The Harvester was surprised to find it was now the host of two warring Needs. Long it had only ever served the one. Find food for itself and for the kin. Here, helpless and bound, was food. Meat for the drinking. Its imperative clear. Take food back to the others. Take food for itself, for its own survival. The wind was rising. It was some time since it had drank the youngling and sipped from the meat animal. Scanty meals at best. Water was good but water did not feed the craving entirely. It must feed.
But growing alongside the hunger and thirst were a new hunger, a new thirst: a thirst for answers. A thirst for more sparks in its memory. More flames in its mind. Flames and sparks which only came from the words this meat animal made. In order for it to keep making the noises which sparked the words which lit the ideas in the Harvester’s mind, the firestarter animal had to live. Which meant the Harvester must not harvest.
Unmet need meant pain. And now there were two pains growing. Neither need was being satisfied.
The meat animal was getting answers to the meat animal’s questions but the Harvester had no way of asking its own. The communication was entirely one sided. The Harvester’s attempts to cast had met no response. The meat animal must not be able to cast as the kin did. Its attempts to communicate through dance had more impact but were frequently misinterpreted. It quaked in the frustration dance.
“Are you alright?” the meat animal bleated. The Harvester stopped, searched its mind for sparks, a task increasingly difficult over the rising roar of the Need to feed. Nothing. No spark of any kind. Anger dance! Frustration! Confusion! The smell of the meat animal, its living heat wafted over it, making the Need roar louder and with more purpose. The tooth slid from its sheathe almost on its own.
No! The Harvester bounded as far from the meat animal as it could in the tiny cave. It crawled high into a crevice and wedged itself in the cool darkness. No. It must not feed. It must keep the firestarter animal alive. But if it did not feed, the Harvester would die. So it must feed. The meat animal must die. But if the meat animal died, the sparks would die. In seasons of seasons the Harvester had never felt the warm flame of just a few words from the firestarter animal. Even the word ‘word’ had come back because of the firestarter animal!
So what! Words brought a new unmet Need! Unmet Need brought pain. In seasons of seasons the Harvester had never been this confused, never doubted its purpose, never not known its place or its mission. It was a Harvester. It gathered food for the kin. What was a Harvester if it refused to harvest?
A soon to be dead Harvester is what it was.
It rose and went to the meat animal. The tooth extending. There was no fear response from the animal. It was unaware. The meat had fallen asleep. No fear. Death came and the animal had no fear.
No fear. A spark, not from the noises of the animal now but from the fire already burning in the Harvester’s mind. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” the meat animal had said at the well, “But whoever drinks of this water which I will give to him will never be thirsty for eternity, but the water which I will give to him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The tooth retracted. The roaring Need dulled down to a hissing, quieted not by drinking from the animal but by … something else. The Harvester who chose not to harvest untied the firestarter animal. The animal awoke.
“Aaaah! Oh Yah, thank you, never have I been so glad to hurt so! It’s like water in my veins so cold it burns! Sweet relief! But friend…Why?” The Harvester who chose not to harvest listened to the sounds. The animal wanted a reason for being released. The Harvester who chose not to harvest gave no answer. It had no way to communicate the new spark, the remembered word which not only lit fires but quenched them.