Why the Rooster Crows at Dawn

Posted on August 9, 2004 by Jenna

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In the night forest, it comes. It has a wide and awful maw. It snuffles. It snorts. It chitters, hideous and resonant. Its great mandibles scrape along the ground.

The forest is almost empty. It is almost always empty, when the horror walks.

At the edge of the forest, a copper frog pokes at the bramble wall. “Please,” she whispers. “Anyone. If you are there. If you are anywhere. I cannot find my hiding place. Lead me to your own.”

The bramble is silent. The forest is silent, save for the chittering of the beast.

“It will find me,” says the frog.

It has been a very long night, and there will be no dawn.

Piercing and bright, a rooster crows. The horror turns. The frog begins to hop, furiously, towards the sound and its promise of salvation. “Where are you?” she asks, as she hops. “Where are you?”

There is a glint of light. The frog dives into the brambles. The horror’s maw slams into the ground where she had been.

The rooster’s hiding place is small, and dangerously close to the edge of the wall. The brambles shake as the creature’s mandibles probe them.

“Thank you,” whispers the frog. “Thank you. Thank you.”

“Shh,” the rooster says.

The thin layer of wall that protects them begins to tear.

“That’s done it,” says the rooster. “Sorry. I guess I didn’t help you after all.”

A long, prehensile tongue snakes into their hollow. The rooster pecks at it and it retreats. The brambles that shield them continue to tear.

“We’ll fight it,” says the frog. “I’ll do my best.”

She croaks a croak of war. She waddles in place, shaking the brambles.

“To the north,” the rooster says.

The copper frog listens. She can hear it. To the north, the battle cry of two more frogs. The horror hesitates. The racket of the frogs grows louder. The horror pulls back. It begins to tromp north. It begins to tear at the brambles near the sound.

“To the north,” the rooster says.

There is the furious cry of an eagle, to the north. And the yowling of cats. The creature, hesitantly, moves north.

“To the north,” the rooster says.

There is the brazen trumpet of a hiding elephant. A flock of seagulls squabble.

Belly low to the ground in hunger, the creature runs.

“That should hold it,” says the rooster, “’till the dawn.”

The copper frog sinks down.

“There will be no dawn,” she says.

“Pardon?” says the rooster.

“It was my job,” says the frog. “Like the twilight frogs, whose croak calls twilight, and the terces frogs who bring nine a.m. I called the dawn. But I am helpless.”

“Why is that?”

“My love was called away, beyond the sky. I cannot save him. I am no hero. But still I must go, to the gate at the wide world’s edge, and seek to bring him back. That is why this night has been so long. The gate closes at dawn, and I am no fast traveler.”

“Ah,” says the rooster. He scratches at the ground. “Then you can’t very well call the dawn,” he admits.

“I should go,” says the frog.

“I’ll walk you there,” says the rooster.

“I’m sorry,” says the frog.

“When you’re gone,” the rooster says, “I’ll call the dawn. Every morning. Until you return.”

“That’s sweet,” says the frog. “But you’re a chicken.”

“I’ll do my best,” the rooster asserts.