Under a burning yellow moon the dead grass shimmers bronze. And even the elders take pause of the Grand Basin’s recent aquatic transformation – a phenomenon only previously relived in folklore and imagination. Now there isn’t a single amoeba-brained mind that could conjure such an awestruck vision without bearing witness to it.
Days grow long and slothful. The miasma of the Bedlam Swamp rises with renewed and fierce retribution. The indolent weather steels all the ambition, appetite, libido and desires from the Grand Basin. The heat soaked hours quickly push the recent calamity into the back of most creatures mind. For it is a natural reaction to bury bad experiences in favour of happier times.
Dawn becomes day and the blistering temperature climbs through the afternoon on another unassuming day. The Morose Blue Gorilla is resting under the Tedious Giraffe’s haunches when her thin, sensitive legs feel a strange subterranean rumble across the Grand Basin. She stomps and neighs with nervous aggression. A second and third ripple follows with perceivable force. A cacophony of roars and screams erupts over the late afternoon. The wise, older beasts take notice of the omens. Mother Heron feels an inexorable desire to leave. Nobody notices her disappear towards a new horizon. Again the earth trembles.
A humongous ashen cloud mushrooms silently above Mt Thirsty and into the darkening sky. A ring of sound cracks the heavens. It spreads at awesome speed through the air furiously trying to catch up with the sight of the explosion. The sonic boom shakes the Grand Basin. An outburst of fear and silence detonates the summer gloaming.
Mollifying bellows and whimpers gradually return, slowly creeping back over open spaces like Cherry Rot. The prolonged anxiety draws the gassed toads and newts out of their stupor. Thick black smoke envelops the sky and eclipses the sun. Darkness grabs the earth quickly and quietens terrified voices. Smoke continues billowing with a blood red halo from Mt Thirsty’s angry mouth. And it‘s sinister broken-tooth hiss cuts all the more sharply across the Grand Basin.
Bedlam Swamp grows restless. Laden by fear the inhabitants become frustrated, unreasonable and argumentative. Terror guides them. They cannot make sense of the situation and no one has any answers so they look for someone to blame to salve their panic. Another almighty boom ignites overhead and thunders under foot. Mt Thirsty belches an igneous discharge high into the atmosphere like a satanic flare. A soft thud is felt nearby – repeated with greater frequency, again and again. Rocks and debris, whistling with deadly weight and speed through the darkness splatter across the Grand Basin.
At the Tedious Giraffe’s infuriating insistence the Morose Blue Gorilla stays sheltered under her soft belly. The irascible mountain coughs and sneezes again. Flaming marmalade plumes billow high into the night. Then it stops. Silence and darkness crashes down on the Grand Basin.
After a short time relief oozes back through the Grand Basin. Between the smouldering rocks and scorched patches of dry grass subdued nattering and quiet confused murmurs rain. For a moment Mt Thirsty almost appears conciliatory, glowing serenely like a lit cigar.
A cataclysmic blowout lifts the earth crust right off the planet’s core like shaking a rug out for dust. The Tedious Giraffes loses her feet and slams to the ground like felled timber. The tectonic eruption obliterates Mt Thirsty’s head and neck, launching a monumental fiery chrysanthemum into the night sky. For an instant the Grand Basin gasps in a single reverent voice. Every creature remains silent, drinking in the diabolical display, tracking the molten fire balls to their vertical apex. The flaming shower pauses, faltering on the edge of its downward trajectory to irradiate the night in a devilish glow. Then it arches with malicious intent and descends down on everybody’s head like red glitter. Pandemonium prevails.
Screams resound in an awful choir. As the deafening blows begin to land and strike blazing crispy craters in the earth, insults and arguments ignite back and forth with the same speed. Toads burp at newts, which gurgle at the flocks of birds, which squawk and screech back with equal ferocity. They end abruptly when unlucky souls are caught between the earth and the demonic cannonballs, but start up again just as quickly by those who are spared.
The Tedious Giraffe and Morose Blue Gorilla remain calm and quiet. The Tedious Giraffe is unable to flex her neck backwards and see the sky to avoid the incoming fireballs. Through the noise and confusion she relies on the Morose Blue Gorilla and his sad voice to direct her out of danger.
From a distance the Grand Basin is glamorously lit by scattered blazes feeding greedily on the long, dry grass. In the chaotic mist it’s hard to imagine Gamy’s voice finding an audience. Gamy hated the only creature who didn’t detest him – who was civil and didn’t speak condescendingly or in derogatory tones towards him. I guess he blamed the Morose Blue Gorilla for taking away the only animal that was thought less of than him – that made his life infinitely more liveable.
Somehow creatures are often threatened by the utterly unthreatening. Gamy’s twisted conscience won’t admit he was out to punish the Morose Blue Gorilla. Gamy was possessed by fear and anger. Virtue and compassion was lost to him. But the Morose Blue Gorilla didn’t care for such social matters of decorum and trivial standings – he cared only for decency. He placed total importance on others’ level of common courtesy, which determined the few souls he spent time with.
‘This is all the Gorilla’s fault,’ quacked Gamy.
‘Aye, it’s the stinking blue ape,’ barked a Longtongue.
‘Yeah,’ a distant Shovelbeak concurred.
Pink-billed Waders crowed in support, and Limebellys and Ladylegs tweeted timid agreement. Cowardice ruled. And it swelled into a flood of false complicity.
A mob can be an ugly transformation. Individual principles and ethics are surrendered to the majority, who turn unpredictable, lawless and thirsty for justice of their own design. They are emboldened by numbers, easily persuaded and urged onwards to greater and more violent retribution. One can find themselves divided and acting completely out of character. The mob rules – that’s why it’s called a mob. And the entire Grand Basin turned quicker than the wind or oculars against the Morose Blue Gorilla and the Tedious Giraffe.
Derision and anger gathered momentum as all the animals called for order and marched off in unison through burning pits and craters to the Crab Claw trees. Gamy grows cocky, encouraged by what he’s started. He scrambles ahead and puffs out his vocal sac so as to be seen leading the confrontation to the Grand Basin’s harbingers of death and destruction. The Tedious Giraffe’s elevated sight spots the assembly.
‘What do they want?’
‘To be done with us I suppose.’
‘Why? We saved them.’
‘We can’t stay here much longer.’
‘Shall we go see what they want then?’
The Tedious Giraffe neighs nervous approval, but already the Morose Blue Gorilla has pinched a lump of her fur and hoisted his strong nimble frame effortlessly onto her back.
The spitting and hollering increases in vehemence as the mob comes face-to-face with their foes. They lambast chants;
’Go A-wayyyy and awayyyy,’ and ‘Don’t come back no more no more,’ Gamy adds, ‘Our home, not your home,’ to fuel their rage.
‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ the Tedious Giraffe bleats.
‘It never does,’ the Morose Blue Gorilla replies.
Never one for many words he roars and leaps from the Giraffe to the scorched earth and pummels his fists against his chest and ground. But the rabble has found confidence in numbers and besieges their saviours with little respect.
‘The stupid, dirty monkey is cursed. He has brought this upon us–disaster and catastrophe,’ Gamy declares to provoke the crowd.
The abuse grows louder and more vicious. Guthrie, the fat, giant scrub toad remains silent. He remembers the forsaken feeling of helplessness and doom during the flood like a deep glass splinter. But wisdom often breeds cynicism and hesitation. He doesn’t speak out against his heroes, but will not defend them either. He burrows underground, into a protective embryonic sack with a sickness in his belly he does not acknowledge is shame.
The Tedious Giraffe swings her great long neck back and forth defensively. She caws and clucks in anxious aggression to keep the fierce encroaching assembly from surrounding them. She stops to look down at her only friend. Full on incrimination the animals don’t notice Mt Thirsty’s voracity abating, or the sky clearing. Physical frustration exhausts the Morose Blue Gorilla. He stumbles backwards to lean against a Crab Claw Tree. The weight of solitude and disenchantment has finally become too heavy to ignore.
He feels his companion’s large amber eyes arrest him but cannot bear to look up. He leaves the Tedious Giraffe in a speechless pool of betrayal as he silently turns his back on her, and the vitriolic slogans – full of words with sharp fingers that push him into the glowing night.
A heavy lull rolls over the Grand Basin, as if to vindicate the Morose Blue Gorilla’s abrupt exile. The fireworks cease and the ground turns still and quiet again. All around the seared swamp tails of smoke curl off cindering vegetation and mirror the smouldering cradle remains of the mountain. The Tedious Giraffe is the only one to watch the Morose Blue Gorilla retreat all the way into the shadows of the jungle where he first cometh until he vanishes into the darkness.
So it is fated, that the Tedious Giraffe with a futile, damp gaze still locked on the horizon first sees the stream of molten bile spew upwards to inflame the dark. While anxiously still hoping to glimpse her only friend she watches a tongue of red magma silently burble over its broken lip.
It descends quickly, growing fat and wide like raindrops on window panes. The Tedious Giraffe blinks soot out of her eyes and suddenly there’s a river cutting a hellish divide down the far side of the former mountain. Two nearer tracks appear over the cracked grimace of Mt Thirsty’s shattered jaws and gather volume and velocity like melted candle wax. Those who first spot the viscous scorching doom coming their way realise immediately it matches the direction the Morose Blue Gorilla was last seen. They turn to the Tedious Giraffe. Others simply turn out of habit, but she is already gone.
The vengeful congregation scatter in a frenzied tumult of death cries. The molten lava crashes through the undergrowth at the base of the mountain. The youngest and weakest souls have no hope. Mortal fright and self preservation tramples them in moments. Only the strongest birds can lift off unhinged by the ash and smut filled sky. The rest hop and flap along in the wake of the hairy quadrupeds. The hysteria becomes a stampede. Every animal knows they’re in it for themselves – in a death race to escape the broken mountain and the cursed land.
Moist saplings squeal and trees crack and pop in futile defiance until inertia grips the red river. It draws to a halt where the mountain gradient levels off into the Grand Basin. It sizzles and expands, slowly cooling to hard crusty spines and formations over the land. It’s hard to say how long the fleeing survivors ran before turning around to see they were spared and safe. And like any disaster it’s always surprising how soon communities invite normalcy back. The Tedious Giraffe never returned. The Morose Blue Gorilla and her were never heard of or seen again.
The nature of Bedlam Swamps is fickle and the Tedious Giraffe and Morse Blue Gorilla were easily forgotten. The toads and newts didn’t notice the exodus of large horned beasts to more suitable pastures. They didn’t acknowledge the arrival of strange slender creatures and the giant growling yellow beasts they harnessed that stunk and puffed over grass along strange new tracks. The toads and newts lived in the hiatus of the afternoon and the oblivion of the night. Beside strange new coloured water ways, intoxicated on fetid and noisome new fumes they didn’t recognise or even care as relatives and friends disappeared daily, one by one.
If you do find yourself here by the Grand Basin walk one of three brisk scoriaceous veins up the cradle of old Mt Thirsty’s to the elevated crater-lake forged from the destruction and many rains. Monkraft Island is a strange petrified shaped rock in the centre of the cool violet water. If the light’s right locals claim you can see the image of an ape on the head of a giant giraffe.
If you’re lucky, early in the morning you may see a line of Blue Fairy Moneys with eye lashes like whiskers and long furry tails like wrapping ribbon. They crash through the heavy foliage spilling out over the lip of the water. They spring off high branches and over the shimmering lake using the igneous charcoal pinnacle in the middle of the cool water as a launching platform to complete their aerobatic feat and reach the opposite side. They vanish into the green canopy on the far side as quickly as they flew out of it. Take time to bath in the bracing indigo baby waves that are reputed to alleviate all misery and melancholy from your heart and allow you to contemplate passing shadows and clouds.