Blood and Clay - a Tale of Mustela sapiens Apr 7, 2009 9:18:15 GMT -5
Post by huronna on Apr 7, 2009 9:18:15 GMT -5
BLOOD AND CLAY
By Paul E. Jamison
Forest near Lodz, Poland – Autumn, 1905
The ferret swept his gaze around the nearby trees. He’d come along with the Rabbi as a lookout for any approaching humans. Moshe had told his friend that they should have brought some other ferrets – young hobs, strong and more able to handle humans – along as guards, but Rabbi Jeremiah had refused. The fewer that knew about it, the better, he had said, and Moshe would be enough, if he were vigilant.
And Moshe did the best he could, reacting to the slightest movement, the least sound. But he couldn’t resist turning around to watch what the Rabbi was doing. It frightened him; it appalled him. And it fascinated him.
Truth to tell, it didn’t look like the Rabbi was doing much. Moshe had expected – what? He hadn’t been certain. A boiling cauldron would have been ridiculous, really. They were Jews, not witches. Some sort of sacrifice? A powerful storm, with the sky lit by flashes of lightning?
But Jeremiah had simply come to this spot, dug beneath the soil to find the good, damp clay, and had proceeded to get his paws dirty by sculpting… it. It had not taken long to build something so tall. When he was done, the Rabbi had cleaned the mud from his paws and taken a small book from his pocket.
Jeremiah had adjusted the black yarmulke with the red trim on his head, stood quietly for a few moments looking up at – it – and then bent his head over to recite something from the book.
The Rabbi wasn’t speaking clearly. He mumbled so that Moshe couldn’t understand what he was saying, and he couldn’t even be sure what language the words were. Moshe didn’t think that he wanted to understand what his friend was saying.
Finally the Rabbi’s voice came to a halt. Moshe didn’t know what to expect now, either. Again, nothing happened. No storm, no lightning. It didn’t move; Jeremiah simply looked up at it.
Finally, Moshe said, “Is – is that it? Is that all? Are you done, Jeremiah?”
The Rabbi nodded. “Yes. The rites are complete.” He sighed. “I am done.”
Moshe stared up at the – thing. It was so tall, taller than a human and much taller than a ferret. Why had the Rabbi made it so tall? “Are you certain that this is wise, Jeremiah? Will this thing help us against the humans? I am so uncertain about all of this. What are you getting us into?”
The Rabbi looked at the other ferret. “I do not see as we have any choice, Moshe. They hunt us and persecute us, because we are animals that talk and because we are Jews. We mean no harm to the world, but we must protect ourselves. You see that, do you not?”
Moshe nodded. The loss of his wife still ached. He was not a fighter, but…
He finally said, “So – how long before you can use it?” The question sounded silly.
The Rabbi chuckled. “The scholars do not agree. This book recommends waiting a full day. We will make our way back to the town and come back –”
A loud report came from nearby, and something pinged from the ground between the ferrets.
Moshe shouted, “Run!” and the two took off through the forest.
Moshe was a good runner, but he was barely able to keep up with his friend. The Rabbi managed to sprint along and still call over his shoulder, “Keep running – It isn’t ready! They mustn’t find it!” So the two ran as fast and as far away from – it – as was possible.
Moshe thought he could hear someone crashing through the trees behind them, but he wasn’t sure. He didn’t slow down to look back; he just followed Jeremiah.
After what seemed like forever, the Rabbi waved and they came to a stop near a shallow ravine. The two ferrets bent over and gasped for breath. Everything was quiet behind them.
Finally, Moshe got his voice back and said, “Do you – do you think that we lost them?”
This time the gunshot was incredibly loud. The Rabbi was blown off of his feet and sailed through the air into the ravine.
The gun was fired again, and Moshe flew through the air as well.
Moshe landed on the side of the ravine and tumbled down the slope. He quickly reached the bottom and came to a stop amid the leaves and fallen tree branches.
Soon voices could be heard. Human voices.
One, loud, deep, laughed and said, “That does it for those creatures! I hit them both! I told you I was the best shot in all of Poland, didn’t I?”
Another voice, not so loud, not so sure of itself, spoke. “Are you sure, Kristopher? We were told to make certain that they were both dead. Perhaps we should go down and check –”
The first voice bellowed. “Do you question my skill with a gun? I told you I was the best shot in Poland, and I mean what I say! When I say that I hit them both, I mean that I hit them both! We do not need to check!”
“What were they doing back there? Should we check that?”
Kristopher laughed again. “Of what concern is that? What do you think they were doing?” The laugh turned unpleasant. “Perhaps you’re afraid that they plan to sneak into your house and have their way with your lovely daughter.”
The other didn’t see the humor. “They’re animals! What interest would they have in my family? You don’t think –”
“Pah! You worry too much. Whatever they were doing, we stopped them! Come along, hunting is thirsty work, and I feel the tavern calling me!” There was thrashing through the forest and the voices moved away.
Moshe didn’t move until they were long gone. Then he sat up, nursing a bruise from hitting a tree limb; he had no other wound. He quietly thanked God for the sin of Vanity, especially in one such as Kristopher.
The voice was barely audible. “Moshe?”
He ran to where the Rabbi lay nearby. His friend had not been so fortunate.
Moshe knelt down by the Rabbi. The ferret was bleeding from a horrible gunshot wound. Moshe said, “Jeremiah? Don’t move. I’ll get you to a healer. You’ll be fine –”
“No.” The Rabbi was having trouble breathing. “I won’t. It does no good to lie to me, old friend. I know I haven’t much time.”
The tears came easily. “Oh, Jeremiah! Oh, my friend! Don’t leave us! Not now! All of your work… All of your studies… You gave us hope! And it all came down to this day! But now – all of your work on – on that – it can’t have been for nothing!”
“It has not been, old friend. When I created it – I mixed some of my own blood with the clay. It will not be just I that can control it. It will answer to the blood of my blood. It will obey my descendants.”
“You mean – your son? But Judah is but a kit! He is too young! He can do nothing now –”
“He must!” Jeremiah’s grip on Moshe’s arm was surprisingly strong. “He is our hope now – our salvation! Tell him! Tell him!”
The Rabbi’s voice was frantic now. “And the Records! You must write this all down in our Records! Do that, Moshe!”
The grip on Moshe’s arm loosened.
It took some time for Moshe to return to the community, but he couldn’t leave his friend behind; the ferrets disposed of their own and never left anything for the humans to find.
When he carried Jeremiah into the synagogue, Judah was there. The little kit loved his father very much, and now he howled and wailed and almost went mad with grief. Moshe decided to wait before telling the child of his legacy – of what his father had left in the forest.
There were times when Moshe questioned the wisdom of this decision; the humans came after them more fiercely than ever. But days later, he watched the kit, clutching his father’s black yarmulke with the red trim, sit and stare at something no one else could see, and he did not regret waiting. If Judah understood the power he could now wield, he might lay waste to half of Europe.
But Moshe waited too long. Within weeks, he lost his own life trying to protect the ferret community’s Records from the humans with the flaming torches. The Records – a branch of the Thread first begun in the Yorkshire countryside by the ferrets known as the Skippys – had been destroyed, and the line would never be completely repaired. The ferret community of Lodz was cut off from the others of their kind.
The ferrets went deep into hiding in Poland, and they managed to hide themselves well for over ten years. It wasn’t until 1915 that they reappeared, when humans were more concerned with the terrors visited on them by other humans; a group of talking animals somehow didn’t seem so threatening, and the ferrets were at least tolerated. Until the next wave of persecution began in 1939.
Judah did not follow in his father’s footsteps; he at least recognized that the hatred in his soul was not proper for a Rabbi. Someone else would wear the black yarmulke, and it would be passed on to others.
The Records were gone, and no one really knew for certain what Rabbi Jeremiah had done. There was just the faintest whiff of rumors – of something he had done to ensure their salvation.
No one ever went into the forest to investigate. They simply waited.
END OF PROLOGUE