The Missing Message
by Faiza Lhbabi, winner of the #MedStoryPrize 500-word category
In a beautiful forest, not far from a big overpopulated city, various animals live together in peace and harmony. Although the noise of the nearby city and its flashing night lights were disturbing the well-being of the animals living in the forest, the animals did not care as long as they felt a sense of security in their habitat, at least they believed they were far from any harm that might directly affect them from the city.
Suddenly, the water level began to decrease dramatically from the river until it was completely dry. Animals were seriously worried to die of thirst. Trees and plants lost their lively green colour because of water shortage. The ground cracked and became pale from drought and the burning heat of the sun. The dogs lied in the shade with their tongues stretched out in hope to catch a drop of water from the air. Frogs didn’t find even a drop of water to protect their cracking skin from the scorching sun.
Early in the morning, all the animals gathered to see if they could find a solution or leave the forest in search of water and grass.
From the middle of the crowd, a small bird flapped its wings and landed on a dry branch of a dying tree. It said, in a faint voice, barely heard, “Where is the water? We are going to die of thirst.”
Amid the whispers of the animals and their apathetic whining, a dog came out of his place, addressing everyone, “My friends, I see that we better leave quickly this forest and look for another place with abundant water. What are we waiting for? Do you want all of us to die thirsty here?
“How do you know we would easily find water before we die of thirst on our quest?” The rabbit replied. “Excuse me my dear friends! I prefer to die thirsty in my land and be buried here than to die in a foreign land. That is why I think that we should do our best to find a solution to our problem instead of escaping from our land,” it said.
While the animals were looking at each other in despair, confusion and puzzlement, the little bird again flapped its wing in cheerfulness, and said, “Look! Look! My friends, a skein is coming towards us.”
After a while, the geese landed one by one on the tree in harmony and swiftness that amazed all the animals. An old goose asked the animals, “What is your problem?
The rabbit replied, “didn’t you see the problem we are facing?”
“The rain has stopped, and the valley has dried up and all of us will die of thirst if we do not find a solution,” it added.
“Do not you know that humans built a large dam to generate energy and turned part of the valley into the nearby mine?” Said the goose, in a tone filled with sorrow.
The animals were astonished, and silence prevailed the air before the monkey jumped furiously and said “The human axes are cutting down our trees, and the number of our species has decreased because of the rifles of the man. We and the forest are walking fast toward extermination. What does this man want?”
The bird said, “The air has been polluted by the smoke and harmful gases emitted from human factories and the excessive use of their cars and trucks.”
“Yes, I can assure you, we are migratory birds and we have seen throughout our journey what could bode disaster because of human action,” the goose said.
“Our seas and rivers are increasingly being polluted because of the oils coming from ships and boats in addition to the waste of factories, laboratories and sewage. This is an alarming danger threatening us and humans as well,” the goose added.
The rabbit said, “Yes, humans also are in danger. Believe me, my friends, if human knew the importance of a clean environment and the problems that threaten our world, they would stop it, and protect it then we all will lead a better life.”
The bird replied, “So, since the man is behind these problems, he is the one who must resolve them.”
The monkey responded angrily, “How would you believe that the man, who is destroying us, will become our supporter?”
The rabbit added, “I am sure that the man will save us and find a solution if they know about our problems, and soon you will correct this wrong idea that you have formed about the man.”
When the animals realized that they had no solution but to communicate with the man, they decided to send a message to them in which they will help them understand and feel the danger of the drought, pollution and degradation of their species and their environment. They will request to protect their environment; otherwise, both will perish.
The bird flapped its wings joyfully and said, “I will be responsible for delivering the message to the human beings.”
The owl took the pen and paper and as soon as it started writing the first line, the sky turned grey, the clouds covered the sun, the lightening lit up the sky again with loud noise of the thunder, and rain fell heavily, and water started cooling down the dry river. The animals rejoiced and shouted, “water! Water!” with excitement. They drank, played in water and dispersed quietly leaving the owl alone waiting desperately for an idea or phrase to be added to the message.
Comments from our national judge in Morocco, Brahim El Boukhari:
What makes this story powerful is the ending, which relates to the title of the story. It confirms what goes on in our real lives: there is a missing link between human beings and nature. It is a wake-up call to all of us to stand up for nature.”