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Morning has broken

The mist lay over the land like a comforter smoothing away the edges. Sounds traveled less at these times, but few beings knew this. Those who were nocturnal were already snuggled down, deep in their burrows. Those who were diurnal had not yet roused by this time.

The chill of the October air swirled about the massive buck, and steam poured from his nostrils. They tested the air, flared a bit at an uncommon scent. Sharp, like fear, like the smell of anger. His ears perked up now, alert to this new concern. He could hear nothing amiss, but his nose had never been wrong.

No one had appointed him protector of the forest. This was a job he had inherited when the last old buck died. Every forest had one – a keeper, a protector. He simply knew to patrol the boundaries,to protect the sanctity of the forest. Nobody else knew his task. It was silent, secret. He insured the peace of the forest home for all the residents –animals and plants.

The trees were his wards too. When he marked them with his scent he was bringing special attention to them – this one needed healing by being noticed. Or this one needed to be left alone by the other deer.

The moose and bear weren’t the same – theymarked what they wanted, when they wanted. No rhyme and certainly no reasonthere. But they were asleep in many ways.

He had the burden of being awake, and being alone. This was a task that was best performed with full attention, or not at all.

It was time to check out that smell. It wasn’t going away and it felt like it would only get bigger. He walked towards it,carefully, slowly, eager to not make a sound. His tall slim legs deftly maneuvered around the branches in the forest, placing his hooves precisely, no sound created to alert others. While he was unwilling to call attention to his duty, he was also unwilling to alert whatever was making this scent – not until it was time.

It took nearly an hour to make his way there. By then his ears could hear the noise. And then he saw it – some huge yellow monster, with round feet and a huge single arm, grabbing at the dirt in massive, greedy grabs. Another yellow monster, arms wrapping around 40 foot trees and stripping off their branches as if they were saplings. His eyes grew wide – what were these beasts who were eating his home? They were the source of the smell, that burning, the smoke, the terror.

The blood that ran through them was from the remains of animals who died long ago – long before this forest was populated with his kind. It was from larger animals, ones that lived in warmer times. The blood of these yellow monsters was made from death, from decay. And yet, the breath from these immense yellow animals would bring about the change that made life possible for them again.

The dinosaurs were having their revenge, now, a millennia later. They had been reborn as the fuel that powered these machines that were destroying the earth for mammals – making it too warm for warm blooded animals, making it perfect for reptiles and larger-than-life lizards.These ghosts had possessed the people, making them crave oil, haunting them to create gasoline, pursuing them to make more and more, to destroy more and more.

The ancient stag knew madness when he saw it. It had stalked his forest in years past. He knew it was a force that was beyond reason.It was a hunger, an emptiness, a vacuum. It was an empty void that could never be filled. Things could never ever be enough – food, power, property. That kind of emptiness only lead to more cravings, not less. It was like scratching at hives – it only made you itch more.

The stag returned to the forest and thought about what to do. The machines could be destroyed, but the people would only bring more. A show of force from the bigger animals – the bears, the mountain lions – would only bring hunters with guns.

The next morning he knew. He went to talk to the trees in that area and explained to them how they needed to give up their spirits. The wood needed to be rotten inside and for that the tree spirit had to leave. Then the wood wouldn’t be valuable anymore. Then he talked to the soil around the area, to soften up to the two legged, to make it impossible for them to scout deeper into the forest. Not quite as bad as quicksand, but better than mud for grabbing it shoes. Enough of that and maybe the people would leave.

He had no way to ensure they wouldn’t come back in the future, but by then he would be gone. Another stag would have taken his place as guardian of these hills, his home. Another stag would have to stand against this incessant encroachment, this greedy grabbing.

(Written early October 2018) (inspired by artwork by Dan McCarthy)

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