One night, when the moon was full, an Owl sat on a branch in a tree as usual. Suddenly the tree began to shake. The Owl tried to balance herself, but the shaking got worse, so she flew off of her perch, bothered and annoyed. Hovering in the sky, she looked for the source of the commotion (as did several other flying birds and insects) and her attention was drawn to the ground. There on the ground, which was usually covered in tall grass filled with arguing crickets and hopeful spiders, was something entirely unusual. There was a large circle of grass and ground which was collapsing into the shaking, quaking earth; it was sinking to form a wide, circular, crater.
And then, the shaking stopped. The Owl (and the other birds and insects) continued to flap in the air to see what would happen next. They noticed movement in the very center of the crater, and then a little Thing emerged. The Thing woke up, and it sneezed- frightening all the insects and birds away (including the Owl).
The Thing could not remember anything about itself, except that one minute ago it was underground, but now, it was exposed and confused.
It scrambled to it’s feet, climbed out of the crater, and stumbled down a grassy slope, landing with a “thunk” into a shallow, cool, pond. The water came up to it’s waist, so it decided to wash up. It splashed it’s face, arms, and body until all the dirt was cleaned off, and then it stood very still to find it’s moonlit reflection in the pond.
What it saw made it gasp and smile. It’s body was black as charcoal, smooth as a river stone, and shiny as glass. It looked like a glazed ebony statue, and when it smiled, it looked like a kind night sky. In it’s eyes it saw all the dark things flicker: black bats, black panthers, black ants, black whales, black bears, black sand, and black birds. The first thought it had about itself was, “Beautiful”.
It stared at it’s reflection for a long time, and the Sun began to rise. “Oy!” called a voice nearby. It was a couple of men walking down the bank, having just bathed themselves in the pond. Their faces were wrinkled from working too many years in the sun, and their once dark hair seemed to be bleached from exposure.
“Oy, who are you?” The men asked. There were four of them; one big, one short, and two who were average. “We haven’t seen you here before. Who are you?” The Big man repeated.
The Thing did not know, so it said, “I don’t know”.
The Big man scratched his chin. Then he scratched his armpits. Then he rubbed his nose. And then he said, “Well, not knowing who you are, you can make yourself something of a man if you come with us. An honest workin’ man is all we can ask to be.”
The Thing considered this and said, “An honest man sounds like a nice thing to be.”
“Yeah”, said the big man. “We normally get hired as a team, but we are short-handed today and might have to split up the group unless you join us. We work the fields ‘round here. All the fields who’ll take us.” The Big man made sweeping gestures as he spoke, pointing in all directions.
“Comfortable wages, see?”, said the Short man, who pulled out a bag of golden coins to show The Thing. There was tiny green beetle crawling on one of the coins. The Short man picked up the beetle and ate it.
The Thing did not know what gold was, but honesty sounded good. “Honest man I’ll be”, it said.
And off they went; the Big man, the Short man, the two Average men, and The Thing. When they started working, the men were surprised how quickly the Thing picked everything up (literally and figuratively). It uprooted trees without breaking a sweat; it dislodged boulders from under fields; it hammered in fence poles like nails; and it learned engineering in an hour.
Pretty soon the team found themselves the most sought after gang of labourers in the whole region. They cycled all the fields several times a day, and quadroupled the output of any land owner. The four men of the group filled their pockets with gold, calling themselves “Agents” and “Procurers”, while the Thing did more and more of the actual “honest work”.
It dug deep trenches, and hoisted massive blocks for walls. It stretched it’s arms to reach over houses and huts, and fixed the roofs so many times that the people began experimenting. For instance, it once cleared out a chimney for Ms Hudson, and twenty minutes later it was called back to clear it out again after a pig fell in. How did a pig fall in the chimney? Someone had put on the roof as an experiment, but no one would say who.
The towns people were glad to see how much The Thing could build, at first.
Then came the hotter days. It was dreadful for all the folk who had to stand outside and watch the Thing work. The heat was too much. People fainted waking up in the morning. It was that bad. They fainted lifting a finger. They even fainted when they had to chew.
Yet for the Thing, it kept working, and the people swore it did not mind the heat. This did no please the Sun, who had been enjoying watching people faint. He, in his fiery brilliance, decided that anyone who would not “get hot” or “mind the heat” was to be challenged. “No one ignores my intensity”, sneered the Sun, and he rose to the top of the sky, and stayed there.
Despite the heat, The Thing worked and worked and worked. It constructed castles and roads and bridges- and managed to turn the country into metropolis of ingenious engineering. Men who fished in the pond would return home to find their spouses had ordered the Thing to construct personal fountains with their own stocks of fish. Daughters were delighted to have new large rooms built (until they realised that their fathers had ordered the rooms to sit atop 50 foot towers). Parents had giant play pens installed for their tots, and Ms Jenkins had an elaborate cat house designed.
The Sun, however, was taking it’s toll on the people, who became hot and irritated with each other. It seemed that whatever anyone wanted, the Thing could do, but not everyone wanted the same things.
Fights began to break out between spouses, children, and pets who disagreed about designs. Vandalism and arson occurred (and was quickly repaired by the Thing). There was shouting, and breaking, and spitting. And then, death. One death occurred. Ms Hudson’s prized pig slipped off the roof and died, while Ms Hudson was busy bickering with her son about whether or not a fifth chimney was really necessary.
That was too much for the town. A Life was the one item that the Thing could not repair. In response, the men dusted off their torches and pitchforks and chased the Thing down a ravine, where it was pushed it into a deep, frothing river.
The Sun, satisfied with that result, began to set, and the Thing was carried down the river.
The next morning the Thing woke up having been washed into another country. It was covered in sand and river silt, and decided to clean up. As it splashed it’s face and body, it saw that it was no longer charcoal black. It had turned blue- a striking ocean blue, deep and mysterious. It found it’s reflection in the water and stared.
It looked like a sanded azurite statue, and when it smiled, it looked like a kind lit sky. It saw all the azure things flicker in its eyes: blue birds, blue dolphins, blue herons, blue lizards, blue butterflies, blue frogs, and blue bees. The first thought it had about itself was, “Beautiful”.
And the second thought was, “I am, aren’t I?”.
It was watching it’s reflection for a long time when someone shouted “Oy!”. It was a couple of men walking down the bank, having bathed themselves in the river that morning. They were pale from spending too much time indoors, and their eyes were orange.
“Who are you?” The men asked. There were four of them; a tall one, a little one, and two typically sized ones. They had kind expressions, except one, who looked like he was worried about tripping on stones, or being bit by insects. “Oy, who are you?”, the Tall man repeated.
The Thing looked at it’s hands, and then it said, “I am Beautiful”.
On a nearby branch, in a nearby tree, the Owl was watching; she hooted in agreement with the Thing, and went to sleep.
© Saying Sooth, 2017