Archive for animal stories

Flasher Fiction: Family

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by synabetic

Here’s a story that’s a part of the exercise that my partner and I are doing. She provides me an image– a photo she has taken, or an original piece of art she has created– and I write up something for it.  This one clocks in at over 2000 words, and is for one of the best pieces of art Nicole has ever done.  Please feel free to drop me a line if you are interested in a print of it.

Family
by Steven G. Saunders

Others have always said that “family is everything” and that “family comes first”, and I am inclined to agree. When the invaders came, I had no choice but to accept our ultimate fates; but I couldn’t allow my kin to perish, either.

I grabbed my brothers and sisters and ran. I ran with them, pushing them on as best I could. The invaders were terribly fast, and they provided no mercy to those of us they encountered. They consumed us whole, they consumed us in pieces, and those of us who were not consumed had something much, much worse in store for them… I don’t even want to think about it.

Many of my brothers and sisters died or were taken. My mother was torn into bits before our very eyes while my father valiantly, but nearly futilely, bought us some time so we could get away. We cried as we ran, our sadness propelling us forward as much as our terror. We ran deeper into the forest, no longer heeding the warnings of our elders because the baleful darkness of the unknown was far more preferable to what the invaders had in store for us.

Even as young ones, we knew that we must run to survive. I became a new elder in short time, indeed. We needed to live. We needed to ensure our family’s survival. We ran and ran and ran. Eventually, I demanded that we must rest; and rest we did.

It wasn’t long before my fellow young ones looked up to me. They were already lost souls left homeless by an incomprehensible evil. They couldn’t wrap their minds around what was necessary to survive. My mother had told me quite often while I was a little one that there are times when one must take charge. Even if they make the wrong decisions, at least they are trying.

And so it fell upon me to make all the choices for our group of runners to survive. I organized small parties of us to forage for food while we still moved onward into the forest as a group. Soon we had other attackers aside from the pursuing invaders. They would swoop down from the obscured sky or pounce on us from trees. But what they weren’t expecting was for us to fight back.

My father was a fighter. He taught me that our kind need not just hold still and wait for the end to come. We must fight for our families and protect our kin to our last breaths. I would love to say we gave the invaders a good fight, but they were too fast, too quick, too devious.

We had already invited them into our homeland, with their assurances that they would help us to protect ourselves. They had a reputation for being kind, generous, and almost silly. How were we to know they were about to change as a species? We cannot know these sorts of things. We cannot be expected to expect savage betrayal.

The invaders never gave us time to defend ourselves properly, let alone plan a counterattack. We had changed as a species, too, and we were still new at the idea of actually attacking others in a planned and coordinated manner.

Thankfully, we knew enough to surprise others who would dine on our dead or still living flesh.

On the second day into our exodus into the forest, a large swooper came at us as night fell. Its first pass was just a probing measure, and, as my father had taught me, this was where we also got to probe him. I quickly assembled my best youngling brethren and had two of them mill about a nearby clearing. The swooper took the bait, and as he swooped, the youngling-bait ran towards a large group of us where we were lying in wait with sticks we had sharpened with our teeth and fear-honed anger in our hearts.

The swooper was totally confused by our action and I yelled to my comrades to commit fully to their survival. As I stabbed into the swoopers feathery shell, I went with my blood and leapt up onto its back, thrusting my stick into its neck. It never had a chance to make any of its typical sounds. The swooper just simply gurgled as it desperately tried to get away, then fell down and died.

We relished our first victory together. One of my sisters suggested we consume the swooper as swoopers consume us and I thought about it briefly. I knew we didn’t have much time, and I also knew that the foraging for berries and other quick foods wasn’t enough to keep us going. We were also thirsty, haggard, and our morale had been sapped by our kin’s annihilation.

I could feel the spirit of the warrior inside of me. Until my father told me of it, I didn’t even know what a warrior was. One of us who fights, he had told me. He died a warrior, screaming into the face of the enemy, challenging his powerful invader foe to take him on. Their chittering noises sounded like laughter as they tore him apart.

I felt the calm. I felt my fear turn into hate. I felt my fate quickly turn into determination. I looked to the swoopers blood that covered me and I climbed onto its corpse. I addressed my kin in a low tone, one that is often used for mating purposes, and I didn’t ask them to eat the swooper. I called their loyalty, bravery, and resolution into question. I asked if they were going to die starving cowards, or would they meet their fates as warriors with full bellies.

My family cheered. They were all my family now, not just members of my family’s community.

The swooper was ravaged swiftly, consumed by all. We took its feathers and fashioned protective garb for ourselves. I wore its beak on my face, to show everyone I was leader. I was the prime warrior.

I was death incarnate for those who opposed us.

And so it was. We encountered more and more attackers and overcame them. Those of us who died honorable were given our total respect and our assurances we would name our new kin after them. We began attaching insulting terms to our enemies. The stalking bandits who killed and ate us were “Furry Stripe Corpsers”. Swoopers became “Hooting Victims”. The larger creatures who were like brutish, more intimidating versions of us, became “Big Toothed Dead”.

And so it was.

Time passed and we stopped running. Now we hunted. The Big Toothed Dead never knew what hit them, as we proved smarter and more cunning than them. We relied on their own overconfidence in their primitive martial abilities in order to properly suppress them and their communities. Before long, we were invading their nests and destroying their young. We would sometimes leave a younger one of them alive to warn others like them, making sure to eat the hearts of their kin before their very eyes.

We knew what we were doing. My father would have approved. My mother spoke to me in my dreams. She was there with me when I killed that first swooper. I could feel her with me always. I could feel my father and my dead siblings in my instruments of death.

The hunted became the hunters.

And so it was.

One day, I was no longer a young one. I had become fully grown. My family had never forgotten the horrors visited upon us by the invaders. How they betrayed us. How they destroyed us.

Or how they thought they had destroyed us.

I had always pondered on the thoughts of why the invaders hadn’t fully pursued us. They seemed to have gotten what they wanted, assuming we would die in the forest. They most certainly had thought we would all become food for predators. And yet, against all odds, we became the predators.

One day, I was dispatching yet another large Whiskered Death Dealer, honoring its grandness with prayers to the warrior spirits who guided us all, and it occurred to me that the time had come. I climbed atop the Whiskered Death Dealer’s head, first accepting it’s claws as my due as Honored Leader, and I addressed my family.

I told them we must no longer fear the invader. We had spent many days and nights training for revenge. We had no illusions of victory. We simply wanted to destroy the invader as much as possible. If but one of them is killed, we had achieved glory as far as we were concerned.

Some of the Furry Stripe Corpsers had joined us. We even had a few swoopers working with us. The Big Toothed Dead were servants to do as we pleased. We set forth with an army to strike down as many of the invaders as possible.

My heart soared as I rode along the back of my Furry Stripe Corpser I called Bandit. As we got closer and closer to my old homeland, I could feel the resolve in my soul. I took in all that had changed. We were no longer weak creatures who frolicked in the sun and ate little bugs and berries. We had become death, covered in the remains of our enemies, all of whom we had turned into food, weapons, and armor. My family called me Bone Lord and I welcomed the title with fondness.

It was hard to believe that at one time I was meek and timid.

The community of the invaders came into view. They still clustered openly in something they called a “village”. From my younger, peaceful days, I remembered the layout of their villages well. Their past friendliness was now their undoing, as their kindness had become our army’s intelligence.

I knew they had a leader. An elder they venerated. We knew that if we attacked him first, then the rest would be disorganized and we could pick them off more easily. One of the Big Toothed Dead had been keeping a flame alive since it struck from the sky days ago. This flame would be greatly beneficial in creating the havoc we needed in order to commit proper war.

We struck just before dawn; as the invaders were sleeping. For some unknown reason, they had none of the weapons they did before, and as I laid my bone-blade into their shrieking elder, I began to feel the familiar relation of possible victory.

So did the rest of my family. The invader’s village was an orgy of violence and retribution before we knew it. I then received word from a swooper that another village was organizing a defense. As the invader village burned, we regrouped and pushed into the invader’s territory.

Much time passed and I had become weary. Our family’s army had destroyed five of the invaders’ villages and we were working on two more when my rage ran out and fatigue overcame me.

I fell off of Bandit and I understand that she gave her life defending me from one of the hold-out pockets of invaders. She was a good mount and a dear companion in arms. She will be missed.

The invaders took to the forest just as we had long before, and after some time, they sent out an emissary in order to come to an accord. They wanted peace. They tried to explain the previous destruction of my family as some sort of bizarre fluke. Something that would never happen again. I was unconvinced. But my family wanted peace, as they had tired from a lifetime of conflict and bloodshed.

I was strangely agreeable with this notion, too. We must have hit a wall spiritually; and having had our revenge, our warrior spirits were trying to tell us something. We were weary of everything that had transpired, and so we readily agreed to co-exist with the invaders in the forest. They were very pleased with this outcome, and before long we were living together.

It’s hard to imagine my life as a warrior. As the Bone Lord. As a distributor of death, destruction, and righteous vengeance. But there I was, retired from the life of killing. The other ones who had helped us were released from their obligations, and their own families were greatly compensated. Many of them went on their own paths, but a few of them still stop by to say hello occasionally.

I now happily pick berries and explore the nicer parts of the forest, with its colorful beauty and pleasant meadows that border it. As time passes, I feel more and more elated with my new life, not caring as much about my warrior past, nor do I feel weak and worthless like I did when I thought of my first life with my family.

In the end, the invaders joined us and we think of them less and less as a conquered people and less and less as invaders as the days pass. By some miracle of fate, we have learned to accept each other and I couldn’t be more overjoyed by this prospect. They have become family.

Family is everything.

Nothing comes before family.

family_fiction_nicole

Original image courtesy of Nicole Turner

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