This story is by Rupi Jay Gill and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When Buffaloes ruled the world, they took up almost all the space. Along the seashore, in a colony of marsh birds, lived Pip. Here, flying was forbidden. Because everyone thought their wings would melt. As a result, Birds were afraid of heights. Pip spent his days shoveling wet sand with his spindly, scrawny legs into spectacular sculptures along the beach, with his best friend Tooit.
Revered king of the Buffaloes, Buffooloh, encouraged Buffaloes to proliferate and to eat and drink as much as possible. The largest Buffaloes, who needed more space, food, and water were given the best fields to protect. As a result, King Buffooloh came to own all the visible land.
Buffaloes ate the lush meadows until they were deserts and drank all the water, leaving muddy pools in their wake. They grew horns that were so large, they pierced the Sky. Through the torn Sky, beams of hot light burnt the earth. So much, so that creatures had to duck and dive during daylight hours to avoid these beams.
Birds nested between rocks. The Sea became so hot, Fish dove deeper into the receding Ocean. Hyena Queen Seher, who knew the secret of repairing the Sky, couldn’t get her packs – who only came out in the cool of night – to reach the Sky.
And thus, the animals were separated, unable to meet and greet or trust one another.
One day, Pip and Tooit were roaming the seashore for wet sand to sculpt and came across a Fish that couldn’t get back into the Sea.
“Fly me to the Ocean!” It flapped.
“I can’t.” Said Pip.
“Then I must die.” And the Fish did.
Pip & Tooit began to bury it, until Queen Seher came along, looking for an easy kill, and ate the Fish.
“You’re repulsive!” Cried Pip and Tooit together.
“And you’re twits!” Screeched Seher.
Pip and Tooit yelped in fear and ran as fast their spindly, scrawny legs could manage, all the way back home.
Now, Buffaloes had grown to be massive. They moved slower, cracked the earth underneath their weight and tore the delicate blue of the Sky, with their tall horns. Until the Sky, was almost completely, a blinding white light.
Then the Buffaloes got stuck. Entangled with their horns wherever they stood. They simply couldn’t move. Unable to search properly for food, water, or seek shelter. Shuffling slowly, against each other, they butted and bruised each other, whilst getting sunburnt. Buffooloh called on his strongest Buffaloes to find a way out. But all the Buffaloes could do, was lament loudly all day and night, and now no one could escape their noise either.
Swarms of Flies lay their eggs, in the sores on the Buffaloes’ backs. So even these tiny insects burgeoned in number. As the Flies passed from one unfortunate beast to the next, they carried with them a terrible disease; that made even the strongest bulls, collapse to their knees. King Buffooloh melted into the sand, along with the largest of his herds.
If only that would have saved the Sky, except that it had begun to fall. And, only the Hyenas, keepers of the Sky, had noticed.
Pip lay in the cool sand of the morning, which was rapidly heating up and drying. When the shadow of Baby Buffalo, who had managed to crawl away and get lost, spoke to him.
“Do you know where I can find my mother?” She asked.
Pip looked up and, feeling the relief of the Buffalo’s shadow, thought he would make the Buffalo stay a little longer.
So he began a lengthy tale. Even when he saw that the young Buffalo grew weary and had fallen asleep in the blistering sun, he kept tweeting. All his family and friends heard and came to enjoy Baby Buffalo’s great shadow. They shared tall tales and Pip’s friend Tooit said they should never wake the Buffalo.
But as the day wore on and the night approached, Pip became afraid for Baby Buffalo. She was already sunburnt. Raw patches of skin were falling off her back. And that would attract packs of Hyenas that roamed the outskirts of the herds at night. Hyenas picked off vulnerable animals at the edges, who could not hide nor defend themselves. This way, they had survived the great herds and their sharp horns. As the herds got smaller and smaller, the Hyenas became hungry.
So Pip tweeted he had discovered a new game.
“Let’s see who’s best at shoveling sand, shall we?”
“What’s new about that?” Asked Tooit, disappointed.
“How about we cover Baby Buffalo up?” Chirped Pip.
Tooit said he didn’t want to play, as that would help Baby Buffalo and Buffaloes were insufferable.
“Tooit! Tooit! don’t be a twit!” Pip trilled.
“Rather be a twit than a hypocrite!” Warbled Tooit.
But finally, without being completely sure of Baby Buffalo’s loyalty himself; Pip managed to get everyone else to believe that Baby Buffalo would provide endless shade for them.
It took the Birds most of the afternoon to cover Baby Buffalo up. The seaweed smell of wet sand masked Baby Buffalo’s scent. As night approached and Hyena whoops got closer, all that could be seen, was a large sand dune.
In the morning, Baby Buffalo’s skin had healed under its cover of cool sand. Mother Buffalo, who had disentangled herself with ferocious determination, found her baby safe and sound. She was so thankful to the Birds, that she offered to stay by the edges to keep them cool.
Pip felt they didn’t deserve her kindness and instead offered to cover her in sand as well.
“With your spindly, scrawny legs?” She laughed.
“First, we’ll get those pesky pests!” Pip tweeted his mates, and the flocks arrived to eat the parasites on Mother Buffalo’s skin. Then hundreds of spindly, scrawny legs went to work, shoveling wet sand with their feet onto her. In this way, Baby and Mother Buffalo survived.
Pip and Tooit became famous. Every day, more and more Buffaloes visited the Pipits’ Spa for Buffaloes.
One day Seher came to the Spa. “Why do you help the Buffaloes?” She asked.
“Because we can.” Said Pip, still upset with her. “What are you doing to help?”
“The Sky is falling and I’m right now trying to find a way to hold it up.” Said Seher.
“Well, we can’t help.” Said Tooit.
“The birds are twits, why not use your wings!” Seher screamed helplessly.
The next day, Mother Buffalo, Baby Buffalo and a bunch of their friends came looking for the Pipits’ Spa. They saw Pip lying down, his spindly, scrawny legs holding up a little bit of Sky.
“What are you doing?” They bellowed.
“The Sky is falling and I am holding it up.” Said Pip.
The buffaloes roared with laughter.
“Do you really think your spindly, scrawny legs can save the Sky from falling?”
“You have to do what you can.” Tweeted Pip.
Then Tooit joined him and all their mates and their families too. Until there were so many, they could hold up quite a portion of the Sky.
Imminently, Baby Buffalo lay down, all four feet up and held her bit of the Sky, which was a substantial amount. Then Mother Buffalo and their friends joined. And in this way, the whole of the Sky was being held up.
“Now what?” They all asked. And for the first time in Pip’s life, he had nothing to tweet.
Word got to the Hyenas, that the Buffaloes were on their backs. They came to see the spectacle, some hoping for a quick bite. Seher whooped at the packs to stop cackling and making a nuisance of themselves. She then asked the Birds to fly up and weave repairs into the Sky.
The Birds pretended not to hear her. At her second request, they said they were too busy – holding up the Sky. At this, the Hyenas began cackling again, running circles around the Birds and Buffaloes, pulling a tail here, a feather there.
Seher tried asking again and again, prodding the Birds, who now closed their eyes, pretending they were dead. Everyone was so thirsty and the Hyenas ravenous, that they eventually would be. But they stayed, legs up, holding the Sky, hoping for a miracle.
It was almost dusk – hunting time for Hyenas, when Seher finally shrieked.
“You’ll be stuck upside down forever!” But that wasn’t true.
Because Pip decided to trust Seher.
“Tooit Tooit only we can do it!” He tweeted constantly.
Eventually, mustering up all the courage of almost dead birds, Pip and Tooit flew up to the Sky, trembling in the wind, trying not to look down. Under Seher’s instructions, they started weaving the repairs. Hyenas took their places as more birds joined Pip and Tooit. Until, the Sky was no longer falling.
The Sky got stronger, and began to heal itself. It held the moisture of the earth, which condensed, and for the first time in Pip’s life, it rained.