Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

Clah came into being during a writing exercise a while back, and I had a ton of fun writing about her. A few folks I know enjoyed Clah’s brief flash fiction introduction. They wanted to see more of her adventures. Who am I to argue? When I started writing 15 minutes a day, a new Clah story was one of the first things on my list.

Personally, I think it would be best to read Clah and the Ship before this new installment, but it isn’t necessary. Both stories stand alone.

Clah Versus the Volcano tries to keep the same dark whimsy feel as the original. Same content warning as last time: maybe read the story first before sharing it with smaller children.

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Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

by William Munn

Slow and rhythmic, the swaying midnight black tail lulled Clah as she slurped blood from the dead snake’s neck. At the edge of her vision, she could see the tail’s circular stripes encircling the viper’s body in a pale red that matched the lifeless reptilian head lying on the nearby loam. Reptiles were far from Clah’s favorite breakfast, not warm enough for her tastes, and yet one ate what one could catch and kill. Since the recent eruption of her island’s central mountain, and the feast of fleeing animals driven before it, she was having a harder time finding anything furry to eat. Creatures with some fuzz on them were her favorite, you see. Not because they tasted the best, but because it always amused her the way they tickled around the edges of her mouth while she ate.

Clah finished draining the remainder of the snake’s life, and she spat its neck out onto the floor of the forest with some distaste. It landed near the severed head, a sharp contrast to the mossy ground, in a loose pile of noodly limpness. Once, Clah had hidden behind a moss-grown mound as she watched similar viper strike. Its prey was a small fuzzy beast with cute little pink ears and large brown eyes. Those brown eyes stopped darting about as the snake’s venom took hold, paralyzing the fear in them. The struggle ended with the reptile opening its mouth wide and swallowing the creature whole. It was an unpleasant sight indeed, and one Clah never wished to see again. What kind of monster eats their meal whole? she thought.

Where do the bones go?

A shudder started in Clah’s shoulders and extended down to her toes. She bounded away from the deceased serpent to a nearby spot where rare sunlight gleamed through to the forest floor. The beams of shining light reprimanded the mist that still clung nervously to the bases of trees and undergrowth. Delicate and deadly, Clah curled up in a neat ball in the midst of those beams and fell quickly to sleep. Her dreams were soon filled with thoughts of sailors and other delicious morsels.

Visions so delightful weren’t meant to last, and soon Clah awakened to an uncouth and near-deafening rumble. A sound of this nature could mean only one thing, and as she came fully awake, she noticed the ground shaking. Clah uncurled from her comfortable position and looked up in the direction of the single blackened peak at the center of her homeland. Gigantic billows of smoke and ash rushed forth from the open maw at the mountain’s summit, and dully glowing rocks were arching through the sky away from the opening in a firestorm of sizzling death. Wave upon wave of glowing red fire rock poured out of the top of the mountain and down its side toward the forest below. Clah wondered somewhat idly what would make the land behave in this way. She watched in awe for a moment, until the molten wave of devastation crashed over and through the first row of trees and began coursing through the woods in a fiery wave. Another explosion rocked the island, and the ground quaked anew as one side of the mountain simply gave way. A full quarter of the mountain avalanched down to the now burning trees below, followed by another gush of glowing lava. The ground bucked so hard she could barely retain her footing.

It was at this point, Clah considered the fact she may be in real danger. If even the very earth would not maintain its shape in the face of such destruction, perhaps her home in the craggy cliff by the sea was at risk. She turned and leaped away toward the crag. There was one item in her home she must rescue which might also rescue her. She scrambled— jumping over fallen trees, mossy hillocks, and the rushing stream that ran through this part of the forest. The ground shook with another explosion, and Clah dared not look back for fear of risking her footing while dashing through the woods at top speed. A bird took flight from a tree in front of her, fleeing the same general direction as Clah. It was one of the white plumed flyers with a hooked beak. She had always wanted to taste one, but never could because they were too crafty to be caught. No time for such thought, she kept to her route as the flyer veered away, and Clah bounded to the edge of her cliff and scrabbled down it.

Clah stole one glance back at the burning catastrophe and noted that more than half the forest was now buried or in flames. She darted inside the cliff-face gap with the agility of one hyper-familiar with their surroundings. Touch was the only sense she needed, and it was well because the sky was darkening as the growing cloud of ash moved to cover the sun. The crag was in shadow on a sunny day, and now its interior was near complete darkness. Clah made her way to the back of her home and found the thing she was looking for. The small log raft onetime shipwrecked sailor had built at the edge of the forest on a beach near the mountain tree line was right where she left it.

Clah had been fascinated in the sailor’s progress as he worked to craft the vessel, and kindly waited to eat him until he finished his creation and was pushing it into the waves. She played on the boat in the surf of the beach that day, but only after enjoying her meal atop it, and giving the sailor an impromptu burial at sea by nudging him overboard. Being the curious creature she was, Clah wondered at how the raft could stay afloat with her riding its ridged back in the shallow waves of the incoming tide. Perhaps it was sinking, but very slowly, she thought. In the end, she had dragged the log construct to the crag, and now occasionally brought the raft out to play with it in the safer cove just north of her rocky one.

Today she pulled the vessel back to the cove quickly. Only as needed did she stop to hoist it over her head so not to damage it on the jagged lava rock jutting up from the black sand of her beach. She peered nervously at the mountain, and it shuddered and rumbled deeply again as if admonishing her, and another gout of fiery liquid rock flowed over its edge and sped across the already darkening layer beneath. Some already reached the edge of the forest at the north cliff of the cove. It was spilling over the brink and pushing out across the sand.

Clah rushed to the spot she intended to launch from, she pushed the raft into the surf and climbed atop it, paddling at the water with two legs to gain more distance. Moments later, ocean water hissed and steamed as lava pushed out into it, blackening on contact and releasing a stench like eggs left too long without a mother to tend them. As the tide took her out to sea, Clah watched her only home shrink in the distance and wondered where the ocean would guide her tiny craft.

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