Artwork by Lancelot Burton.
What is that annoying sound? It is slowly getting louder and louder. My eyes lift open to see the alarm clock flashing and beeping, I lay a little long to build up the energy to roll over and shut the damn thing off. Finally, I reach over and hit the button. I sit up and feel every bone in my back start to ache as my fragile bones sink with the heavy morning gravity. I throw my legs off the bed to cover my clammy feet in my warm rabbit fur slippers. For some reason I always find myself looking around my room as if I suspect something to be out of sorts. I turn back to my nightstand to be greeted with my morning meds and my now warm water, to chase them down. Just as l finish the glass, my grandson comes flying through the door with a great big smile, as always. “Good morning, Grandpa.” he greets me. “Good morning, my grandson” as I smile back. My grandson comes in every morning to help me out of bed, even though I can do it myself, I’m still grateful to have him here with me.
As we shuffle down the hall, the strong smell of coffee rushes into my nose, finally lifting my eyes awake. I glance over to the counter to see what looks like a tower of my favourite pancakes, along with bacon sizzling in a frying pan next to it on the stove. Just then, the toaster scares the living daylights out of me, as two pieces of toast pop up into sight. I scurry over to my seat at the table to catch my breath again… That damn thing should have a pre alarm before it gives me a heart attack.
Soon the whole house is filled with a greasy bacon smell, as my grandson brings the grub over to the table. He places the food around as if we are having a great big potluck! After serving me, he slumps into his seat to serve himself. I find myself clutching my coffee mug as I wait for the coffee to join us. “Hey Grandpa,” my grandson asked, his mouth full of bacon, “could you tell me a story today?” “You know your manners, my boy. And I will, as soon as the coffee is ready, then I will be ready as well.” So, there we sat quietly, carefully watching the coffee maker. As soon as it stopped percolating my grandson bolted towards the coffee pot as if it were Christmas morning. While he pours me a cup, I drift into cloud nine wondering what story to tell my grandson. ‘Should it be a pointless one? Or maybe a funny one, he sure likes those! Nah, I know exactly which one to tell him, this will be a good one, and on top of that he hasn’t heard it before.’ The clinking and clanking coming from my grandson’s cup brought me back down to the table. I stare at him for a short while, then I tell him ” My boy, I’m glad you like my stories, but I need you to listen very carefully to this story I’m about to tell you. Long ago, when I was even younger then you, my own grandfather would tell me this story over and over, just so I would understand things around me and my duty as a Land Steward and the protector of our future to come.”
Long ago there was a great darkness caste on all the people of all the lands. This darkness caused people to become blinded by things of no importance. People would begin to fight each other and discriminate against each other, causing great wars across the land. Our foods grew to unbelievable sizes, causing problems. The air burned our throats and eyes would sting as if wasps were following you around all the time. Waters tainted and, being so scarce, fences and outposts where built around all the clean waters. The land became open and dry, mountains began to crumble and fall. The animals started to become things we had never laid our eyes on, They became distorted and funny tasting. Many, many people became ill and a cloud of spirits poured into the sky every day, and the cries of their spirits only grew louder as the days slowly faded away. Many had wondered why everything was dying, what was going wrong? But yet we didn’t want to blame or even think it was humanity causing such destruction. Yet we knew, yes we knew it was our fault, even though we walked blindly and pranced in ignorance. We didn’t want to wash the poison out of our eyes. We continued to talk trash, and then to become trash. Nothing was to be left behind, because of our greedy souls.
**My Creations… what has happened? My rivers run full of blood and rust. My mountain’s flattened and harvested. The plants turned into unnatural monsters, not bringing fulfillment but emptiness. My air burns like fire and my animals run side ways.** Mother Nature wept.
** I’ve given everything to you people, my children, what is wrong? Why are you putting us through these unnecessary pains? We’re meant to live in this world as one. I must help you to help me. I’m slowly withering away, I’ve become weak… ** Mother Nature whispers.** With all the strength I have left I’II send my last seed of life… grow strong and wise my little one, help them to realize what is happening, help them save me, to save US! ** Mother Nature demanded.
The night Mother Nature had spoken, she began to fade. The world stood still, the winds died down to nothing; the great crashing waves stopped rolling. The animals became sad and hid away; even the plants seem to hang low. That night everything had stopped, even the people knew something had happened, but were yet to know. As the dead silence set in a giant fireball had been thrown to the earth’s surface. Just as it hit, loud sounds burst from the spot it landed, along with a flashy lightshow. No man had ever born witness to this fantastic show, though many other creatures had come to that spot as if THEY knew. They knew this seed was the one thing to unburden them from the ever-lasting destruction of the darkness.
Just as fast as the seed had landed, suddenly a huge tree started to take formation around it to protect it from people and other dangers. The great tree grew and grew as time crawled by. All of the plants came together to protect the seed. Thorns grew around the base of the tree, poison ivy crept up the trunk, and acorns sharper then razors grew above. The world only grew darker with pain and misery. Soon enough the seedling shall sprout as only time will carve the future for the seedling.
Many seasons had passed; spring, summer, fall, and winter four times over. Then finally the giant tree transformed. The bark of the trunk shed and peeled. Sap spewed out and ran down to the soil below. Slowly, layers of bark gracefully fell away from the tree. A being slowly took form. A few more layers shed away, and in the centre of that great tree, a young boy let out a startling cry. The cry bounced throughout the whole valley. The winds picked up and the sun sliced through the smoggy sky. The trees stood taller than ever. The animal’s spirits lifted; there was a feeling of over-whelming happiness and enlightenment over every living thing.
While that cry rattled the mountains, it also awoke a great spirit from its den — Grandfather Bear. He slowly crawled his way out of his hillside home.
“That crying! Where is it coming from?” Grandfather Bear asked himself. Off he went to investigate.
When Grandfather Bear got close to where he heard the noise come from, he slowed his pace and stood tall as half a tree, just to get a whiff of what was ahead. It was an odd, earthy smell, mixed with flesh.
Drawing in closer and closer, he was surprised to find a small human boy. With rage filled eyes and drawn claws, fangs glinting, as a waterfall of drool poured out of his mouth. He jumped back on his muscular hind legs and let out a great roar. Toppling back down, he dashed towards the defenseless child.
“Your kind has brought us nothing but pain and sorrow, for that I will take your life! Foolish boy!” Grandfather Bear roared.
Just as Grandfather Bear…”Wait, wait, wait, Grandpa!” My grandson interrupted. “The animals can talk?”
“Long ago they could, and we could understand them as well. They helped us and guided us for many years. We used to watch them and learned many things from them, like what we can and can’t eat, and where to go, and where not to.” I replied.
I sense you have interrupted my story so you can go out and chop some wood for the fire pit outside. I will bring the teapot and honey.” I instructed him. “Damn. I’m sorry, Grandpa. I was just confused that the bear could talk. I’ll get right on it!” He rushed towards to door.
I sat quietly as I watched from my big bay window, thinking. ‘That young man has much in store for himself. I sure am lucky to have him sit around with me all the time. And when he’s told to do something, he jumps up with no lip to give.’
I respect him a lot for that; he sure makes life easier. Watching all that hard work made me feel lazy; I ever so slowly got out of my chair to get the teapot. I grabbed the pot and the tea bags, and then headed out to the fire pit to join my grandson and his well-built fire. “Good job, my boy.
Here, put the teapot on for me, will you?” With no questions asked, he grabs the teapot and throws a few bags in with it.
“All right, Grandpa. Can you please continue the story?” My Grandson asked with excitement in his voice.“All right, you did get the fire going so seems fair enough to me. Now where was I… oh, right.” Just as Grandfather Bear came close enough to strike a fatal blow, the roots of the giant tree suddenly unearthed. The long roots swung and whipped at Grandfather Bear.
Grandfather Bear what are you doing? the Great Tree asked. This Boy is here to help us, to pave our way to salvation. I’m aware you’re old and angry at the humans but if you kill this boy you’re no better then them.
The Great Tree rumbled.
“How dare you protect such a horrible being? They’re the ones who distorted Mother Nature; they took all our food!
The lands changed; and it’s all because of THEM.” Grandfather Bear roared.
As I said, I understand your pain and hurt. But Mother Nature herself sent this boy. That is why I stand guard. I’m withering away and you must take the boy and teach him the ways of the lands, the laws, and the way of life… This is my last breath… take him, raise him, teach him, or leave us to be blinded as well. The Great Tree whispered as it faded.
Knowing he had no choice in the matter, Grandfather Bear watched as the Great Tree began to fall apart and decay. His leaves faded to gold then a lifeless brown, the bark peeled as if it were being shaved. Creaking and moaning flooded the surrounding area as the Great Tree swayed back and forth. Then abruptly,the Great Tree toppled over with a big crash. It still lays there to this day.
Grandfather Bear took the small boy home, where he took time to teach him many things, such as how to follow the laws of the lands and how to treat the animals with respect. He was also taught how to speak the tongue of the latnds, meaning that he was also able to speak with the animals. It was not just Grandfather Bear who taught the boy, but many of the other animals took part in his nurturing. Grandfather Bear took him across many different lands, meeting many different animals. All of them taught their own special lesson.
As time passed along, the boy grew bigger and stronger. Once the boy reached the age of 12, Grandfather Bear sent him to a mountain so tall the clouds sat halfway up the massive hill. “Atop that mountain, my boy, you will be tested; the hike will be difficult. I will not be joining you this time,” Grandfather Bear said. “From here on you will start making choices by yourself.”
And just like that, the boy grabbed his things and was gone.
Just as the boy had made it to the base of the towering mountain, he noticed the skies being shrouded by a thick black cloud. The cloud rapidly creeped towards the boy as the skies became gloomy and dark with the sunlight fading into beams of light and then nothing.
For a moment everything stopped, the wind and the trees stood still. And just then suddenly a powerful wind smashed against the boy. Rain fell like waterfalls pouring down to earth.
The trees swayed violently back and forth, while branches snapped off sending them hurtling through the air. Off in the distance a series of white bolts scattered down towards the ground with an astonishing white flash. Where the spears from the heavens had landed, an orange glow burst open, sparking a huge fire. As the flames grew over the trees and into the sky, a horrifying bird with patchy wings and an ugly bent beak soared into the sky. With every flap of its giant wings, ash and small flames fell among the forest. The flames became so intense the heat began to vaporize the rain above leaving the ground to become dry as a bone.
Looking around, the boy realized he was surrounded by a huge wall of fire. The lightning struck more frequently and the thunder rumbled louder and louder. The giant firebird circled around as its eyes emptied with plumes of smoke. The raging flames grew hotter and brighter swelling towards the boy.
Sensing the boys fear, the great firebird swooped down towards him. Just in the nick of time the boy jumped out of the way. Climbing back into the sky, the firebird turns and dives at the boy again. The fear and adrenaline starts to weigh in. Scared and not knowing what to do, the boy started to run. Dodging falling fireballs, crashing lightning and intense heat, his heart raced faster than his legs could move. While gasping for air, clouds of smoke burn though his lungs. His eyes sting and his sight blurs.