Once, there was a deer. He was strong, and the herd loved him. They protected him, as he would one day protect them, just as…
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Once, there was a deer. He was strong, and the herd loved him. They protected him, as he would one day protect them, just as his father had.
The deer enjoyed playing with the stray dog who often played in the trees. Together, they would both play with the trees and the birds and the flowers and the rabbits and the insects and the squirrels. They would run for miles, racing each other, then chasing then racing again.
For a while, the herd had no issues with this. The dog was good. Their deer was strong.
But then the deer and the dog discovered a new thing to play with. It walked on two legs, wore lots of different pelts, spoke with a strange growl and howls, and would travel in packs. The packs of the two-legs would carry bright sticks that shone, and small, hollow sticks which sounded like deer voices or bird songs.
The herd tried to tell their deer and their dog not to play with the two-legs; the birds called them ‘man’ and said they were dangerous. All of the forest agreed. The dog thought she knew old stories about two-legs from when she had been a pup, but she didn’t remember much else about them other than their strange way of barking that wasn’t quite barking.
So, the deer and the dog moved their playing to the high hills and mountains and low gorges and valleys, where the two-legs didn’t go in their packs, and the herd sighed but they didn’t try to stop the two friends from playing.
Then one day, the dog was late so the deer went to play in the forest by himself. It was dim, and the sky was tired as she stretched over the trees and the hills the and sea.
The deer went down to the pond to drink, but he stopped in the treeline. There was a two-legs crouched by the pond, washing its paws and snout. He had never seen one this close before, so he watched, and tried to learn what the birds and the forest thought was so dangerous about the strange animal. It had fur on the edges of its face and the top of its head, but none on its snout or eyes. Its small paws were furless, too – instead, it just had blunt claws. The deer could smell three different pelts on it, which made it smells very wrong.
Next to it were the two sticks all two-legs always carried around: the shiny one that shone like stars, and the small one which made the sounds of other animals' voices.
The deer walked out of the trees, ignoring the way the squirrels whispered for him to hide. It took until he was next to the water for the two-legs to see him. Did they have poor hearing or poor eyesight? Or maybe just poor senses altogether.
Carefully, slowly, the deer walked towards the two-legs. Next to them, the pond watched with her breath held.
The two-legs slowly reached out and picked up the shiny stick. The birds and the trees and the grass all fell silent as the deer paused. He didn’t know what the shiny stick was for, but the birds had told stories to the trees about how loud it could shout when it was angry. The trees had told the squirrels who had told the butterflies who had told the rabbits, who had told the herd. But none of them had managed to find the deer to tell him.
Curious, he continued walking towards the two-legs to ask what the stick was for, and what made the stars glitter in its body when they were all still asleep in the sky.
The two-legs changed how it was crouched, and pointed the stick at the deer, holding part of it up next to its face. The deer bowed his head, asking permission to speak.
The shiny stick shouted, and there was a bright light like the sun and stars and moon all at once. Pain clawed and bit at the deer, kicking at his neck and chest. His legs gave out and he fell down, shouting and crying and begging for it to stop. He tried to say he hadn’t meant to make the two-legs angry – he hadn’t meant to scare the shiny stick. But the two-legs and its stick didn’t speak the language of the forest, so they didn’t understand anything.
The deer's vision started to blur and darken as the sky fell down. He heard the sound of his friend barking and howling, and then the dog bit the shiny stick’s body for hurting her friend. When the herd hadn’t managed to find their deer, the rabbits had asked the butterflies who had asked the squirrels who had asked the birds and the birds had told the dog instead, because the dog would always find the deer.
The deer watched as the dog barked and growled and fought with the two-legs and its sticks. Then the shiny stick shouted again and the sun and stars and moon jumped out of it a second time, and the dog dropped to the ground next to the deer as the sky fell and everything went dark.
The grass held the two friends, while the pond watched on sadly. The trees and the squirrels and the birds all said goodbye to their two friends, and began telling the rest of the forest, knowing the herd would be told soon, too. The herd cried and grieved for their deer and their dog, and that night the forest all promised not to go near the two-legs or their angry shiny stick, or to answer their mocking calls from the small stick.
The forest still keeps its promise now – what’s left of it, at least.
With every tree that fell and every animal that cried and every plant that burned, the forest lost itself a little more to the two-legs. But still, it kept its promise, as one by one the forest lost its words and they were replaced by two-legs' shouts and howls and laughs while the forest wept for each friend lost.
But even now, what’s left of the forest remembers the deer and the dog, and each time a new life is born beneath the trees, their story gets told to warn the young from ever approaching the two-legs.
[ This is a chapter from the 1st draft of my book ]
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