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
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
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
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.