for my dad

I have been thinking about this story for some time now. I wanted to sit down and type it out awhile back, but I kept getting distracted. I’m glad though because that has given me some more time to mull things over, flesh it out before even writing the first word.

My dad has been one of my best and vocal supporters. He has said some of the kindest things to me about my writing and he’s been a tremendous encouragement as I some times struggle to come up with a story. The story below, along with the second part later, is dedicated to him.

The Protectors

Ká sat on a large rock near the stream, content with his meal of fresh caught fish. It was some time after midday, for the sun was directly overhead now. His belly was full, the sun was shining, what more could he ask for?
Just as this thought crossed his mind, Ká heard a sudden shrill noise coming from within the thicket behind him. He didn’t remember seeing anything earlier, but he was concentrating on his meal at the time.
The noise did not wane, in fact it grew louder and more insistent. The longer he heard it, Ká became more certain it was some small creature in pain.
By now Ká was getting annoyed and was forced to leave his warm rock to investigate. Slowly he picked his way through the underbrush, drawing closer to the cries.
At a young age Ká had been wounded, attacked, which left him blind in one eye. This seemed to hone his other senses, such as his hearing. Perhaps that is how Ká was able to locate the noise so quickly.
When he entered the clearing, Ká was aware something was not right. The brush had been trampled recently, as early as that morning. The bushes and lower hanging branches were broken, or even crushed down. Ká didn’t see any blood on the ground, but the strong smell hit him right away.
Cautiously Ká moved closer to the noise; it was coming from the base of the largest tree in the clearing. It had been some time since he first heard the crying, and at this point it was obvious the poor creature had worn it’s voice out.
Ká inched over to tree, and with a few quick glances around the clearing to see if everything was safe, he peaked over the massive roots. Loosely wrapped in an odd skin, lay a squirming newborn, a dark skinned little thing that sleepily blinked at Ká.
Neither made a sound, only locked eyes, staring intently at one another. This little thing was so foreign to Ká that he didn’t even have a name for it. The only thing that Ká could be sure of was that the mother was no where to be seen, that this newborn was alone in the world.
It was in that moment that Ká knew, looking deeply into the infant’s dark eyes, that he would do anything to protect this innocent creature.
That was immediately put to the test as a large roar snapped Ká out of his thoughts. He spun around and instinctively threw his arms up, spreading them out to make himself appear as big as possible. Ká was terrified to see a massive bear standing in the middle of the clearing, but found it impossible to leave the infant. He was grounded, feet firmly planted and unmoving.
The bear was still on all four paws, and looked more bored than anything. It lazily growled. Ká could tell the bear wasn’t really trying, that it just saw an easy meal.
Ká hissed at the bear and tried to shoo it away.
“Get out of here!” he said, waving his arms.
The bear looked surprised and stopped his low growl. It leaned back to sit down with a loud thud.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” said the bear.
“I said, go! Get out of here,” repeated Ká. “There’s nothing for you here.”
“Nothing?” said the bear, mockingly. It pointed with a long claw. “What about that little thing there? Are you going to eat it?”
Ká grunted angrily. “Of course not.”
“Well, then…?”
“I’m warning you, bear, you will regret it if you come closer,” said Ká.
The bear guffawed at the seemingly empty threat.
“Listen, little crow,” said the bear through his laughter. “I’m hungry. That’s a meal. Simple.”
Ká thought of his options. The infant was too heavy for him to lift. Trying to attack the bear would be his death. He’s fast, and his beak is sharp, but there was no chance of actually stopping the huge predator. Maybe he could approach the problem from another angle.
“All that you’re worried about is a free meal?” he asked.
“I am a bear, it’s what I do.”
“Then, how about we work out a trade?”
The bear tapped the ground thoughtfully. “What kind of trade?”
“I know a heron…”
“That I can eat instead?” interrupted the bear.
“No,” said Ká. He dropped his wings to his side. They were beginning to ach from holding them up for so long.
“Oh. Wait, you’re friends with a heron?”
“Well, no. I know of a heron. Through a mutual friend,” explained Ká.
“Okay. And?” the bear said impatiently.
“This heron knows of a lake that is filled with fish.”
“So,” said the bear.
“These fish are huge, and easy to catch,” Ká continued. “These fish practically jump out of the water at you.”
“Hmmmm,” said the bear. He stretched his neck out to look over the crow.
“They are at least the size of this newborn,” Ká quickly said, catching the bear’s gaze.
“But what’s to stop me from just taking that little thing from you, then going off to find this lake?” asked the bear.
Ká ruffled his feathers in frustration. He calmed himself and tried to keep his voice level.
“Nothing, except there are many lakes in this land,” said Ká. “And there are many herons as well. I vow to take you to find a never ending supply of fresh fish after I deal with this newborn.”
“Aha. That implies that I would need to stay with you wherever you go with that thing, otherwise how would I ever get my end of the deal,” said the bear.
The bear stood up, walked to the edge of the clearing, and back again. He paced the clearing, his throat rumbling as he thought. Finally, the giant predator lumbered to the crow, to stare him directly in the face.
“What kind of fish?” he asked.
“Does it really matter? They’re twice the size of me,” said Ká as calmly as he could.
“Deal. I’ll go with you until you finishing doing… whatever it is you need to do with that thing,” said the bear with a nod at the infant.
“Good,” said Ká, relieved. “What’s your name?”
“Ohkwa,” said the bear.
“Mine is Ká,” said the crow. “It’s a pleasure to not be your meal.”
“Don’t push it, little bird,” said Ohkwa with snort at Ká.
Both the bear and crow turned to look down at the newborn, which was now asleep. Ká suspected the infant had exhausted itself and had drifted off during their discussion. The bird wondered when it had last eaten anything.
“Well,” said the bear. “You’re the smart one. Now what?”
Before Ká could answer, from somewhere overhead, they could hear the soft sound of giggling.

To be continued in another installment…

discombobulation… yeah, its a word


I feel bad. I can’t believe it’s been over two months since I’ve written something. That’s just not right. I keep bouncing ideas around in my head, and make lofty goals, but then most of my drive gets sapped out of me when I sit down. I blame work; it can be such a distraction. So, here I go again, trying to hammer out something that sort of makes sense (hopefully).


Somewhere far off in the darkness, muffled under a cloud of fog, Malcolm could hear a constant beep. It was rhythmic, very steady. He focused on the beeping, tried to pull himself towards the sound. It was like following an echo in a long tunnel: he could never get close enough to it. He eventually gave up in exhaustion and he paused to rest.

Malcolm heard new sounds as he was resting. Just under the beep he could make out voices, but they were muffled as well. It was like listening with cotton stuffed in his ears. He desperately strained to get closer, to hear who was speaking.

Finally Malcolm could isolate two voices, a man and a woman. He could only pick up a few words here and there at first, but it got easier the longer he concentrated.

“… MRI scans show… little… neural activity. That is… uncommon for patients that… head trauma as severe…,” said the man.

“… said… getting better,” replied a woman. She sounded worried, and her voice was strained, as if she had been crying or was about to start.

“Yes, actually. Malcolm’s latest… show… improvement in brain activity. However, we… not seeing… reactions to stimuli,” said the doctor.

Malcolm focused even more on the voices then, and pulled himself up from the fog. It had the same feeling of swimming to the surface of a deep pool of water or lake. The effort left Malcolm drained, but he could hear the people clearly now. Everything was still black, but now there was an ambient glow all around him.

“What does that mean? I thought you said he had come out of the coma,” said the woman.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to mislead you. All indications point to Malcolm being out of his coma. Yet, he now appears to be in a vegetative state.”

“My God, no!” she exclaimed.

“We see this as a good thing. More brain activity is a good thing. The next step on his path is awareness,” said the doctor.

Malcolm felt pressure on his arm. It was a gentle, distant feeling, yet he could tell it was the woman’s hand touching him.

“How long will he be this way?” said the woman.

Malcolm thought about the woman’s voice, her familiar and loving tone. It was right there on the edge of his thoughts.

There was a long pause before the man started speaking again. Finally he said, “It’s hard to say. It could be days, weeks…”

“Years?” she interrupted.

“Possibly,” the doctor answered solemnly. “There is no way to know for sure when Malcolm will pull through this.”

Like a lightning bolt it hit him and Malcolm suddenly opened his eyes, blinked at the bright lights overhead. He looked around trying to find her.

“You’re my mother!” His words fumbled from his mouth, slurred together.

Robin Grant looked down at her son, her eyes red and swollen. Fresh tears rolled down her checks as she smiled down at Malcolm. She covered her mouth and wept.

The doctor’s mouth hung open as he looked on. He patted his pockets until he found a pen light, and clicked it. The bright light from the little tip swept across Malcolm’s eyes, making him see spots for a moment. The doctor turned and started talking to a nurse.

Everything seemed to happen all at once after that, it was all a blur. Malcolm saw nurses coming and going from his room. His mother kept hugged him and kissing his cheek. The doctor was joined by another and they continued to poke and prod at him, asking how he felt. Malcolm told them, besides a headache and sensitive eyes, he felt fine. The next few hours was a battery of tests that completely exhausted him.

* * * 

Malcolm slowly woke up to find his mother smiling at him from across the room. She sat perched on the edge of the chair, eager for him to wake up again. For a moment, Malcolm  saw a wisp of light surround her, but it faded away as she moved. He blinked a few times, trying to get his eyes to refocus.

“Your eyes bothering you again?” she asked.

“No, not really. Just saw that light blur again. It’s gone now,” Malcolm said through a yawn. “So, its been a week. Are they ready to let me out of this prison yet?”

His mother seemed anxious, ready to burst out some exciting news. She was fidgeting with some rolled up papers or a pamphlet.

“What’re you waiting to tell me?” he asked with a smile.

“They said you can be discharged today,” Robin said. Her face lit up and she grinned. “Right now.”

 * * *

It felt odd to wear normal clothes again; even though he had only been awake for about a week, Malcolm had gotten comfortable wearing the hospital gowns. He wore jeans and one of his favorite t-shirts. The shoes were new, still bright white around the tips.

His mom said the clothes and shoes from the night of his accident had to be trashed. Whatever wasn’t bloody had been cut up by the paramedics or the ER staff. He tried to remember what he had been wearing that night, but his memory was spotty. Anything longer than a few days ago blended together, or was missing completely.

The wheelchair that Malcolm sat in squeaked as it moved. It was one more annoying thing that he was ready to leave behind. The orderly pushing the chair patted him on the shoulder, sensing his discomfort and anxiousness. The man was huge and his hand on Malcolm’s shoulder felt like someone had just flung a sack of potatoes on him.

“Don’t worry, man. You’re almost there. I can see the front door, you’ll make it,” the big man said with a smile.

Malcolm rubbed at his eyes and sighed. “Good. These lights are killing me.”

As they walked down the hall, since leaving his room, Malcolm kept seeing a bright light swirl around his vision. It was the same issue from before, and it seemed to be worse around more people. A person standing right next to Malcolm appeared to be surrounded by a rope of light. The further away, the light was nearly invisible. The doctors told him he was still just overly sensitive to the lights. Whatever the reason, it gave Malcolm a splitting headache.

A gust of air hit Malcolm as the sliding glass doors opened. They went through and left the sterile clean smell of the hospital behind. He squinted, looking around for his mom. She was waving, from the pickup and drop off area, standing next to their minivan.

Malcolm touched the gauze just above his eyebrow and pulled it closer down to his eyes, helping to block out the sunlight. Even still, he held a hand over his eyes provide some shade.

 The orderly helped him from the wheelchair, and they shook hands. The big man’s hand completely enveloped Malcolm’s.

“Good luck, kid. Get some sunglasses. Try to ignore the lights,” he said with a wink.

“Thanks,” Malcolm replied awkwardly.