On the Third Day, Boulder (barrier)
VI.ii. Big Generations
At night, the forest might crackle of twigs cracked in the passage of voles, or ring choruses of male crickets stridulating, a hungry owl hooting its bearings, wings of predator birds clapping through leafy arborage; all deeply disturbing for those unfamiliar with forest nights which sound so different from the day.
Wiemi and Faun were two such uninitiated. And if it wasn’t the ecosphere that threatened to loom in on them, it was the razor snores exchanged between Pippi and Goto that betrayed their location to any beasts rabid or fraught of famine. It was unlikely that the prolonged cloud cover benefited most forest flora and fauna; as with the villagers, they’ve all been provoked into a state of irritable and truculent desperation. Most disconcertingly, the ones capable of tearing man limb from limb.
— Yes, my dear, I am your da-da and you are my wretched Baba. Wiemi tweaked her wet black nose and hugged her closely under the stars.
For ages now, he’d been hopping along in the forest along hunting lanes as the lead tracker, pinpointing much of the wild game that roamed this area now, temporarily free of human pursuit. But it had never occurred to him to set up camp; as the boy-who-would-be-king, his communal duties were numerous, and every evening by necessity be spent with the tribe. He had always innately considered himself above such ventures, only now wishing and pleading with his hitherto self to learn courage in the ways of the forest’s night wiles. Rendered weak in this state of heightened alertness, he found some solace in the closeness of his kin, regardless of her misshape and bizarreness. He could tell that she was even more terrified than he of the predicament; he drew conviction therefrom to be more strong and consider himself the protector, rather than his usual role of either victim or abuser.
He found her yawn to be delightful. She would begin by curving her spine, propped half-arms shuddering, a tilted oval mouth with perfect tiny white teeth set back. She ended her stretch with a jerky slump, as if it were a sneeze, her milky curls parading across her winced eyes. He pushed one back over her elven ear, it was so soft and succulent-oily. He ran a finger through a ringlet, pulled it straight and chuckled as it boinged back into place.
— My little Baba. He kissed her on her head beside the ear, — I will protect you as best I can from this awkward world you were born into, alone in your kind. Perhaps somewhere off in fantasy fairy lands, young sheepkin frolic over hill and dale, constantly amazed with all of the heart at every next thing that happens. Oh, look over there, a rainbow! Or there, a horny toad! Or da-da playing with my nose! This paradise where things just… happen, and the realization of what’s happening is itself a miracle. And the recognition that you’re capable of realizing what’s happening is a miracle, and that one simple path takes you down pathway of infinite epiphanies and liminal moments where you are just pure spirit of mind that is knowing things, and relishing ecstatically in each brilliant understanding. But here, we struggle, and we find comfort in one anothers’ arms in times of great distress. Some find comfort in objects, some in comedy, some in stories, some in dance, some in food, some in pleasure of the flesh, and some in their pets. But a pet is one of the most precious things we love. For a true beloved pet, we would do anything. We can even make ourselves believe that our pets appreciate us… we can lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that our pets love us… and…
Wiemi tried to stifle the spasms of his own weeping, as he emotionally stares face to face with the force of taboo. He sniffles.
— But sometimes we make mistakes here in this non-fantasy land. And we clap our hands together and pray to the ancients that our foolish mistakes will not be the death of us, or someone dear, or someone near. And every once in a while, every time there’s big red moon, something special happens, and our mistakes become our triumphs. Wiemi wipes a burble of tears from his cheeks with his wrist, and views the water, the flesh, the veins and sparkles of the reflected moon on his wet skin.
— I have been given such a moment, Baba. We will make it through this night together, and together we will convince the Power Brokers to rescue the Power Braids from the tree people, so that it might once again flow to the village, and let our hearts glow as bright as the Great Bonfire.
Wiemi looked to Baba, expecting a worldly-wide grin indicating her pride and blessing for having been born to such a thinker and orator, that his words ought be recorded in carbon, but he had delivered her tousled and troubled head into the very hocks of slumber. His disappointment was erased by the guilt he continued to suffer over his various indiscretions to tradition. For someone who would be King, he dared this moment to chastise himself (why here and now in this cold wood?) for not bowing in the slightest to the long cavalcade of bones tumbling into history’s war chest. Things used to tell us stories, like the bow that shot the arrow that pierced Achilles’ heel, but he had become deaf and they became artefacts, as stories told themselves in books, and lived as long as the gods. Until the things speak directly into our brains, and tell us stories once again.
And there wasn’t much further ado, as the profound somniferous effects of such compressed lines of rabbit-hole thinking took hold. He might ask if these walls could talk, if these shoes could walk, if this stove could cook, if this network could evolve; they’ve all come here for the fire show. Real fireworks this evening. A million and a half dead. Bam! One shot. You don’t know what that’s like, and yet you want to know. One-Two Punch! Ow! Eighty million and change? Dead. Bam! And stay down. But no, that’s crazy. That’s not even a number. Let’s try again. Let’s not and disappear and say we did. The clockface was tripping, oozing and drooling in numbers you’ve never seen. Numbers that’ll never exist, but you know for a fact they are numbers. They are trying to tell you their story, weeping through a small hole in the rock, dying in the sun where sediment will one day come. Sifting through physical archives poorly cataloged. Perspiration from exercise and from fear. Have you been running or fighting? What’s the difference, I need a gourd of water. And glug, glug, glug, living for a moment on the inside of the throat where the cool water drains before you can’t feel it any longer, and it becomes a sound, the sound of sloshing in puddles when you rustle your stomach. And looking up, the shepherd grimaces as you approach, a man-who-would-be-king, you stride by, scoffing at the meager farmer, laughing at his boring and repetitive life, until something jabs you painfully in the rear: “PITCHFORK!” which woke Wiemi up.
Baba clenched on his backside as he hurled off the coarse blanket to the violet-tinged fuzzy smear of dawn. Wiemi couldn’t get to his foot, so he rotored around on his waist in place screaming for someone to get her off of him. Goto had been roused by the ruckus, and bounded over to separate them. As soon as Goto grabbed hold of her adolescent fur she awoke and immediately went agape, her petite-two’s before her mouth, in morbid disgust at what she’d done.
Goto helped Wiemi, who was rubbing his wound, to his feet, a shaking, dizzied stalk of curses and condemnations for his half-breed daughter.
“Calm down, bwwb-king[ Being the village-specific term for “boy-who-would-be,” essentially pronounced bweewb, the second double-u just an ovular lip play with the connecting ee’s, which are visually silent.], the thing didn’t mean it. Look at it, cowering there, it’s horrified at what it’s done. Does that remind you of anyone?”
— She bit me. Her father. On my ass! He saw the small frightened sheepkin clutching on to the wooden bench through a repellent miasma of anger emanating in rapid waves from the heat of his heart, and he wanted to thrum her vile face with the back of his left hand and then mush it with his right hand, into a feathered pile of muck and…
“Calm down, Wiemi, or I spank you, ass.” Wiemi could tell by his tone that Goto wasn’t exactly joking. It encouraged him to take a deep breath through flared nostrils and hop into a more stable, rigid stance.
— It still hurts, he complained, but the amplified rounds of anger tapered in intensity, a resetting of bones in exhalation hones his vision to where he can see the tears burbling by the smooth base of her snout. In controlling his rage, he came again in control of his compassion and rushed to his young daughter to press her tight against him, so tight as to close the wounded gap in his heart where the hate came spilling out in pain.
— These times have been tough on us all, has it not?
The four of them were in accord, longing for a breakfast of hot ham and baked bread as they ate their cold yams and larva before setting out together on their trek.
Pippi admitted that she and Goto had not considering venturing much past camp once they had found the break in the Power Braids; their efforts of invention pertained mostly to dealing with the looming threat of the tree people evidenced in front of them. Wiemi consented that it was not unwise, they now having come into vegetationless gully running in one direction to the shore-end of an idyll bay, and into a distant curve before disappearing into denser wood. The gully was uniform enough in dimension and carving to have required human intervention.
“Impressive. Did your people make this?”
— My people. Since when are you not one of our people?
“When things like this happen. One of your ‘civil works’ projects of process? To take iron rakes and hoes and stab and tear and gouge the very earth upon which you stand every day of your life? Pfah. This I don’t understand.”
— This would take mighty labor, and I’ve heard of no directive that would pertain to digging, what do we even have here…? a deep line in the sand? They peered down from the edge as far as they could see, following the run of the matte black power lines which were sunken into the trench several tree lengths farther down toward the forest.
“Does it say anything to you, Man-Mountain Goto?”
“Huh?” Goto shrugged his shoulders, unclear on what she was referencing. Over the years he’s been frequently exposed to this tactic, Pippi will announce something absurd right out of the blue, and then try to cover for her outbursts with some insight or proverb.
“There are Giants leave secret messages for one another drawn into the dirt so large that only another Giant could even see the message from their great altitude.” She taunted the ditch with her finger. “Is this such a message? Do the Giants speak to us about the Power Braids?”
“No, mum,” explained Goto, “those fairy stories are told with stones. No Giant would scrape the ground this way.”
As Baba nudged at the air in the distance, the forest near her snout jiggled and waved like enormous palm fronds. Goto was accompanying Pippi down to the cloudy beach, so it was only Wiemi who saw Baba vanish head first into a rustle of forestry leaving only a small ripple of leaves in her wake.
— Pippi! Goto! Help!! Wiemi bellowed as he was picking up speed, almost losing his footing on a fallen branch he’d failed to see, distracted by concern for his diabolically disappeared sheepdaughter. — Oh God, if it’s the tree people got her…
Goto barreled through the wood, sprinting Olympian to assist like an obsidian blade in the possession of a Giant scything through the brush. Pippi followed like a wounded rainbow-plumed chicken, trying not to get her sandals all covered in mud.
Jogging, but not making any progress, the view up ahead of him didn’t move and it only enlarged disperspectively, losing depth of character and character of motion. Wiemi lobbed himself to a stop to stand and stare at this large colored drawing that rose out of the earth, so defined, precise and perfect, more than even , it truly looked as if it were the forest, but as his vision settled, he could see that it was as flat as the surface of any sheared stone.
‘(Baa — baah.)’
— Baba is trapped in there. Can you hear her? I saw it, they dragged her into the picture box. Pippi and Goto stood in transfixed amazement just behind him.
‘(Baa — baah. Baah.)’
— She’s in there! What should we do? Wiemi tentatively reached out to touch the drawing, nearing, withdrawing, withdrawing, nearing. He made contact, squinting and fearing lightning, but was met with only plush fabric on the tip of his third finger. Surprised, he felt down some length, and it proved to be frail as textile when Goto bulled through the fabric that parted meekly in response to his charge.
“Oh, Fu-u-uuu…” Beyond the amazing painted curtain Goto’s holler faded out of earshot. Pippi pulled her wand from out her broad earlobe gauge, and was the next through the breach to see a vast panorama of desert with pearl-white Baba looking back on all fours near the edge of an enormous crater, falling down and into the horizon.
Wiemi followed closely behind, a sense of scorching dread whistled from back of his head through his spine down to the finest phalanx in his steady foot. The abyss was so colossally daunting Wiemi thought for a moment he was being held upside down.
— I take it Goto…
“Went the way of the wires.” Pippi pointed to the gully that spun the Power Braids out of sight into the mammoth cavity that loomed before them.
Wiemi collected Baba in his waiting arms after she qudrapedally bolted for him, overcome with relief that she was safe. After a moment of solemn reuniting, the dawning of conscientious obligation settled over the three of them simultaneously, each knowing they ought not wait for reconsideration to defuse incentive to approach within toes the lip of the abyss. Wiemi and Baba shut their eyes as everyone gathered hands in a line and drew breath. Pippi felt the magnetic tug of action, every instant of delay puts Goto in further peril, so she bravely accused the abyss with her stare, and let herself fall, never letting go of her gaze, for somewhere deep engulfing darkness was her beloved.
Beads on a string of clasped hands, Wiemi and then Baba were jerked inward roughly enough to break their connection with their partner and startle open their eyes; the indigo-bottomed clouds hid whimpering limp rays of the Sun God’s candescence, and dwindled to mush, to a pinpoint, as Wiemi plummeted.
The rushing air of the abyss grew warmer as they fell, until they almost thought they were floating, stopped precisely in space without the purchase of gravity, twisted and rolled along any vector without any sense of compass.
As if they were crashing through increasingly smaller bands of viscous fluids, their falling would slowly accelerate, slowly decelerate, provoking a such a nausea in their tummies, they had to bite down on bile to keep any from egesting. Baba’s hybrid biology, while familiar with some functional ruminant redigestion, didn’t have enough neurological governors to stop an outgushing of grassy, grainy bilious vomit, spun twirling in a trail behind her convulsion.
‘(blllaaaaahb!)’ The funk of her incidental discharge spread quickly, prompting a successful redoubling of efforts to quell regurgitation responses on the part of Wiemi and Pippi.
— Baba, stay strong! We’re almost through this, lied Wiemi mostly for his own benefit. He struggled to straighten himself as he reached another of these moments of brief suspension in order to stabilize and orient himself. He was able to steady himself in what he reckoned was “up,” as his descent accelerated, holding stiff his muscles against labile winds.
Wiemi came crashing through the stream of upchuck, splattered all over his back an underarms. He instinctively shook his frame violently like a dog from an icy pond. Before another phase of acceleration, his shaking has forced him into a pinwheel spin, his three and a head extremities felt a fearsome pull of centrifugal force, pressing blood up into his head and digits with less returning to his heart.
He felt pinned at his naval, woozy and drowsy with his body trying to process and transmit to so much stimulation. He tried desperately to curl into a slug and fight past the mounting pressure barring his ability to bend, but couldn’t even manage to press his chin to his chest.
With only a slight alert warning of a high-pitched tingling and a magnetic draw of his tailbone, his faint consciousness was vacuumed from his corpus, sucked into tangle of copper, yarn, plastic and steel.