Where All the Little Things Live

Chapter One: Severed Sky

Late in the evening, just before the sun retreated over the edge of the world, an enormous cumulonimbus cloud crept across the sky. Its pearl white puffs reflected all the warm hues of the fading sun.

A deep, mournful cry came from within that cloud, carried on a wailing wind, echoing out into the night.

The crickets stopped chirping, trees ceased their rustling, and all the grass of the valley bent to look up, searching for the source. But as the light faded, those songs of night gave way to whistling, whirring wind.

In the darkness no one noticed the cloud shift from its glimmering white to a cold blue. It tumbled and bubbled, crawled and clawed its way out into the night like a horde of vermin.

But the grass, flowers, and all the little creatures of the valley felt the icy chill whip past them.

And then the rain began to fall.

A storm was coming.
A bitter, dark storm like no one in the valley had ever seen.

Like every other morn’time, Naio the feather found it impossible to take her eyes off the clouds. She spent her days peering out through the tops of the grass, following the fluffy patches of white drifting across the sea of blue — watching and wondering.

She loved how they changed shape, and sometimes followed one by drifting through the grass on a breeze or folding herself up into a little O and rolling like a little wheel.

This morn’time, she awoke to a severed sky. One side still burned from the awakening sun while the other was a shroud of mottled, gray-blue stratus clouds, smothering out the light.

“What an unfortunate sky. And that wind…”

ting ting.

A flower next to Naio rang a reply with her tiny bells.

“What’s that, Lily? You don’t think it’s safe?”

ring a ling ling ling.

“Last night?” She looked around at the grass and they all had a concerned look on their faces. “That sounds dreadful.”

tink, tink, ting.

“Maybe things will get better.”

Francesca, a blade of grass, tapped Naio on the back.

They all watched Francesca sway to and fro as if whipped around by the wind.

“Are you sure?” She said to Francesca. “It… it will all be fine. I better just stay here.”

bing, ting ting! Ting, bing!

Before Naio could answer Lily, somewhere in the grass a cricket chirped out a count: one, two, one-two-three-four. A beetle bounced out a beat on a bunch of mushroom’s heads.

Naio felt her fuzzies prickle at the sound.

“Oh no,” she said. “Right now?”

Like clockwork, ants popped out from nearby holes in step with the beat, one after another. Several lines of ants marched out and disappeared into the grass.

She endured this for some time hoping it might end sooner rather than later, but soon some ants returned. They were all carrying something — food, water droplets, a pinch of earth — to various holes, still marching steadily to the beat.

“This is too much. If you’ll excuse me…”

ringle, ting.

Naio tucked her head down, taking a hold of her foot to form a little O. Lily gave her a nudge while Naio caught a light breeze, and rolled out into the grass.

Tamaishi 3- minute audiobook sampler

Chapter one: Morn’time

Out in the valley where all the little things live, where the wind is swift and talkative, the number one thing to do in the morn’time is to wake up before the light so you can maybe still see the moon. In the morn’time, everything is bathed in a sparkling purple-blue. The stars disappear and the clouds become cherry pink. Flowers stretch their petals and the grasses wake up shaking off the dew. In the morn’time it’s fun to spin round until you’re dizzy, singing a song or two:

Wake up! Sing! Day begins!
Hello sun and goodbye moon
The day cannot begin too soon

Why, this is how every morn’time begins, don’t you know? Ah… but you haven’t met Tama yet. Tama is a rock, who mingles among the grass with all the creatures busy and buzzing. There are shiny rocks and flat rocks, round ones and speckled ones. Some have sides you can count. Some are smooth and some are sharp. And they come in all manner of sizes.

Tama is tiny, and all round. (You might call him a pebble). He rolls about during the day, finding friends to talk and play. Whenever there’s a hill he just has to find the top so he can roll down to the bottom like a rush of wind. He waits for the stars to peek out at night and loves when the moon is like a rock in the sky that makes all the clouds shine. At night, he snuggles up with a leaf to sleep.

One bright and shiny day, Tama rolled about the valley all full of smiles.

“Good morning, Enoki!” said Tama to the Enoki mushroom family. They all turned together, their smiles sprouting at the same time. One of the taller mushrooms in front turned to greet him.

“What are you going to play today?” they all said at once.

“I’m going to try to fly again!” Shouted Tama.

“What fun!”

Tama rolled over to Genevieve, a blade of grass, who tilted down to let Tama climb on her back. On top he glanced over at two others — Chione and Percival — with a nod, and they nodded back and smiled.

“Here we go, Genevieve!” She flung him high up into the air where Percival was waiting to catch him. He twisted himself so Tama could roll down to the ground on a spiral slide.

Then Percival tossed Tama to Chione, who launched him to Genevieve, who catapulted him back to Percival. Round and round they went, all the other creatures going about their own morning routines while Tama laughed and cheered.

He climbed aboard another launch pad and a larger round rock sped by Tama in a terrible rush. Tama was curious. He caught up to ask, “What are you doing, Maru?”

Maru slowed down but acted as if he didn’t really want to. “We’re making a bridge,” he said, gesturing ahead. Tama saw a gathering of rocks on the edge of a rushing rapid of water.

“Why?” asked Tama.

Maru kept trying to move forward as Tama followed. “The rain made a new stream of water last night, and the ants need our help getting across,” he said.

“Oh! Can I help?” asked Tama.

Maru took a long look at Tama before taking a deep breath and holding it as if the words didn’t want to come out.
“Eh… sorry little guy,” he squeaked. “Not today.” He picked up his pace.

“Why not? I want to help!” pleaded Tama, trailing behind.

“…it’s too dangerous,” said Maru. “You might get lost down at the bottom, or fall into the water and get swept away…”

“I’ve always wanted to help build something,” said Tama. “No one’s ever asked before, but I’ve watched so many times I think I get it, and—”

“You’re not big enough to help,” Maru interrupted. He lowered his eyes and rolled away, leaving Tama astonished and alone.

Zōsan 3-minute audiobook sampler

Chapter one: The Whistler

Little Zō lived with his Mama and Papa Zō out where the bamboo reached for the sky, the wind wandered freely, and the grass was an endless green ocean.

He loved his Mama Zō and Papa Zō, and never really wandered far. Occasionally, he would squint at the sun going down and wonder where it would go, or tilt his head at the mountains and ponder where they came from, but he never asked too many questions. He was happy right where he was.

One day while eating his breakfast he heard a crunch-crunch-crunch come out of nowhere. He perked up his ears and listened. You see, elephants have large ears to match their noses and he could hear even the faintest sound. It was getting louder.

Peering down, he noticed a trail of little bugs following each other happily in a line. They didn’t notice Little Zō standing there, even as big as he was next to them. They were focused straight ahead, marching in a rhythmic, bouncy way, one-two, one-two, one-two.

“Hello little ones,” whispered Little Zō crouching down to get a closer look. He spoke quietly, because they were so small and he didn’t want to startle them or hurt their ears. “Where are you going?”

One of them finally noticed Little Zō and looked up. “Why, hello!” he said, without missing a beat. “Where are we going? Yahoo! We’re not really sure, but we’re going!”

“I don’t understand,” replied Little Zō. “What if you can’t find your way back? What if you don’t like where you’re going? What if you get hurt, or get hungry? What if it starts to rain? What if…”

Little Zō’s face wrinkled, the corner of his mouth reaching for his ears. Still marching, the bug raised his head slightly and made a high pitched foo-eeeeeeeeeeee! All of a sudden, the tiny crunch-crunch-crunch ceased and all Little Zō could hear was the breeze. The Whistler gestured to Little Zō to lift him up, so Little Zō carefully put his nose on the ground and let him climb.

“Doesn’t matter,” said the Whistler, “We’ll end up somewhere different and new, and that’s all we care about.” He threw his arms out and gazed around. “That’s the fun! You never know what you’ll see or where you’ll end up.”

Little Zō stared at the bugs on the ground. Some were looking ahead, others were looking at him. All of them were quite still. He went cross-eyed back at his nose, speechless.

The Whistler sighed and jumped down. “Give a it try someday. You won’t be disappointed.” Then Little Zō heard a faint tik-tik-tik, like two pebbles knocking together, and the crunch-crunch-crunch started again.

Little Zō watched as the line got shorter in the distance, disappearing over the grassy hill to the east. He sat there pondering, the only sound left the faint fshhhhhhhhhhhh of the bamboo leaves.