The sun bloomed on the horizons that filled the sky with shades of orange and pink, that reflected on each leaf and wisp of the cloud. The first strong rays of the sun touched the earth bringing their true warmth. The trees became more powerful as the golden rays kissed them. Fresh air started whistling around inviting the birds to soften the dawn with their morning melodies. Trees, giant elms, creepers, and branches swung in the wind greeting good morning to all their forest friends. The fragrance of flowers filled the whole forest greeting a pleasant morning.
‘Mamma, wait for me. I can’t walk so fast’, said Cooper a 2-year-old cute and cuddly fawn, the youngest in the herd, pulling a bamboo shoot from the side of the track.
Cooper belonged to the family of red deer , who lived in the mountain forests of Morocco, where majestic trees crown the tops of the mountains.
He was very curious about everything around him and everything in the world interested him as he grew.
Coopers father Roscoe was very strong, and intelligent, and so he always led the herd despite having seniors, and his mother Ficus was the most beautiful doe in the herd. Cooper’s parents guarded him throughout their way as he had so many things to explore, and he doesn’t know the meaning of threat so far.
It was their daily routine to move up to the hillside for grazing throughout the day and return to the deeper woods at night for their shelter.
‘This way Cooper, do not move away from the herd. You are not yet strong enough to fight an enemy’, said his mother covering him with her lightly built body, as the herd slowly walked towards the stream.
He, however lingered hither thither ,sometimes looking at his reflection in the water and sometimes rolling over on the cool moist land by the side of the stream as the midday heat licked his tender body like a hot-blooded serpent.
Suddenly, Cooper’s friend Nimba a 4-year-old stag stepped out of the herd and moved close to Cooper as he laid on the cool grass.
‘Look up Cooper’, he said, poking Cooper’s belly with his soft horns. Cooper looked up in excitement and saw the swarm of bumble bees searching for honey and colorful butterflies that rested on the flowers for nectar.
Nimba was Cooper’s best friend and his foster brother. He was very protective of Cooper and took utmost care of him. Nimba’s parents died in a tiger’s attack when he was a baby, and he grew as one with the herd from then on. He always stayed with Cooper, and they both played together jumping rolling and poking each other with their soft antlers.
‘Stop jumping like that Cooper. You are an annoying one ‘, said his father, the male lead of the herd, moving his muscular body. He grinned at Cooper with his wide spaced brown eyes as he saw him lifting his hooves and jumping up high at the swarm of bees.
The others in the group looked at him disdainfully for his indecorous behavior. He walked quietly beside his mother sometimes rushing and scaring the squirrels and the antelopes in his way and sometimes pushing Nimba with his budding antlers.
After a long day grazing, the herd finally stopped at the bench of the stream. He ate the small mushrooms that grew under the shady roof of the forest watching the males and females dancing at the edge of the stream.
‘What a beautiful day it is‘, he said to himself, looking at the sky which appeared like a dome of plasma blue.
Suddenly, the beauty of the blue began to transform into dark gray. Dark clouds that looked like black rabbits started approaching close to the area. The weather turned sultry and after sometime cool gentle breeze touched mother earth but as it grew, it became bold and started blustering.
Cooper got up and ran towards his mother. ‘Mamma what are those in the sky?’, he asked hiding behind her.
‘They are clouds Cooper. It may rain anytime’. Come, let’s walk towards the woods ‘, she said pointing to the male lead of the herd.
On the way Cooper saw Mr. Bunny, the rabbit, trying to grab a mushroom in his mouth.’ Mr. Bunny, can you fly in the sky like them ‘, he asked pointing to the black clouds that appeared like rabbits.
‘Ahh, they are clouds little one. It’s going to rain, move fast’, he said rushing into his burrow holding the mushrooms.
The huffing wind rose, and the sound intensified. The sky grumbled restlessly. Suddenly, it came like a rip in the dark night, the lightning. That bolt blanketed everything like a flash at once followed by rumbling thunder and the drops of rain pitted the surface like bullets.
The first splatter of the rain hit the ground as the herd was half-way through the woods. The herd scattered and ran for shelter under the trees.
Rainwater stung into Cooper’s eyes as he looked up at it. He got drenched and started shivering. He ran close to his mothers’ belly and stayed close to the warmth.
It was midnight, and the rain subsided and little streams of water started appearing from where there were none before.
‘I am tired of running mamma. I want to rest here ‘, said Cooper moving nearer to the trunk of a tree. Suddenly, the wind started blowing up and warmness started spreading across in the middle of the night.
Cooper’s father smelt it differently. ‘I predict a commotion nearby. Let us all move towards the grass lands rather going into the deep’, he shouted at the herd and they started running out from the deep.
But before then, roars and cries of animals started from the deep forest. The monkeys dangling from the trees began to shout vociferously. The entire area started transforming into flaming patchwork of colors. Scorching yellows and lava reds spread across. A thick black powder smeared all over the sky. The wind whirled pushing the fire on and on.
Birds started screeching and flew away. All animals started running. Shrill cries of the animals could be heard from a distance. The smallest animals burrowed into the ground or took over under rocks. Everyone seemed to run towards the streams and lakes. The pines the canopies and even the mightiest trees turned to burnished browns. There were fiery tongues hissing crashing and howling.
‘It’s not possible for us to move ahead. I could sense the fire advancing from the front’, said Cooper’s father, and he led the team towards the stream form behind the grasslands.
‘Mamma. What is happening? Why are we running? I am scared ‘, cried Cooper running close to his mother.
Don’t worry my son. I am here to take care of you ‘, said his mother looking in fear for open fields.
In the meantime the flames came roaring and fire swept through the forest from the downhills and moved upwards, leaping from tree to tree. Terror struck the herd as the flames surrounded them. The herd bellowed in fear struggling to set themselves free.
Suddenly, Nimba heard a creaking sound and looked up. A branch of a tree was about to fall down on Cooper.
‘Move aside Cooper’, shouted Nimba as he pushed cooper with his horns. ‘Thud’ a sound followed by silence. Nimba was under the heavy burning branch and his body blackened within no time. For the first time all of them stood mute. Cooper screamed in pain holding his mother and hitting the ground with his forelimbs.
‘Comeback everyone, we have little time. Let us all head to the stream’, said Roscoe, Cooper’s father, looking at Ficus helplessly.
But before they took a step forward, huge fire monsters rushed towards the herd in distress. They were the elephants. They dashed out directionless only to run out of the flames. The air became too smoky to breathe, and it was scorching the skin. The entire place turned into smoking embers and charred bare trees. Everything around is gone. They could hardly see anything except hearing the sound of the flames. Cooper jumped back and forth in confusion, whether to stay or flee. They got tired and exhausted in the struggle to escape.
It was sunrise, and the fire halted leaving an impression of bleak emptiness. Cooper slowly opened his eyes and looked around as the smoky air masked his face. The entire place was quiet except that of the crackling sound of the burnt wood. It smelt like a bonfire.
Cooper stood on his tip toes and looked around for his parents. Something was hurting, and he looked at it. His left leg was burnt. He didn’t bother but slowly walked around limping. There at a distance he could see his father with his chin rested on the ground. Amidst the bushes was his mother who moved with a dawning sense of calmness.
All of them except his mother and few Does were dead, leaving their imprints on the smoldering ash. Cooper stood up as they approached him. They mourned in silence as their habitat has been destroyed.
The storm cleared welcoming the sunshine. Days passed by giving birth to tiny buds of grass. Tiny little shoots popped out of the bare tree trunks. Little shrubs, bushes and plants started to regrow. Several months passed and a new life began.
‘Cooper, don’t walk so fast. I can’t reach you’, said his mother from behind as Cooper led the herd towards the grasslands for grazing.
Cooper understood that this is life, and this is what happens when lightning hits the forest.
Photo By: Matt Howard
This is an entry for #InnsWoods, #Artales18, A Room8 writing event. Checkout the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artales18
The event is sponsored by Manoj Paprikar, Author of Death at Midnight by ArtoonsInn room9 publications.
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