No Free Water
Malcolm was grateful for the grass. It was dry, stringy, dotting the barren ground in sparse clumps but it was grass. He chewed as he watched Manley burrow and surface.
“How is it?” asked Manley.
“It’s okay.” He knew the others would find little sustanence from it but he needed something to keep going. “What do you see?” he asked Miranda. They were two tree lengths at most from the trees now but he couldn’t make out anything clearly at that distance.
“Aspen and poplar, I’ve never seen the bushes before.”
“Any sign of our friend?”
“Should we go forward?’
“One of us should.”
“Miranda, we have nowhere else to go. If something happens to one of us, it might as well happen to all of us.”
“I’d prefer,” said Manley, “to stick together.”
“I agree,” croaked Theobald. “But please let’s get to the water.”
“Alright,” conceded Miranda, “I’ll go in front.”
Hurrying to follow, Malcolm watched Miranda speed forward toward the trees with Manley struggling to keep up. “What do you see?” he shouted up to Theobald.
“Trees and bushes. Wait, something moved.” Continue reading
Theobald saw the track first. He had woken dry as dust, his head bowed over Malcolm’s shoulder, staring absently at the ground, lulled by the rhythm of Malcolm’s gait. He saw it but it didn’t register at first.
“Malcolm,” he croaked.
Malcolm didn’t stop.
“Malcolm,” he managed to rasp, louder.
Malcolm stopped. “What?”
Slowly, Malcolm backed up.
“Okay stop.” Theobald peered down as hard as he could and cculd see something untoward but he wasn’t close enough. “Let me down.”
“This is important.”
Malcolm lowered his body and Theobald rolled off, his shell pranging against the rock. He was so tired of the pain. He clawed his way close to what he thought he’d seen and realized that he had seen it. There is was, right in front of him. A faint impression in the dust, three holes close together, shadowed by the evening light. At first, he didn’t know what it was. His heart started palpatating when he realized it was a hoofprint. “Malcolm…?” Continue reading
The Plains of Vastidity
Standing on the brink of the Plains of Vastidity, there had been no doubt in Manley’s mind. If he was going to die—which now seemed inevitable—given the choice he’d prefer death by Plains of Vastidity than by Lynx. He had imagined they might find another forest, but knew now how silly that was. Going forward was just as pointless as going back, but he hadn’t been forward before. So he trudged out into the flat emptiness, into the aborbing heat of endless rock. It was, he thought, a place of no earth, no water, no plants, nothing living, nothing breathing—no habitation. Soon, he knew, the only sign of life here would be the five—no, Rollo was gone—four of them lying dead on the parching rock in the middle of this nothingness. Well, it would be less stressful than being eaten. Continue reading
No Light At All
Into the shiny night,
the Star kill and maim,
His snout throbbed.
smiling and sucking
the slime and the scum
Where was he? He could hear birds twittering.
While the animals fled,
in terror and dread,
What was he thinking?
Leaving their heads,
And the dying and dead
Their wicked thrum…
Wicked thrum? That bark. The one with… he tried opening his eyes—then realized they were open. It was black. Was it night? What was the throbbing pain in his snout? He tried to touch it, but his front legs were too stiff. Continue reading
The Humming Guano
First, Manley noticed how much cooler it was inside the cave. Also, how much more comfortable he felt to be back in darkness. The third thing, as he followed close behind Miranda, was that her footfalls made no noise while his splashed. He tried setting his feet down quietly in the water but the whoosh whoosh could still be heard echoing off the rock wall, and his nails scratched on the rock floor. Attempting to walk beside the stream, he stubbed his paw. The fourth thing he observed was that the echoes of his splashing feet grew shorter the further they travelled into the cave. Was the tunnel narrowing? He looked back. A small shaft of light from the tunnel entrance revealed how the tunnel walls had closed in. Where he stood was no larger than three times their height. He had hoped to find soil, humus or something with worms in it, but every time he put out his snout it was met with rock. “There’s nothing to eat,” he muttered.
Miranda, just ahead, said nothing.
Manley hurried after her and whispered, “This stream must go somewhere,” and, “Malcolm couldn’t possibly fit through here.”
“Shhh…” Miranda said abruptly, stopping.
“That hum. What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
Manley listened intently. He’d never heard anything like it. It wasn’t exactly a hum. It sounded like breathing. Was there a large animal just ahead in the cave? Continue reading
Gervaise Has A Plan
Were they descending? Theobald thought he must be dreaming. He’d been luxuriating in the cool, clear water of his pond, floating peacefully. On breaking the surface, he saw rats swimming toward him, led by Ronald, with his pawky smile, demanding, “What are you doing here?” and the other rats glaring at him.
“What do you mean?”
“You heard me.”
“I live here.”
“This pond,” said Ronald, emphatically, “is for the exclusive use of Corporation members.” He had smiled smugly. “I’m not aware that you are a member of the Corporation.”
“As the pond is only for members of the Corporation, and as you are not a member of the Corporation, you must leave.”
“Why? The pond’s big enough.”
“Your views, Theobald, go against Corporation policy. You wouldn’t be happy here. You need a more turtle-conducive habitation… elsewhere.”
“But I don’t… there’s nowhere else…”
“It is unfortunate that you’re not a member of the Corporation, Theobald. You would be assured of having a fine pond like this one to cavort in.”
Why was he thinking about Ronald? Yes, they were descending. Or was mountain ascending? Was that possible? Continue reading
The New Predator Takes up Their Interest
“What does a lynx eat?” Manley asked.
“Flesh.” said Miranda.
“What kind?” asked Manley.
“I don’t know.”
“Should I be concerned?”
“Not even slightly?”
“No, I don’t want to be.”
“I agree,” said Theobald, “I’m tired of being afraid.” Continue reading
Voices In The Night
In the darkness, Miranda huddled with the others against the rock face, listening to their breathing and snoring, wondering at their capacity to survive. In the last light, hungry, thirsty, cold and exhausted, they had fallen asleep, too tired to fear. Rollo snored. Theobald, near her feet, wheezed; Manley’s muted breaths were small but steady, but Malcolm’s seemed hesitant. She surmised he wasn’t asleep. “Are you awake?” Continue reading
AN ARRANGEMENT IS CONCLUDED
Rollo, his eyes searching until they stung in bright sunlight bouncing off the rock face, was certain now there was no way through. This was ludicrous. What were they doing on this stupid mountain? Hadn’t he been against coming here? Yes. What could they be thinking? It wasn’t a natural habitat. What was that animal—a goat—yes, they certainly weren’t goats. And who would want to be? Goats were obviously not very intelligent, probably as a result of living on the sides of mountains. Like those stupid eagles perched on a crag just above them. In point of fact, no sensible animal would live anywhere near a mountain if given a choice. And yet, here they were, climbing these hideously big, stupid rocks. Hadn’t he warned them? Of course, he had. And, as usual, no one had listened to him. Their way was blocked, and no doubt he would have to be the one to figure a way out of this mess, but at the moment, he couldn’t see what. He would be the one who would have the responsibility to come up with a way out. He knew that responsibility would frighten to others, but he wouldn’t let fear clutch him. He would remain calm. He knew they were depending on him.
“What can you see?” Malcolm definitely sounded worried. Continue reading