Nar refused to let the matter rest. He was seriously pissed off, because he had ruined all of his flints on a tree that was now playing tricks on him. So the humans began a methodical search of the island, looking for the smallest clue as to the whereabouts of the elusive tree. To me, the whole situation -- Baffled Humans Pursuing Invisible Tree -- was hilarious, even better than Nar Fucking Things Up. Wimsie and I lounged on the raft, enjoying the show. The air was pleasantly warm, and I dozed off as a light breeze gently rocked the raft.
A short time later, I was jolted awake. At first, I thought one of the humans had stepped onto the raft, but then I saw that the wind had really started to blow, turning the ripples on the water into foam-topped waves and pushing the raft up against the rocks. Those waves were going to make our ride home a bit more interesting. It didn't take the humans long to arrive at the same conclusion, and they decided to give up on the tree. We had a quick snack, and off we went.
On the way back, we stopped at Truffle Island just long enough to grab a few truffles. Zan put them in one of her baskets so we could enjoy them later, when we had a chance to relax.
The wind was helping to push the raft along, and Nar took the opportunity to bring up his sailboat idea again. "See, Zan?" he said as he paddled. "The wind is making the raft move faster. Think how fast it could go if it had a sail."
Maybe Nar isn't full of shit after all, I thought. The raft was moving at a pretty good clip, and we were going to make it home in record time. I had to give him credit for this one.
When we arrived at the beach, it was hard for us to land because the waves were so big and there were rocks that had to be avoided. After several attempts, the humans realized that they weren't going to be able to paddle their way in, and they slid off the raft into the waist-high water. It looked as if Wimsie and I were going to have to swim to shore. But the humans grabbed hold of the raft, and with Zan on one side and Nar on the other, they guided it between the rocks and dragged it up on the sand.
The wind kept getting stronger, and there were big, dark clouds moving in. I didn't like the look of those clouds. Just as we made it to the house, it started to rain. Zan put together a quick meal for us, while Nar fastened the shutters on the windows. The house shook with each gust of wind. Rain came through the cracks in the bamboo walls, and some of the shingles flew off. We had barely finished our dinner when the wind blew the whole damn house right over, leaving us with no protection from the rain. The humans gathered up our bedding and we fled to the cave, and as I ran, I noticed that the rain was cold. That had never happened before. The rain had always been warm and fun to play in, but now it was cold, and I tried to shake it out of my fur as soon as I got to the cave.
Nar and Zan huddled under their blanket, which was barely big enough to cover both of them, and Wimsie and I curled up on our damp bed. There was no door to cover the mouth of the cave -- we had never needed a door -- and the wind blew straight in. I could feel Wimsie shivering. That pissed me off, and I barked at the humans, trying to draw their attention to the fact that we didn't have a blanket.
Zan immediately figured out what was wrong, and she came up with a sensible solution. "Nar, the dogs are cold," she said, "but the blanket is too small for all four of us. What if we make a fire in here? We could prop the door up behind it to protect it from the wind." Without waiting for an answer, Zan flipped the blanket off of Nar and draped it over me and Wimsie, and then she picked up one of her knives and marched out of the cave. Nar grabbed another knife and hurried to catch up with her.
I almost felt guilty for rousting them out of their bed, because the poor creatures were nearly furless, but then I remembered that the humans' bare skin dried out a lot faster than our fur did. And if we had all just kept living in the cave, instead of moving into a house, the wind wouldn't have blown our shelter down and everyone would be warm and dry. So I stopped worrying about the humans and their inadequate pelts. The whole situation was their fault, after all.
A few minutes later, they returned to the cave, carrying the door they had salvaged from our toppled house. Both humans looked as if they had just been out for a swim, and as they maneuvered the door over to a spot near one of the walls, Nar invented some new words to describe the new weather we were having. Obviously, the rain hadn't dampened his creativity. Nar put down his end of the door, pinching his fingers under it and using a word I already knew, and then he propped up the other end with two of Zan's big clay jars to make a barrier against the wind. With a handful of dried basket-reeds, and some driftwood from the pile that he kept in the cave in case of rain, Nar soon had a decent blaze going. There was some smoke at first, but it gradually went away.
My mood improved when I glanced around the cave and saw several ways that Nar could Fuck Things Up. Fire made sparks, and sparks could make more fires. I wondered if he had thought of that. Zan had spread out our bedding on the floor to dry, and some of her baskets were stacked along the walls, and the door was so close to the flames that steam was rising from the wet bamboo. There were three possibilities for amusement, and while I waited to see if any of them was going to happen, I intended to dry out my sodden fur. Wimsie and I parked ourselves right in front of the fire. The humans joined us, sitting cross-legged on mats and with the blanket draped over their shoulders so it would catch some of the heat.
"Why is it so windy?" Zan complained as she tied her wet hair back so it wouldn't get in her eyes. "It's never been this windy before. The rain is coming halfway into the cave!"
Nar shrugged. "I don't know, but when it stops raining, we can make a door for the cave out of one of the walls of the house."
Zan looked doubtfully at the growing puddle of water on the floor. "We might as well have our truffles," she said. "I could use a treat." She reached into one of the baskets that we had taken on our trip, and pulled out a handful of truffles. She gave half of them to Nar and kept the other half for herself.
Zan didn't offer any truffles to me or Wimsie, because she knew we wouldn't take them. Wimsie and I had sworn off the damn things. Every time I thought about truffles, I got that prickly feeling along my back -- the feeling that something big was about to happen. More than that, it felt as if something was trying to happen. It's hard to describe, but I'd had that same feeling right before Nar chopped the Fuzzie Tree down. And as I lay there in front of the fire, I began to suspect that whatever had been trying to happen, had happened, and that it had something to do with that tree. Wimsie, of course, blamed the truffles for the Fuzzie Tree's disappearance, and she no longer wanted to eat them, not even to have fun dreams full of dogs chasing round green things.
The humans ate all of the truffles, and the inevitable surge of truffle-energy hit them. They couldn't sit still for one minute. They paced around the cave, looking for things to do while they waited for the rain to stop. All that pacing and fidgeting drove me crazy, and it's a good thing the rain did stop, because I was just about ready to bite someone. I was relieved when they grabbed their knives and went out on their mission to hack a wall off the house so they could use it for a door. Finally, Wimsie and I had some peace and quiet. We lounged by the fire, drying our fur and enjoying the novelty of having a fire in the cave. I really hoped that Zan and Nar would stay outside for the rest of the day and maybe even overnight. They were a pain in the ass after they had eaten truffles. And I had come to dread their morning truffle-dream chatter, because it usually resulted in more strange activities.
Unfortunately, the humans came back before we'd even had a chance to take a nap, so we went out to see what they were doing. They had dragged one of the bamboo walls all the way from the house, and they stood it up right outside the mouth of the cave and used lengths of vine to tether it to a couple of large rocks so it wouldn't fall over.
"We need some 'pulleys,'" Nar said, pointing at the vines. "Those are round things that will make the door easier to move. We can just pull on a vine . . . "
Nar didn't get a chance to explain how pulleys worked, because at that moment, the wind picked up, and it started to rain again. It rained so hard, I felt like I was under a waterfall. We ran into the cave, and Nar pulled the door closed behind us and tied it in place. At least we didn't have to wait to try it out. There were small gaps along the top and sides, but other than that, it was an amazingly good fit, and it made the cave warm and snug. Almost as cozy as a den. I settled into my spot by the fire, hoping that Zan and Nar would relax a little bit after all their work. I should have known better. They took their flutes and drums out of one of the larger baskets that were lined up along the wall, and sat down to play some music.
Wimsie and I looked at each other in horror. We were trapped. In a cave. With two truffle-crazed musicians. I almost wished we'd eaten some of those damned truffles, but they were all gone. A good truffle-daze would have made it easier for us to endure the noise. We fled to the back of the cave, and tried to cover our ears with our paws.
The humans, of course, didn't notice our discomfort. And there was something else they didn't notice. The temperature inside the cave was rising at an alarming rate, because Nar, oblivious to the heat, kept throwing sticks on the fire. I went over to the door and put my nose to one of the gaps between the bamboo stalks. I didn't feel any air moving, so I peeked through the crack and saw that the rain had stopped. No rain, no wind -- that was good enough for me. I barked, loud enough to be heard over the music, and I kept barking until I got results. Zan finally glanced up, and I scratched at the door in an exaggerated fashion to let her know that we wanted out. She untied one side of the door and pushed it open, and I scooted out with Wimsie right on my heels. If those truffle-addled dimwits suffocated themselves, it wasn't our problem.
There were a few fluffy clouds in the sky, turning orange and pink and purple as the sun set. The faintest hint of a breeze ruffled my fur. The weather had apparently returned to normal, but even if it hadn't, I had no intention of being confined in that cave again. I liked to come and go as I pleased. Wimsie and I curled up in the ferns, at the base of one of the big oaks, and left the humans to their idea of fun. The ground was damp, but we didn't care. It helped us to cool off.
That night, both of us had the Big Cosmic Dream. And when we woke up, we remembered parts of the Dream that we had never remembered before. We tried to get a grip on it before it slipped away.
"Fez!" Wimsie cried. "The Fuzzie Tree! It . . . "
"It was a Time Tree," I said, "and it kept things from moving too fast, and changing too much, and . . . "
"And Nar chopped it down," she continued, "and it vanished into Time, wherever that is, and . . . "
"It was the Truffle Tree's fault," I cut in. "It was those damn truffles, and I knew it was, and I should have dug up that tree. The truffles put ideas into their heads, and that's why they started making things and building things and wanting to travel around in boats and planes."
Wimsie cocked her head at me. "So what's going to happen now, without the Time Tree? It was doing an important thing, I know that much, and now it's gone."
I wanted to tell her the truth: We are screwed. But I didn't have the heart. I had seen some things in the Dream that Wimsie hadn't. They weren't fun things, they were bad things. I knew that she hadn't seen them, because if she had, she would have taken off down the beach, howling all the way. I had felt the bad things coming, even though I hadn't known exactly what they were, and that's what had been giving me the strange, prickly feeling.
I yawned and stretched, trying to look casual. "We'll just have to wait and see. Maybe it will be interesting."
Wimsie looked up at the oak that we had slept under. "Will the ideas make them chop down all the other trees?"
"Not all of the trees," I said, telling a flat-out lie so she wouldn't be upset. "I'm sure there will always be trees. There have to be trees. What else would there be?"
Her answer surprised me. "Rocks," she said mournfully.
For a moment, I thought she had seen some of the bad things in the Dream, which meant that my bullshit wasn't working. "Where did you get that idea?" I asked her.
"Fuzzie Tree Island," she said. "The tree is gone, and the island is just a big pile of rocks now."
Ah. So it was Fuzzie Tree Island that she had been thinking of, and not the desolate, treeless landscape that had turned up in my version of the Dream. "That can't happen," I said, which was true, up to a point. It couldn't happen -- not until there were more humans with more axes. But I left that part out. "Remember the humans arguing about the trees that we get food from? I think Zan will make Nar leave those trees alone, and even if he doesn't, there are so many trees that Nar could never chop all of them down anyway, right?" I could see that Wimsie wasn't convinced, so I gave her a doggie grin and said, "Talking about food is making me hungry. Let's go find something to eat." She perked up a bit, and we wandered around the forest and snouted out our own breakfast.
When we had finished eating, we went back to the cave, because I wanted to eavesdrop on the humans while they were discussing their truffle-dreams. After seeing all those bad things in my dream, I intended to pay closer attention to their dreams. The door was half-open, but there were no sounds from inside the cave, so we lounged in the grass and waited for Zan and Nar to wake up.
We didn't have long to wait. The humans emerged from their truffle-sleep and immediately started spewing ideas. "I want to have a 'stove!'" Zan yelled happily. "It's a kind of fire-place, but I can use it to 'cook' and 'bake' food! Nar, you should have seen all the different kinds of food! 'Pizza,' and 'burgers,' and 'scrambled eggs.' Eggs are white things with yellow stuff in them, and they were on a plate with strips of 'bacon,' and the bacon smelled yummy and made my mouth water. And I found out what to do with the corn and wheat and rice. We have those here, but we don't eat them because they're hard to chew. But now I know how to 'boil' the rice, and 'roast' the corn, and make 'flour' with the wheat!"
Well, that didn't sound too bad, even though she had used words that were unfamiliar to me because they had just come out of her truffle-dream. Anything to do with food was okay with me.
"And I know how to make a house that won't fall down in the wind!" Nar said. "It's called a 'cabin,' and . . . "
"What's a 'cabin?'" Zan said, eagerly interrupting him. It was plain that she wanted a new place to live.
"It's a house made out of tree-trunks," Nar explained, "with notches near the ends of the logs. The notches hold the logs together at the corners of the cabin. It would have a fire-place in it, with a 'chimney' made of rocks to let the smoke out. And I know how to make a better roof, too."
"I saw how to make clothes!" Zan said, squealing with delight. "There were 'shirts,' and 'pants,' and 'skirts' . . . "
"And I can make another loom, like the one you wanted," Nar informed her. "It would be nice to have better tools, but I would need 'metal,' and that's hard to do, because I would have to dig certain kinds of rocks out of the ground, and build a big, enclosed fire-place, and 'melt' the metal, and make different shapes out of it. I don't think I can do that, at least not yet."
I was relieved that he couldn't. At one point during my Dream, I had suddenly found myself standing in the middle of a barren, empty place, like Fuzzie Tree Island but much larger. There were no green, growing things at all, not even a blade of grass -- only rocks and sand, as far as I could see in every direction. There had been humans in that hot, rocky dream-place, and the humans were digging rocks out of the ground with things that looked like huge paws. The paws dug the rocks up and dumped them into big, rolling baskets, and when the baskets were full, they rolled away. Obviously, the humans were collecting rocks. A lot of rocks. And they were making a big mess of the land while they were doing it.
I shivered, even though the air was warm and there was hardly any breeze at all, and my fur prickled again. I knew how stubborn Nar could be. He was like a monkey trying to grab a piece of fruit that was hanging just out of its reach. Given enough time, he would eventually figure out how to make some 'metal'.
We were screwed.
To be continued...