He whistled to his comrades to run – the humans were at it again.
It had all started in the winter of ’14 – the winter that never truly ended. So many had died; so many younglings that never woke up.
Now, life rarely managed to struggle through the dry, crusted ice that covered the world. Those with the biggest teeth, fiercest claws and toughest hide snatched at it first, anyway. Bark, snails and grubs weren’t plentiful, but at least they could still be found.
Cold and starving, the winter burrow became their only burrow. Each year it went deeper and deeper, as the frost line chased them into the earth. Other things chased them into the earth, too – things that had claws and teeth to gnash and tear, but not the hides to protect them from the raw winds.
Man had begun to dig. Their holes made the earth tremble. They brought fire down below and choked out what was left of the life there. He and his people moved beyond their reach, but they kept coming, ever deeper to escape the cold.
Their cities withered and died up top, but what was left of man no longer remembered what life was like in the sun. They were wrinkled and pale under their coating of dirt. With fingers crabbed and backs stooped, their lives had become fierce and bloody.
He knew because when they first descended into the ground, they brought what was left of their learning with them. But even as the humans forgot, he and his kin began to remember.
It was a bitter trade.
He whistled again. The younglings were too far behind. He scampered back, tried to rally them.
So tired. So tired of running.
Every Full Snow Moon, it was the same thing. What was left of man begged the gods to let the ice recede.
No, he shrilled. We have to survive – you have to survive, to teach the next generation.
Maybe if the younglings lived, one day things would change. Maybe they would reclaim the sky.
The earthen wall behind him crumbled. They had come. The younglings scampered and he snatched and bit at the reaching hands. They swiped at his fur and their claws dug in his skin. He wanted desperately to flee, but they would just keep chasing him.
No. He would run no more. He would make his stand here, and give his kin the chance to flee to deeper, warmer, lands.
The humans were armed with more than their hands and jagged claws, but he didn’t see it until it was too late. The club came down and all went black.
When he woke, the whispers of lost lore surrounded him. They filled his ears and made his heart ache.
“Will it be spring?”
“Will the snows recede?”
“Will the sun shine on us again?”
They didn’t even know what the words meant anymore. It was all part of the play. So many of his kin had given their lives for this charade and now it was his turn, too. At least the younglings would live to see tomorrow. It was enough.
The groundhog never stood a chance. The knife flashed in the weak firelight, and the remnants of humanity cackled and cried over his blood.
For Papi Z’s flash fiction prompt: “The Ground Hog never stood a chance,” in honor of the never-ending winter of 2014.
In other News
D: Congratulations, A.
A: Um. . . pardon?
D: Congratulations. It’s your 200th post.
A: Oh yeah, it is. Good lord, how did that happen?
D: I’m not sure. For a scribe who spent 10 years not writing, 200 posts in less than a year isn’t bad.
A: I’d say – and considering Ragnarok is nigh, I made the milestone just in time!
D: So, how do you think that’s going to pan out?
A: Loki. Loki wins.
D: That’s not even – it wasn’t a question of who–
A: Doesn’t matter. Loki wins.
D: (Eye Roll) Odin help us.
A: Ha! Not bloody likely.
So, that’s all for today, folks – thank you so much for stopping by the D/A Dialogues. We’ve had a lot of fun these last 200 posts. Here’s to 200 more!