me the angel with the black wings is answering him, back and forth they are singing an antiphonal song. The angel on the other mountain is pushed from his knees onto the ground and the only movement he makes is to turn his face towards me and rest his cheek on the ground. His nose is bleeding and his wings are being ripped off.

Suddenly, he is not an angel, just a man with paper wings. Now he’s not a man, but a boy being picked up, blindfolded and laid backwards over a rock. A giant hand covers his face like a mask and pulls his head back to expose his neck. The boy is calm because he knows the story and he knows what is about to happen.

The Chief brings a small knife up to the boy’s neck and drags it across his throat. The boy chokes on air and blood and I realize that there has been a mistake. Bewildered, I cup my hands around my mouth and scream at the sky, “Why didn’t You send the ram?” There is no answer and now I am panicking and pacing in circles, unsure of what to do. I turn again and suddenly I am on the other plateau standing in front of the boy. His body is limp and has been left alone, covered in blood. The rocks around us begin to cry out and snow is falling from the sky.

I hear a voice behind me and turn to find the angel with black wings sitting cross-legged and waiting for me. On the ground around him are the stiff, plucked bodies of a dozen crows, pink and bloated like sausage skin filled with stones; in his hand, a half-plucked bird is hanging from a string. He is speaking to me in a deep, warbled voice in a Semitic language that I do not know. I can’t understand any of his words, but I know what he is saying. I begin to cry and ask him about the distance, the scriptedness and my helplessness. He hands me the hose of a water pipe and I drink from it, but all I can taste is ash. I look up at the Chief and he says, “We have to leave this place now.”

The Chief and I are now standing knee-high in the black-and-white grass looking up at the holy mountains. Then instead of the mountains there is the sea and we are standing in the sand on the beach looking out at the water.

        “I didn’t imagine that it would look like this,” I think.

        “What did you think it would look like?” he answers.

        “I don’t know, but not like this.”

We are watching the wild, grey water crash into the shore and there is a swarm of flies buzzing around our heads. I swat some away, their wings fall off and their bodies fall to the ground. The buzzing stops and the cold is disappearing and behind me I can feel the wildflowers bloom across the coastal plain. I know that they should be pink and yellow and red and violet, but now they are white and grey and silver and black. The flowers give way to dry grass and the summer sun begins to burn our faces. I shield my eyes with my hand so that I can see and now we are not standing on the beach, but looking out at the sea from the top of a mountain. I can see waves crashing against the foot of the mountain and I know that the slow movements of the enormous water are wilder here in the open sea.

The ground begins to shake and I turn around to see a stampede of bison charging across the plateau behind us. The herd is thundering by us from one end of the mountain to the other. The beasts run over the far edge and try to keep their footing against the sudden, horizontal slope. They slip and tumble into the air, falling like statues into the sea.

The Chief’s back is turned away from the falling animals and I see him watching the expanse of sea. He has war paint on his face: an arch across his forehead and lighting bolts that look like tears drawn from the bottom of his eyes down to his chin. He looks like a photograph and the paint on his face like crayon drawn on it. He is wearing feathers on his clothes and in his hair, but I can’t tell if they are black like the angel’s wings or the eagle feathers that I thought he was wearing. “I thought you signed a treaty,” I say. He doesn't answer and I follow his gaze over the edge of the mountain.

In the sea below us, the bison are treading water and trying to keep their heads above the surface. The herd is swimming around the mountain, trying to find flat land to climb onto. The waves are crashing over them and dunking their heavy bodies. I see their horns and heads reappear then panicked eyes looking sideways and upwards at the mountain. I hear one of the animals grunting as the current catches the lower half of his body and pulls him down. He chokes on the water between garbled roars and thrashes violently a few more times to jerk himself away from the pull.

“Treaties are written by men,” the Chief finally says, “but catastrophes are made by God.” He strikes his foot against the ground, it cracks open, but the spring does not appear.