gruff.

(Note: this is part of a much longer story that I fully intend to complete, but sadly my computer is having quite the hissy fit. I hope you enjoy what I have written so far, but much of it had to be finished via iPhone so please excuse any glaringly obvious mistakes! Much love, Mealing)

The new body aches. What once was redundant and wasted has been hijacked, recycled.

Before The Above broke into an electric hue and spiralling iridescent pools splattered it, the horizon rippled with a warm, gentle light until eyes opened and slept. Green blades rocked back and forth as the Great Mother sucked in and released her heavy breaths into the world. And they burst on our tongues with a replenishing, life-giving dew as our teeth ground it into a delectable mush, gulped it down our throats to greedily make way for another explosive, satisfying mouthful. My youngest brother Baan, who was eager and the most alive of all of us, could always be found disgracefully face-down in the knoll. A headless arse and tail floating over the green. Every eye-open, we were graced with a moon in broad daylight before it toppled over with a dense thumpf. Capra, with bleary deep-set eyes would scowl deliriously at the hungry young mess, seemingly still unsubtly bitter four years later at not being the youngest anymore (a status I had likewise remorsefully relinquished to him a mere two years prior).

Naïve as the kid was, Baan noticed the absences first. Not with much consideration, though: his attention span was sweetly fleeting. Enough to sadly question one day the reassuring buzz that the air lost, but greedy enough for that thought to be usurped by the latest mouthful. It is my adamant belief that Capra, more than anyone, yearned for that youthful ignorance again. I’d taken my as the eldest, both since brotherhood and since my father’s sacrifice. I remember little of this, but those memories that stick surrounding him I’d rather not dwell on. With recent, more critical developments his departure almost seems moot. It was an unremarkable circumstance. He wasn’t the first and, we thought, he wouldn’t be the last.

Then the two-legs disappeared. Not with a trickling dwindle like the little hummers: just gone. Poof. Like a swatch, no, switch? Sorry- I’m not quite used to the terms yet. But yes, it was like a switch had instigated them to just pop out of existence. The horizon was swathed with a blanketing hush, a silence thick with just the inhales, the chewing and trotting of ourselves. Baan was, of course, unphased and in fact delighted. The two-legs no longer had a consequence on his life-span, and each new day survived was a bonus buffet. Capra however was apparently unnerved, and his weary eyes would shoot towards mine for a reassuring acknowledgment. I never quite managed to meet them. I’d feel their weight push heavily on the back of my head, making my ears twitch something fierce. Maybe it was my duty as alpha, a role I expected to be taken from me as swiftly as it had fallen to my charge, that drove a guilty suspicion that I could not confirm their safety as my remaining herd. A correct intuition expected very much otherwise, but for now they could eat peacefully. Whether Capra obtained any of this comfort, I cannot say nor will I discover it. A bitterly warming consolation comes from my perception that Baan remained ignorant throughout all of the silent days. And that’s…something.

The turf bred like nymphomanic rabbits not long after those disappeared too, feverously shooting up and out and everywhere. Baan’s eyes, the moment he realised that meadow became an edible treasure trove, glowed with a gluttonous awe. Shortly after, the little moon grew rather rotund with twig-like hooves wobbling from it. Capra himself slowly took to the daily feast, his gut concerns eventually giving way with time, and even I foolishly abandoned my intuitions about the deeply eerie yet pleasant muted air. As the Above played and rested at whirlwind speeds, I relaxed from my duty as eldest. The great light galloped around and around and around the world, and with it we gorged the meadow dry. We, with our bellies growling like injured wolves, began to starve. A final punishment struck with a cold sinking shock to my stomach as I realised my brothers had gone.

I don’t…I don’t remember much mo-

I hurtled myself across the barren plain, knowing the one place they might have gone despite my warnings, despite the rules veiled with fantastical tales of trolls and goblins. A luscious green preserved by a strict instruction from the leaders our fast dwindling herd. I cursed my brothers as my heart pattered with an icy cold hopefulness and panic-driven legs pounded towards the river. Towards the bridge.

My hooves- oh my hooves– they touched the ground where the remaining sprouts of vegetation met the stony grey edge of the cobbled bridge. My throat prickled dryly and sat in a low hard lump as I fixated on the cold patchwork path, glancing away only to check as far as I could under the bridge. With the Great Mother ignorantly sleeping, the river was flooded with darkness. All was still. I made a hesitant step forward, clipping the stone. Then by the pillar’s base, the water sharply glistened.

That’s it! That’s all I know!
My breath coarsely scraped the roof of my mouth as I shot across the bridge, my hooves clanking heavily. The peripheral blurred, the salivating jungle seeming to remain out of reach as I pelted across. A hideous crashing arose from below. It gargled and frothed loudly through fangs! I could hear it hissing and spitting as something, something enormous pierced the bridge’s legs and dragged talon-ridden feet as it scaled the walls. It couldn’t be true, the childish stories and horrors. I fearfully prayed that I’d been naïve to accuse my brothers of crossing the bridge, that they had now returned to our homeland. I felt the bridge buckle as the monster leaped to the surface, blocking my path with its monstrous sight.

Please! No more! I didn’t mur-

Mucus shot out and retracted in a long, dangling globule from a protruding yellow snout. The creature towered high, eclipsing The Above. Stinking river water poured down the muscular legs. It looked amphibious, but the scales appeared crusty, unwell. In one hand- I can’t, please! Argh! In on-one talonous hand, Capra’s bloated, waterlogged head waggled discontinuously from his neck.

I saw red. I saw nothing. I cried aloud and distraught as I senselessly pelted forward.

A shock courses through my new bones, and I scream a fractured scream. The beast freezes and the world explodes. The clouds loosen and fall as blue tiles, sparking as they hit the floor. The Above breaks, piece by piece, and as it does cold light blinds my eyes. My hooves are not hooves but five ugly sticks on a fleshy base, and they grasp instinctively to the metal board on which I lie as they sear me again. I roll a heavy head back and roar, my jaw flopping sideways to my face. Two shadowy figures tower over me as another taps the air, strange green markings following its claws as it drags and more markings appear. My vision, slowly returning but stinging and stained with red, focuses and I see the yellow amphibians again. They glare at me accusingly, and another thuds the metal bed angrily.

“Djakka! What happened?!” The burliest barks at the scrawny monster tapping the air. “The creature’s brain is still incompatible with the database,” it replies “The memory collapsed, Kiraak”. That must be it’s name, Kiraak. It’s hideous. “I know it collapsed, idiot!” Kiraak snarls, “But why?!” Djakka shrinks back, stammering “We still don’t know enough about these creatures, my lord! The points of reference, the way they operate… it’s different to the humans. Once the kinks are worked out, the next operation will be successful. But for now, we cannot charge hi-”

Kiraak erupts with a furious roar, and turns to me. “You piece of shit!” My elongated spine presses hard against the stone slab as he lunges his grim face in front of mine. “Yes, I know you can understand me, you pitiful worm! I don’t care what you are, how much the humans pandered to you lower life forms, your pathetic slavery to them that you thought was freedom. Justice will be sought for my son’s death, and when I have proof you will suffer.”

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