Savannah Pack

The sky was gray. The clouds rolled in, and the damp wind flattened the grass around their cave like a mat. Even before the Old One came in, massaging her wrists and muttering about starting a fire, the Young One knew what was coming.

As soon as the fire was lit, the black pot was pulled out from a bottom cabinet, and the Old One filled it with water. Together, the two lifted it over the fire and, dusting off their hands, went to grab their spices.

The Young One knew how to make a story. The motions were as familiar to him as breathing. The spices were laid out on the counter, and the Old One arranged them in the order she always did. She turned to the Young One and pulled a spoon out.

“Today, it will storm. It is the perfect day for a story,” she said. “We have to make the plot first.” She pointed to the jars they had assembled.

The Young One smiled. He could recite her instructions standing backward upside down, but the process would feel incomplete without her dialogue. He picked up the jars one by one and emptied their contents into the pot as she called them out. Some were wet and splashed when they hit the water; others were dry and slipped to the bottom like sand. The ingredients burbled around in the water, emitting a fragrance like childhood with slight notes of nostalgia.

The Old One put an arm around the Young One, and together they watched the plot come together. It had a rich brown color with spots of bright orange and green. The hearth glowed warmly and heated the stones to a comfortable warmth. The two sat down together and waited for the plot to meld completely.

“While we wait, we should try to guess what the plot will be,” the Old One suggested. The Young One smiled. This was the Old One’s suggestion every time. He suggested something dark and sad or something scary, like always. The Old One shook her head knowingly. She said they would just have to wait.

The boiling sound caused them both to stand. The Young One waited for the Old One to say, “Go grab the characters. They’re on the second shelf,” before going and grabbing them.

“We can’t use these. They look a little underripe,” he said, tilting the jar disappointedly. This was a first. These characters were broken and lonely. They had no understanding of who they were, and the Young One knew how crucial specific details were to a story. If the characters were wrong, the story would be bad.

The Old One took the jar. She tilted it around, examining the characters. “No,” she said after a pause. “No. I think they’ll do just fine. Just give them a good stir. They’ll turn out. Just watch.”

The Young One dumped the characters into the pot. Four orbs fell out: blue, black, pink, and yellow. They floated near each other in a pathetically sad manner. The Young One waited for a few seconds and then stirred the pot.

“Careful now! Don’t jostle them!” the Old One said. She hurried over and held out her hand. The Young One handed her the spoon. The Old One stirred the pot gently. “There. Like this. Now, wait.”

The Young One stood back and waited. He saw no change in the sad floating spots of color. He wondered what they should do. The Old One kept her gaze intently on the spots. Then, they started moving. They bumped into each other and began to blend. Soon the whole pot was swirling with color.

The two came close to the pot. The plot continued swirling around, and the characters bobbed among the waves. They moved like they were stirred by an invisible hand. The story had begun.

“I don’t understand how the story started!” the Young One said. “The characters were damaged.”

The Old One hushed him. “Watch, and you’ll see.”

The first character swirled around, black and hazy. The blue character zipped around, pinging off of the yellow and pink characters like a comet. “What’s going on?” the Young One asked.

“Shh. Just watch,” the Old One said in a cracked whisper. Her eyes never left the pot.

The four collided, and a new wave of color exploded around the pot.

The faces of the two observers were illuminated with the brightness. The cave was filled with a new smell. It was similar to childhood but had notes of sadness.

“This is care,” the Old One said. The Young One had never seen her look like this before. She looked close to tears. Her face was shining, and she was so close to the pot the Young One feared she might burn herself.

The pot dispelled color again, and the smell of care was layered with a new smell. The Young One recognized this smell as trust. He sat back on the rug and watched the Old One. She hovered around the pot and stirred it cautiously. A new flash of color and a new smell. The Old One stepped away from the pot. She lowered herself slowly to the floor.

“What’s happening?” the Young One asked.

“Just wait. We have to wait,” the Old One said. Her voice was a whisper, and her eyes were fuzzy.

So, they sat on the floor and waited. Outside, thunder rumbled, and it began to drizzle. The smell of the story and the warmth of the fire provided a level of comfort that always came with rain. The Young One loved the rain. The Old One rested her head against his shoulder.

The pot started to smoke. They jumped up. The Old One’s face was twisted. She stirred the pot. It continued to smoke. The colors were covered by the thick, black clouds. The smells that had warmed their hearts were replaced with fear and doubt.

The Old One stirred and stirred. The Young One watched, his heart sinking. He knew the characters were underdeveloped. They brought loneliness and doubt and helplessness. They needed time to figure out who they were before they could be used.

The Old One let out a cry. The smoke was clearing. They waved their arms to clear the cave. In the pot was a story. The Old One clapped her hands as it bubbled merrily. “Don’t you see?” she cried. “Don’t you see? Haven!”

The Young One shook his head and came closer. He peered into the pot. The characters floated gently next to each other. There were still elements of fear and doubt, but the overwhelming smell of support and love flooded the small cave.

“They found haven,” the Old One said.

Outside, the rain fell thick and hard. Thunder boomed. The sky was black, but inside the cave was safe and warm. A haven from the weather.