Sky Eyes stood nestled against his dam’s familiar pulsing scent. His dun red hair was wafting in the gentle breeze. As he tried to pay attention to Old Smoky Chin’s sharing of the memories. His playmate of the muddy brown color, he knew as Dirt, was nickering and prancing about nearby. Dirt wanted to feel the wind dancing through his mane rather than make more instincts. But Sky Eyes dam had already nipped his ear once and he did not want that sharp reprisal again so soon.
This new one did not make any sense to Sky Eyes. How could any creature so frail and small be a threat to his herd? The Sire was roaming the fringe of the meadow keeping vigilance as they lingered to graze and rest even now. There were so many of them in his family and his sire always kept them out of any real danger.
Sure he heard the Barkers before, traveling in their packs. Sometimes at the far edges of where the herd traveled over the prairie. Occasionally one of the ancients, a sickly or tired one, would drift too far behind or off to the perimeter and be attacked by a group of Barkers never to return. The howling sound always sent shivers up Sky Eyes back making his hair raise straight up toward the wind. Then there was always the Red Headed Flappers circling up high after that happened until the Barkers went away. Then the Flappers could glide down on the breeze and walk on the ground squawking and biting at the body left in that place.
He and Dirt had even heard a Screamer during the black of night many times before. He could remember all too well Spotted Rump who had went running too far from the herd a moon time back. He could still hear in his mind the shrill winey after Screamer ran him down; sunk those long fangs into Spotted Rumps neck and dragged him off near the tall leafy trees and then the final screaming winey of fear before no more was heard. Then there had been the low gurgling growl from Screamer as he ate, warning the rest of the herd off.
Suddenly his dam bumped him aside, Old Smoky Chin was finished. He was not sure he had heard any of this memory and he hoped his dam did not know it. Dirt was rearing up and down on his hind legs ready for a run down the meadow. So off they had taken at a long low lope before going into full gallop. The wind felt wonderful against his skin and hair and he was ahead of Dirt who could never keep up with him in this game.
At the far end of the herd they could see an immense herd of the gentle hump backs slowly grazing on the tender grass and creating small clouds of dust from their heavy weight on the soil as they walked. In front they saw a young one eyeing him and Dirt curiously but knew from frequent encounters that these large grazers could run with the best of creatures. As large as they were they were also very nervous and would all run together at almost no threat at all trampling everything in their path until the lead males calmed down usually from exhaustion.
Sky Eyes and Dirt stood and grazed as well for a short while until they were ready to play again. This time they played at the game of rearing at each other as if fighting for rule of the herd. Dirt was usually better at this game than he was but Sky Eyes did not really like this game and he did not like trying to hurt his friend.
That night with the small twinkling glows up high and that large white cool sun that did not warm the ground lighting up everything Sky Eyes did not drift off quickly into not seeing. Instead he tried to find the memories that Old Smoky Chin had shared that day, he could not find them and finally he rested. He dreamed of long grassy meadows where he and Dirt could run anywhere they wanted.
When the warming sun rose over the tall leafy trees the next morning the Sire headed the herd farther away from the humpback herd staying to the middle of the wide long valley. This was always a great time for Sky Eyes and Dirt as they could run at times and then slow to a walk or even stop briefly to nibble on the grass. They never got behind or ahead of the Sire though. They could even play at games with the females of the herd from time to time. As the warming sun hid itself again the herd settled into the center of this new meadow for the dark time. Sky Eyes drifted into dreams again without much effort beside his dam.
After they had grazed awhile the next morning with the day starting to warm, the sire began to move them all up the valley again. Only now they were following a flow of water into a much narrower place where the hard ground rose up higher than Sky Eyes could see on both sides of the herd. The farther they followed the Sire the closer the bottom piles of these hard ground pieces became and they were sharp on the edges which cut into some of the herd who got to close making their lives liquid flow out of the cuts.
Just as he thought he could see a wider place coming up in the distance in front of them the ground all around the herd began to tremble and shake. It was these high ground sides, large pieces from high above were falling down at the herd. The Sire neighed harshly to them all telling them to hurry and hurry as fast as they could behind him.
When they were getting to the place where the land in front started to get wider the Sire all of the sudden reared up and started thrashing his hooves at something Sky Eyes at first could not see. Dams, colts, fillies and ancient ones all around in front were either doing the same or panicing to try and run. Then Sky Eyes saw them, they were small, on two legs and their hair was all loose around them, some of them even lost their hair and it flapped behind heads with even more hair long and covering parts of their faces. These new creatures were howling loudly at the herd. They were waving their two other upright legs around with things in them at the herd. Some had long sticks and some had sticks with the hot hurting red air on them, the kind that killed everything and left it black and smelling terrible. One of the other dams on his side of the herd had fallen down with two of the sticks inside her and two he could see on the other side were being hurt by many of these creatures. These were the ones Old Smoky Chin had been giving him the memories for; he should have paid more attention.
Sky Eyes bolted forward and Dirt was on his flanks but as he got close to the opening on of the Loose Furred Ones threw a stick at him. Sky Eyes saw it and turned on his hooves toward the creature just enough and the stick only scratched his hide. It hurt more than the biting flies in the time of heavy sweating and the life liquid was oozing from it. He ran even faster now but Dirt was no longer there at his side. Sky Eyes ran harder than he had ever run before because he knew now that this was no game it was run or live no more.
He got past the last of the creatures and kept running, finally he slowed when he saw the Sire standing up ahead of him with some of the herd there. The Loose Furred Ones did not chase them to this place but many of the herd never came back to them again. One of those was Dirt and another was his dam. Somehow Old Smoky Chin did get there even though he had a bad black spot on his neck where some of the hot hurting red air had touched him. Then he saw that the Sire even had a long open line on his fore leg with dried life’s liquid covering it.
The Sire turned, neighed and started up this new valley as the herd turned to follow him. Sky Eyes turned too and walked at the edge of the herd body water dripped out his right eye. He would not forget the Loose Furred Ones now or ever.