Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Excerpt: 'On the Move,' from 'Core Values.'

With the coming of the cold weather, small game, birds and other creatures became harder to find. As the leaves fell off the trees, they collected underfoot, making it hard to obtain food by stealth. It was harder to hide, and the warmth of the midday sun did not last very long.

Bellies were going hungry, and it had been a long time since any of the larger prey had put in an appearance. As if in some collective decision, the giant mutant salamanders were on the move. While the nights were bitter and frosty, the daylight beckoned, and they followed the warmth of the sun as it traveled across the sky. Taking refuge in pools, and ponds, and deepnesses in the creek, they huddled together, seeking warmth in the soft oozing muck of the stream bed. They burrowed down head-first, and used torn-up water lilies and other weeds as a blanket. Rising only for air, they rode out the frigid, bitter nights.

On a moonless night, they stayed until dawn; but sometimes when the moon was full, they could not resist its lure. Confused by its brilliance, bathed in its glare, yet the land remained dark, and eyes grown used to dimness relied on smell, and sound, and the very taste of the air around them to find a warm, living, breathing body to consume.

They could not have told an impartial, objective observer why they were on the move, or how many of them there were, or if there were other groups just like this one.

All they knew, if they knew anything at all, is that they were hungry. They had to fill their bellies and get fat before the winter’s frozen hell descended upon them and turned their world into a stillness that they feared without understanding, for it was magic. They knew no other life, no other objects, but themselves. They knew of no other places, but this one.

They did not know about time, and space, and dimension, and if they had they could have cared less about such false and artificial constructs of theory: they were hungry and they were going to fill their bellies and that was the only thing that had any importance at all to them.

They did not know about the creation. They did not know about good, and evil, they did not know right from wrong. They knew pain, they knew pleasure, they knew fear, they knew safety and threat. They knew the muck, the mud and the river bottom. They knew the trees, the bushes and the plants. They knew the animals, the larger, bigger animals that they could eat now that The Change had come, and they could eat them, and the whole world was open to them, if they had courage to seize it.

Long ago, The Change had been foretold in prophecy, and it had come to pass. It only remained to be seen what the giant mutant salamanders would do with it. And they were strong. They had learned that you cannot reach the sun, no matter how warm and inviting, they knew you could not touch the moon. But there were other lights, and they seemed much closer. They were moving towards the lights. Like the sun in the sky, like the cold dead eye of the moon, the pretty-coloured lights beckoned from the far horizon, making the sky red with a ruddy glow. The surface of the water efracted and reflected this, both on top and under the surface, the dimmest orange flickering glow on the bottom of the river told them their destination was nigh…the warm illumination on the tree trunks invited their curiousity and promised good things to eat.

What more could they ask? Red eyes glowed in the middle of the meandering creek, then they submerged, to rest, to wait, to sleep.

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