I watched the flashes erupt from the distant red rock above, a constant for as long as our Leaf-Eater kin ruled the land. The red glow hung in the sky and served as a reminder in the night; that separation a surety to my people’s’ survival. It happened there, the burning and the flames. I knew that we Leaf-Eaters didn’t want the fires here; though from time to time black clouds signaled the liquid fire had reached out. And as the darkness dissipated, I saw the enraged glow fade, as if but a puff of smoke whisked away.
Our herd moved through the unending expanse of trees that stretched up to the sky. Each of us worked tirelessly to pull them down by their smaller branches, stripping them of leaves, nibbling and pruning to keep the tall branches away from the fires above. The Elder Leaf-Eaters told of the hellfires that would befall us if the woody trees ever touched the monolithic, Fiery Mountain above. We ate, we ate, we all ate; never would we Leaf-Eaters allow the trees to grow high enough to bring that fire down on us.
We ate for ages it seemed. I looked on in fear as our people fell to the hunger of carnivorous foes – especially as our dearest Elders aged and fell to that vile end, that feeding off flesh again and again. Up in the highest places, the tops of the trees, those Furry Jesters lived. So easily they avoided the relentless, violent pining for flesh. We Leaf-Eaters hated them and knew they conspired with the trees in which they lived.
Who else would want the trees to grow so tall? Only so they may hide amongst the branches, out of reach of that carnivorous bite. Of course. Of course. I knew those Furry Jesters colluded and plotted against us. Our herd knew the trees guaranteed safety to them when the hellfire should fall, for the trees were working with the Fiery Mountain up above. Late at night I heard the Furry Jesters screech and howl to one another as they plotted with the trees, finalizing their plans to ruin us.
With each Elder’s passing, knowledge and wisdom that been gathered over millennia was lost. How had they kept their eggs safe? Everyday it seemed those wretched Furry Jesters stole more and more of our eggs. More and more of our children to be. The Leaf Eaters had been mighty, though many were lost we kept a vigilant watch over our nests. Sometimes we caught a scaled-one stealing the youth from underneath our nests, but they weren’t the same as the conniving Furry Jesters. Or were they working with the trees and the Fiery Mountain as well? Were the carnivores killing the Leaf-Eaters at the command of the Mountain too? Were they all after our flesh; desirous of nothing less than our complete extinction?
One day the screeches of the Furry Jesters erupted through the expanse of trees and flames spewed over the treetops. The acrid stench blanketed the land. I knew the collusion had come to fruition. Flames engulfed us as the trees sizzled and burned. Each crackling twig, a cackle at our failure to consume all the delicious leaves. The Leaf-Eaters had eaten so much but the fires still spread across our home.
As our homeland erupted into an all-consuming hell, we ran as fast as we could. So many were lost. Even the trees seemed to lament it, growing shorter than the years before. We Leaf-Eaters noticed their worry, but the Furry Jesters seemed not to – or if they did, they didn’t care. Our eggs continued to disappear ever faster, as if matching the growing expanse of black smoke consuming the sky. It choked so many of our own, but we continued on hoping that the next horizon would be free from this terror.
Then I felt the tremors and was deafened by the greatest sound ever heard. The new home we’d come upon had been free of so much of that smoke and hell-fire, but here we were again covered in those sooty clouds as great flaming rocks sparkled in the sky, now closer than before. Then they came and rained down on us, burning the trees and scorching the earth. Again we ran, searching for another home. Our numbers dwindled and the years passed as the great, red Fiery Mountain up above let loose eruptions of haught and pride. It had outdone itself. And years passed as our herd dwindled, fewer and fewer as the black clouds choked our own as well as the trees.
I stood staring up at the Fiery Mountain, the very last of the Leaf-Eaters. A starved look paralyzed my eye. The flames swirled about in the distance, dark black coveting the sky. Those little Furry Jesters mocked me as that red rock above pointed and teased with one more flash, a monstrous red eruption that bid adieu to a breed now gone. But then I realized; just as the fires here had brought our end, sooner or later all fires die out. As the Leaf-Eaters flame had come to a close, I knew the End comes for all.
Years passed and me and my kin looked down from the heavens as the Fiery Mountain grew filled ever more with haught and spilled this forth with eruptions of liquid fire and flame. But one day the haught had run out and the erudite eruptions spewed forth their conclusion, echoing across the barren, red landscape. Furry Jesters gestured up laughing back at the great Mountain again, as if to punctuate the joke that our fall had begun. But the massive red Mountain recalled the last scaly stare and grinned. Those Furry Jesters had forgotten where the fall first begins.
This is a flash fiction based off the recent discovery that Arsia Mons, the largest caldera on Mars, ceased activity 50 million years ago during the Cretaceous-Paloegene extinction in which the dinosaurs famously disappeared. Read more below: