Natural Betrayal -- a story by Tiffany Cook

Natural Betrayal

by Tiffany Cook

Listen to Tiffany Cook Reading Natural Betrayal

Excitement in the forest was extraordinarily high. Beasts from all levels of the treetops and the ground were gathering together; anticipation soaring. As always with such fervor, chaos erupted. Scuffles and skirmishes spotted the land, but all in all, instincts prevailed.

There were visitors in the forest as well, adding to the din. Most were to arrive the following week, but those who came very long distances could not time their travel so precisely. The visitors were well aware of their status in foreign homes, and thus kept to themselves by taking great care not to tread where not welcomed.

No beast, plant, or mighty tree was missing from the Summit when the time came. There had been a call, one felt by every growing thing, to gather and discuss changed in the ever changing world around them.

The Summit had occurred only once before this time, and hasn’t occurred since. The first was when the First Lives Began and a meeting was established among all living things as a form of communication between the species.

This was an emergency request, placed by one of the oldest and most respected Oak tree groups in the Northeastern part of the Earth. Something had happened that greatly frightened every tree, plant, and animal there. Fearing for their survival, all were summoned to help.

All creatures, big and small, were to travel as fast as nature would allow to the Oak’s location. The forest was quivering with fright when the guests appeared, exhausted and thirsty from their journey. A tremor of change was felt, one that had no ever been present before in a natural place, and one which pressured all nerves.

The grass was cowering under the paws of the animals, the birds were flying low and careful through the canopy, and fish were clustering closer together in bigger schools for security. Upon entering the green, tree-filled area, all breaths quickened and all hearts raced. It was as though a shadow of unease had blanketed the entire scene.

When at last all had arrived at the forest, the company relocated to an area with two rivers that made the spot the practical choice; a saltwater river, and a freshwater river, with a ten mile spread of meadow between. All creatures could gather in the environment they needed, while being close at hand.

Water creatures filled their respective rivers, bonding together in closer proximity than was ever done in normally in nature. Sharks swam with schools of tuna, coral allowed anyone into their shelves, the weeds released their captive flowers, and the snakes gave rides on their slithering backs to the small rodents to make better time.

At last, everyone was together and the Oaks stood tall in dead center.

“There has been a new fear among us. This danger threatens the smallest insects and the tallest trees.”

The Oak stood silently for a moment, allowing his words to take a full effect, then continued.

“Fire has long since been a part of nature. While our marine counterparts may have a little trouble comprehending this particular occurrence, my fellow land dwellers will not.

Humans have been with us for some time as well, although not as long as Fire. Both have separately been simply a creature on this planet, mingling and producing no more of a danger to us than would be expected of a creature such as themselves.”

At this, the old Oak paused, seeming to get his thoughts in order. The animals waited, trying to understand the edge of urgency in his voice. Finally, when the Oak made no progress towards speaking again, an Asp from Egypt tried to urge him.

“Mighty Oak. Tall as you are, and as thick as your trunk is, what possibly has frightened you so?” He hissed softly, trying to inject comfort into the question, but, being a snake, it was difficult to remove the menacing sneer.

The Oak returned to the present, regarding the Asp with a warm nod, then proceeding.

“So terrible are these acts, that size matters not. With this new weapon, I may be struck down to ash by a being 20 times smaller than I.”

A sad look came over him, and every beings heart went out with somber concern, not only for their counterpart, but also for themselves. A small blue gill piped up in the freshwater river, questioning the Oak,

“If it is after you, then surely it will not venture to the waters. After all, we have felt no change. Perhaps it is only your kind.”

At the Oaks silence, a Parrot from Brazil squawked, “Well, tree? What is this devastating disaster you beckoned us all to see? Will you tell your tale, or lead us on by tease, like a spider and a fly?”

The great trunk of the Oak heaved, and he raised a thick, heavy branch from his roots.

“Do you see this root? Do you? No animal knows of anyone that is a fourth of my age. Do you think I have a reason to trick you in my maturity? Would you think so little of me to suspect me a fool? I am no liar, for the humans can produce Fire!”

He swept the huge branch over the heads of all the animals, clearing a path in the forest behind them. Slowly he entered the trail, with the other Oaks trekking behind. One by one, the animals nearest the clearing fell into single file behind the great trees. The mice climbed on the snakes backs again, and the sharks swam deeper into the river, parallel to the other river and the path.

The masses made their way silently through the trees, shaking with fright and anxiously following the Oak. At last, the tree halted, standing directly in front of a cave. A small glow came from inside, and humans were seen walking about. It seemed to be a family. The Oak sadly shook his leaves, a few of them drifting to the dirt. Each oak filed past the cave a good distance away, and motioned for the others to follow suit.

As each land creature filed by, they peered into the clearing for a better look. Birds grasped ferrets and rabbits and lifted them high enough to see. One by one, the creatures stared, struck speechless by what they had missed further back.

Beside the cave, laying in hundreds of fragments the size of small branches, was an Oak. The Fire was being fueled – on purpose – by a Mighty Oak! Horrorstruck, the animals scurried quickly away. Word spread rapidly through the line, and most animals turned back before viewing the sight.

Once at the gathering place, chaos erupted.

“Fire can’t reach water, we will be fine! Your forest fires rage, and still we live freely!” screeched a stingray. The small insects, such as ants, expected to hide, “We are small enough to borrow deep. The Fire will never find us there!”

Birds were sure that flying higher than the flames would equal their escape. The Oaks stayed quiet all this time, allowing the panicked shrieks to calm. When all was orderly again, the Oaks interjected.

“The Fire will reach the skies. The smoke filled air has already killed many birds in our home. Dear ants, small as you may be, hiding will not save you this time. The humans dig deep to make roomy pits for the Fire. Also, my friends of the sea, what do you think they do with their flames? They sear the flesh off of every fish in the river and every beast in the woods. Plants are no longer enough, although they are easier to keep near. They desire meat, your meat. They use my matured trunk to burn you, and my children’s green limbs to fashion weapons to kill you. This is not simply an Oak problem. We have become nothing more than a resource.”

Stunned silence filled the forest. No one spoke, no one stirred. All were afraid.

The Oak carried on in a reserved tone,

“I am fearful for not only my home, but the homes of all others. Something must be done.”

A squirrel who had finally found her voice whispered, “Why are the humans not here with us? Did they not hear the call?”

“No,” replied a wised elder tiger. “They felt no call. Being unnecessarily harmful to Mother Earth has its consequences. They may live easier, more elite lives, but now they will always be alone. Mother Nature will no longer speak to them… and neither should we.”

All the animals muttered to themselves, wondering if this would help the issue at hand. At long last, it was agreed. All the creature visitors left, but a solid terror gripped them all.

To this day, we cannot understand animals, and while we slowly destroy our only planet and exhaust all our natural resources, Mother Nature, nor her creatures, will aide us.


September 3, 2009