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The One Who Stayed
Imagine a place where you can be engulfed by trees, swallowed by wild grasses, and surrounded by life. Imagine a wetland, filled with diverse species of plants and animals. This story is centered around a particular wetland, and how it has special meaning to its residents.
The wetland was a wonderful place. The water ran clear, the plants grew lush and abundant, and the trees stood tall. Most notable of all was the great willow that grew on the edge of the wetland. It was known as the heart of the wetland.
All his life the little duck had lived here. This was his home, and he could imagine no other.
Every day he saw new things that he had not noticed before; a sapling poking through the dirt, a fresh patch of pondweed, a school of tadpoles by the water’s edge. When he was searching for food with the other ducks, sometimes he would visit the muskrat den or watch the heron fish, or he would listen to the wren sing and glimpse the shimmering tail of a fish. Whatever he did, the little duck was happy.
Nothing seemed to be able to harm his wetland. But gradually the duck started to sense something was wrong.
The water started smelling different- bitter, rancid. When the duck dove, he could taste the foreign substance. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good for the underwater plants.
The grasses were no longer plentiful. Bellies weren’t always fed, and it became a struggle to find food.
The trees were struck with a strange disease. First they grew strange red marks, and then they disappeared. Everyday the marks seemed to multiply.
The little duck wasn’t the only one who observed his. All the creatures in the wetland knew their home wasn’t the same. Some left if they could, but others had young to take care of. The little duck stayed. This was his home, and as long as things didn’t get worse, he could manage.
But things did get worse, much worse.
Large, smelly, noisy things took over the land. They had an insatiable hunger and destroyed everything in their path. While the monsters ravaged the land, something else was drinking all the water. Day by day it drank until the wetland became a mere trickle.
The little duck was the last of his kind.
Even the heron that fished and the family of muskrats had gone, the wren’s nest lay abandoned and the fish were gone. Everything the little duck had cherished had been taken away, except for the great willow. It stood as tall and strong as ever, but it too bore the strange red mark. Weeping inside, the lonely duck slept next to it, knowing that the next day he would have to leave.
The little duck woke up to the rumbling of the ground. Heart racing, he flew away. He knew deep inside that the monsters were already at the willow, the willow that marked his wetland. The little duck stopped and turned to look at his home one last time. The heart of the wetland was gone. There was nothing left for the duck to stay. He flew to find a better place, where the water ran clear, the plants grew lush and abundant, and the trees stood tall, but he would never forget the wetland, the place he once called home.