Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the twenty-eighth piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is a 753-worder by Joy V Smith.
Refugees in the caves
“The lights in the sky are coming!” The group slumbering in the valley roused and grumbled. “It’s the old one fussing again,” complained a youngster, ignorant of his history and how the old one had led the tribe out of danger over the years.
Gnarrs raised his head and stared up. The sky lights did seem to be moving overhead and glowing as they passed. In the far distance towards the big water, a light bigger and brighter than the rest flew downward, and then blew back towards the sky. Now the darkness of night was gone and the sky was brighter than the day. Then came the roaring sound and the wind; trees toppled, and the herd fled.
The group had scattered, splintering into ones and twos and family units. Gnarrs led his mate and their three younglings away from the light behind them; and yet, though the dark of night had finally returned, the glow brightened and spread towards them. Larssa looked down at her children crowded close to her. “It’s brighter, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s growing, I think.”
“Yes, I think it’s burning. I remember the loud lights from the sky and how the trees burned and before that there was a mountain that burned. My father told me of that. The burning filled the trees.” It was the old one who had caught up with them.
“How did you escape, Grandfather?” Gnarss asked.
“Water sometimes, if it was wide enough. Or holes in the rocks. Deep holes. There were holes in the valley, but it’s too late to go back there. But I’ve heard of caves near the falling water. We pass it on the migration.”
“That’s far,” said Larssa, touching her daughter gently. “Can the children keep up? We can’t stop often.” She stared at the glow behind them fixedly until Gnarrs nudged her firmly.
“We start now,” he told her.
Two days later the glow was brighter, and sometimes sparks flew into the trees scattered behind them, but the fires didn’t spread.
The old one was standing and looking around him. “The water is too far; it’s on the other side of the mountain. We must turn and head toward the mountain. We won’t move ahead of the burning as fast, but there may be holes in the rocks near the mountain’s foot.
In another day they were climbing the foothills and an occasional spark landed and charred their hair.
“I smell water,” little Gnapps squealed. He was thirsty and had been sniffing for water for a long time. He ran toward the smell, but stopped short at the darkness in front of him.
“Good boy,” said the old one approvingly. “It’s a rock hole. In we go to see if it’s big enough for us.” Larssa moved swiftly in first to see if it was safe. Her daughter was close behind, and the rest flowed in, expedited by sparks falling on their rough coats.
Inside, Gnarrs led the way slowly, feeling his way in the dark and warning the others not to crowd him. The rocky floor was uneven, and the further in they went, the colder it got. “How long do we have to stay in here,” Larssa wondered.
“A long time, I fear,” said the old one. “This burning is bad.”
“What about food? Larssa asked, as tummies rumbled around her.
“We sleep. The cold will help us sleep. My father’s father told me that trick.” The old one didn’t add that often the sleep didn’t end. The floor was hard, and Larssa wished they had brought in grass for bedding at least, but when it got too cold to walk any further, they all lay down and slept. The old one was the last to close his eyes. “I may not wake up,” he thought, “but I may have saved them.”
The miners had carved their way into the mountain of coal–blasting and digging. “Hey, there’s a tunnel here already, Jimmy, and caves. It’s a dry cave; there’s no stalactites or anything, but it’s cold like a freezer. Brr. I’m going back out to get warm.”
The next day the miners were eating lunch and waiting for the scientists to arrive to check out their find when one of them looked up and said, “Holy Cow! Look at that!”
Coming down the path the machines had created was a small herd of woolly mammoths, a bull, a cow, three calves, and trailing behind them, looking around in amazement was another bull.
Thank you Joy, I loved that.
Joy was born on a farm in Wisconsin and still love barns and the smell of silage (“an acquired taste,” she says). She lived in Boston after graduating from college, and is now back in Florida (not retired) where she spent some of her childhood. After selling wildlife habitat in the country, she bought a foreclosure earlier this year and had to replace the kitchen, among other things. They’d even taken the kitchen sink! Thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which takes place each November, Joy’s now written three novels. She three blogs: her writing blog, her media blog and her house blog.
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