A communal belief possessed her clan—the spring floods would overwhelm them at any moment. She worked at an almost frantic pace beneath the moonlight carrying a rock weighing as much as she did. The Matriarch wedged it against a seep escaping one of the many long structures her ancestors had engineered to hold back the floods. Her mathematical mind knew nothing of numbers or calculations but ten fingers intermingled wood and rock and mud into a barrier much larger and stronger than any one contribution to its whole.
A slow tsunami brought on by the moon of melting ice pressed against the intricately layered monument begun a thousand generations past. Inevitably, the liquid mass found weaknesses in the barriers and erupted fountains along vertical walls pressured by tens of millions of gallons intent in their dance with gravity. Throughout the night and into the day, the matriarch and her family worked to plug breaches one by one and shore up the triangulated buttresses that held back so much weight and power. Leaks were still boundless but skilled engineers minimized the damage and prepared for upcoming moons after the deluge subsided.
The matriarch and her family cut down the water-sucking willows and turned that vertical energy into the horizontal resistance of their dams. The dark hubris of decaying life regenerated in the ponds and enabled plants like tobacco to flourish along the fertile banks in harmony with purple-flowered camas and their nourishing tubers. Moose waded out into the still water and grazed in the lush aquatic vegetation. Fish spawned in the still shallows. A unique chain of life flourished in the wetlands and meadows thriving behind dams created by her People.
During the day, the matriarch’s family slept in a wood-and-earth lodge. In the twilight, they returned to the endless task of delaying water’s magnetic draw to the sea. The matriarch began the evening with a swimming patrol of her territory. Her nose picked up the scent of an unrelated dam builder presumptuous enough to enter her water and the olfactory trail led to a stick hanging from a budding willow. She moved toward it and her front foot jerked back from an uncertain purchase. The water roiled around two iron jaws that snapped her leg with enough force to crush bone. She screamed, she slapped her powerful tail and dove away, desperately trying to shake off a terrifying weight that smashed and agonized her leg. The matriarch swam to deeper water where she could fight with her big teeth capable of felling trees two feet thick.
Her snaking tormentor weighed her down and denied access to air her lungs demanded. Weak and bewildered, the matriarch paddled wildly with her tail and three free legs. She gasped at the surface and sucked in a single whiff of the crisp spring breeze before the trap’s rooted chain halted her in place and dragged her back down. The leg flopped, broken, her foot useless and unfeeling. The matriarch chewed away at her own hide and muscle with jaws made too spastic from lack of air to succeed. Cramped and useless muscles still tried to regain the surface but she could not stop her chest from breathing in again, and again. The murky sediment she kicked up shocked her lungs and the matriarch sank down to the bottom, bewildered eyes staring up through silt-clouded water.