The Marmots and the Green Valley: A Modern Fable


A colony of marmots lived on a mountain range, and every day had to climb steep inclines and slippery stones in order to find enough to eat.  One day a few of them looked over the edge of a cliff and saw that the valley was full of green things to dine upon.  They told the other marmots about their discovery.

“All we have to do is leap down a short distance,” they said, “and we’ll have plenty to eat for the rest of our lives.”

Most of the marmots were skeptical.  “You do remember that we have bad depth perception because our eyes are on either side of our head, right?”

“Oh, that’s just an outdated belief,” the proponent marmots replied.  “We know better than that, now.”

A couple of marmots did believe them, however, so the proponents decided they needed to convince the rest of the group.  Their arguments convinced a few others to join them, and when that no longer worked, they resorted to calling the contrarians names.  Over time more marmots joined their cause.  Some truly believed there was more food at the bottom of the cliff, but others just wanted to be left alone.

Eventually most of the marmots agreed the best thing to do was leap off the cliff, but a few hard-headed individuals still claimed that wasn’t a good idea.  Now that the proponents outnumbered them, they ganged up on the contrarians and twisted their tails and bit them and shoved their faces into mud puddles.

A couple more marmots from the contrarians joined the proponents to end the abuse, but the rest finally escaped and retreated up the steep incline to straighten their tails and lick their wounds and dig the mud out of their noses and ears.

With cheers of victory, the proponent marmots leaped off the cliff.  Screams of agony replaced the cheers as their bodies were broken and ripped on the jagged rocks far below that were covered with a thin film of moss – which was what appeared like lush greenery from the distant edge above.

One marmot had been busy digging the mud from her ears and missed the order to leap.  Horrified by the wails and moans she then heard (her bad depth perception kept her from really seeing what happened), she climbed up the steep incline to the remaining survivors.  After reporting what happened and apologizing for the bad treatment, she rejoined the colony, and they proceeded to rebuild and repopulate.

Future generations sometimes peered over the cliff’s edge and debated if those white things scattered around really were bones….

Moral:  It’s better to dig mud out of your ears than have your bones scattered over sharp rocks.

copyright 2021 A. E. Branson

Stolen Moments

He didn’t want to be conspicuous, but Kelwin still glanced back at his wife as he strolled closer to the administration building.  His grip on their son’s hand tightened as he spied her perusing the variety of meats offered at one of the market stands.

As he expected, Norah betrayed nothing about fulfilling the role of lookout.

The underground systems of Eda were surprisingly comfortable for not only the indigenous Martimu, but Humans as well.  Artificial lighting reflected off the ivory-colored walls of the predominant stone, casting a glittering luminescence throughout the broad, chiseled caverns.  It was quite probable that being forced to live underground, due to the inhospitable surface, had contributed to their proclivity for designing and building interstellar ships.

And that was why he’d dared to come here.

Their son, seven years old by Earth standards, pulled on his hand and spoke in Olde English because it was indecipherable to any translator.

“Can we go to the Grendelette Pools after this?”

Kelwin drew a deep breath, wishing yet again he could say yes, even in an archaic language.  “You know that all depends.”

Colmac’s lips pursed.  As a youth so accustomed to disappointment, he’d developed a stoic cynicism already.  Kelwin had given up on cursing the prophecy that had abstracted his son’s childhood.  That achieved nothing.  Their focus was better served at ensuring the Voratene never succeeded in … executing … him.

So Kelwin spent much time teaching his son how to survive.

A new ship had started appearing in the ports.  Before the Voratene threatened his family, Kelwin serviced and repaired all kinds of craft.  Their years of living as fugitives dictated consistent travel across space, and his familiarity with the vessels proved useful.

But he wasn’t going to set foot on one of those new contraptions until he knew how it was constructed.  He needed to know all the ways of escape, first.  And quite possibly the Voratene forced the Martimu to design snares within it.

There was only one way to view the abstract.

Although no flashing light or electronic beep betrayed they were being scanned, he knew their entrance into the administration building was recorded.  Norah had programmed false identities for all three of them even though there was no plan for her to enter the facility.  But plans had a way of getting changed in an instant….

This invasive monitoring didn’t exist until the Voratene established their domain and decided all their subjects needed to be supervised.  Luckily, keeping track of races on eleven different planets scattered many light years apart made their surveillance system sluggish.

“Why aren’t there any drafts on the syncosphere?”  Colmac pulled his hand free as they entered the library room.  Several dozen stations, in an assortment of sizes to accommodate various races, created a bit of a maze.  Each was outfitted with a screen and buttons, knobs, and levers to manipulate the devices.

“Because our toads control what’s on it.”  Since there was no Olde English word for Voratene, they employed some code to further stymie any eavesdropping translators.  “They keep off anything that’s genuinely useful.”

There were only a few other patrons, mostly quadrupedal Martimu, in the library.  He had no difficulty locating a station they could access, and showed his son how to go about bringing up the information they sought.

Kelwin’s heart fell as he studied the schematics.  His wife’s suspicion had been right, and he offered thanks for her suggestion they should investigate how these new ships were constructed.

“Look.”  He tapped a finger on different parts of the screen.  “What do you see?”

“Air-locks?”  Colmac frowned.  “Those are standard.”

“Compare them.  Do you notice a difference?”

His son leaned forward, chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds, and then looked up at his face.  “Some are missing escape hatches?”

Kelwin nodded.  “So that means?”

“Trap.”  There was no mistaking the disappointment in his voice as his gaze returned the screen.

As he watched the child stare at the diagram, Kelwin wrestled with his own competing emotions.  That Colmac was a swift learner stirred a bit of pride … but like how the Martimu were brilliant engineers because of the bright and barren surface, he had to be.

He had to adapt and think and confront all sorts of situations a youngster shouldn’t have to face.  Declared guilty of a crime he’d never committed, he was hunted to guarantee that he never would.  Even by staying alive, he had to sacrifice his childhood.

Life wasn’t fair, but more so for his son….

Colmac looked up again.  “What about the Grendelette Pools?”

He started to calculate how long they’d been here, what the odds were that sentries would try to track them down because their fake identities might be discovered by now.  At least Norah hadn’t alerted them of any troops approaching their location.

The sensation that pulsed through him brought those calculations to a halt.

Of course his son wanted to visit the pools.  The grendelettes, fish-type creatures, were so domestic they would frolic with any swimmers who entered those waters.  The youth of all the races who visited there found them quite enchanting.

By God, he wasn’t going to allow the Voratene to dash his son’s hopes yet again.

Kelwin smirked as he switched the station off.  “We’re going.  But before we do, we do need a plan of escape in case any sentries track us there.”

Colmac nodded, his beaming smile making worthwhile any complications they might run across.  And then his words prompted that mixture of emotions again.

“I have an idea.”


So here is this month’s contribution to #BlogBattle, and the word this round is Abstract.  It took me a while to get around to drafting this one, so I decided to milk it.  And don’t miss checking out the other submissions!

Father’s Day is nearly here in my part of the world, which might have had some influence on the theme in this story.  So happy Father’s Day to all you dads!