art by ShotHot Design
Shades of Orange
by Caroline M Yoachim
War came to my village uninvited. Demons who thought they were gods dropped a monster in our midst. The monster was Ao, a giant sloth of a beast with skin the color of carrots and eyes like rusted metal. My village chose me to lead the fight, though I was a farmer, not a warrior. There was no other choice. All of us were farmers.
The road that wound among our homes was empty, and sunset painted the sky the color of mangoes and coral. Our fields, once green with tea and rice, were dead and dry, the entire countryside destroyed by Ao's wrath. In the window of my son's home, my granddaughter watched, her tiny three-fingered hands clinging to the sill. My son marched beside me. Born before the monster came, he held his axe with perfectly formed five-fingered hands. Time in our village was so clearly divided--there was life before Ao came, and life afterwards. Life, and death. We twenty who remained fought out of desperation.
Ao crawled into the road, a monster without claws or teeth, a monster that crept slowly, never pouncing, never charging. Saplings sprouted up with wild abandon everywhere the monster touched, then dried to dust, unable to sustain such growth. We could not flee, for the demons had spread their monsters all across the countryside. Each village faced its own monster, as we faced ours. I stood shoulder to shoulder with my neighbors, my sister, my son. We slashed at Ao with sickles and axes and knives. Our weapons did not wound it, and the monster would not leave.