By J.A Scarrott
Deep within a vast green woodland, that lay in the heart of England, resided two brothers. River and Soil. River was the taller of the two boys, brown scruffy hair sat upon his head and a had pair of bright blue eyes. He was large, strong, and enjoyed venturing out on frequent hunts into the forest. He equally enjoyed eating the spoils gained through this pass time.
His brother, Soil, was a small timid fellow with a set of dark earth green eyes. He found pleasure in the simpler things that life had to offer and only ate produce that he grew from the land. Many a time whilst River was out hunting the wild life, Soil could be found tending a small garden that he cultivated within the centre of the wood. Despite their difference, the brothers were good friends.
The two of them had lived together in isolation for many years and they knew nothing of the world that lay beyond it. The wood was their home and it was their life.
As the years went by Soil grew and found himself questioning his brothers actions. Watching him return home from the hunt each day with more and more animals slung over his shoulder. Until one day, when the two of them were sat by an roaring camp fire, he finally decided to ask his brother about it.
Soil was slowing roasting a potato over the naked flame sitting before him, whilst watching River sink his teeth into a fat steaming chicken leg. Soil cringed as River slurped up the skin off the cooked leg in a single swift motion.
“River, May I ask you a question?” Soil asked quietly, looking up through the crackling flames.
River licked his lips, not wanting to waste the wet chicken fat that dripped from his mouth.
“Of course younger brother, what troubles you?”
“Why do you eat the flesh of the animals?” Soil withdrew his potato from the flames and poked it’s black crispy skin.
“Well that’s because I am a man!” River bellowed, waving the leg of chicken in his hand. “And men eat animals! It is the way of the world.” Instantly he returned his attention to the meat he was holding and began to gnaw away at it once again.
Soil looked down blankly at the potato in his hand, thinking about his older brothers words. He cracked open the tough outer skin and steam bellowed out as it revealed a soft yellow centre.
“In that case, Am I less of a man for not eating meat?”
River pondered the thought, “Well, no. You are my brother and as much as a man as I…”
“So why is it that you eat the flesh of the animals and why do you increasingly eat more than you need?” Soil persisted, not satisfied with the answers that his brother had given him. “I do not understand.”
River lifted up a dead fox that lay beside him, which he had caught whilst hunting previously that morning. “These are just mindless animals.” He shook the limp creature violently, “We are human. These animals were put here for the sole purpose of feeding us. What other reason would they have to exist?” He threw the fox to the floor, it’s body let out a loud crack.
“But say that you weren’t here in the forest. Would these animals still exist?”
“Then how can you say their existence is depended on you? If you weren’t here the animals of this forest would still go on living, which would imply that they have a difference purpose, that isn’t feeding humans, one which you have failed to see.”
“Please tell me then what purpose a measly mouse serves.” River scoffed, folding his well muscled arms across his chest.
“I do not know, But I never professed to know.”
“Look Soil, Animals eat other animals all of the time, what’s the difference?”
“That is true, however they have no knowledge of farming. A fox cannot grow crops and the owl cannot sew seeds. But we have been gifted with this knowledge, if we’re able to grow food enough to feed us, then killing animals to eat is just unnecessary, and avoidable, death.” Soil looked over sadly at the limp fox that was slumped next to his brother, it’s orange fur flickered in the light of the fire.
River was getting annoyed at his brothers constant questioning and blurted out in retaliation, “Why are you so bothered about them anyway!?”
“I don’t know… I suppose it’s because, we’re different to animals. We know more and are in a better position to help them. So we should act upon that and help those, who cannot help themselves.”
River leaped up onto his feet, towering above the roaring fire, much like an angered demon raising from the depths of hell. “I’ve had enough of your questions! I don’t care for your reasoning. I’m not going to stop eating the flesh of the animals, for one reason alone, I enjoy it!” He snatched the limp fox off of the floor and stormed off, fading into the darkness of the woods.
Soil watched as his brother disappeared. He calmly picked up another potato from the pile that lay next to him, skewed it onto a sharpened stick and placed it in the camp fire. He spent the rest of the night alone, listening to the friendly chirp of crickets that sung an evening song around him.
The days passed by and Soil saw no sign of his brother. He continued to tend to his garden and assured himself that his brother was in no danger and would soon return.
Weeks passed by and there was still no sign of River. Soil paced around the woods, looking for any faint trail or hint of his where a bouts. But Soil found nothing. He returned once again to his garden and gingerly cared for his crops, leaving his brother to continue with his escapade.
The plants in his garden grew taller, his vegetables grew larger, his bean sprouts eventually weaved and spun their way around the fixings that he had made for them. However the forest was growing quiet and that unnerved him greatly.
It had been many months since Soil had last seen his brother at the camp fire and in the passing time he had seen much less of the colourful and vibrant fauna that once made the forest come to life. Until eventually the woodland became completely still and silent.
The bird song had completely vanished from the early morning air and the cricket’s lullabies had faded from the day’s twilight hour. The only sound in the forest now, was the crunching of autumn leaves beneath Soil’s bare feet. He wandered the woodland… Alone, completely alone. As the sun rose the following morning, Soil packed a small bark woven bag with food and prepared himself for the walk ahead. He knew something detrimental must have happened to the woods and his brother was still missing. He felt that now was a time that brothers should stick together, not fade apart. So he ventured out into the boundless, noiseless woods in hopes of finding his older sibling, River.
The sun and moon danced across the skies for three days, the whole time Soil trudged onward. He followed a shallow stream that, if traced back, meandered all the way to his precious humble garden. For three days however, Soil found nothing.
He took a break when the sun was at it’s highest on the fourth day, cupping some fresh water from the stream within his hands, sipping at it carefully. Out of nowhere a voice called out to him.
“Soil… Is that you?” It was an unearthly calling, in a harsh, guttural tone.
Soil looked up startled, as he hadn’t heard a sound from something other than himself in days. “Hello..?” he asked timidly, “Is there someone there?”
“It’s me Soil. Your brother.” The voice replied, the barer of which was hidden from sight on the other side of the small brook.
Soil clambered to his feet, his mossy green eyes searched for any possible signs of movement. “River? Where are you?! I’ve been looking for you for days! Something bad has happened to the forest, come home River. Please!”
“I cannot.” The husky voice replied. “You would not be safe.”
“Not be safe? But you are my brother, you would never harm me!”
“That’s true, but I’m afraid that I am no longer myself, Dear brother.”
“What are you saying..? What’s happened?” Soil stood passive, staring aimlessly over the river.
He heard something move behind one of the trees that stood on the opposite him. He watched as an enormous bat like wing slowly folded out from behind a large tree trunk. Another wing stretched out from the opposite side, however this time it was a large feathered wing of an owl.
Soil took a few steps back, as a bout of trembles set within his body.
The hulking beast proceeded to reveal itself fully to Soil, stepping out into the open. It was a hair raising sight. The beast was a horrific mis-mash of different woodland animals, fused together in a seamless manner. Yet it maintained an unnatural and unnerving air about itself.
It’s head was unmistakeably that of a fox and it’s large giant body was that of a badger. It retained the badgers striking facial patterns, black and white stripes adorn it’s sleek and slender fox like face like war paint. It stood proudly upon four large claws which adorned each of it’s large paws. A pair of twisted, grisly stag horns protruded from it’s brow which was covered in sharp black quills, which ran from the top of it’s head and ran all the way down it’s spine. It’s two wings slowly folded back neatly on either side of the beast’s massive body. A set of crystal blue eyes looked across at Soil. The beasts frothing jaws opened, “Soil… It’s me. It’s River.”
“What’s happened to you..? …What have you done?!” Soil asked in horror.
“I’ve eaten it all Soil, every bird, insect, fish, fox and deer. I’ve consumed every pathetic life form in this woodland. Now the forest is silent and the only beings left is you and I.”
“Why.. Why have you done this?”
“Because I can and nothing can compare to my grandiose or my Vigor. I am apex.”
“You’ve let your greed consume you River.” Soil replied, staring deeply into the creatures blue eyes, “It’s tainted you and turned you into a monster… Just look at yourself! You’re no brother of mine.”
Soil turned on his heels and fled, running as fast as his legs could carry him, away from the nightmare. He followed the winding river all the way back to his precious garden, making the trip back home before the moon had finished dancing across the sky.
He crashed to his knees next to his garden and threw his head into his hands. Sobbing uncontrollably. The animals were gone and now his brother was gone. For the first time in his life, he felt truly isolated.
Soil curled up onto the floor and cried himself into an uneasy and restless sleep.
Warm morning rays struck softly against his face. He stood up as he woke, stretching out the knots and kinks in his back as he did so, before turning to face his garden. Weeds had already began to sprout out of the soft turned earth. However something peculiar caught his eye. He leaned in closer to see, a tiny green caterpillar slowly making its way up a bean stalk.
Soil’s heart leapt with joy. “So River hasn’t consumed everything!” He cried, scooping up the little green bug in his hands lovingly. “I’m going to look after you! So that when you grow into a butterfly, you can go and tell the other forests about what has happened here. Warn them of my brother.”
Soil carried out his promise and tended to the young caterpillar with the same affection and love that he gave his crops. To him, any and all life was worth cherishing.
It was not a view shared by both brothers and it wasn’t long before River had caught wind of the small bugs existence and followed it’s scent to Soil’s small allotment.
Soil knew his brother would have come eventually, however River arrived sooner than he anticipated. He stood up as the great beast emerged from the depths of the forest, heavily grinding to a hault as spotted Soil, standing defiantly. The blue had nearly completely faded from his Rivers unruly eyes and his quills flared upwards.
“Soil! I have come for the puny creature that you are keeping hidden from me.” River snarled, baring his large sharp teeth. “I am apex and I am famished. Give the bug to me and be gone.”
“You are not famished brother. You have allowed your greed to overcome you. You’ve succumb to your selfish desires and oh how it has changed you.”
“Silence! I shall not be lectured by you Soil! Give me the pathetic creature and go.”
“We’re all life River, We’re all parts of this world, nor more lesser or greater than any other part that makes the whole. Why can’t you see that!?”
“If you consider yourself equal to these lesser animals, then I shall consume you as if you are one!” The remaining droplets of blue faded in Rivers wild eyes and they became a solid wash of black.
In a flash Soil was pinned underneath one of the monsters heavy claws. He writhed and struggled, but was unable to shift the beast that bore down about him. He felt the heat of his brothers breath bare down on him and watched on helplessly as his brothers mighty foaming jaws descended upon him.
Then suddenly the beast stopped and snapped his mighty fangs shut, inches away from Soils face, turning it’s attention towards the small allotment that sat several yards away. Spotting the tiny fragile caterpillar that it had come for, revealing itself from behind a small green pea pod.
Within seconds the ravenous horror was upon the allotment, trampling and crushing all the crops that grew upon it. Soil watched hopelessly as his former brother grabbed the tiny caterpillar between his mighty claws. A wild manic grin spread across his, now fox like, face. Revealing the rows of razor sharp teeth once more.
“You’re mine. All mine!” He howled proudly.
His celebration ended moments later however, and the delighted smile faded from his face. “What’s this?”
A sticking webbing was secreting from the tiny bug and slowly began covering Rivers claw, binding its talons together tightly. The webbing continued to spread up his leg and within moments, it had engulfed his entire body. The beast began to wrestle with it’s constraints, although the more it did, the tighter they became.
“Soil! Help me! Please!” River begged.
Soil stood and watched as the nightmarish beast was slowly enveloped in white webbing, which pulled and bonded all six of his limbs together. He beat his massive wings, in an attempt to break free of the with-strains. But the harder he struggled, the tighter the webbing bound him. River’s cries for help became muffled and inaudible as a giant chrysalis formed, and solidified, around him.
One last cry rang out “Help!” Then silence.
Soil walked over slowly to the giant white cocoon that stood where his small simple garden had once been. Tenderly, he brought his hand onto the hard tough exterior before placing his ear against the tough chrysalis wall. Inside a faint heartbeat called be heard. Pounding slowly. Soil left out a deep sigh of relief as he stepped away.
He waited by the cocoon for several weeks. Keeping himself busy by building himself a new garden. Soil continued to bide his time, waiting for whatever was inside the cocoon to mature. Then one day out of the blue, as he was turning the earth in a new patch of his allotment, he heard a loud crack.
Instantly Soil span around, dropped his makeshift pitchfork and ran across to the cocoon. A large split ran down it’s side. Another appeared, then another! Soil took a few step backwards, unsure of what he felt within him. Was it fear or excitement? Or both!
All of a sudden, the shell of the great cocoon exploded and a bright light burst outward. A multitude of woodland animals spewed out from it’s centre. Owls, Wood peckers, Blackbirds, Sparrows and Buzzards all took the air, spreading across the clear midday skies. Badgers, Foxes, Rabbits, Mice, Voles and Deer ran across the land and faded away between the trees. Butterflies, Woodlice, Snails, Moths, beetles and crickets populated the plants and tree bark once again.
The animals brought back with them all the songs of forest that Soil had so dearly missed. He turned his attention to the shattered remains of the cocoon. There was no sign of his brother. He walked over and noticed a tiny plant sprouting from floor where the cocoon had once stood. Sitting proudly upon the dainty flower was a tiny caterpillar. Two bright blue circles, that looked like eyes, sat on either side of the caterpillar’s head. Soil smiled, a tiny tear ran down his cheek. He picked up the small bug and rested it on his finger.
“Greed is an ugly thing. It can consume a man. Infect a man. Change a man. Twist a man. Until he is barely himself any more. It is a poison that resides within us all. But the power of change lies within us as well. All you have to do is grasp that power, break free of the chains that you have locked yourself up in and make that transformation for the better.”
The tiny caterpillar began crawling up his hand. Soil just laughed happily to himself, taking the small bug over to his little garden.
Over the years, travellers from far off lands made more frequent trips through Soil’s woods and often stumbled across him and his garden. They would exchange stories, food and laughter. But without fail, one question travellers asked the ageing Soil before departure was “Don’t you ever get lonely out here all by yourself?”
“I am not alone, You are not alone. Life surrounds us, no matter who we are, or where we are. All you need to do, is look up from day to day and breathe it, feel it, see it and hear it.” Soil smiled warmly, looking up towards the trees above him. “No one is ever truly alone.”