But in all seriousness, Kal's not a bad guy. Sure, he may need to have labels on the food in the fridge to know what's his and what isn't, but hey. At least he isn't plotting to kill me in my sleep. I've known people like that. My youngest sister, for instance. A nice girl overall, but don't dare piss her off and try to sleep in the same house. I woke up with water being poured on my face in the middle of the night once.
Right. Anyhow, I wrote this last night while I was failing at sleeping:
The wind snaked its way around and through the trees, bringing with it the smell of air kissed by the plains and dosed with the barest touch of pale sunlight. The badger rose to greet the wind and drink in the fragrance that signaled the changing seasons. Birds and squirrels and cats all mimicked him. The time to stockpile and share had come. The trees were alive with hurried activity, though to the unpracticed eye the woods looked and sounded much as they ever did. But should more attention be paid, soon rabbits would be seen fleshing out and widening burrows, chipmunks hiding food and the trees swaying in graceful preparation to doff their leaves. But the single Hound stood still, a sad look on his old face. He knew what that wind really meant. He had tasted the hidden scent upon it.
Somewhere, beyond the peaceful trees and across the plains, the Hunters were getting ready, and Loggers and the Trappers. The smell of Man was unmistakable. And Man getting set to march released a scent so acrid – but too subtle from so far for those who do not know it to catch it. Tongue lolling slightly in the fading remnants of summer’s heat, the Hound looked all around him, that he might remember these woods as they were now. For he knew what they would become. Rows of stumps, surrounded by short grass. Black patches of char. Rotting bodies and great fire pits. And eventually, freshly tilled rows of the softest dirt, with pretty little houses to keep the Men away from nature. The Hound had seen this all before, over and over. Man was inexorable. Is inexorable, he corrected himself. The Hound took his last glances of those trees and those animals that called these woods home. And then he left, silently, without even a grunt of warning. Let them have their last days of peace, he thought. No amount of preparation could stop the inevitable at this point. The Hound mourned for weeks.
And he found another home. He settled in. He let himself forget, and he made friends. He established a routine. And one day, as those around him readied themselves for autumn, a foul taste came to him on the wind. Faint, but meaning only death. Only loss. The Hound’s grief returned to him as he drank in his last glances of this place, still so new to him for all that he’d spent the better part of a year there. He left, wondering if he was ever missed at the end. Then he thought that if he was, he was surely only counted one among many who had perished or been forced to flee. Just another casualty. And, he thought, perhaps he was that.
He wandered long before he found another place to rest. Another place to name home. He realized that each new haven was slowly decreasing in size. Becoming less trusting, less inviting. More wild, more vicious. He wondered what there was that man could not ruin. The Hound shook off the thought and adapted himself to this new place, just as he had with all those before. He made himself fit in. And he let himself forget again, for a time, the endless march of Man. But the smell, that haunting and taunting smell, came once more. Did they never rest? Did they always move, at every summer’s end? But the smell did not spark recognition immediately in the Hound. At first he could only wonder at the oddness of its bitter quality in this remote wood. And memory came back in a rush as tears came to the Hound. He fought them back as a careless rodent let a rock fall from the dark canopy down to the ground. Man loomed, terrifying, in the Hound’s mind.
Without even a parting glance the Hound fled, eager to put as much distance between himself and Man’s frontier. He was so tired of this never-ending chase, but he could do naught else but flee. What simple Hound could withstand the legions of Man, that faceless and formless beast? The Hound ran for years, stopping in the ever wilder havens that he could find, resting and relaxing. Fitting in, molding himself to the place around him. And each autumn, smelling the foul scent on the air that betrayed the march of man, the Hound would flee once more. But each time, the memories came back slower. The urgency of his flight grew less and less with each passing year. So it came to pass that one day the Hound did not remember at all.
He wrestled with a fox, playfully and happily breathing in the fresh air, the sweet air, as others around him gathered food to hide away and strengthened homes against the coming weather. A wisp of smoke floated in the sky. The Hound did not see it. He did not smell it. Not until it was too late. The scent of flames burst upon the woods and the shouts of Men and the hard, sharp report of their axes thrust themselves onto and into the trees. The animals, confused and panicked, did nothing. They merely stood and listened, watching for anything, questing for some signal. And then the first Man appeared before them, tall and grand and new. The Hound felt none of his old fear, his well-earned terror of this figure. He only possessed the instinctual fear of noise and flame, of the presence of a potential hunter. More Men appeared. Gunshots rang out. The exodus and slaughter began in earnest. Deer and bears fell in vast numbers. However valiantly they fought, the bullets of Man were no trifling pain. The Hound knew not what to do until one of the Men approached him. Seeing the destruction all around, he bared his teeth at the Man. He snarled and growled and did his best to look scary. But the Man was unconcerned. He hefted his axe with both hands and brought it up, high above his head. As the Hound leaped in attack, the axe fell and caught the Hound across the top of his head, driving him into the dirt.
Blood spilled from the Hound as the Man moved on, bringing his axe to bear on any other threat. The Hound died slowly, in agony, as he remembered all that he had forgotten in the years past. The cruelty of man. The baseness of their march. With a bitter mental laugh, for he had not the strength to truly manifest it, the Hound cursed his own complacency, his own willingness to leave his past behind. His desire to forget. He died, broken in all ways and finally defeated, able to flee no longer. He was not remembered, as Man was. He was left to become dust. He was nothing.