The gulls carried the invisible stones in their beaks, hoping to restore the peace they’d had before the dragons arrived. No one had known the stones were actually eggs and that both life and death could emerge from them. No one had known to be afraid of that transaction, the choice between the two. No one had known to respect it, but they learned.
It was the first day of May when Unforgiveness found a stone in the forest and turned it over. Who had left this magical, wondrous and delightful morsel unattended here under a tree? The Tree of Life bent low and warned her, but she would not listen. The stone tasted so sweet. It made her powerful. She loved it. It made her strong. She could remember so many awful things about others so clearly now that she had found it. She was in Heaven!
A dragon hatched from the egg and she took it home with her and destroyed her household. With her own hands, she tore it down, one brick and one timber at a time, until all that was left was a pile of broken bones and torn people grasping at them, trying to rebuild. But Unforgiveness scorches the Earth. Nothing can be repaired, only born again like new growth in the Spring. That would come in time.
From Unforgiveness the stone jumped to Fear, of course, and Fear is far more destructive than a dragon stone on its own. Its power is in blinding its victims and even the strongest man can be made to do unimaginable things with it.
The family of Unforgiveness bridled Fear and rode it into war. They destroyed their world in all the same ways their house had been destroyed. One brick at a time, each timber pulled down, and every root pulled up in every garden. They tore through the desert and the valley and the underbrush and jungle alike, as though it had not even been there at all. Fear led them all the while, chanting incessantly about the enemy: Destroy them! They had no idea they were attacking themselves and there was no enemy.
More stones appeared then. They formed in the lives of all who would pick them up. Each had one purpose, destruction, and many names: Revenge, Despair, Deceit, Cowardice, and Appeasement. But they could have been turned back over again. They did not have to be picked up. They did not have to be tasted. The stones could have been rejected. People chose them.
The gulls watched the destruction from on high. They were thankful for the trees, especially the Tree of Life. It gave them a vantage point out of the fray. They knew if they had the misfortune to walk on the ground like the others, they would have been swept away too. When one falls, all fall. They’d heard the warning many times. Fear touched them too, it seemed, even high up in the sky, because as they watched the destruction below and believed the words told to them, they were paralyzed. Eventually, even to them, there seemed to be no hope, not in the Tree of Life, not on the ground, nor in the hearts of men. There was nowhere to turn. There was nothing to believe in.
Soon all of the ground was scorched. No living thing breathed or moved or had its home in the ground. The gulls sat motionless. The trees no longer grew. The sun itself seemed out of place, driven from the sky. The Earth was cold.
Because there was now nothing to destroy, the dragons left. They spread their fearsome wings and took to the skies, pausing to mock the frozen gulls on their way up. Higher than the trees, wider than the sky, when the dragons moved they shook all of existence. They blackened the sun. The gulls were the only ones to see them go.
It took a generation for them to move again and even then it was by accident, a slow movement that had not been challenged, then another and one more. The first gull saw the ground open up and Spring begin to break through. The green was almost invisible, but it was there. The Earth made it grow. He showed the others.
One by one the gulls came to life. They remembered what had caused their pain. They understood what had happened and, wordlessly, forgave each other, the others, and the whole of mankind. They had learned the importance of it.
Without blame, they began to gather the stones, being careful not to savor any of them or roll them over and over, not to cherish them or give them any attention. They would cry out sometimes, with their whole hearts, words of forgiveness and grace, for all of them had fallen. They forgave before they were wronged. They forgave to muster their strength. They forgave aggressively, terrified that one small spark of Unforgiveness would ignite it all again.
They were exhausted and grieved. They had lost so much. As the stones were piled high by the entrance to the cave, they hoped it would save them. They planned to bury the stones within it and forget them.
But the dragons returned.
They came to gloat, to recall their victory, but when they arrived they saw the gulls hard at work. The grass was green and the land was healing. They were enraged. Who had overturned them? Who had rebuilt this world?
The gulls knew what to do. Dragons are attracted to living things. Nothing was alive on the entire Earth but them and the grass and the trees. They were breathing, feeling, living beings. They would be irresistible to the hungry dragons that were always eager for someone to devour. So the gulls laid a trap.
One by one, they entered the cave and cowered. The dragons, encouraged by the gulls’ fear, descended and entered the darkness. The sky grew lighter as the cave grew fuller. After each dragon entered, a stone was placed at the doorway. A wall was forming. In their haste, the dragons did not see what was happening. They thought only of the feast that awaited them.
When the last one swooped low and joined his brethren, two gulls entered behind him and sealed the final hole with the last two invisible stones. Now the Earth would continue to bloom. Life would return. All would be well, as long as the gulls could keep the entryway sealed. Their sacrifice was forgotten over time because it was effective. The dragons never emerged again.
They told me their story and now I have told you.
They told me their story and now I have told you.
This is part of the Words for Wednesday prompt by Elephant's Child.