A Short Story: The Evil Rooster

Hello, Nature-Led Friends!

I wrote this short story awhile back and submitted to the King County Library: Terrifying Tales Contest https://kcls.org/terrifyingtales/

While I didn’t win, I’m grateful for the opportunity to dust something off and give it a go. It’s hard for me to submit my stories. They’re never quite perfect in the mind of the writer. I happen to know the woman that won this year’s contest. I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic, but it makes me very happy to know she’s out their writing her own stories! You can read her story and all the other winners and honorable mentions for free at the link above.

Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

The Evil Rooster

By Melanie Reynolds

Somewhere in Colombia…

A man walked into the mountain village cantina very content with himself. He sat down and ordered a drink while watching everyone else around him. Raúl was not a good person. When he saw the happy man at the end of the bar, he believed there must be something worth stealing from him. Raúl offered the happy stranger another drink and then another. The happy stranger was grateful but reluctant.

“If I have another drink, I will not be able to stand!” the stranger said laughing.

“Don’t worry about it.” Raúl said. “Tell me your secret of why you’re so happy and I’ll pay for your bed here tonight.”

“Oh, you are too kind, my friend!” the happy stranger said. “I have no secrets, only the joy of telling stories, but you know, on the path to this village I did see the most beautiful rooster!”

“It was proud and handsome, as a rooster should be. You know, this area is famous for its chicken and eggs.” The man continued. “Even though the sun was fading, the feathers shimmered with an iridescent glow of red, green, and gold. Beautiful! Just beautiful!”

“Wow!” Raúl exclaimed. “Such a healthy bird would make a nice meal or fetch a good price. What did you do with the rooster?” Raúl asked.

“I didn’t do anything with it.” The stranger said raising his hands up in the air. “I simply admired it on the side of the path then came here.”

“It’s still out there?” Raúl asked. “I must go at once and see this beautiful bird for myself!”

Raúl paid for the stranger’s room upstairs and set off to find the rooster.

The moon was bright and Raúl could clearly see the path along the steep ravine by it’s light. On the other side of the path was a thick forest. Raúl went only a little further when the rooster stepped out from behind a giant fern.

It pecked at the pebbles in the path occasionally eyeing Raúl. Raúl slowed down and crouched a bit with a potato sack in one hand.

“Oh my, you are a beautiful bird, aren’t you?” Raúl said to the rooster.

The rooster clucked a bit as if in agreement. The rooster was just as the happy stranger had said with brilliant iridescent feathers that glowed red, green, and gold.

Raúl held the potato sack open with both hands now, but because he was so close, the rooster started to strut away. Raúl decide to leap for the bird to make up the distance, but the rooster evaded him with a short flight farther up the path then cocked its head and eyed Raúl again, this time with a disapproving gleam in its eye that made Raúl angry.

“You think you’re so smart?” Raúl asked the rooster his eyes becoming dangerously greedy. He repositioned the bag and continued to close the distance between them.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” the Rooster said.

Raúl’s straightened up and his eyes got bigger. “Wow!” he said. “A talking rooster! This will surely be worth more than anything I could ever dream of!”

Raúl pounced at the rooster again, but this time it took off into the thick underbrush of the forest. Raúl chased after it, following flashes of iridescent feathers, always shimmering just out of his reach.

Raúl took one last big leap in an effort to catch the rooster and found himself with no ground beneath him. He fell to the rocks at the bottom of the ravine.

The next morning the rooster crowed his morning song. Some men from the village came to collect Raúl’s body from the rocks that were stained with centuries of blood. They carted the body back to the village and put it in a meat grinder to make chicken feed for the plump beautiful hens.

The happy stranger had a lovely breakfast of arepas with eggs and went on his way.


This is an original story inspired by an old Colombian folklore about an “evil chicken”. If the evil chicken is met on a path or road and does a shrill clucking that sounds both chicken and human, then the person should be warned of misfortune or death if they don’t say a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel and/or turn back from the path. I would like to acknowledge gratitude to my friend Patricia Lezama for sharing her culture with me through our shared love of stories and assistance in translation during research as needed. Thank you, my friend! May I never lead you down a path of ruin.

Reminder: Don’t forget to email me your Mushroom/Fungus pictures due on November 30th! (See previous post for details)

Science Fiction to Science Reality: The Post Apocalypse Edition

Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

Last year I read a lot of newly published books on Climate Change and Psychology. This takes patience on many levels, not least of all due to the fact that I have mild dyslexia. While I may not read as fast as most people, in some ways it feels like a secret superpower because I retain the majority of what I read and can expand upon it endlessly.

By the time this past holiday season rolled I was burnt out on real life doom and gloom and petty manipulations. I needed a return to a familiar space, Science Fiction, but more specifically, Octavia Butler’s familiar writing. I consider Octavia Butler “light reading” much to the amusement of my spouse. Her writing style is crisp and clean. She has the ability to say a lot in so few words and I feel her presence in her words. I get her. I get where she is coming from. I discovered her writing much too late though. If I had found her sooner, I could have potentially met her in person, she only lived 20 minutes away from where I live now.

She’s one of the few dead people allowed to life rent free in my brain. She sits at the kitchen table writing and thinking while William Morris paces back and forth on an ornate blue and cream rug practicing his speeches in the adjoining living room. High up in the corner of a bookcase Ryunosuke Akutagawa curls up like a cat watching everything below and taking notes. My brain is a proper Craftsman-style house. Writers, artists, thinkers, historians, and long-dead family and friends pass through for a visit now and then. Occasionally, the random stranger wanders through too.  Only Ryunosuke is amused.

It’s always a party when Kurt Vonnegut shows up. Pat Frank and George R. Stewart prefer coffee on the veranda, but I’m getting carried away.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Where were we?

Oh yes, what can we learn from fiction and in particular Science Fiction. Well, who isn’t familiar with Gene Roddenberry? George Lucas? Or Stephen Spielberg? Can you seriously say their scripts, movies and show have had no influence on the art of science? That they do not act as muses for scientists and engineers? Many of us are still waiting for hyperdrives and holodecks! Do you want to make a Computer Engineer swoon? Discuss The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein or the short stories of Isaac Asimov.

When considering the offerings of Robert Heinlein one has to chew through the sexism. I’m not going to excuse it on the faulty argument that he was “a man of his era.” He wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in 1966 and there were plenty of men “of his era” that were not so blatantly sexist. Still, putting that aside we have a framework offered to us on how to build a resistance movement with minimal causalities and disruptions. By working in “cells” what is similar to creating “partitions” in a computer to keep data corruption and bugs from causing a full-scale shutdown. Redundancy in technical writing is bad, but redundancy in organized systems is good. What else works with cells, bugs and partitions? Trees! Let’s say a branch gets broken and damaged in a windstorm. If the tree cannot adequately thicken the cells in that area to help heal it over, it effectively self-amputates or “partitions” the branch from the rest of the body to prevent the spread of infection by cutting off supplies to the affected area. By reserving its strength, the tree lives another season and regrows the start of a new branch the next Spring.

I once read an article in an Architectural e-zine where an Architect proposed that perhaps the best way to “save” a building in a major earthquake might be by designing rooms(cells) of it to fail. (Presumably, this would help dissipate the force of energy produced by the earthquake upon the total surface area of the structure.) I appreciate the “out of the box” thinking, but how big is this man’s house? How many people have “spare rooms” to let collapse in the event of a major earthquake? I think if you have a bunch of unused rooms in your house it’s too big, and you should consider downsizing.

Octavia Butler imagined our current climate crisis in a book published in 1998 called Parable of the Sower and the sequel Parable of the Talents. Her story takes place in the early 2020’s and fortunately our here-and-now is not as terrifying as the one she wrote about, but some of the themes are eerily similar. We’re all aware of how politics impact our lives. What I focus on though is how individuals and communities shape the impact they have on the world around them. We have within the psyche of the American mind this image of “Rugged Individualism.” It’s represented in the notion “survivalist man” who can do everything and brave all challenges alone. I used to work very hard towards the idealism of the survivalist (wo)man but reading Science Fiction helped me understand that no person can be an island unto themselves for very long. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much of an introvert or anti-social being you thought you were. By the end of any lengthy stay alone in the mountains or in your head you’ll find yourself ready to make friends with anything not trying to eat you.

Science Fiction at its root is a cautionary tale of the successes and failures of individuals and groups. A forest and it’s trees. Sometimes the people are represented as alien races or other types of lifeforms, but it is in our human nature to find commonalities in order to relate to things no matter how alien it may appear on the surface. Octavia Butler worked hard to push this boundary to see where our tolerances might lie. Read her short stories Blood Child, Amnesty or the book Lilith’s Brood (Xenogenesis 1-3). Whenever I think my writing or ideas are getting “too weird” Octavia Butler challenges me to make it weirder.

Pat Frank wrote Alas, Babylon in 1959 and gave us an alternative history novel before all the cool kids started doing it. He showed us what living in Florida might have been like had the cold war been a hot one. Like Octavia Butler his writing is crisp and clean. A lot said in so few words. The imagery from some of the scenes in this book still put a smile on my face. I love this book so much that in the twenty years I have been with my spouse only once have I ever threatened him with a tomato, no sorry, ultimatum. “Read this book or divorce me.” He read the book in an afternoon. I made brownies and coffee. Crisis averted.

Finally, let’s close this post with an honorable mention, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart published in 1949. Yes, I know all the books and authors I’m mentioning here are old and dead, but that’s part of the beauty of it. To survive the future, you have to understand the past! A serious disruption in our ability to maintain our resources can put us back by ages. Fictional stories give our minds a playground to explore different theories and ideas of how to solve problems. Some of those solutions are found by going back to the basics and other solutions require us to unhinge our brains like a snake’s jaw and consume ideas we once thought too big to swallow.

There’s a scene in Earth Abides that made me laugh out loud and that is a very rare feat for any book! (I also dare you to make me cry too, while reading David Brin’s The Postman I was mad that I wasn’t more upset about a particular death.) What’s interesting about Earth Abides though is that there is an interracial relationship and a character with Down’s syndrome. It’s the only fictional novel where I can distinctly remember a character with a developmental disability and again, this book was published in 1949!

Whether it’s a Science Fiction, Romance or any other genre the one thing I can’t abide is when an author takes over two pages to describe a computer console or a room. I’m looking at you George RR Martin.

Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels.com


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-a-virus-exposed-the-myth-of-rugged-individualism/ (March 2022 Issue)

A24 Is Adapting Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower | Tor.com (July 26, 2021)

Legend of Wendigo: Indigenous Wisdom for the Modern Day

Photo by u0412u0430u0434u0438u043c u041cu0430u0440u043au0438u043d on Pexels.com

Wendigo (English translation of Ojibwe word wiindigoo) Cree language: wihtikow or wetiko. There are 21 other spellings of the name. The term is from the Proto-Algonquian family of languages. These First Nation tribes that carry the story of Wendigo inhabit the cold North American territories of Eastern Canada, the Plains region of the United States and the Great Lakes region of both the United States and Canada.

The story of Wendigo is often told during times of famine and starvation. It is a reminder that cannibalism, in particular, is wrong and evil in the eyes of the people. Historically, many indigenous tribes name themselves in their own language as “the people” to define themselves as different from the buffalo, bear, or other animals. Through generations of retelling, stories remain relevant when they are able to convey the social mores (aka values) of a people when dealing with adversity. While cannibalism has ceased to be a pressing concern for modern people, these stories are given new life in the hands of respected storytellers. The story of Wendigo now expresses a shared concern for a new metamorphosis of cannibalism in the form of greed, filth, and malevolence itself.

Original Story elements:

Wendigo is an anthropomorphic giant that uses treetops as snowshoes and eats humans. At other times Wendigo are humans inhabited by the Wendigo spirit and partake in cannibalism. Both the anthropomorphic giant and the human Wendigo share characteristic traits of being emaciated, skin and bones, their fate is to always crave more flesh and never be sated. They can grow in size by how much they have eaten but never fill full.

This last part is important as we consider the allegory of Wendigo, to have so much and never be satisfied, never be content or feel full. Now in modern North America where so few of us are like to die of starvation the parable takes on a new meaning when we think about greed. I think about Wendigo often. As a modern storyteller, I view the story of Wendigo a gift and a warning from the Proto-Algonquian speaking tribes. What more could we have learned if Colonialism and Manifest Destiny had not prompted my White ancestors to massacre, oppress, and enslave “the people” of so many tribes. Some North American tribes are extinct. We will never know their language or their stories.

Personally, I see Wendigo as a disease of greed that spreads through developed nations. We let people die for profit. We turn a blind eye, we redline or bar them from certain public spaces in society. It is not profitable to simply be a good person. The Millionaires and Billionaires of our nations became what they are at the expense of other people and once shared natural resources. When they finally have earned so much money as to become social elites, then they chose to donate back some of their wealth, and we’re all supposed to be grateful.

I distinctly remember sitting in a mall food court looking at the classified ads and being alarmed that there were several job postings for sociologists and psychologists to join advertising and marketing agencies. The idea of it made me sick to my stomach. I felt like any sociologist or psychologist that accepts such a position is committing an act of betrayal. Shouldn’t those of us that study the operations of society and the mind itself be required to take the Hippocratic Oath to, “do no harm?” Human psychology has become weaponized for the sake of selling products and services. Welcome to the world of Neuromarketing.

The language of advertising has changed over the years from “You should buy this product because it has x, y , z features.” to “You deserve to have this fine product because you work hard and your money and time is important.”

We also like a good deal. We like to feel like we’re savvy shoppers that know how to get a good bargain. It’s common in American supermarkets to see yellow tags calling out these bargains. The tag might read something like “2/$6.00” or “Buy 2 get 1 Free”. Because of the rise in current inflation one of the stores I shop at now regularly offers bargains of “Buy 4, Get 1 free”. I feed a family of three. I really don’t need five boxes of macaroni and cheese! Unless I’m rotating my disaster preparedness food supplies, I rarely need five of anything.

These “bargains” stay around month after month. If you find yourself increasing your portion sizes and buying more you aren’t really saving money. This also increase pressure on the food system and the workers involved in making the product to produce more. We find ourselves stuck in a cycle; our food portion sizes become bigger, our waistlines become bigger and eventually we become depressed and sometimes, we eat more because we are depressed and then we start running into health problems related to obesity and then we become customers for diet aids, diet apps, ubiquitous “healthy food” alternatives, books, podcasts and whatever else because our frustration grows and now we’re hungry for solutions, for acceptance, and validation and the advertisers answer are calls.

Photo by Zeeshaan Shabbir on Pexels.com

I’ve been trapped in this cycle myself for decades. I have clothes in three sizes for when I’ve lost some weight, for when I’ve gained some weight, but mostly I stay somewhere in the middle of the two. I save a lot of money by the mere fact that I hate to shop for anything, but also because I remember when I was poor. I grew up during a recession, we didn’t have a lot of food, but we were able to hunt and fish for our meals. Later as a young adult in the city and on my own I often had to skip meals to pay rent. I was stuck in low wage jobs, sometimes working two or three jobs in an effort to get enough money to save some of it. It took me nine years, but I got a bachelor’s degrees with only $10k in student loans. At my most desperate I was eating one small meal a day, every other day.

 No one talks about hunger in America as an individual. It’s something to be ashamed of and you’re not supposed to admit that you’ve been there. It’s something that happens to other people. It’s often only talked about in broad terms. I’m not embarrassed though. I’ve got nothing to lose in admitting that I have been there. One time I was so hungry I went to McDonald’s hoping to take three ketchup packets to eat for the day. I just wanted a few calories. I just needed to get through one more day before I could get my paycheck. There were no ketchup packets for me to take though, because I was in a McDonald’s in a poor part of town where there were a lot of homeless people, and they didn’t want the homeless people taking all the ketchup packets. I cried walking home, salt tears I could barely afford to give. There was nothing else to do but curl up on my mattress on the floor and wait for the next day.

I carry the trauma of never wanting to be so desperately poor again. Some people in America who have never been are aware that it could happen to them and the thought alone terrifies them into certain behavior patterns. Both the fear of not knowing and the fear of going back can be harmful in their own ways. So we eat and eat. We wear fat on our bodies and never feel full. We are diseased like humans with the Wendigo spirit, starving for something to make us feel full and yet we continue to feel empty.

We search for fullness in food and we search for fullness in “stuff” like home furnishings, books, clothes or whatever. We let ourselves be convinced that we need to be upgraded to the latest and greatest phone, car or tv, because gosh darn it, we deserve it. The answer is not in “stuff”, its within us, within our connections to other people and an appreciation for the grand scale of nature itself.

Let me sell you hope for the low, low cost of free.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

We can take a walk within nature and not be judged. The bees don’t care about skin color. The trees don’t care about the way you walk, and the birds don’t care if you have a speech impairment. None of them know the difference between an attractive human and an ugly human. Be not judged by superficial artifacts, but by spirit. Be kind to yourself and to others, not because it sounds like a nice Hippie bumper sticker, but because if you deserve anything, it’s to be accepted for who you are and not for the profits you can bring to a company or its advertisers. Wendigo. When is enough ever enough?

Many cultures and religions have stories about the dangers of greed. What other stories come to mind on the topic of Greed?