Bruno by Nicola Barfield

The sky is grey and the steady drizzle has soaked through your fur as you huddle underneath your hemp sack. The day fades into the distance and you transport yourself to the luscious rainforest that has haunted your dreams for twenty years.

Your eyes are closed but your senses are overwhelmed. The steady dripping of last night’s rain filters through the dense foliage, splashing drop by drop onto the broad waxy green leaves of the undergrowth. You hear the stream in the distance, overflowing from the previous evening’s downpour. The birds have been up for hours, foraging for food singing to each other in a beautiful yet incomprehensible tongue. They return to their nests which are brimming with their chirping, insatiable young.

The smell of last night’s rain lingers. The air is so humid you can taste it. You can feel the glorious warmth of the sun beating down upon your back and you sigh a deep sigh of contentedness. You finally open your eyes and peek through the long auburn, slightly matted arm hair which has been, until now cushioning your head. The sun is already high in the sky, the bright rays streaking through the holes in the canopy above and steam rises from the swampland where the sun meets the damp air.

In the distance you two of your infants chasing each other in and out of trees with the agile grace that reminds you of your youth. The youngest has some papaya and is racing ahead to keep her prize. They squeal in delighted frustration as they climb to dizzying heights. The eldest inevitably wins the fruit and eats the nectar whilst gloating at his sister as he sits proudly, chest puffed out on the highest perch.

Your mate is feeding your smallest infant. The short tufts of hair spike up in patches as he clings to his mother. He looks up when he senses your presence, reaching for your hand. His mother has huge soulful eyes. She sighs and absentmindedly plucks rogue lice from your coat. You love her and she loves you.

Your instincts are telling you that it’s time to move on. You glance wistfully at the mist covered mountains in the distance and wonder if your family will be safe in the denser bush. You glance towards your mate and she makes a low almost inaudible sound. “It’s too soon to move” she says, “the youngest is still too young”.

You sigh in agreement and turn to watch the older infants playing. They grow bigger and more adventurous each day. They’re learning so quickly, yet they wander too far. They don’t understand the rules of the land.

The screaming of the oldest infant brings you instantly out of your reverie. Danger is near. Time has slowed as you look around you and capture the scene in front of you. You boulder through the undergrowth towards the distressed cries of your oldest child. Your mate screams frantically as she canters behind you. You roar at her, “go back, take the baby and run” but she refuses to abandon her first born child.

Thundering into a clearing in the forest you come to a grinding halt as you see your infants being restrained by tall, hairless apes with long shiny objects pointing towards you.

Your mate wails in despair and charges. A loud noise echoes through the forest like a bolt of lightning in the sky and your mate gasps in shock as she falls to the ground. Looking into her once animated and beautiful eyes you realise that she is dead. Confusion, hatred and fury explodes out of you as you roar and beat your fists to your chest. The forest is alive with fear. Birds are taking flight and the air is full of the panicked cries of the forests inhabitants.

As you charge there is a whooshing sound followed by a sharp stabbing pain in your shoulder. Looking down you notice a bright feather hanging limply from your arm and the world around you starts to spin. Confused you make a last great effort to reach your infant who is hysterically crying for his mother. You trip over a fallen branch and land heavily. Looking into the empty eyes of your mate the world is darkening.

Your eyes are closed and your breathing is heavy and strained. You take one last great breath and your nostrils are filled with the intense smells and sounds of the rainforest you call home. You inhale the beautiful earthy forest floor, the leaves which have left the trees and are starting to rot, discarded fruit which is sickeningly sweet and at that moment you are aware that this is the end.

The forest goes quiet and for a while the only sound is the rustling of the leaves on the trees. Eventually the birds return to their trees and the forest life returns to normal, but life will never be the same. You cry out for your family as you fall into a fitful slumber. Time is suspended. There is only pain.

The familiar sound of your gate being opened brings you out of your trance. It’s been twenty years since you were torn away from your family, yet it feels like yesterday. You yearn to travel back and share one more day with your family but you realised a long time ago that there is no going back. You can’t change the past.

You no longer pay attention to the continuous banging on glass and glare from flash guns that daze your eyes and make you see stars. It’s been a number of years since you last looked around when the hairless apes screamed and pointed their fingers at you.

The infants delightedly playing with their food, occasionally running to you in the vain attempt to encourage you to play, but you ignore them. To the outside world you don’t have a care in the world, but inside you are screaming.

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