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Caribou Tales #3: A great crash

Catch up on previous episodes: Episode 1  |  Episode 2

Check back on the 25th of every month to read the next episode.

Something is happening, the ravens called out. Carl lifts his head to listen, then turns away as a particularly green patch of lichen catches his eye. Something is happening; a chipmunk’s cry pierces through the air. Carl moves sideways, uneasy, closer to his herd mates. Then they hear the rumble and beeps, and soon start to feel the earth shake, but cannot fathom what the feeling might mean. Carl lifts his head again and turns towards the sound, standing very still, but for the twitching of his skin to shake off the mosquitoes and flies that hover around him. The rumble becomes a roar and seems to draw closer. Then the cracking sounds start. Carl and his four herd mates brace themselves, ready to run. A large cracking sound, a sound like a shrieking bird, and an even greater shaking of the earth under their feet, sends them rearing up and running. Noises unlike any they had never heard before are coming from the forest. Sounds like trees cracking in the dead of winter under the weight of ice, but relentless like a raging fire, and much louder. They run so that they can’t feel the earth shuddering under their feet, run until they can’t hear the sounds anymore, crash through the forests, deaf and blind to anything but the sounds behind them and the trees in front.

When they stop, they huddle together seeking comfort, breath mingling together. The younger female, only on her second year, is trembling. Carl can feel her body shaking his as she leans against his neck, or perhaps his is shaking hers, his heart is racing. Carl looks around at his herd mates. As one of the oldest in the group, in his third year now, he feels responsible for them; though of course the oldest female has been leading the way. She has spent four summers in these woods. They have travelled together before as both were born to the same mother, Carla, but their mother has left them this year to give birth to a new calf, leaving them in charge of the small group.

He whispers to his sister now, “One is missing, the young male born a year after me.” Together they lift their heads up to listen together for a hoof fall, for grunting or cries, for any indication that their herd mate might be nearby. Silence is all that they can hear; silence that stretches out like a sunrise on a winter morning. Slowly the herd’s collective heart beat slows. The sound of insects quietly buzzing now becomes more audible, as well as that of distant birds and squirrels going about their own drama. The sun leaks through the trees, highlighting spots of green all around them. The green calls to him and the herd, and slowly they move away from each other and start to eat.

He will go back, he thinks, to where the crashing noises came from. Slowly in the next few days, they will make their way back, he thinks, and perhaps find out what has happened to their friend. He twitches his skin to shake off the mosquitoes that have landed on him, chewing slowly on a mouthful of grasses.

Special thanks to Jean Polfus for the incredible artwork.

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