As the Wan’Res’ begins to fill again, Dopper’s dozen dipper ducks dance and frolic wildly amongst the sandy waters. This cycle’s springtime has been a hot one, a real scorcher by all means, and if it serves as any sort of indication, the upcoming summer shan’t differ. The flooding process is not as slow as one may imagine; as if Mother Monksville has some kind of metaphysical higher awareness about her – like many’a denizen believes she does – as soon as the pipe was unclogged she began pulling water from the Wanaque River at a heretofore unprecedented rate. The waterfall, a fat gusher of a cascade as it is, exploded with a roar as torrents upon torrents of cold spring drip flooded through the gap in the beavers’ dam, raining down liquid life as if the monsoon clouds summoned by the giants’ rain dance found their way back to the valley.
The black mass responsible for the Wanaque’s latest drought sheds its icy chrysalis one layer at a time as the dashing dipper ducks dip and dive through the pond, then the lake, then finally, when the level is up, the Reservoir. Braten, still slinging his high praises of the daring deeds of Dopper’s dashing squad through the channel for all to receive, especially that uppity snakenecked Branda, flaps his wings and sways his head merrily to and fro on the south side of the road running over the North Floodgate. Poor misfortuned Branda, she’ll be forced to find a new partner for The Hatching… and it serves her right, doesn’t it? An extended residency does not imply superiority, not in any way, shape, or form; there is nothing special about that arrogant goose, nothing that any of the other geese can see, anyway. Sure, she may fancy herself the lone bearer of prime plumage, but so does every wingflapper see themselves. Bah, no more thoughts of that one – this is a day of mirthful celebration! Folding his wings and removing his mind from the lively channel, Braten walks carefully down the grassy slope and slips into the water to enjoy himself a float.
Before him, all thirteen of Dopper’s dozen grunt with supreme pleasure as they dip and dash in and out of the dark, cloudy water. All twelve of them should be very proud of themselves, Braten thinks, for they’ve done a wonderful service for all denizens today. Why, without the efforts of the eleven dipper ducks, their brilliant and fearless leader included in that count, of course, the North Floodgate would still be clogged, perhaps permanently so. No goose could have remedied the problem, nor could a swan, even if they still flocked on the Wanaque. The ten dipper ducks are… the nine, the eight, the…
The dipper ducks are disappearing.
Suddenly High Dopper flings himself from the water, landing with a thick wet slap on the grassy shore nearest Braten. The grass is soaked and matted down as Dopper struggles to gain his bearings and rise to his … oh, oh good Mother… Dopper’s feet are gone! They’ve been snapped off at the knees, his shins exchanged for babbling brooks of blood!
‘Dopper!’ Braten sends through the bustling channel, accompanying it with a honk of fearful shock he wishes, oh how he wishes, to be feigned. He flaps wing as though his life depends on it (as you may be able to tell, it very much does) and lands on the shore uphill from Dopper.
‘Dopper, my truest friend! What’s happening, why are your dashing divers disappearing?’ Then, after a moment of receiving nothing allows him to come to grips with the situation, ‘And what happened to your legs?!’
Dopper, still flopping like a fish out of water, looks up at the goose with his gleaming turquoise eyes and sends seven words. Seven terrible, menacing words: ‘Fly swift, Braten; The Beast howls forth.’
Just then, as though the blaspheme incarnate caught the thoughts sent across the channel, The Beast rears its jagged, scaly maw from beneath the opaque red water and grasps Dopper by the tailfeathers. Braten thinks fast and grips High Dopper’s pointed beak within his own toothy honker and begins to pull, but the goose is no match for the unbridled strength of The Beast, The Beast of a belly so empty, a bottomless pit so rapidly filling. Braten’s teeth shatter as Dopper is yanked beneath the water, never to be seen again.
Braten lifts off and takes for the nesting grounds of his Highest Branda and the other geese, spitting shards of shattered cartilage as he goes. They must be warned, this monstrous demon cannot be allowed to take the life of another wingflapper on this day.
Little does our Braten know, The Beast follows closely behind, hidden beneath the surface, en route to his next meal.
This has been the fourth subchapter of the fourth chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~