In one of the last pockets of civilization struggling to survive, Eippy, the little pie pygmy, hid in a sheltering thicket. With his silky-black tail partially blocking his vision, he crouched in the shadows and peered though his small eyes. Beyond the shore and across the water, the setting sun inflamed the horizon, causing an orange dusk to linger, but all was clear. It would be safe to come out.
Eippy took one step.
Angry sounds of his dog barking at a pygmy hunter cut through the last of the filthy rain sluicing down through the dead trees. Eippy froze in place, swished his silky tail to the side, and looked to where his dog was barking.
The pygmy hunter ignored Eippy's little cream-colored dog, reached down, and grabbed an orange pygmy's wrist. As the rat tail of the pygmy formed a threatening S, the hackles on the dog's back flared up and accented the green, spinach-shaped blotches on its back.
With his small eyes open wide, Eippy's excited voice rang out, "Sic him, Spinach!"
Growling, Spinach barreled toward the pygmy hunter's ankle.
With guttural grunts resonating from his hollow pig-like nose, the pygmy hunter reared back and kicked Spinach. Spinach yelped once and went flying across the rugged ground. He tumbled to a stop, rolled to his feet, and ran into the forest.
With mouthwatering expectation, the pygmy hunter grinned and straightened the orange pygmy's arm straight out. Holding it with one hand and using his other hand, he reached toward the sky and brought his fist down.
The hammer blow broke the pygmy's arm.
Screaming in pain and with his tail lashing violently, the pygmy staggered back and tried to free his broken arm from the pygmy hunter's powerful grip.
The pygmy hunter pulled out his ax, chopped the pygmy's arm off, raised it to his mouth, and took a huge bite out of it.
As if a switch had been pulled, the sun dropped below the horizon. Everything became early night gray.
Like a quickly moving ghostly shape, Spinach came barreling back. He grabbed the pygmy hunter's ankle, hung on, and twisted. The pygmy hunter dropped the arm and swung his ax. It sliced the tip of Spinach's ear off. Spinach let loose of the hunter's ankle and ran into the bush.
The orange pygmy's half a meter high son, Eippy, whose small eyes had been staring from the shadows, gasped in shock, his panic temporally immobilizing him. With his long, fluffy, black tail curved into a threatening S, he sprang out of a pocket of rolling fog, hopped up and down, and excitedly waved his little arm. "Come on, Papa, I have the gold. Follow me."
Eippy looked toward a flickering orange glow on his right. The light from torches in their hands revealed a new band of wild-eyed pygmy hunters with sweating, contorted faces yelling and running down the hill. But the pygmy-hunters, pig-people with IQ's equivalent to a bag of stones,were going the wrong way.
While the other pygmy hunters' attentions were focused on where Spinach had gone, Eippy's father held his blood-spurting stump, where his arm used to be, and took off running. With his rat tail standing straight up behind him, he zipped along the dark shoreline of the red algae bloom. But the blood loss caused his rat tail to droop. He slowed to a limping walk.
Searching for the escaping pygmies, the revealing beam of a carbide-gas searchlight streaked down from the side of the mountain. As the beam bounced along the rolling red water, it only revealed a few isolated waves that creased into the filthy shoreline.
The pygmy hunter adjusted the beam to a spot of land between a set of towering boulders. Here, old tree roots had raised the soil. Like black, bony fingers waiting to reach out, grab a toe or a foot, and send someone flying, the roots twisted along the ground. This would be a good execution place, and the pygmy hunter wasn't disappointed. Even though Eippy wore a black and white stripped polo shirt, the blur of his running legs and his swishing tail cut the beam and was gone so fast the hunter must have wondered if he were seeing things. He rubbed his eyes and focused the beam again. The moment it touched Eippy's father's limping, orange form, Eippy's father took off running. Wildly screaming, with his long, black hair flying back, he rushed toward the safety of the concealing dark.
The gas in the carbide lantern hissed. The revealing white of the light turned blue, sputtered, and flicked out.
Eippy's father fell.
Eippy ran to him. "Come on, Papa. The light went out. We can get away."
His father struggled to his feet, bent over, and placed his hand on his knee. With weary eyes and blood spurting from his severed arm, he looked toward Eippy. "You came from a village with pie pygmies just like you." He tried to breathe in but coughed up blood. "I always tried to take you back to your village, but I never could find it. If I don't make it, take your mother and sisters and find the village. It is an archaic dream of two old men that came true. The magic there will make your world normal again."
Eippy held back his tears. "Get up, Papa. We'll go there together."
"I believe we can." His father peered into the darkness created by the carbide light that had flicked out. "It's dark enough to get away. We're out of danger."
For a moment silent dark enveloped them. Then the boisterous grunting of pygmy hunters cut the dark. Eippy looked back over his shoulder. He and his father weren't out of danger. The dreaded, flickering, orange torch light from guttural-grunting pygmy hunters, fifty meters behind him, gave substance to both of their silhouettes.
Eippy's father lifted his hand from his knee, took two steps, and tripped over the tree roots. His legs crumpled. He thudded to the ground.
The grunting of the pygmy hunters grew louder.
The gap closed.
Eippy tugged at his father's arm. "Get up, Papa. Get up!" He looked toward the grunting. The pygmy hunters all wore dirty-black jackets made from irregular pieces of pygmy skin they had dried and sewn-together. Consisting of a diet of pygmy and dog meat, most were tall and lanky. Shaggy goatees, the color of dirty straw, hung down and over their double chins. On their heads, tight fitting baseball caps, with long bills, covered most of their short bristles of hair that looked as if it had been gnawed off by a sewer rat. On the fronts of their baseball caps, crudely cut tin letters, reading "PH", caught torch light and flashed like bright badges of unearned authority.
Even though ordinary pygmy hunters had the characteristics of pigs and looked alike, Eippy knew from their grunting that these weren't ordinary pygmy hunters. These were the feared "top-of-the-line" pygmy hunters. They never failed to kill their quarry.
Eippy pulled at his father's arm and tried to help him to his feet. He didn't respond.
Spears rained down, swished past Eippy's tiny body, and sank into Eippy's father's back. Blood exploded around the spearheads. More spears came. They sliced into the sand and zipped past the thorn canes. Grabbing his back and moaning in agony, Eippy's father rose. Spinning in the sand and oblivious to the pain, his one hand pulled at the jagged thorny canes. More spheres sliced his body.
As the spears flew all around Eippy, none hit him. In a state of shock and fear, he stood helpless.
Whimpering, with blood flowing from where the tip of his ear had been sliced off, Spinach hid under a small bush.
Still trying to escape, Eippy's father's small orange hand clawed at the sand. After he had crawled the length of his body, he quit breathing.