Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Drought

Kohana walked through the dusty scrub oak, panting slightly from the heat as he went. It had been unseasonably mild, earlier in the year, so the sudden onslaught of heat left him and everyone else surprised.

He scratched his fur against a pine tree trunk, that was conveniently exposed,hoping to get some of the under layers off that had built up over winter and that he had neglected to pull at during the cooler summer months.

Feeling some relief, he set off towards the cool stream that came down from the high mountain peaks. The area was oddly quiet as he approached, there was something wrong. The waters that had flowed as an unbidden torrent just a few short months ago had been slowly fading into a calm steady flow, he expected less water to be running, this he didn't expect.

The dry raised mud of the creek bottom was cracking in the sun, flies hovering just above the surface and thick dark mud showing where only a trickle of water still flowed.

He surveyed his surroundings, taking in the fresh droppings of black bear who liked to roam these parts and the fresh paw prints of Enola who liked to keep to herself in her old age.

He lowered his head and licked from the trickle, frustrated because his tongue kept picking up creek mud. Mud that while good for the creek, was not so pleasant in taste to the tongue.

He eyed upstream to see if there were any obvious reasons that the waters were so low. Then he turned to head back towards his burrow under some large fallen trees to get out of the sun, slightly dissatisfied with the tepid water.

He thought of following the creek upstream, but decided against any lengthy travel during the heat of the day, and buried himself as close to the rock face near the back of his burrow as he could.

At nightfall he emerged and headed back to the stream for another drink of the tepid water. Disgusted with the state of his water supply he set out, following the chirping crickets who always seemed to find their way to water and the soft sounds of the stream trickling past.

He had walked for several minutes in near silence when he heard a hoot from the grey owl. He heard her take flight, wings swooshing through the air, then the sudden eerie sound of her descending body, rustling leaves and shush of wings again. He knew she had caught her dinner, or breakfast, which ever you prefer.

This distraction almost made him miss the sound of twigs breaking nearby, he readied himself and smelled the air, his heart raced until Enola emerged from the thick underbrush.

"Something's wrong," she began without preamble. "It has not rained for many months now and the stream is almost dry." Her image became more clear to him as she approached.

"I know Enola, I feel instinctively that all creatures including wolves have not seen the likes of this for many generations." He said this in earnestness, remembering a lesson that she had once taught him about impertinence. With anyone else he would have made a sarcastic reply, her forceful manner irritated him, he wondered what she wanted with him.

She sensed his mood despite the respectful cover, her tone of voice raised a little "Kohana, wolves are dying out there! I have run across them myself!"

This news startled him, he had always been a careful hunter, burying thick bones full of marrow for leaner times. He had assumed that all wolves did this, or that things were not as bad as the great heat indicated.

"Enola, let us continue on, standing here is doing no good." She conceded this with a nod of her head in the full moon light and they set off each keeping a pace from the other.

They had walked for many miles, drinking from the tepid water at intervals, not finding any clues as the waters decrease.

Each kept to their own thoughts, until they heard a sudden crack and there was black bear, blinking. They had no desire to meet up with him so they crouched where they were and slowly backed into the forest.

The dark had been dissipating away, by unspoken agreement they headed deeper into the forest to find a place to rest. Kohana found a place to burrow and headed in, missing the feel of the cool stone against his hide at home.

The next day they set off again, following the stream, upwards climbing the rocky outcroppings of the cliff face where a tiny waterfall trickled downward. They walked more desperately as the days grew hotter, and the forest animals which were so easy to catch became treats when they caught them, for they too seemed to be disappearing with the water.

Enola had been visibly worsening, her once lustrous fur had lost its sheen and she stepped more clumsily now. Kohana urged her to burrow in and rest, he was swift and sure footed, he would continue on.

Each day grew hotter, and the stream continued to decrease in volume, even the nights were hot, mocking Kohana with thoughts of his home burrow.

He gazed up at the clear blue sky, as the sun brightened in the morning. He searched for thick clouds, clouds that would end his walk and aching thirst. There was no help there, only the tiniest of clouds mocking his longing with its insignificant mass.

He lowered his head to drink, but found no water. NO! It couldn't be! There had always been something, but now the thick mud lay drying in the rising sun. How quickly the stream had gone!

He turned and retreated into the forest to lay, day he grew weaker each day that he lay there. He had even pawed at the stream digging a hole which filled with water he lapped at it hastily, aware of the sun, no longer caring of the taste.

He lay down beside the creek bed, weary, the sun beating on him. He knew if it didn't rain soon that he would perish, he dimly thought of Enola.

Suddenly, he heard the crack of thunder, he smelled moisture gathering in the air. He lifted his head hopefully as thick clouds rolled in, and it started to rain.

It rained in torrents, drenching his weary body and bringing it back to life again, he lapped greedily at the rushing water.

The sound of swiftly moving water caught his attention and the multitude of logs rushing down the stream, near where he lay. Called to action, he leaped from his place onto a nearby rock as sticks and mud were washed away.

He stood there, reflecting for a moment, then turned and headed home.


  1. An excellent read, I do love short stories,this one was no exception. keep up the good work.


  2. Wow, that was great! More to come? Please?

  3. I love how you brought the animals, the forest to life. How humane is was.. Such a great short story.. When the book coming LOL smiles

    P.S. so creative on the names as well.

  4. Without drinking?? Maybe knowing water was available was drink enough. Rain comes when we need it. Great story. Felt like I needed some popcorn and a cozy chair. that's a good feeeling. ~rick

  5. Yvonne, thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

    FishHawk, thanks for the encouragement.

    Inky, (still after the book I see) the names were taken from American Indian tradition.

    Rick, haha you would catch the bit of neglect that I did at the end. I should of had him drink eh? Got lazy, sorry about that. Rain often does come at just the right moment, at least for some. Yet I feel bad for the others... Glad you liked it. ;D


  6. Yay, this is the first piece of prose I've read from you! Nice work! I think you set the scene wonderfully, and I loved the description of the grey owl. :D

  7. P.S. I am thirsty.. not for water lol
    your next chapter in your book SMILES

  8. Oi' Ve Inky!! You are exactly right, I need to work on my book! I have been neglecting it in favor of developing other things (and trying to get some focus) now that I am there I will work on it some more. My cousineth in fact has been editing it for me (and she's very meticulous) she's probably through with what I've got so I guess I should get her some more... Actually though she has suggested that I not publish on the web what I develop for my book (just in case, publishers don't like it if you make it available) so I will e-mail updates to those who are interested. (Though you may see snippets of related writing here) ;D


  9. (Oh and ouch! I have started practicing my guitar again, running through chords, and my fingertips are sore... the price to pay)