Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Jaga and The Kaax

The Jaga and The Kaax
Molecat Jumaway

Boxed in by woodlands there is a field, there is no road to the field and no man to tend it. The field grows rich and ripe of corn never to be touched by man.
A figure stands at the edge of the woodlands, absurdly solid. A statue, Regal and honoured like a king. It’s eyes look over the golden field. Animals gather at its feet but nothing flies overhead. Animals of all types, cats and dogs, foxes, rabbits and deer gather at his feet. When a new litter is borne the parents will bring their young to the statue.
There is homage, there is respect, there is love. Nothing flies overhead, nothing dares.

Robert grew corn, Robert gathered the corn and took it to town once a week to barter for other food and goods. It was his livelihood, it was his everything. Robert knew about nothing else until the crows came.
They started coming one at a time and as infrequently as airborne seeds. Flapping and gliding in the wind towards his luscious bounty. A single bird would glide down from the sky and perch in the corn. A peck here, a peck there. A taste of Rob’s livelihood here a bit there. Rob would come out of his small cottage and chase it off. Each time he chased a bird away, two came back.
At first it was irksome, an irritation to Robert and his livelihood. Soon though, two upon two, upon two became a deluge that threatened him with ruin and starvation. If he had not scared the first bird off would he only have one bird eating out there?
He would run, rant and rave but for every one that he scared away, two would come back. For every two that he would dismiss, four would return.
Robert bought a dog.
Robert had never owned a creature before, Robert had never cared for a creature before. He lived alone in the woods with his corn and with his small cottage. He did not own a horse but walked when venturing into town. He was his own beast of burden, carrying his own load. Occasionally a woodsman or a townsman would stop and give him a lift, which he thankfully accepted. Robert never thought to go to the front and pat the horse. Never thought to look into its eyes. For in reality it was the horse that was giving him a lift not the human.
Robert picked up the dog, the largest from a litter. He thanked the family and started to carry it out. The family laughed at him and he stood there at their gate with a puzzled look.
“He can walk on his own, he got all of four legs for that reason.” Said the father.
Robert thought about it and agreed that it was correct. He placed the Dog on the ground and started walking towards home. The dog started walking back towards the family. Again Robert stood there perplexed.
“You have to show him some notice.” Said the Father. “You have only been carrying him around, he knows you not from a carriage.” Robert went up and stood in front of the creature. “Pet its head won’t you?”
The dog looked up at Robert and Robert looked down at the dog. He bent down and gave him a pet on its head. The dog seemed to respond with a smile and a wag.
“Pet him again and talk to it.” Said the Father.
Soon Robert was walking home happily with a dog following on his heals. He would bend down on occasion and pet its head, look into its eyes. The dog and the man had made a connection, for the man it was his first every connection with another living thing.
He called the dog, Dog Larry. You couldn’t simply call him Larry, Larry was a boy’s name. From that moment on it was Robert and Dog Larry. They walked together, Dog Larry slept on the end of his bed. When Robert ate Dog Larry ate next to him.
Dog Larry tried, he ran through the fields barking at the crows. Some fled but twice returned. Some swooped on Dog Larry and pecked at him. Dog Larry kept trying. Soon Robert had to run out and save Dog Larry. Carrying him back to the cottage like he had the first day he had carried him to the gate. Pecked, scratched bruised and punctured. Robert blamed himself, he cried as he ran back to the cottage, away from the birds.
Dog Larry was a good dog. Robert nursed him back to health, cleaning his wounds and Dog Larry wacked its tail against the ground with gratification. He limped around the house and barked at the door, wanting to return to his new job. Robert would not let him out though. He did not want to loose his new dear friend.
Robert needed more dogs.
Robert went back to the family and explained the situation. His head down low and ashamed that he had hurt the dog. The family, who had previously thought he was a slow-witted individual, felt their hearts break with distress for Robert’s love for his new friend. The Father introduced him to three new dogs, two females and a male. The family watched him sit on the floor amongst the three. He petted them and talked to them and asked them what their names would be. The three sat around him, tongues hanging out and tails beating against the floor. He decided on Dog Agnes, Dog Katie and Trevor.
He looked up at the Father. “Is Trevor a person’s name?” The Father slowly nodded.
“Then you will be Dog Trevor.” The dog seemed happy about this and thumped the ground with its tail like a drum.
A thought came to the Father suddenly.
“Do the crows come at night also?” He asked Robert.
“They keep me awake, the jabber and jaw and squawk.”
The father nodded silently and went away. When he came back he was carrying a large basket. Dog Trevor started barking harshly at the basket.
“Naughty Dog Trevor.” Scolded Robert. Dog Trevor soon hushed, his eyes turned to the ground and he made a sorry sound. Robert patted his head. “That’s a good Dog Trevor.” Soon the tail started to wag and the mouth opened in a smile.
The Father stood in the doorway with the basket in his hands watching incredulously. “You certainly do have a way with animals.” Said the Father as he put down the basket. The dogs took a step forward then thought better of it; they would rather sit with their new master.
“I have never seen dogs so quiet with cats in the room.” He said.
“Cats?” Asked Robert, peering over the edge of the basket.
“Yes, Cats. It is not enough to chase the birds away, they will be back, you’ll see. These cats are the killers of night.”
Robert peered into the basket at the four cats who peered back at him.
“They don’t look like killers.” He said.
“These are the dark hunters, they are silent and invisible. By day they sleep, at night they stalk. They will take those creatures by surprise. They wont be coming back once they’re dead.” The Father found this amusing and laughed. Robert bent into the basket and took each cat out one by one. They let him handle them and the dogs made no attempt to snap.
The four cats sat around him with the three dogs, all happy to have their share of attention. He named the cats one by one. Cat Josephine, Cat Cleo, Cat Gary and Cat Joseph. “Cat Cleo.” He said and he picked up the silver cat with black paws. “Say hello to Dog Trevor.” The father watched, shocked at what was going on in front of him and what he thought was going to happen. He watched Robert pick up the cat and put it in front of the dog’s head. He nearly had to close his eyes but was surprised to see the two animals touch noses and become friends.
“Well I have seen it all, you have a way with Animals Mr Robert.”
“Not the crows I don’t.” Answered Robert glumly. He was not thinking of his corn anymore, he was thinking about poor Dog Larry trapped inside and wounded.
“Crows are not creatures called animals.” Said the Father knowingly. “They are the souls of Demons and Witches.”
Robert was driven home that day. The Father was sure that the seven animals would follow Robert down the road but he was starting to like this quiet, slow man. He was glad to give the journey; it was enough reward to see the animals lined up on the back seat with Robert in the middle. Before going back up the path towards the cabin Robert went to the front of the ride. He petted the horse, looked into its eyes and thanked him for the trip. The father watched in awe as the man walked down the tree-lined path with the seven animals following in a single line. His eyes rose a bit and his heart sank as he saw the crows in the sky like dark clouds trying to blot out the sun.

Robert did not want to let the dogs out during the day, he did not want to let the cats out at night. Suddenly he had a thick and furry family. He had never been in the company of anything and now he was surrounded with life. What once was one dog on the end of his bed was now almost an argument on who gets which spot.
The dogs were eager to go their job by day and scratched and whined at the door. Dog Larry was happy with his new family and the company through the fields. They huddled as they ran, eager to scare the birds off, eager to protect one another.
The cats were eager to get out at night, scratching at the windows. They too knew their job and as soon as the window was drawn open the mewing stopped and they slipped out silently. They matched the night, they may be cute in the day but they were truly the night’s terrors. In the morning Robert would open the door to find a stack of crow carcasses piled knee high. They did not eat the birds; they just dragged the trophies to the door and slipped back into the fields for more.
Occasionally the father would turn up with game he found not fit for human consumption. Food for the animals he would say. Truth be known, he liked the man and wanted to see the nine creatures under one roof. Each time he came his eyes would turn nervously to the sky.
“This ain’t right!” He would tell everyone. “It is the Devils doing a tell you. No man is of so pure of heart and is left alone by evil.” The township had muttered of the newfound madness of the father but he was a straight, God-fearing man. All other murmurs were soon quenched when they saw Robert walking with his animals and then there was the black shadow that hung over his house.

One day Robert found Cat Cleo pulling at his pants collar. When she had his attention she started for the door and paused. Robert followed, she would run ahead through the fields and pause waiting for him to catch up. She would sit there, a look of distress and impatience on her face. As soon as Robert came within two meters of her she would bound again through the fields of corn. Robert soon heard a whimper and started to run towards it. The cat chased after him until they got to a small clearing where Dog Larry lay. Dog Larry was still, both cat and dog alike surround him with sounds of distress. A cat would occasionally wander over to the silent body and touch its nose with its own. One of the dogs would occasionally pat it with its paw. All seven creatures wore looks of both confusion and anguish.
Robert never recovered, he would not let the animals out of his sight. No more hunting, no more scaring. The crows could have his corn. The Father came over with another deer and found no one home. Every time he came the sky grew darker than the last visit, the dark crow filled sky scared him but he was more nervous for Robert.
The father soon found the gathering of Robert with his family away from the house. They had just filled the grave of Dog Larry and were standing in silence. Tears flowed down Robert’s cheeks and the animals stood close by trying to comfort him in silence.
When Robert saw the father he looked towards him and tried to clear his eyes and throat.
“You have to take the cats and dogs in to the Cabin, they’ll be safe there.” He said, barely able to sound out the words.
“Where are you going?” Asked the Father.
“I’ll be back soon.” Answered Robert and started walking towards the wood. The animals started to follow and Robert turned to them.
“You cannot come with me.” He said to them as they looked up at him with their anguished eyes. “Go with him, I’ll be back soon.” The animals turned and looked at the father. He could do nothing else but turn back towards the cabin with the animals following him solemnly in single file.
Robert walked for hours through the forest. He had heard the stories and hoped that they would be true. Finally he came to the house, barely noticing it to be a house. He would have missed it if not for noticing two trees with odd shapes. He stood there and stared at their trunks. Their roots, branching off in four different directions, thickly like toes. The roots and trunks reminded him of something and he had to think of what they were, they looked like chicken legs. He soon looked up and found a small cabin perched high on the trunks. A door opened from the floor and an old woman popped her face out.
“Hello young man.” She said, it was The Jaga.
A tied ladder came down in front of Robert. “I’m too old to climb or walk, you are sturdy and strong, you come up here.” Robert obeyed and climbed up to The Jaga’s cabin high in the trees. He told of his plight, of his story, he told of the crows and the loss of his first friend. The Jaga sat and nodded.
The story was over and she motioned to a box with her gnarled, skeleton like finger. A single black claw stood at the end of it and looked to shine with death as she held it out. “Bring me the box.”
Robert obeyed and sat the box on her lap. Slowly she opened it and brought out a stone. The stone was black, but not as a colour more devoid of anything. Dead black. She handed it to him and he took it in his palm, it was cold like the snow. She then took a branch and handed it to him and he received that as well. It held deep mauve flowers on it and the leaves were the darkest of greens.
“When you get back hold the stone tight in your left fist and take a bite of the branch, flowers, leaves and bark. You should be able to watch over your field forever.”
Robert thanked the old lady and asked what she would like in return.
“Your visit is enough.” She said and smiled. “I don’t get out to meet folk like a used to and when I do I am shunned.” Robert made a small bow and started to climb down the ladder. When at the bottom the ladder was raised and the door slammed shut. Robert retraced his steps through the woods back home.
He did not go straight to the cabin as the cabin was being circled by a dense murder of crows. It was so bad now that you could barely see the sky. The warmth of the sun was gone and the sound that they made filled his ears with pain. They wanted his friends and they would not get them. He remembered Dog Larry and was brought back to tears.
He was determined to end this now. He stood on the edge of the field and the woods and grabbed the stone heavily in his left hand. It was cold, not like snow but like death and his arm was numbed by it. With his right hand he brought out the branch and took a bite, leaves, flower and bark. As soon as the three entered his mouth he became ice cold. He tried to move but found he could not. He could not even close his eyes. The numbness from the stone held tightly in his hand climbed up his shoulder and up his throat. The flower, bark and leaves mingled in his mouth and the numbness soon met them.
He could not see his arms, he could not see his jaw, he could not see his nose. He knew he was turning to stone. He knew that his jaw was solid shut, he knew that it was as black as death, he knew that it crept across his face, down his neck and shoulders, his arms and chest. He knew when he was completely stone. He could not drop the rock, he could not spit out the branch. He could still see his field, now decimated from the crows, he could see his little cabin which held his little friends all from stone cold black eyes. All he had left that was not stone was his soul.

The father was keeping watch. The animals were lined up facing the door, waiting for their master to return. He found it both the happiest and saddest thing he had ever seen. He would not open the door because every time he motioned towards it the animals would get excited. He would occasionally go to each window and glance out. He would then go back to the animals and give each of them a comforting pat and go back to the windows. It was keeping him occupied. He was as distressed as the animals but he could not join the line and simply stare at the door.
He glanced out one of the windows and saw something in the distance. Just beyond the field stood something black. He wanted to ignore it and just simply wait but something smelt bad to him. He could not control himself any longer, he opened the door. The animals started forward with anticipation, when he ran out they all followed, the dogs at his heal and the cats on his side. The crows swooped down on the party. Each swoop more daring, each swoop closer to its mark.
They came to the black statue and the animals knew exactly what it meant. The dogs started to howl in pain, the cats made a soft crying sound. The father of a large family stood in front of a man who had given everything to protect his own. The father started to scream but soon the crows started to attack.
The first few pecks meant nothing to him. The cats were to busy sobbing to give notice to the onslaught and the dogs were to busy howling. Soon though the pecks were bringing him to his knees. He started swatting the air in anger. This was their fault, he did not know how, he did not know why but they were obviously to blame. Soon the small party of seven animals and one human were covered in crows. A pecking, biting, beating blackness that covered everything. A crow stood on the head of the statue and laughed. Robert’s soul could only watch.
Another watched. Lord of the woods and fields, The Kaax could not look away. He knew The Jaga, he knew The Jaga could not walk and flew around as a crow. He grimaced as Robert shooed The Jaga away. He had no control over the actions of men. He could control animals, crops but nothing else.
He could not turn Robert back from stone, all he had left was his precious soul.
Robert was solid stone, completely powerless to help his friends. Unable to do anything but watch the crows take their fill. He felt something deep inside. Now that he had no feeling he knew what his soul felt like inside him. He felt a piece break off and start buzzing. It buzzed inside him and he felt his solid mouth slowly creak open.
The piece of his soul broke apart again and again, buzzing around, climbing up that concrete tube he once called a throat. Suddenly his marble like mouth was wide open and bees swarmed out, towards the blackness of the flock. They stung, and each sting was two kills. One dead crow and one dead bee, a small piece of his soul gone forever to protect the ones he loved. More of his soul broke away and split into little yellow and black striped pieces, swarming out of his mouth to protect the ones he loved. Every time a bee killed a bird with its sting a little piece of the only thing he had left was gone.
Soon his friends were standing, on two legs, on four legs. Soon after the birds were all gone. The father stood by, staring with disbelief. Soon though he would have to return to his own family. He went back with a story and the cuts and bruises to prove it.
He told the story to his family, the next day they insisted on seeing the statue of Robert. The father took his large family down the path but stopped them as the sky was black with crows. They stood by the small cottage and watched as the birds dropped from the sky one by one. The swarm of what looked like dust from the distance in which they watched issue from the black statue’s mouth. Soon the sky was clear and the family would venture forward.
They came to the statue and found the seven animals sitting around its feet looking up at them in their grief. The father placed the meat down, the animals did not touch it but stayed close to their master. The father’s family would never return to the place, the sorrow it brought to them was too much to bear.
The Kaax could only do a little, he knew souls, he knew animals, he knew sacrifice. To him it was a circle. Everything was a circle to The Kaax. Love filled a soul and fed it, made it stronger. It did not matter whether it was animal or man. He could not do much else but make the cornfield fruitful for the stone eyes to watch.
The father would return daily. He brought meat each time for the animals that lay at the statue’s feet. Three dogs soon became seven and four cats soon became twelve as time went by. Soon the Dog Trevor was gone, into the woods to die alone but his children continued to stay by the feet of their benefactor. The other families followed suit. The father knew that someday his own family would chase the same sad line. He brought his son to the statue. They were to place deer meat down for the animals but more animals had joined the flock. The two of them turned and put the dead deer back in the cart. There were now fox, rabbit and deer as well as the ancestors of the cats and dogs laying at the feet of the statue. It felt wrong to offer the animals the meat.
Soon the father died and when the son died the path completely grew over. No one knew of the lush square field of corn. The statue that watched over it, the soul that turned into bees or the crows. No one knew except The Jaga, The Kaax and the animals. No matter what onslaught the Jaga brought the love of the animals made Robert the strongest soul never to die.