Animal Dilemmas – Guinea Pig Vicuña
The Vicuña led the silent pack through the frosty grass. They descended around to a southern slope and started grazing.
‘We left it to die,’ said on of them.
‘Why didn’t you carry it on your back then. Or said something before the wild cats took it. Don’t try to heal your conscious with apologies. This is the mountain, very soul for itself. You are just as selfish as me. Admit it! Admit it to yourself!’
‘You have helped others before.’
‘And what I got for it!? Seven wounds that nearly drained my blood. Where were they when the wild cats came for me. For many seasons I helped every creature that crossed my path, from llamas to guinea pigs. Even I let giants take my coat for their own enrichment while I shivered on the slopes.’
‘But you still visit the guinea pigs colony in the valley. You carried them to safety in the flood and now you are connected to them. That is the only thing that reminds you of happiness.’
‘What is this? Therapy? Why don’t you stuff your mouth with grass like you always do and keep your cometary to yourself!’
‘Or what!? You gonna jump on my back and make me carry you!’
‘I know the mountain. I know where the wild cats go and when and I keep you all safe. You should be greatful!’
‘We all know the mountain.’
‘Good luck then, let see how long you will last,’ said the Vicuña and left the herd hoping down hill with great speed.
The day was growing warm and the frost melted into soft dew. The Vicuña entered the valley where the grass was tall and trees lined the river. It was easy country, it thought, where the lazy types of animals dwelled and complained when it was too hot or rained two days in a row. The Vicuña despised those valley creatures whose mood was dictated by the weather and the fear of giants. They lived in hiding, ate hurriedly and slept in the ground. And guinea pigs were the worse. They were afraid of every breath of the wind. They ate grass all day and they multiplied. Fear and proliferation were their only survival tools. They possessed no skills or cared to acquires any. That was why the giants have mostly domesticated them and raised them like chicken, fed them fodder and slaughter them as they pleased. They were worse even than the llamas.
They why did the vicuña had saved them so many years ago. Why had it soaked in that flood risking its skin for a band of creatures it despised.
‘The Vicuña is here, the Vicuña,’ shouted the first guinea pig that the Vicuña almost stepped on.
It was many generations ago when the flood nearly wiped out the colony and there was not a surviving member of those times. There was one elder from a generation later that knew the stories best. But every member of the colony knew about the heroism through stories, legends and tables that the elders crafted in their minds and told when everyone went underground in the evenings. With time those legends had grown exaggerated and fantastic which helped he younger scatter-minded pigs to remember them. The Elder Guinea Pig drew sketches of the Vicuña in he dirt and had carved its image on a flat root in the main burrow. That was why every pig knew the Vicuña when they saw it and gathered together to greet it.
‘It is harsh times again, savior,’ said the Elder. ‘As you know we founded this colony quite by accident. Our parents were domestic animals. The great floods took many houses of giants and freed them into the valley, nearly wiping them out. But you carried them to safety. You gave them a chance. They found those burrows and fed off the giant’s grain fields in the valley. But now because our colony has flourished against all odds, the giants have learned about it and are coming at regular intervals to catch and slaughter us for their feed.’
‘I wish I could help you but even I cannot stand up to the giants,’ said the Vicuña.
‘But your so brave and noble.’
‘I was but I am no longer?’
‘But why? How is that possible. We teach our families to be like you and that your noble intentions can only grow with you.’
‘I think in have lived too many cold winters and my noble intentions have frozen.’
‘And what can we do to unfreeze them, savior?’
‘We can bring a burning stick from on of the giant fires and light the bushes to warm you.’
‘No, I will go to giants myself and punish them for their deeds.’
‘Be careful, savior. They are soulless.’
‘So am I,’ said the Vicuña and vanished in the bush.
It crossed the valley and neared the giant settlement. On the outskirts were enclosures with guinea pigs, llamas, chickens, goats. Beyond them fires were burning and in the middle a great fire. The Vicuña took a path between the houses and emerged on the main gathering place were the giants danced in a circle around the fire. The Vicuña charged at them and dispersed them. It went round and round the fire kicking dust and stones around raising a cloud and making the giants cough. For a time the Vicuña thought it was making a stand but soon two ropes lamed around its neck and the giants had it tied to a tree.
They took knifes to its fur and stripped it from its coat. Then one of them led out in the fields and let it go. The Vicuña bolted in the darkness and climbed the hills looking for its herd. It found them under the racks sleeping. It settled but it couldn’t sleep because it was cold. Without its coat the mountain wind was biting at its skin and the Vicuña was forced to climb down and settle in the valley.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, August 30th
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photograph by Chan Swan