Where the skorps went
“Yep, the skorps were gone, the whole lot of them.” Yorben pushed his chair back on its hind legs and put his feet up on a water barrel, crossed his boots and settled in to tell the tale.
“I spent the whole summer rounding up them critters. There were 23 in all, some real nice ones too. It would have been a pretty comfortable winter after the sale. I would have kept three or four back to train myself, break ‘em to the saddle. Some young ones were too small to leave their mothers yet. Old ones would have gone for a discount – only good for beaks and claws. But a tidy sum for the lot, all told. I could just about taste the margaritas in Mexico. Then it all turned to dust when I saw that empty corral.”
“What happened to ‘em, Yorben?” asked Tommy.
“And there’s the mystery, Tommy. There’s the mystery. You can imagine that’s exactly what I asked myself at that exact moment. What the hell happened to ‘em?” said Yorben shaking his head.
“Did you leave the gate open?”
“Now Tommy,” said Yorben looking up. “I’ve been a skorp tracker for 27 years. My daddy was a skorp tracker before me. My family has made our living from skorps out here one way or another for four generations. You don’t think I know a thing or two about keeping skorps?”
“Well?” said Tommy again.
“Of course the gate was open,” said Yorben. “A bright skorp can lift a latch easy as scratching a worm. The question is why would it want to do that?”
“I dunno,” said Tommy shrugging his shoulders. “To go back out on the range?”
“A skorp is a bird of habit. They like their comforts and they don’t like surprizes. Once they find a nice cozy corral and some poor fool to feed and water them, they settle in and defend it. They can get right nasty if anyone tries to evict them.
“Sounds like they weren’t too comfortable in your corral then,” said Tommy.
“No, they got a yearning. They got an urge to find out where they came from and why they’re here. You see Tommy, a skorp is descended from dinosaurs who once ruled this earth. It’s still in their blood. Sometimes on a quiet night they wonder what happened to their kind, and shed a little tear.”
“You think they went looking for dinosaurs?” said Tommy.
“Not dinosaurs exactly, just some kind of meaning. Maybe it was a lone skorp running by at night and stopped to chat. Maybe it was a migrating flock of birds chattering overhead. Somehow they got the idea the answer was over the horizon, and they just had to go see for themselves.”
“Couldn’t you track them?” asked Tommy.
“Of course I could track them. I tracked them across the high prairie, deep into the mountains, farther than a skorp has ever been known to go. Finally, from a high ridge I saw the ocean. Down a small valley I saw a column of smoke from a large bonfire. I could hear music on the breeze, and voices. It sounded like a large gathering.
“Is that where the skorps were?”
“I believe they found what they were looking for: the Festival of Omega.”