New Moon

     The monk walked into the shadow of the woods, the black night heavy on the gray of the trees. Despite the moonless night the grass glowed a bright green sharp as jade. It rippled beneath his bare feet as though he were walking on water. He removed his hood. Here in the woods he was free of all rules, all regulations.

     He thought of the girls back in the monastery, their lissome bodies leaning on him, teasing him. It was all part of the test, he knew, and had refused their temptations. He smiled now, remembering their kind offers of wine and company he had refused. He felt more comfort in the woods where he could let his mind run free of distractions.

     The crisp air was almost too cool, biting his warm throat as he took a deep breath. He sat down in his meditative pose, calves under thighs and his hands resting on his knees, letting the thoughts come freely as he left his eyes open. The grass shimmered and the trees darkened, as though a shadow had fallen on them. He thought of the robot he had seen in the Museum of Legends. He would often go there and wonder about The Time Before the Great Wake Up, studying the machines of the past. So much potential the Old Humans had.

     A silver figure appeared before him, hazy and translucent. It buzzed and hummed as it's features hardened. It's body was smooth as water, and instead of hands were two long whips. They lay on the grass, writhing and twitching like pinned snakes. Two slits appeared on the robot's mouthless face, slanting down like angry eyes, parting as thick trails of black and gray smoke swirled up from them. The slits expanded, glowing red, and the robot crouched with its arms straight behind like silver spears, ready to sprint. Calmly, the monk cupped his hands and held them to his face and huffed. Hands back on his knees, pursed his lips and blew towards the apparition. It vanished like smoke in the wind, like the last time, and the time before. The monk had come here to be free, but it seemed he was just a slave here as he was back home, a slave to the familiar.

     Laying his palms on the ground, he grabbed the grass and shook it like a blanket. Bushes, trees, even the clouds and sky rose up and down like huge waves. He smiled at this and threw it all up over his shoulder and walked along the black emptiness, light shining where his bare feet touched the ground.

     He walked in peace for what seemed like hours. A baby's cry rang clear through the emptiness, growing louder as the monk walked towards it. The bag on his shoulder bumped against his back with each step, the trees, clouds, and bright green grass swirling slowly. A baby boy, no more than a year old and sitting naked on his haunches, appeared before him. His skin was a healthy glowing tan, and he stared the monk straight in the eye, tears still wet on his chubby cheeks. But he was no longer crying, and the look on his soft face was serious, his little brows furrowed.

     "Why were you crying baby?" the monk, frowning, asked.

     After a couple shaky steps towards the monk the baby stopped and looked down, and holding his palms to his face. Black nails like talons grew from his little hands, digging into his golden skin. He lifted his head, nails dragging down his face, tearing skin and sinew. His mouth went slack as his nails tore muscles and tendons, thick blood dripping down his tiny round chin and squat neck slow as cold honey.

     The man sat on his butt and drew his legs to his body. "I say, baby, there must be more to you than this."

     The baby cocked his ragged face and blinked. He spread his tiny hands, his sharp nails gleaming with blood, and let out a terrible shriek. Bones erupted from his unblemished chest, ghastly white wings groaning as they spread.

     "Baby," the monk said, scratching his nose, "your wings are on backwards."

     At once the baby began wailing. His wings' bones rattled and fell to dust as the blood running down his chubby baby belly evaporated into a sweet smelling mist. His talons had disappeared and his face was all but healed, save for the open cleft below his lip, but even that was just about closed. His lips quivered.

The monk sighed and stood up, walking towards the him. He knelt before the baby to wipe the tears from his cheeks and chin. Just then the baby shoved his tiny hands through the monk's eye-sockets and giggled as he threw the eyeballs away.

     "Now, baby, I've been very patient with you," said the monk in a stern voice as he crawled on his hands and knees searching for his eyeballs.

     "You must learn to behave. Aha!" He grabbed his eyeballs and hastily put them back in, but during his search he had forgotten the bag behind him.

     "Baby, what are you doing?"

     The baby walked towards to the bag.

     "No, baby! Don't do that!" said the monk, running towards the baby. He was but yards away when his eyeballs popped out. They rolled towards the baby, looking straight at him as he grabbed the bag and lifted it over his head.

     "No, baby! No!" the monk yelled, walking blindly with arms outstretched.

     With the bag on his head the baby laughed and clapped. On the bag the stars twinkled and the trees swirled. All of a sudden baby stopped and turned in circles as his little hands clutched at the bag. He couldn't take it off, and he flailed his chubby arms. The black nails grew back and tore at the bag in futility. His small cries were muffled, and soon gave way to tiny sucking gasps. The stars and trees and clouds melted into each other, swirling beautifully as the baby fell to his knees. He reached his hand one last time towards his head. The nails scratched the bag lightly, the only sound save for his shallow breaths as he fell to the ground and stopped moving.

     Minutes passed and eventually the monk saw himself wandering behind the baby's body. He walked over and secured his eyeballs in, hitting the back of his head with his palm a few times to make sure they would stay. He looked at the small body and knelt beside it, sighing as he took the tiny hands in his. He laid the baby boy on his back and folded the arms over his chest, and took the bag off his head. With surprise he saw the baby's head was completely gone. No blood, no wound, just a clean stump. He blinked a few times at this while rubbing his chin. All of a sudden his eyes lit up and he started rubbing his hands together in front of his face as he whistled air onto them. As soon as they were warm he grabbed the bag with both hands and threw it like a fisher's net. The bright grass unrolled smoothly as did the trees, and the stars skipped and settled in the black sky like pebbles if pebbles could float on water. The monk walked out of the woods and looked up at the sky. He let out a healthy laugh before putting his hood back on, and started his way back to the monastery.

     Above the monk's small figure, in the black sky like a giant moon was a smiling glowing face. The baby's brown eyes were shining almond gems, his skin glowing like the sun on golden sand. A breeze rushed through the night, and the baby giggled innocently, happily, blinking and giggling all the more.

Brother Bears

 

     Like all bear cub brothers, Nohku and Bai-ku loved to play fight. But even brothers sometimes forget it’s a game.

     Nohku was out in the woods, looking for berries to eat and soft grass to nap on. It was tough getting away without his younger brother noticing, and even when he did, Bai-ku almost always found him. Today was no different. Nohku was eating the last of his blueberries, already thinking of sleep, when Bai-ku bounced off his back. Nohku turned to catch him, but his brother was already somewhere else. Again and again Bai-ku bounced off and about his brother. He was so quick Nohku got dizzy just looking for him. Poor Nohku just wanted to sleep and play later. But Bai-ku was relentless, and he was on Nohku like bees on honey, nipping shoulders and legs, hoping to trip Nohku on his back and win. Nohku was used to Bai-ku's tripping trick, though, and stood firm on all fours, enduring the small, quick, bites, waiting for his chance. He was getting sore where Bai-ku's small teeth had bit more than once, and after Bai-ku bit near his neck he started to growl. He swiped out strong at his brother, hoping to tumble him hard, but missed. Bai-ku jumped ready to bite as hard as he could towards his brother. Nohku had struck out too hard, and Bai-ku was going to make him pay for it. But Bai-ku missed, too.

     "AHHH!" cried Nohku, his head in his paws.

     Poor Bai-ku didn't know what went wrong, it all happened so fast. "I'm sorry!" he cried, sure that he made a mistake.

     "You bit my eye!” Nohku cried, “I can't see anymore and it's ALL YOUR FAULT!"

     Bai-ku rushed over to his brother. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I swear I didn't mean to!" he yelled, crying harder than his brother.

     Nohku turned to walk away, trying to hide his face. But Bai-ku saw the tussled fur on his brother's cheek, and knew he had been lied to. "You made me think I bit your eye!" Bai-ku shouted. "It's just your fat stupid cheek that I bit!"

     Nohku's face burned more than the bite. "Yeah, well..."  He couldn't find a way out of his lie, and so he screamed "You're too small to hurt me anyways! You'll never be as big as me or Dad, that's why he asks me to only PRETEND play with you!" This last yell was a lie, too, but Bai-ku was too hurt to know it.

     "You swiped at me too hard! That's the only reason I bit you hard like that!" Bai-ku left in tears.

     All alone, Nohku felt like sinking. He realized that Bai-ku never meant to bite his face, but was too hurt and defensive to try and say sorry. Nohku knew Bai-ku was going to tell Mom and Dad everything, even the bite. Bai-ku was always telling them everything. Nohku knew he was in trouble. It was always his fault.
He sniffled through his tears as he walked to the willow, his head down the whole way. He found his favorite spot and sat down, thinking about what Mom was going to say.

     Nohku heard Whimsy, the willow’s owl keeper, swoop down next to him. “What’s the matter?” cooed Whimsy. Nohku must have looked really worried for his friend to fly down. Whimsy almost never left the tree. Whimsy stretched his wing out to Nohku's wound. "He was mad, wasn't he?" Whimsy asked.

     "How did you know?" Nohku asked, angry that Whimsy knew.

     "Because you were, too," Whimsy said, smiling kindly. "You're just like your brother."

     "What do you mean?" Nohku asked, now curious.

     "You know when you look at the water under the moon, and see yourself, but a little different?" Whimsy asked.

     "Well, yes," Nohku said, confused.

     "What happens when you throw a rock in the water?"

     "It shakes," Nohku said, looking down and thinking of his swipe, "and I get all blurry."

     "And sometimes it splashes back," Whimsy added, gently touching Nohku's cheek. "But what happens if you let it sit for some time?"

     "It gets back to normal!" Nohku said, feeling hopeful for the first time since the fight.

     "Exactly." Whimsy flew off, and the rush of air from his wings felt like flowers on Nohku’s fur.

     Nohku got up, ready to head home. On his way he found a bed of daffodils blonde in a hill’s shade. Nohku walked over, lay down, and slept.