No Name For Fear.
It dreamed, and as usual, its dreams were about food. In its slumbering thoughts a thousand meatthings milled about its feet. It caught them and it ate them and they were so, so good. Every time it awoke it would find that the meat-things would be different. There were always new things to taste. It liked that.
The magma shifted around it as it stirred. Hunger pawed at its insides. Now was the time. It stretched, and the magma around it roiled and boiled, and with its claws it dug itself toward the light. There it raised its head and bellowed forth a thundering yawn. It stretched -- legs, claws, tail, jaws, muscles that had slept unmoving for eons becoming limber and ready. It greeted the fresh air happily. Hunger cried out urgently within its empty belly and it turned its gaze downward.
This was not like it had dreamed, not at all. Before, there had always been tender, fist-sized meatthings ready to be caught. Now there was none to be found, not as far away as it could see, only tiny punythings that swarmed all over. Always things had been green. Now there was nothing green, only piles of angled rocks, storm-colored and pocked with holes through which the punythings wiggled.
Always there had been food. What had happened to its dreams?
Something felt unpleasant in its belly. It was like the wiggling of food but it knew that its belly was empty, and it did not like the feeling. It had never known a word for worry nor a name for fear; it knew only that for the first time there would be no food, even though the hunger within it was roaring loudly now.
Warbling unhappily, it began to pull apart the rock piles. It thrust its muzzle within, hoping perhaps that the meatthings that had danced and scampered in its dreams were hiding inside, but there was nothing, nothing but more rock and more punythings. It dug through one after another, finding only the same again and again. The kicking that was not kicking was growing ever more powerful, pushing aside thoughts of hunger.
The punythings were all over. Everywhere that it walked it walked on them, turning them into mud beneath its feet. It hardly noticed.
At last, after yet another rockpile proved to be hiding no delicious meatthings, it sat down helplessly while the hunger and the empty kicking tormented its thoughts. For the first time in its long, long existence it was going to have to go to sleep without food. It groaned mournfully, so reluctant to accept that fate, but decided at last that there was nothing else it could do. Perhaps it had awakened too early. Perhaps it simply needed to sleep a little longer and there would be much to eat.
But what now? It noticed something new. The punythings were sparkling around it, each one a little star that winked and glittered. It had never seen such a thing, not even in its long, long dreams. It leaned down and looked very close. Something that was like rain but which was not rain pattered on its face. Curious, it reached down to pluck one of the punythings from the earth, and there was a little pop between its claws. That surprised it. It rubbed its great digits softly together and watched the punything turn wet and red. It sniffed, looked closer, sniffed again, then reached to pick up another. A gentle squeeze, another pop; cautiously it dabbed its tongue against the wetness.
It liked the taste.
The punythings stopped their flashing and began to creep away, crawling over and between the toppled rockpiles. It caught them eagerly, crammed them into its mouth and crunched them up. The kicking of the ones who still lived was much more pleasant than whatever had been kicking in its empty stomach. Happy now, it stood and gave voice to its delight.
The punythings tried to go into the rock piles that were still standing. It dug them out. They streamed away from it. It followed them, bending, scooping, gulping, over and over, again and again. It soon discovered that they were their most satisfying when it squeezed the juice from them with a press of its tongue against its teeth, then swallowed the twitching husk.
For a time they were numerous and it ate well, but then there were fewer and fewer still. It could not find them as easily, and it began to feel that unpleasant twitch that was more than the flopping of those still alive inside of it. Standing tall it peered into the distance, and right away the bad twitching stopped. There would be no need for a word for worry, nor for a name for fear, for far away it could see many more rockpiles, and it knew now that there would be enough food to satisfy it. It would wander at its leisure. It would eat them all and then it would return to its bed within the magma, where once again it would sleep and would dream of waking again to its next meal.