11. 19. 2009. 09:48

National zoo III.

György Dragomán: Blood

Nobody quite knew how the war between werebears and carnivorous boars had started. The boars figure it was bears that started it, the bears figure it was boars. The werebears told how on a very cold day in winter, when snow was too deep for the boars to burrow down for roots, when hunger and cold had driven them into a cave, they came across a sleeping bear and devoured it.

The carnivorous boars relate how one spring, when hungry bears came out of the cave they found a group of striped piglets, and craved their tender flesh, and tore them apart and ate them, and this gave rise to such hunger inside them that only living flesh could ever quench.
 
None of the other animals knew the truth. Some rabbits held the notion that the bears had started quarelling over the honey, and in the fray one had bitten another on the throat and was scared by the blood and blamed it on a boar, and some foxes told how on the contrary, an evil old boar had eaten its own piglets, then smeared the blood on a sleeping bear's muzzle.
 
Anyhow, the animals had little time or chance for gossip, with their having to hide and flee. The war had completely upset the forest, the werebear tribes were on the prowl tracking carnivorous boars, while packs of boars scrabbled through the undergrowth searching for bears, it was risky getting in either team's way because both bears and boars were suspicious of everyone, and whoever arose their suspicion they tore limb from limb and ate, if only to keep up the strength they needed to prowl and scrabble.
 
As a warning, bears would nail stripped animal hides to the treetrunks, and pigs would hang cautionary feathers, foxtails and rabbits' ears on the bushes, in an attempt to communicate.
 
And so the war went on for very long indeed, sometimes the werebears would come out on top, other times the boars. Then one day, everything changed. Somebody got hold of fire.
 
All that might be known for sure was: the millennial oak standing in the middle of the forest burst into flame one night. Some said it had been struck by lightning, others said there had always been embers smouldering in the milennial oak's hollows, down deep among its roots, because the roots of that oak reached all the way down to Earth's fiery core.
 
The boars said a renegade sloth of bears first held dry branches on the fire, and were the first to make torches. As far as the bears knew, it was an old boar that gored the ancient treetrunk, and took the great fiery limb between its tusks to try and burn the bears inside their dry shrubberies of blueberry and sloe.
 
The forest was burning. The beech and oak and fir trees were all ablaze, and the flames outcrackled the werebears' battle bawls and the triumphant grunting of the carnivorous boars, and from a distance it was impossible to tell whether the great flaming furry shapes fought with their claws or tusks.
 
Fleeing with burnt wings and singed tailfeathers, the owls were hooting out that they had heard the fire speak. Flames are singing of the ashened forest, and the beauty of charred bear and boar carcasses, the sumptious smell of  vaporized flesh, but there was nobody left to hear the hooting except the fire, and it grew long flame-fingered arms to grope after the owls, to grab at them and swipe at them and pick them from the sky.


Translated by: Dániel Dányi

Tags: György Dragomán