Animal Dilemmas – Serow Water Shrew
The Shrew had never left the sea coast it was born on. It had dug out a damp burrow in the rocky banks and could eat anything that smelled of fesses. Mostly it settled for a fish or squid that had made the mistake to navigate the shallows. But since the first fool of a bird arrived the Shrew’s diet became fresher. After the Laughingthrush came more following the river of poetry the bird left in the forest. They reached the coats and the Shrew found its scheme worked with most.
After eating fresh meat and drinking warm blood for a while the Shrew grew larger and more aggressive. It even gathered the courage to explore the cave that started on shore and went deep into the earth. The Shrew has been at the mouth of the cave but never deep. One day after eating two birds in one sitting the Shrew ventured into the cool corridor that sunk under the sea.
The cave, once full of water was now dump but mostly airy. It went deep into the ground and then curved sea-worth. No animal on the shore knew where it ended. But the Shrew could sense a mild breeze carrying the familiar sent of rotten fish and something else, a freshness like no other. If there was a breeze, thought the Shrew, there is another exit.
The cave was like a snake with two mouths that spun the entire sea and connected the mainland with lush island of the serows. Thousands of years ago when the cave first went dry, first dragons used when they wanted to sneak on the island to feed. When the giants defeated the dragons they took over the route to spread war in their turn. But since giants learned how to fly from dragons and birds the cave was no longer used.
The Shrew found ponds with blind shrimp. It hunted pale frogs and flickering moths. Water filtered through the sea floor and created columns and crystals of great beauty but the Shrew could not see them. It traveled in darkness and only its nose guided it. At times the cave was so narrow that the Shrew had to skip lunch to pass through. It slept on the dump rocks and didn’t encounter any beasts larger than itself. It traveled for many months until the air started growing fresher. The breeze increased and soon light shone reflected countless times via the wet rocks. Days later the Shrew emerged into lush mountain forest just in time for spring.
The island of the serows was ordered and well kept. Every tree was trimmed and straight. Every plant knew its place in the circle of nature and no one complained. Every animal understood its place and did its best to perform its duty in the world and even to improve its predecessor’s record. Not even a blade of grass was cut unless it was needed to feed a serow or another plant eater. Not a fish was caught in the streams unless it was to be eaten by the next in the food chain.
The serows did not run but walked. There was no fear among the animals but patience and understanding.
The Shrew was skinny from its month diet of blind shrimp. It was tired and wanted blood and meat. It lurked in the tall grass for a few days until it realized that the local animals were fools. It surprised a school of rabbits dancing in a forest clearing. They invited it to dance with them and the Shrew agreed. Before they stopped spinning the Shrew chewed all their thoughts off and the rabbits dropped death. The Shrew ate one or two and let the rest to rot.
The word soon reached the serows that a foreigner was disturbing the ways of nature. The Serow told all animals to hide deep into the mountains and went to look for the intruder. The Shrew woke up to an empty forest. Even the fish in the streams was gone up into the cold violent currents of the high mountain. Then the Serow lay on the grass in a clearing and pretended its leg was broken. It started calling for help to anyone who is out there.
‘I cannot move, I am helpless, please help me get home.’
Hungry and with recharged ego, the Shrew approached the Serow and offered its help.
‘Let me lick your wound, so it can heal faster,’ it said.
‘Oh, you are so kind. You are my savior. Mother Nature sent you to help me back to my feet.’
‘Yes, it did. Mother Nature and I are very close and she instructed me to come and aid you. Where is your wound?’
The Shrew neared further thinking how stupid was the Serow and how it will drink its blood and feast on its flesh.
‘My wound is on the hind leg. It’s covered in fur so you have to dig deeper.
The Shrew dove into the thick fur searching for blood and ready to bite when the Serow kicked it in the nose and made it fly across the clearing. The Serow spring to its feet and found the Shrew moaning on the grass.
‘Why did you kick me,’ asked the Shrew.
The Setow put its leg on the Shrew stomach and pressed hard.
‘Because your belly is full of rabbits.’
‘I have to eat right!’
‘But you killed more than you need.’
‘And who are you to tally up my rabbits?’
‘I help nature to cope with vandals like you.’
‘I crawled under the sea to get here and will eat and kill as I please.’
‘No you are not. You are never going to eat another bite. Or kill even a mosquito.’
‘You are a goat. You don’t eat meat. You can’t kill me!’
‘I don’t have to eat you,’ said the Serow and drove its hoof through the Shrew’s stomach.
‘There, you are fat with ignorance.’
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, April 12th
previous chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Water Shrew Laughing Thrush
all chapters: Animal Dilemmas
more by XIDAN
photograph by Wynand van Poortvliet