Flash Fiction Friday #6
The Wise Man and the Wisent
Inspired by Mike Kenyon, who suggested “bison, 5:17 a.m., green.”
Fredrick knew better than to walk through the woods on his own. If his mother had told him once, she’d told him a thousand times, and now that he was adult-aged himself… well, he knew better. There were all sorts of creatures in the woods, and he lived far enough in the countryside that no one would come to help in time even if he could get a hold of anyone.
But Rick had a little trick up his sleeve for deterring foxes and muggers. It ran in his family. So, really, walking in the woods alone at just past 5 a.m. wasn’t so terrible. He was, you could say, a wise man after all.
Rick smelled the river nearby, cool and clear, and he headed for it. Overhead, the trees lifted their green boughs to heaven. Springtime wind shushed through their leaves, and birds chirped on their limbs. Rick snapped a hanging shrub and gnawed it like an American racecar driver would a toothpick.
He spotted the weeds that spewed fluff at the river’s edge when a bellowing roar seized his stomach and froze his legs. The boom shook Rick’s heart against his ribcage and set the birds above into screeching flight.
It was time to pull out his secret weapon. Rick twitched and shuddered. Another bellow wailed through the woods. And then:
A full adult wisent—bison, in the American vernacular—lumbered where Rick had been. He had a great, shaggy mane and four legs where once he’d had two.
From between the trees, the noise-maker lurched into view. It was a natural wisent, the same size as Rick and far more wild. Pointy horns obscured its face. Rick spread his four legs in the muddy riverside ground and lowered his head.
Snorting, the woodland animal galloped forward. Rick surged to meet it. With a mighty crack, their horns locked. Rick’s brain rattled against his transformed skull. He should never have come out in the woods!
The rampant wisent tossed its head from side to side. Rick’s softer, tamer body lashed along with the movements. Would his horns be strong enough to hold?
The animal grunted, unwashed breath snaking into Rick’s nose. Rick sneezed and, in so doing, lost any grip he may have head.
The animal bellowed its triumph and thrashed its horns more strongly. They caught on Rick’s once again, and then shhhraack—
Rick’s head was forcibly separated from his body. His neck snapped, his hide parted, and his skull landed in the weeds by the river.
The natural wisent pranced around Rick’s decapitated body, snuffled his lost head, and then lumbered off between the trees once more. Docile and victorious.
But this was not the end of semi-foolish Rick. He waited until he was sure the animal was truly gone, then transformed back to his human shape and retrieved his head from where the river water lapped at it. Good thing the beast hadn’t pierced his heart; he wasn’t immortal, only special.
Slinking into the woods in the opposite direction the wisent had gone, head tucked under his arm like a helmet, Rick set off for home. Along the way, he came across a group of campers. “There’s a wisent in the area,” he told them. “You may want to camp elsewhere.”
To their credit, the campers didn’t scream. But they definitely told all their friends about the headless man in the woods. For centuries after that, people made pilgrimages to Rick’s house and to the river. Even travelers from the lunar colonies left flowers on his lawn and at the site of the attack.
Flowers for remembrance. For bison deterrent.
Rick, of course, was allergic.
Click the links below to read the previous weeks’ stories.