Invisibility may not be accidental

It was a wet and stormy night. The air was not cold but crisp, foretelling of the coming forest dormancy and their own long sleep. Tonight, Hoko had chosen a dry leaf drift under an earthen overhang for sleep. The overhang should keep most of the rain away and the leaf drift was wonderfully warm and dry. Hoko was pleased with his choice. Hoki, his mate, wasn’t as lucky.  She had chosen to sleep on the soft straw under a wide tall and low hanging Sugar Pine about three hundred strides in the direction of the rising. Although Hoki was out of the direct rain, the pine’s gentle swaying in the strong storm, had already begun dropping large random globs of water on her.  Hoko touched Hoki and wished her a pleasant night. Hoki giggled and asked if Hoko would trade? Hoko threw a smile and tried to ignore her. Eventually they both drifted into sleep.

Just before darkest night, Hoko was tickled awake. He reached out and quickly found Hoki, his other two clutch brothers and their mates. He reached further and found what had tickled him to awaken. Two terrors, still very far away, over on the other side of the low mountain from where Hoko lay in the leaf drift, but still close enough to warrant caution. Since he was the first to awaken, he knew he had drawn the task to watch the terrors for the clutch. He gently jostled Hoki and the four others, letting them know he was watching, the five said, “thanks,” in unison, yawned and quickly drifted back to slumber.

Hoko hoped the terrors were just running his edge.  He wanted to go back to sleep and did not particularly enjoy laying around, wide awake, on guard duty. His inner clock told him the rising was still many dozen buzzard circles from happening.

As usual, the terrors moved slowly. They were such clumsy creatures. Often, just a few of them, moving through a forest, sounded like an entire herd of elk stampeding away from a hungry cat. Hoko had seen terrors many times in his life. Once, from less than two hundred strides away, Hoko had actually felt the touch of a terror’s horrific gaze. The terror had seen Hoko for only an eye-blink of time, but the connection had been instantaneous. That briefest touch had cost Hoko many seasons of positive Qi[1]. He had no desire to experience “that” kind of instant loss, ever again.

As Hoko vigilantly watched, his mind gently wandered and he realized he was hungry. He remembered it had been at least eight moon cycles since that big River Oak, over by the small fast water, had fallen to the finger of God. Tomorrow, he would suggest they move down-rising and upward toward the center. In a day, maybe two, they should find the old oak. Hoko closed his eyes from the darkness around him and looked far. He quickly found the small fast water and the old oak. He could see the thick dead bark of the oak and below the bark, he saw dozens and dozens of fat tasty grubs. In Hoko’s imagination he munched on grub, after grub, after grub. For awhile, he thoroughly enjoyed his imaginary feast, but eventually, tore himself away, to once again reach for the terrors.

The terrors were not coming straight at the clutch, but following a regular pathway, often travelled by others of their kind. But clutch safety was Hoko’s job, he knew he must raise the clutch soon and that they would need to move at a right angle, away from the terrors path. But fortunately, the terrors were slow and the rising would happen long before the clutch needed move. He decided to let everyone sleep a little bit longer.

[1] Qi (also “Chi”) - The vital force believed in eastern thought to be inherent in all things. The unimpeded circulation of chi and a balance of its negative and positive forms in the body are held to be essential to good health.

The End

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