Pygmy Wars by Ronald K. Myers

EXTRACT FOR
Pygmy Wars

(Ronald K. Myers)


Pygmy Wars

CHAPTER 1

 

In one of the last pockets of civilization struggling to survive, Eippy, the little pie pygmy, hid in a sheltering thicket.  With his silky-black tail partially blocking his vision, he crouched in the shadows and peered through his small eyes.  Beyond the shore and across the water, the setting sun inflamed the horizon, causing an orange dusk to linger, but all was clear.  It would be safe to come out.

Eippy took one step.

Angry sounds of his dog barking at a pygmy hunter cut through the last of the filthy rain sluicing down through the dead trees.  Eippy froze in place, swished his silky tail to the side, and looked to where his dog was barking.

The pygmy hunter ignored Eippy’s little cream-colored dog, reached down, and grabbed an orange pygmy’s wrist.  As the rat tail of the pygmy formed a threatening S, the hackles on the dog’s back flared up and accented the green, spinach-shaped blotches on its back.

With his small eyes open wide, Eippy’s excited voice rang out, “Sic him, Spinach!”

Growling, Spinach barreled toward the pygmy hunter’s ankle.

With guttural grunts resonating from his hollow pig-like nose, the pygmy hunter reared back and kicked Spinach.  Spinach yelped once and went flying across the rugged ground.  He tumbled to a stop, rolled to his feet, and ran into the forest.

With mouthwatering expectation, the pygmy hunter grinned and straightened the orange pygmy’s arm straight out.  Holding it with one hand and using his other hand, he reached toward the sky and brought his fist down.

Snap!

The hammer blow broke the pygmy’s arm.

Screaming in pain and with his tail lashing violently, the pygmy staggered back and tried to free his broken arm from the pygmy hunter’s powerful grip.

He couldn’t.

The pygmy hunter pulled out his ax, chopped the pygmy’s arm off, raised it to his mouth, and took a huge bite out of it.

As if a switch had been pulled, the sun dropped below the horizon.  Everything became early night gray.

Like a quickly moving ghostly shape, Spinach came barreling back.  He grabbed the pygmy hunter’s ankle, hung on, and twisted.  The pygmy hunter dropped the arm and swung his ax.  It sliced the tip of Spinach’s ear off.  Spinach let loose of the hunter’s ankle and ran into the bush.

The orange pygmy’s half a meter high son, Eippy, whose small eyes had been staring from the shadows, gasped in shock, his panic temporally immobilizing him.  With his long, fluffy, black tail curved into a threatening S, he sprang out of a pocket of rolling fog, hopped up and down, and excitedly waved his little arm.  “Come on, Papa, I have the gold.  Follow me.”

Eippy looked toward a flickering orange glow on his right.  The light from torches in their hands revealed a new band of wild-eyed pygmy hunters with sweating, contorted faces yelling and running down the hill.  But the pygmy-hunters, pig-people with IQ’s equivalent to a bag of stones, were going the wrong way.

While the other pygmy hunters’ attentions were focused on where Spinach had gone, Eippy’s father held his blood-spurting stump, where his arm used to be, and took off running.  With his rat tail standing straight up behind him, he zipped along the dark shoreline of the red algae bloom.  But the blood loss caused his rat tail to droop.  He slowed to a limping walk.

Searching for the escaping pygmies, the revealing beam of a carbide-gas searchlight streaked down from the side of the mountain.  As the beam bounced along the rolling red water, it only revealed a few isolated waves that creased into the filthy shoreline.

The pygmy hunter adjusted the beam to a spot of land between a set of towering boulders.  Here, old tree roots had raised the soil.  Like black, bony fingers waiting to reach out, grab a toe or a foot, and send someone flying, the roots twisted along the ground.  This would be a good execution place, and the pygmy hunter wasn’t disappointed.  Even though Eippy wore a black and white stripped polo shirt, the blur of his running legs and his swishing tail cut the beam and was gone so fast the hunter must have wondered if he were seeing things.  He rubbed his eyes and focused the beam again.  The moment it touched Eippy’s father’s limping, orange form, Eippy’s father took off running.  Wildly screaming, with his long, black hair flying back, he rushed toward the safety of the concealing dark.

The gas in the carbide lantern hissed.  The revealing white of the light turned blue, sputtered, and flicked out.

Eippy’s father fell.

Eippy ran to him.  “Come on, Papa.  The light went out.  We can get away.”

His father struggled to his feet, bent over, and placed his hand on his knee.  With weary eyes and blood spurting from his severed arm, he looked toward Eippy.  “You came from a village with pie pygmies just like you.”  He tried to breathe in but coughed up blood.  “I always tried to take you back to your village, but I never could find it.  If I don’t make it, take your mother and sisters and find the village.  It is an archaic dream of two old men that came true.  The magic there will make your world normal again.”

Eippy held back his tears.  “Get up, Papa.  We’ll go there together.”

“I believe we can.”  His father peered into the darkness created by the carbide light that had flicked out.  “It’s dark enough to get away.  We’re out of danger.”

For a moment silent dark enveloped them.  Then the boisterous grunting of pygmy hunters cut the dark.  Eippy looked back over his shoulder.  He and his father weren’t out of danger.  The dreaded, flickering, orange torch light from guttural-grunting pygmy hunters, fifty meters behind him, gave substance to both of their silhouettes.

Eippy’s father lifted his hand from his knee, took two steps, and tripped over the tree roots.  His legs crumpled.  He thudded to the ground.

The grunting of the pygmy hunters grew louder.

The gap closed.

Eippy tugged at his father’s arm.  “Get up, Papa.  Get up!”  He looked toward the grunting.  The pygmy hunters all wore dirty-black jackets made from irregular pieces of pygmy skin they had dried and sewn-together.  Consisting of a diet of pygmy and dog meat, most were tall and lanky.  Shaggy goatees, the color of dirty straw, hung down and over their double chins.  On their heads, tight fitting baseball caps, with long bills, covered most of their short bristles of hair that looked as if it had been gnawed off by a sewer rat.  On the fronts of their baseball caps, crudely cut tin letters, reading “PH”, caught torch light and flashed like bright badges of unearned authority.

Even though ordinary pygmy hunters had the characteristics of pigs and looked alike, Eippy knew from their grunting that these weren’t ordinary pygmy hunters.  These were the feared “top-of-the-line” pygmy hunters.  They never failed to kill their quarry.

Eippy pulled at his father’s arm and tried to help him to his feet.  He didn’t respond.

Spears rained down, swished past Eippy’s tiny body, and sank into Eippy’s father’s back.  Blood exploded around the spearheads.  More spears came.  They sliced into the sand and zipped past the thorn canes.  Grabbing his back and moaning in agony, Eippy’s father rose.  Spinning in the sand and oblivious to the pain, his one hand pulled at the jagged thorny canes.  More spheres sliced his body.

As the spears flew all around Eippy, none hit him.  In a state of shock and fear, he stood helpless.

Whimpering, with blood flowing from where the tip of his ear had been sliced off, Spinach hid under a small bush.

Still trying to escape, Eippy’s father’s small orange hand clawed at the sand.  After he had crawled the length of his body, he quit breathing.

With the renewed bright beam of the carbide lights stabbing at his eyes, Eippy looked into his father’s face.  His glassy eyes looked up.  Eippy knew his father was dead.  With pain welling up in his chest, Eippy took one last sorrowful look at his dead father and wondered how pygmy hunters could be so cruel.  He felt it wasn’t any mortal person’s right to decide who should survive or parish.  That great right was reserved for Orange Man.

Eippy turned, and plunged toward the trees.  With weeds and tall grass lashing his face, he sprinted toward the thick cover of the forest.  Breathing in ragged gasps, he held his hands in front of his face and warded off tall grass that blocked his vision.

As thick bushes flanked him and overhanging branches of densely leaved trees cast shadows behind his tiny body, the gruff voice of a pygmy hunter rang out.  “Where’s that little one?”

Huffing for breath, another pygmy hunter walked up to the pygmy hunter standing next to the thorn canes and peered into the tall grass.  “I don’t know where he is,” he said with his eyes darting back and forth.  “Did you see the long fur on its tail?  It’s a pie pygmy.  Even if it doesn’t have gold, it’s really good to eat.”

“Get back to the one we got,” the other pygmy hunter commanded.  “Kick his teeth out before he bites someone.  I shouldn’t have to remind you, those teeth are poisons.”

Although the pygmies’ teeth were not poisons, to instill fear in the pygmy hunters, the pygmies had spread the rumor that their teeth were poisons.  If the pygmy hunters would have known Eippy’s father had hid a weird magnet, they wouldn’t have worried about kicking his teeth out.  They would have been searching for the magnet.

With Eippy at his side, his father had been using the weird magnet to search the shoreline.  They had been finding gold.  But gold wasn’t the only valuable thing the pygmy hunters were after.  Because of Eippy’s half a meter high size and his distinctive blaze of silky-black fur that ran from high on his forehead down the center of his head, down his back, and to the tip of his tail, he was considered a pie pygmy.  Pie pygmies were considered top shelf.  Made into pies, they were a much sought after delicacy, and their black fluffy tails were prized as the most tasty and tender of all pygmy meats.

Eippy’s small size and his black fur gave him an advantage:  It made it difficult for pygmy hunters to find him, and his great lightning speed allowed him to go where no other pygmy dared to go.  But if he made one misstep, or one mistake, or if one pygmy hunter, hungry for pygmy meat, caught him, he would be somebody’s evening meal.

With a knot of pygmy hunters bunched before him, Eippy hid under a bush, crouched into a ball, and labored to quiet his gasping breath.

One of the pygmy hunters with fat hanging like slabs of bacon under his arms raised his blood-covered hand and rattled the bush.  Praying to Orange Man that the pygmy hunter hadn’t seen him, Eippy froze with fear.

Cocking an ear, the pygmy hunter leaned forward and took one step.

Snap!

The pygmy hunter’s thick boot clumped down on Eippy’s tail.  Pain raced up his spine.  He wanted to scream out, but he held it in.  Although the bush blocked the pygmy hunter’s vision, he had broken Eippy’s tail.

The pygmy hunter excitedly yelled, “There’s something here!”

To protect himself, Eippy placed his hands on his head.  Before he could be seen and struck, Spinach came barreling out of hiding and stopped at the feet of the hunter.  With the hackles on his back rising, Spinach growled.

“It’s a dog!” the pygmy hunter yelled.

Holding his spear in a ready position, the other pygmy hunter rubbed his stomach in anticipation.  “We can eat that.”

“I’ll kick him your way.  Spear him.”  The pygmy hunter drew his foot back to kick.  Before he could swing, his foot into Spinach’s side, Spinach turned and scampered off into the brush.

Afraid to come out, Eippy crouched amongst a thick tangle of vines, held his broken tail, and wondered if the hunters would quit searching for him.

But he didn’t have to wonder long.  The sparkling show in the sky was just beginning.  It was the aurora borealis.  Soon the sky would be filled with magnificent flowing colors of blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  Eippy knew it was harmless, but the pygmy hunters were afraid of it.

They immediately stopped searching.

With fear-filled eyes, the pygmy hunters hoisted Eippy’s father’s body onto a wooden wagon.  As they were pulling the wagon away, a trailing pygmy hunter leaned askew.

Splat!

His lifeless body fell flat onto a stretch of cement-like ground.  Afraid of the growing lights from the aurora borealis, the other pygmy hunters didn’t stop.  Holding his foot, the fallen pygmy hunter stayed on the ground.  One pygmy hunter turned and looked back.  As if the fallen pygmy hunter had now become worthless, the staring pygmy-hunter’s mouth locked in a sickening leer.  And the fallen pygmy-hunter’s band of former friends walked away.

After Eippy had watched the pygmy hunters wheel his father’s torch-lit body into the darkness, he hoped Spinach would come out of hiding.  But Spinach never came out.  Making sure the fallen pygmy hunter was still on the ground and hoping Spinach would be behind a tree, waiting, Eippy pushed away the concealing vine and fled into the forest.  And his broken tail trailed behind him.

Before he could look for Spinach, Eippy had to do something about his broken tail.  He reached up, snapped a smooth stick from a tree, and broke it in half.  Then he placed the sticks on the break in his tail and wrapped them with a thin vine.  His tail still hurt, but it wouldn’t be dragging on the ground colleting dirt and getting infected.

After hours of searching, Eippy could not find Spinach.  Eippy’s years of weaving through the forest and experiencing its changing temperatures told him that the black rain was coming to Blue Town and the surrounding area.  He wanted to go home and be safe, but he would never cover enough ground to get far enough away to avoid the black rain, and he didn’t want to go home without Spinach.  It would be better to find a place where the black water wouldn’t cover his body and fill his clothes with soot, especially his horizontally-striped black and white polo shirt that his mother had made from a leathery cloth that had taken four weeks to grow using live kombucha cultures, water, vinegar, sugar, and tea.

He decided to go to a place where the pygmy hunters would never think of looking for him.  He would go where Spinach had gone the last time he had been kicked.  He would go into the storm culverts under Blue Town.