Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A Cosmological Battle
Susan Dale

He was wondering where to go next when a thundering surge of water hit him full force. Pushed backwards, then startled to standstill by the water currents rushing at him, David fell to his knees. He was within a chaos of swirling waters. Expelling waters from his mouth, he was, simultaneously, shaking water from his hair. Then he heard another roar. More rushing waters. They took him from his knees to flat on his back. Covered in water, he kicked to stay afloat.

From a distance and moving closer, the deep sound of drums booming. David could feel the thuds of marching feet. ‘And now I’m hearing tambourines too.’

With body underwater and eyes peering in the direction of the commotion, David saw a parade of tribal men marching forward while shaking sheepskin tambourines and beating drums. More booming, shaking, and marching … and these loin-clothed aborigines were in chest-deep waters. They stopped outright.

David thought, ’What strange-looking men! Even in my previous dealings with mountain tribes and cave dwellers, I have never seen such primitive tribes. I do remember hearing tales of primeval peoples that have forever dwelt in ancient rain forests; unchanged from one generation to the next. I thought them tall tales. Now I know they were accurate summations.’

Living far from civilizations for thousands of years, these aborigines were descended directly from the demonic Mara. Short and stocky with eyebrows joined over flat noses, under their noses puffed thick lips. Wide, round eyes peered out from their swarthy faces.

‘They are presently involved in bringing forth a climatic conclusion of some sort. The drumbeats are becoming louder and more intense to reach a crescendo that, low and behold, are parting the waters.’

David, being thrown backwards with the parting tides, saw, but could scarcely believe the amazing scene being played out before him. ‘What’s this; waters parting?!’

He was so astounded by the waters rolling into two giant waves, one right and one to the left that he forgot to paddle to keep afloat. Glub, glub, he began sinking.

He set his feet to paddling motions that kept him afloat. ‘Is there, could there be any relationship between the drums beating and the waters parting?’

And while wondering, debating, adding up, and discarding, to his profound amazement, up from the parting waters weaved a strange creature. ‘It looks like a giant serpent or a dragon. What can it be?‘

David rubbed the waters from his eyes and looked again. ‘Still there; whatever it is. What is it? A serpent? A water lizard? Ten foot tall by twenty foot wide, whiskers around its mouth. Body and fins covered in moss and seaweed. Heavy enough, powerful enough to shake the forest floor into parting waters.’

Now he was seeing the breath of the dragon-serpent expelled to blazes that scorched the leaves and grasses.

Weaving, as it rose upwards, the serpent was swaying in rhythm to Mara’ drumbeats. His gestures most kingly, as upwards he rose, swaying in slow, regal motions; back straight and head high.

David thought, ‘lucky for me, the Mara are so involved in showing obeisance to the serpent king that they are not looking my way.’

At first, he was greatly relieved that no one of the fierce primitives had taken notice of him. But then, he was overcome with doubts. ‘I can’t be sure of anything anymore. Moreover, the realities of my previous life have not prepared me for what I am now observing. Are the Mara’ ancestors too involved in high drama to bother with me? Or have I so metamorphosed into the environment that I am invisible to other humans? What kind of humans are they anyway? What kind am I?’

He looked first at his hands: he counted the fingers ‘… 3,4,5 … 8,9,10.’
He ran his fingers around his face. He wiggled his toes. ‘All here; here to me, anyhow.’

His focus reversed from his fingers and toes to the Mara. And as he watched, he saw the Mara offering the serpent king the sacrificial fish flaying about on the forest floor. With drummers beating behind him and a ringing bell in hand, a Mara bell-ringer ding-donged while chanting worshipful rites to the serpent. And as the serpent ascended even higher from the flood waters, currents were rising and forming little circles.

Astounded to truly astonished, with mouth dropping open in disbelief, David observed the bubbles popping open. He rubbed his eyes again. ‘What the hell!?!’

Emerging from the rounded bubbles, to pop up before David’s wide eyes, were miniature dragons. ‘Horns rise from their heads … and across their backs run zigzag points; the points as bright-green as the dragon’ bodies.’

But before David could digest these strange realities, these little creatures were skimming across the waters, even as drums and tambourines were keeping time to the drama playing out on the jungle stage.

Then another disturbance. ’Sounds like this one is coming from the trees.’

His eyes shot upwards to see leaves a’ flutter on the tree branches. And when he heard eerie cackling from above, he knew that these scary hissings were coming by way of the tree spirits.

When the tree spirits hissed, the Mara pulled water pipes from the waists of their loin-clothes. Puffs from their pipes produced curls of smoke rising to call the tree spirits to battle.

From out of the treetops rushed the spirits with cackling warnings: they seemed eager to do battle for the fish flapping about on the flooded forest floor.

The miniature dragons zip-zipped across the waters to circle the giant serpent. With mournful calls so loud, as to be seemingly directed to the sun, the serpent was preparing the dragons for the oncoming battles. The dragons chattered back in concordance. And in the next moment of these un-moments, the dragons turned to zip-zip-skim across the waters to head towards the tree spirits; the spirits with fangs in their mouths, bald heads, and claws on their feet.

The drums were booming louder, tambourine rhythms skittering fast to faster. David shivered in anticipation. In between the drums and the tambourine rhythms came the pregnant pauses, which held the beginning of battle escalations.

His head twisted back and forth to take it all in. ‘Dragons are shooting flames into the trees. Hissing announces the tree spirits; claws extended and pointed teeth snapping. Back and forth; the cackling of tree spirits; the flames of dragons. The spirits are jumping from the branches with talons unfurled. They too want the fish flopping about on the flooded floor and are more than eager to battle for them. A cosmological struggle is taking place.’

The forest floor resonated with the struggles for dominance. Trees shaking, and spouts forming to spin through the waters. The winds moaned with battle furies. The tree spirits jumped to land on the dragons; their claws dug deep into dragon’ skins. In retaliation, the dragons turned to spit the fire that would sizzle the spirits.

‘Talons and horns, versus shooting flames. Ripped dragon’ skins floating on the waters; tree spirits screaming as they burst into flames.’

The serpent shook his tail at the spirits and sent them into watery graves.

Collisions, entanglements.

The green breath of the spirits shot out in such powerful blazes that they crumbled the dragons that came in contact with it.

Screaming, horrendous howls. Snarling, scorching, hissing, scratching. The serpent tail snapping sharply. Legs and horns, claws and feet tossing about in the air. All tumbling across the waters, then splashing and sinking.

‘Such calamities!’ David marveled.

Then the serpent noted the tree spirits gaining ground. More, than more dragon skins were floating across the waters. He beat the waters with his clawed feet. He snapped his tail and brought forth the water spouts that shot the dragons into the air where they met the evil spirits on the tree branches.

Fast motions: spinning: tails and feet shooting out: fiery breaths flaming to scorch the spirits, to set the tree leaves in flames. The spirits tumbled from the branches to fall into the waters where they were beaten with the tail of the serpent. And in the background, boomed Mara drums to bring encouragement to the serpent and his band of miniature dragons.

From his vantage point in the waters, David, dumbfounded while being held in paralysis, watched with wide eyes. ’These are some tremendous goings-on.’

Scorched by the shooting flames, more and more spirits were falling from the treetops. With feet and tail, the serpent beat the waters with such ferocity, that after the spirits fell, they were slapped into death. Glub, glub, gurgle, gurgle: they fell to the bottom of the flooded forest.

The water slowly began to rescind … and the Mara figured that now was the time for them to jump into battle. Stomping forward while drawing their swords, they drove the tree spirits under the waters. The other spirits, the Mara drove to the trees with their swords. These spirits ran rapidly up the trunks. To the branches they skittered, then up further to take defeated refuge within the leaves.

By spreading their arms to wide widths, the Mara offered the serpent all the fish that it desired. And after the serpent ate his fill, dipping his head, grabbing the fish, and bringing his head back up to swallow them, the Mara gathered other fish in their arms.

With head held high, the five-legged-serpent took his lead in a forming parade; the dragons followed to march through the flooded forest behind him. Mara drum beaters followed the dragons. And behind the drummers, Mara marchers were high-stepping and zipping across the receding waters; all were heading to the Mara village, soon to be jumping and sizzling with celebratory exuberance.


Drums and tambourines fading into the distance when David filled his poncho with a handful of floundering fish. He was hearing gulping sounds. He looked around to see a gigantic mouth in the forest floor. But he believed. All that he observed today prepared him for the greedy mouth drinking, gurgling, and swallowing.

From his thighs, to his knees, to his ankles in the water, onwards David traveled. He was heading towards the rays of sun that heralded his exit away from the flooded forest. ‘Goodbye to dragons and tree spirits, to mythical peoples, to a serpent. Goodbye to my great, grand adventure, and on to another.’

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Susan writes, rewrites, submits and submits again. She has dreams of her books being published, living in Paris, chapbooks born of her poetry, books of her short stories … etc. etc.

Her poems and fiction are on Eastown Fiction, Tryst 3, Word Salad, Pens On Fire, Hackwriters, and Penwood Review. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan.


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