Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chapter Thingie: Voyage of the Badger

NOTE: Re-writing a novel I started a while back. Adding in things like this. Still need to augment. But it's getting better. I'm much more proud of it now.

Understand, this is not the life I would have chosen. 

Who chooses loneliness? 

She said it was my destiny. “Badgers do what nature tells them,” she said. Badgers dig and root and tunnel and fight and kill. Sometimes they die. You may find little pleasures: Food, when you can find it. A mate, when you can find one. But you will be alone. By your nature. Gruff. Standoffish. Territorial. Defensive of what is yours and covetous of what could be yours by fang or claw.” 

She told me this. 

She told me this as my father listened, nodding silently, glaring at me with his one good eye, that broken yellow fang hanging out of his scarred lip. 

That scar. It fascinated me so as a pup. From lip to ear, crossing the now blind right eye. “Got it in a scrap,” he always said “Fighting two foxes who tried to steal a dead rabbit from me. I would have kept it, too, ‘cept that vixen took my eye. Yes, they were hungry. So what of it? So was I. Weren’t enough of a coney to share, let alone with two scavengers such as them.”

He puffed as he waddles up towards the canyon, dodging from brush to shadow to lee of the rock, sometimes wading in the stream to avoid being seen. His father taught him thus. “We have aught to fear, but it’s best to go unseen. That is our nature, after all.” 

More from her. 

He spat into the creek water. 

It wasn’t long before he found old familiar paths. 

A modest scuttle past a stand of wild strawberry. “Ah,” he said to himself. “Sweet. So sweet. And plenty for everyone to share. We ate them. The beavers ate them. And the shrews, the voles, the crows and larks and jays. The bears ate them. The deer. Sometimes, all of us there in the morning, looking for fruit, the moose walking warily so she didn’t step on any of us.” 

A dark hole disappearing into a thick stand of paper brush, thorns thick as his claws. “Never a prickle. We knew every branch. We knew when to duck, when to dodge, when to pause when a beaver shot ahead and tried to snap us in the snout with a branch. Oh, we laughed. All of us together.” 

A U-shape, dirt-bottomed, roofed by tall grass and sunshine, weaving over gentle hillocks. “There I found her, her with the lower-case h. A gorgeos she-badger, that one. The brightest eyes in the darkest face.” 

She stood before him. 

“Memories, Aloysius?” she said, feet hovering inches over the ground; where her toes touched as she walked, marigolds grew. 

“We’ve spoken of memories, Aloysius. Memories are not for you. Not for your kith. Instinct, that is all you need.” 

Aloysius found his eyes full of tears. 

“You have robbed us,” he said, sniveling. “You have robbed us all. All sunshine and no kindness, you are. I will not listen. I will not listen. Any more.” 

She laughed. 

“Memories and tears? Memories and tears? Too like the humans. Too like the doleful creatures they are, full of regret,” she said. 

He paused in his walking, forcing her to stop short. 

“Regret?” he said. “Yes, there is regret. Regret that I have ears that ever listened over a heart that knew there were better things to be had.”

“You sound like that magpie,” she said lightly, through tight lips.

Aloysius thought a moment. 

“Yes, I do,” he said. “I regret I haven’t sounded like him all along.” He ambled on, faint smile underneath his whiskers. 

Wind blew the grasses flat and clouds obscured the sun. The green-tinted air took on the scent of tin. 

Aloysius looked up. 

Aloysius looked up into her eyes. 

Green. Hollow tubes of light that shed no shadows, that offered no warmth. And at the far-distant end of the tunnel of her pupil, a badger. A badger writhing in pain. 

And he laughed. 

Aloysius laughed, and the green hollow eyes quavered. 

At the end of that tunnel, the badger listened. And laughed in unison. 

She let out a howl that startled a sleepy owl from its perch and froze sparrows to their branches. The wind whirled around her, whipping her gauzy dress, shredding it, tuning it from gauze to fur. Fangs shot from her mouth as claws shot from her fingers, now paws. 

And Aloyisius laughed. 

“Yes!” he shouted. “That is the face we see. That is the face we fear, deep inside. That is the face reflected from the moon, the face in the ponds and rivers. That is the face the food sees, the face the weak see, the face that haunts those stumbling off to die in the dark lest their festerintg corpses invite that face to dwell in the burrows, in the nests and branches.” 

“Yes!” she shrieked. “This is the face you see before you die.”
And Aloysius laughed.

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