To Those Who Wait
Anza, now a teenager, stared wistfully at the hut deep into the forest. Humans had last seen the old man with the white beard harvesting acorns, but some claimed he did not return. Where Anza lived, there were now more humans than Peridots – vastly more in fact. After the Drought of Engura, many humans ventured forth in search of more fertile soil and took their Peridots with them. Those who stayed behind were older, had already raised Peridots, but no longer had any of their own to tend to. The desire was there, but … Peridots were elsewhere. What these people needed, Anza felt, were more Peridots. Alas, there was little Anza could do in that regard. In fact, there was little Anza could do in general. Except to wait.
Anza sat by the hut deep in the forest for days on end. When humans walked by, they could not look Anza directly in the eye. All but one, that is. This person had tears in their eyes and patted Anza upon their head before walking away. Anza continued to wait patiently by the hut.
Anza fed themselves with nearby fruits and veg. But with no one to play with, no one to rub their belly, Anza became sluggish and drifted off to sleep next to a tree stump. Hibernation was … just … a moment … away …
Suddenly, a belly rub halted the throes of hibernation. Anza woke to the friendly eyes of a young woman who did not look familiar. Upon Anza’s drawn-out yawn, the young woman smiled and hugged Anza tightly. The young woman presented Anza with several broken sticks and a tiny pebble. She cast the pebble upward and swooped her hand and picked up just three sticks before the pebble landed. She offered the pebble to Anza. The Peridot cast upward the puniest of throws. Down the pebble went, with a small thud. Anza failed to pick up a single stick. The young woman vigorously kept at it. Anza continued to miss the sticks and eventually declined to play. Some time later, it was evening, and a green glow illumined from Anza’s horn tips. The young lady was enthralled and grabbed Anza by the hand and headed deep into the forest but in the opposite direction that Anza was familiar with.
When she walked left, they encountered a pond they could not cross. When she walked right, they encountered a wall of stone they could not scale. When they walked to its side, they encountered a parliament of owls that hooted them away. The young woman sat upon a rock and buried her face into her hands.
Anza was familiar with such despair and nudged the young woman toward the direction they had yet to travel. After several clumsy steps in mud and a few leaps over toadstools, they came across a rocky plain. Dried out bushes scattered about, but in the center of it all stood a tall palm tree. The young woman gestured to Anza that it was time to rest. They lay upon the ground underneath the palm tree.
But Anza was not comfortable. They woke up in the middle of the night and walked numerous paces away from the palm tree and found a cozy nook against a raised patch of soil and lay alongside it, with their head perched upon its malleable heft.
The next morning brought heavy winds. A boom of thunder shook Anza from their slumber. They turned their head left and right, and furiously back and forth, but the human was nowhere to be seen. Anza followed a trail of footprints toward a soil divot, but an additional trail of footprints splayed into distortions of mud once the first drops of rain descended upon the land. The next clap of thunder was loud and towering. Anza curled themselves up and shivered in fear. A bolt of lightning struck the palm tree, splitting it asunder. One half collapsed against a rock the size of a dozen people; the other landed within a hair’s distance from Anza. The Peridot sputtered up and out but the rain soaked its body, forcing Anza to the ground. Another bolt struck the cliff of the plane – far away from Anza, but still too close. Off they ran, in some direction, in any direction, frenzied, away from the thunder and the lightning. But the mud slowed them down. Little, quick steps yielded short journeys, arm’s length. And endless pivots were roundabout and led Anza back to where they started.
Claps of thunderous rage blared on and on. Lightning jittered when Anza least expected it. But neither thunder nor lightning was what Anza feared the most. It was, rather, a question they kept asking themselves. How much longer to be alone?
Anza held onto themselves, arms hugging their corpus, until the rain ebbed and the lightning no longer struck and there were no more claps from the hands of thunder. A murmur reeled Anza’s head upward. They cleared their eyes of the rain and saw a gathering of eight people. Ahead of this crowd was Anza’s human friend. Her open arms welcomed the Peridot, and in her embrace, Anza traveled through the muddy lands of the rocky plane and down to a pond, where a few people bathed, played, and fished with dozens, if not hundreds, of Peridots. These Peridots looked different than the ones from his land; they were neither bigger nor stronger, neither uglier nor comelier. Some had loftier plumage and more spots. Others had no plumage and no spots. Anza’s Peridots were in between. But there was no fear in Anza’s eyes; there was, instead, warmth and kindness. They played till the evening. When Anza saw how tired these few humans were to tend to all of these Peridots, Anza gestured to their human friend to express an idea. Since Peridots do not possess the gift of speech and gesture is a learned behavior between a human and their Peridot, Anza’s message, unfortunately, was not understood.
It wasn’t until the next morning when Anza gathered all of the Peridots together in a single line and led a procession from the pond to somewhere unknown. Humans followed along, thinking this was a playful activity that provided them with some respite from caretaking. Anza’s friend soon realized this was no game, but did little to question her Peridot friend, for she trusted Anza and knew Anza had something special in mind.
They traveled through the rocky plain, still moist from rain, through the forest, past the toadstools and mud, past the tree stump upon which Anza and their friend first met, past the hut of the old man with the white beard. Soon, they left the shallowness of the forest and entered the land which Anza called home. The older humans, who tended to their small huts with weary faces, tipped their heads up when they gazed upon a crowd of Peridots, each of whom possessed curious eyes in search of a new friend and a warm home.
Upon this union, life was finally in balance for humans and Peridots alike. Whimsy was flourishing. Anza, however, did not stop waiting by the hut of the old man with the white beard. They did this once in the morning, then once in the afternoon. When Anza became an adult, they waited by the hut just once in the morning. Then none at all.
It wasn’t until Anza was mature enough to leave the care of their keeper for their new habitat where they could continue their watchful eye. Their new habitat was much higher than any human dwelling, but directly above the hut of the old man with the white beard.