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Caribou Tales #4: Machines in the Forest

Catch up on previous episodes: Episode 1  |  Episode 2 |  Episode 3

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

The moonlight glints off an object that looms in the dark, yellow and green. Around it all trees have disappeared. The opening in the forest is as vast as a large river, trees tilting and falling away from the edges as though staggering back from a blow. The opening stretches further than Carl can see, straight like a hawk falling on its prey. He shivers. Around him it’s not silence he hears, a sound that normally hums with the whirs and buzz of life quietly spinning about, but the sound of emptiness. Carl is terrified by the strangeness of it and the feeling of being alone. He comforts himself that his sister has the herd not far away. She’d agreed he should go see what had happened if he could, and to find any traces of the young male that was separated from the herd. But so far, he has seen no sign of him.

It has taken the herd many days to return to the site they had fled from. Slowly, they made their way back, hoping to rejoin the path that will take them to a summer area that Carl and his sister had found with their mother the previous year. All winter the memory of its quiet greenery has lingered in Carl’s mind like a taste and a promise.  The previous day, Carl’s sister had refused to go further. They could feel the distant rumble beneath their feet and it scared her. “We will head away from the rising sun from here,” she told him. “Don’t stay to long. There is much strangeness on the land.”

There is a rustle in the clearing across from Carl. Fearfully he backs up, slipping into the cover of the trees. But a long-eared rabbit pops out, sniffs the air a moment while swiveling his ears around, and then quickly moves back into the forest. Carl stays for a moment in the shadows, wondering what to do. Should he stay to see what understanding daylight will bring? He is curious about the hulking shadow in the middle of the clearing. He does not recognize its smell or shape, and there are others, he sees now, scattered throughout, standing in the dirt and mud amidst broken limbs and fallen trees and bushes. The smell of fresh grasses and perhaps a mushroom (!?) convinces him to stay until morning. Carl loves mushrooms, and snuffles around looking for the patch he has smelled.  Their slight crunch and earthy smell are soothing; he settles down to eat and wait. The light will come soon he knows.

With the light comes the rumbling, drowning out any birdsong that might have otherwise come with the dawn. Peering around the trees, Carl sees two large beings rolling across the landscape towards the beast at the center. Both stop moving and the rumbling sound also stops. Suddenly, another creature appears, unfolding from the moving being like a chipmunk emerging from a log. Of course, this being was no chipmunk. This new creature is tall like an angry bear on its hind legs, though not as wide. Carl tensing watches the bear-like creature move towards the beast, still standing at the centre silently, and then disappears inside it like a snake eating a mouse, all in one mouthful. When the sound starts again, now much louder, Carl feels his muscles tighten. The machine starts to move toward the trees where he is hiding, waving a large arm before itself; Carl starts to run, not mindlessly but deliberately, away from the creatures and back towards his herd and safety

Special thanks to Jean Polfus for the incredible artwork.

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