I can hear the wails behind me, my ears bleeding from their pain. My heart races, pumping clear out of my chest. I look down at my feet, worn and bloodied from running. I can’t run anymore, my feet are bumps on a log, useless. The Big Orange is too fast! I sit down and lick my arms to cool them. It brings no relief from the burning.
I look up to the sky and then back to where the Big Orange has taken all our homes away from us. I must keep running! I can’t let it catch me!
“Are we okay now, mama?” I heard Merkle’s small voice cry up to me. I looked down at her, my heart swells with love.
“Shhh, now. If you keep crying, it will be the death of me,” I warn her. I could tell she knew by the look in my eyes we are not yet safe. I pushed her head back down and started running again.
I can hear crashing sounds up ahead. It sounds like Mawnies! I need to hide! If the Mawnie’s catch us, we will both be dead! My own mother tells me the Mawnies, short for Monstrosities, have hunted us for years.
I have only seen the Big Orange once before and the Mawnies were sitting around it with a forest rat on a stick. I don’t know why a Mawnie would put a forest rat on a stick but I don’t want us on a stick. They must be here to tan my hide with their Big Orange. The black snow stings my eyes and makes me cry a river. I sit in my hiding spot and watch as the Mawnies trudge by. They didn’t look like the Mawnies I have seen before. These Mawnies walk like the others, upright on their back feet, but they have things on their faces and feet so I can’t see if they are the same Mawnies.
I hold my breath and my stomach so Merkle can’t see or she will wail like the moon dog, giving away our hiding spot. I can feel Merkle squirming against my stomach. She is frightened, I am sure her blood runs cold as ice. The Mawnies are fools, they are walking straight into the Big Orange. Good! They won’t find us and they will perish like the rest of my clan has. I will run faster than the wind, to get us to the river. I jump out from our hiding place and my face hits something that feels like a brick wall. It hurts my nose, making my eyes water. I look up to see a big Mawnie staring down at me. My skin crawls and fear stops my heart.
“Hey! Over here! These ones are in pretty rough shape, we will need to get a cage to carry them out!”
I grab onto Merkle, wrapping my arms tightly around her, and try to run around the brick legs. I feel something around my neck and the Big Orange disappears. I have been thrown into blackness, the lights have been turned out. I hear Merkle’s whimpers below me, she is squirming like a dirt worm trying to get free.
“Shhh, little one. I am here. I won’t leave you any more than the stars will drop from the sky,” I croon.
“Mama, I’m scared,” she cried. I try to comfort her but my tongue is swollen and heavy.
“C’mon you guys! Where are the cages we have for hire? Dammit, we don’t have much time to get these ones to safety!”
I can hear strange, loud sounds coming from the Mawnie. I think it might be a type of language but it’s as foreign as the skies are blue. I feel my stomach being pushed, the air is squished out of me. My feet fall out from underneath me and a loud clack bursts my eardrums. We are floating on air. What is happening I yell out. My cries and screams fall on deaf ears. Merkle starts to scream but I can’t see her. I can’t comfort her so I squeeze her harder to let her know I am here.
The floating stops and there is a loud thud, The floating floor clanks against something, making the floor screech like a moon owl. I feel a cool breeze on my feet that takes my breath away. I can hear something whisper beside me, comforting coos that stills my beating heart. Then a loud rumbling overpowers the soothing noises. The floating floor starts to shake and rattle. What is happening! I scream louder like I am trying to wake the devil. The rumbling stops soon and then the lights are turned back on. I squint, trying to see but the light is too bright after all the darkness. I look down at Merkle and she stares up at me, begging me to take her nightmares away.
My vision clears and panic sets deep inside my belly, as I see four Mawnies staring down at me. I huddle in the corner of the floating floor, terrified. I can see the floating floor has see through walls and watch as a Mawnie squeezes the wall in front of me. The Mawnie puts a round silver thing on the floating floor with something in it. I look cautiously at the Mawnie as it takes its hand away from the wall. I raise my nose to the sky and smell, the black snow falls in the distance. I can still hear the crackle of the Big Orange but it is far, far away now. The Mawnies stare down at me, their eyes look kind and they are saying something in soft voices. I lean forward and put Merkle’s mouth to the strange silver bowl. She sticks her tongue out to take in the water.
“It’s good Mama! Have some! I think the Mawnies are helping us!” Merkle yelps. My tears flow, relief at last.