Quazhdo’s Round Stone Thing
An old man-shaped thing, wrapped in a blanket, sat on a rock at the edge of a wide sandy plain, littered with countless boulders of varying sizes. Most of the boulders were rounded and weathered smooth from the ages. They all had the same whitish grey color and they were studded with countless small flecks of glittering iridescent crystals of blues, reds, yellows, and greens. The world’s sun-star rose and began sending its first warming rays onto the Morning World.
The old man-shaped thing’s leathery skin was of a brownish-red color. Stripes of metallic green skin marked each side of its face and disappearing below its neck. The skin stripes were still green, but worn and faded by unknown numbers of years. It had short thin gray hair on the top of its head, but it had no facial hair. It had exceptionally large ears, and long wide feet. Beneath the blanket it wore a long, heavy, ragged, coat.
And as it sat on the rock, it slowly turned a smaller stone with its large hands and long spatulate fingers. This stone was very round, and only slightly larger than the creature’s hands cupped together. Engraved in the surface of the stone, there were strange lettering, and the man-shaped thing frequently stopped turning the stone to trace the lettering with its old fingers. This went on all morning while the world’s sun-star steadily climbed the sky.
And as the day wore on, the sun-star rose higher in the sky until it was straight above the Day World. Still the old man-shaped thing sat turning and studying the round stone’s shape and weight – but it was most curious about the stone’s engravings. Even the distant gurgling howl of some wild creature couldn’t distract it.
Hours later, when the sun-star was about to finish its flight across the sky and disappear from the Evening World, a very large creature-thing stirred from its hiding place among the boulders nearby. Orange shaggy hair covered the thing from head to toe. The creature was quite tall — perhaps a little taller than five or six times the height of the man-shaped thing. The very large creature had been watching the old man-shaped thing all day, wondering what it was, and what its attraction to the round stone was. And as it watched, it thought of many questions to ask. And as it thought, it held its large orange shaggy finger to the corner of its mouth.
But rather than approach the man-thing and ask its questions, the very large creature chose to wait and watch a little longer from behind the boulders. It remained there until the sun-star fell beyond the edge of the world. Now began the darkness of the Night World. And to add to the darkness, there would be no moons in the sky for most of this night. Still, there was a distant Green Star in the night sky. It was already up and framed against a black sky-sea, studded with thousands of smaller stars, and a great blue nebula cloud. The Green Star’s light cast a pale glow over the Night World causing the boulders to sparkle with a million tiny flashes of jade-colored light.
And besides being dark, the night also became cold. But the old man-thing didn’t make a fire. The large creature wanted to make a fire, but thought it best to wait in the cold so the man-thing wouldn’t notice its presence. Besides, it was confident that the man-thing wouldn’t wander off in the darkness. So when the large creature grew drowsy it nestled itself between a small fallen tree and a large boulder — and went to sleep. It considered the tree as its pet. It considered it as its friend.
It was in the deepest part of the night that a cackling voice awakened the large creature. The night was now quite dark and the Green Star had already moved beyond the edge of the world. The voice was that of someone old, but the voice was clear. “I must… Yes, I think I must do something. I, I must do something with this round stone. Maybe I must invent something for it. Or, maybe…” The words were followed by a heavy sigh. “But I don’t know. I, I just don’t know.”
The large creature rose from its sleeping place and stared, blinking into the darkness, but nothing could be seen. It yawned, and scratched its hairy back, figuring the voice must have been that of the old man-shaped thing. It waited a while to see if there would be any more sounds from it. There were no other sounds so the large creature settled down again between its small fallen pet tree and the boulder.
Now, the only sounds heard from the Night World were the gentle whispering sighs of a light breeze washing over and around the boulders, stirring the brush and the grasses. Soon the large creature’s eyes grew heavy and closed again as it fell into a deep sleep.
The sun-star faithfully returned again to light and warm the world. The large creature rose and left its sleeping place, brushing the sand and dead grass from its hairy body, sending a few red hairs floating on the morning breeze. When it peeked over one of the boulders, it was surprised to see that the old man-shaped thing was no longer where it had been the day before. The large creature grabbed its pet tree and jumped over the boulders, heavily thumping and lumbering to where the man-thing had been sitting earlier. It bent low over the sand and stony ground to look for signs. It sniffed the spot where the man-thing had been. There was a faint scent like that of an old creature — not a foul smell, but the smell of something that had once been young and fresh, but now was simply… old.
It stood up again and continued studying the ground until it spotted a few long and wide foot impressions in the sandy ground. The large creature pulled its tree to its face and spoke slowly to it in a soft, deep voice. “So I did not dream of it. Look at the sand. It was here.” The large creature lowered the tree close to the ground so it could see for itself, then pulled it up again. Several dead leaves fell off and drifted to the ground. “See what I mean?”
The footprints led across the wide expanse of sandy flatland, broken here and there by boulders, both single and in mounds. Dragging its pet tree, scattering several more dead leaves behind, the large creature followed the footprints that led toward a canyon off in the distance. Each of the large creature’s strides covered at least a dozen of the man-thing’s footprints.
The canyon was deep, like a great jagged wound in the skin of the world. At the edge of the canyon the footprints stopped, and there were no others to be seen. The large creature kicked some dirt over the edge of the canyon wall. It stroked the dwindling tattered leaves of its pet tree as tenderly as it could with its great hands. “The old man-thing must have gone down to the river from here, but we do not want to do what it did.” It leaned over and sent a mass of spittle down into the canyon. A boyish smile grew on its huge face as it marveled at the way the spit looked spinning and spreading downward into the depths of the valley.
Then the large creature scratched the back of its orange hairy neck. It tried to decide whether to slide down the canyon’s steep side or find a safer path to the river far below. It couldn’t make up its mind, so there it stood with its finger to the corner of its mouth. It stared down at the river below, petting its wilting tree. It was thinking of questions… and spitting, just to watch it fall.
[The Deep Canyon River – End of Day Two]
Later that evening at the bottom of the canyon the old man-shaped thing hid the round stone under its blanket and walked along the edge of the canyon’s river. There, it began a search for other rocks — rocks not like the round stone with writing on it. The rocks it was now looking for didn’t have to be any parti