He doesn't look much a threat, in any competition or challenge or danger. He already knows of how they'll shake their heads at such a disfigured Acha, with dull horns and knobby curled ones, funny scales that disrupt the smooth figure of slender legs. Oh, he knows, looking through these strange eyes of his.
That's why they'll never see him coming until he's already ahead of them.
The plant is soft beneath his hooves, abundant and overgrown. A few steps here and there, each crushed leaf releasing a soothing scent that fills him with warmth. His head lowers to nibble at one, their fuzziness tickling his palate and their sweetness enticing him to eat his fill. He drops to roll, legs kicking up in pleasure, and when he rises there are dozens of half-crushed leaves stuck on his scales--he's a hedgenettle too now, isn't he?
He's drinking from the stream, clear and cool, when something foreign brushes his muzzle--when he jerks back, he realizes it's a dead fish, the pale scales of its belly glinting in the sunlight. Suddenly, there's another one that rises to the surface, and another. More and more until the whole of the water's surface is nothing but dead and dying fish, some of them still struggling to swim in their death throes. He gags, choking up the water he'd drank, and something else is coming up as well.
With a wet thud, a dead fish drops from his mouth to the ground.
Where is this place?
His hooves are camouflaged in the white.
He feels a dripping down the sides of his face, and when he looks down, drops of green--like the swamp he belongs to--are sinking through the cold.
He follows them, weeping as he goes (why, he knows not).
He was free! Free to roam as far as he pleased, through vast plains and simmering deserts where slender Acha played alongside him, and then down, down, down into the swamplands where the large-hooved Kimeti greeted him in many voices. So many cousins!
His excitement drew him on until he met the ocean and crossed even that, legs hardly even striking the surface as he pushed on, reaching yet stranger lands of wilder creatures and others he couldn't even call cousins, so long had they been separated.
And finally he was ready to return home, through the wild lands and the ocean and the swamps and deserts, back to the shaking, rustling grasses that he loved so dearly.
Where else but the plains could he find his resting place?
First the flames roared; they danced and leapt and rushed through a frenzy of burning. The smoke billowed and the embers sparked out like stinging fireflies that singed the fur and ate at sensitive skin. Nothing gave her a break: the smoke smothered, the flames flickered, the very earth pulled at her legs like a nightmarish beast intent on consuming her. Desperately she lunged away from the fire surrounding her only to be surrounded once more. Surely she would die by the burning and the smothering... until a single harmony burst from her throat, and everything grew still.
The smoke drew away.
The ashen ground grew firm beneath her as she sunk to her knees, energy draining from her to put forth that singular musical sound.
And as her head drooped to rest on the earth, it seemed as though the fire whispered and crept close, drawing itself into her fur with muted tongues of red and embers of white.
She fell asleep, and so did the fire.
Where life started, she slept.
Where water flowed, she slept.
Where trees flourished, she slept.
Where winds screamed angrily, she slept.
Where storms growled and threatened, she slept.
Where life grew frenzied, sick and twisted, she slept.
Where death took its toll and drew others close, she slept.
Stones never dreamed of being more than just stones, after all.
Dreaming of Butterflies
Beneath the trees was dark, but it was an inviting darkness, leading her on to follow it.
Iridescent glimmers peered through the foliage teasingly.
Then before her eyes there came a single, heart-breakingly beautiful butterfly.
Trees That Sing
The trees are everywhere, digging deep roots into the swamp, seeming aged and ageless both, swaying in the wind's caress. They breathe deep and let loose an ancient harmony through the grasses, the leaves, the roots and shrubs of the bog. They join and collide and harmonize, a melody as old as the earth, as young as the breeze, fresh and green and as part of the trees as the trees are a part of the swamp; they join and mesh to become one, the trees that sing.
Clop clop, clop clop.
Shuffle shuffle, swish swish.
Clippity clop, clippity clop, clip clop clop.
It wasn't that hard to keep up with the rest of the world, was it!