Part of Flash Fiction February 2023, prompt was “Visit to someone in the wild”.
“Forgive me, it’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to… Anything.” Stuttered Alfonso, lounging under a tree, sheltering from the shade in the blistering sun.
His shell was magnificent, covered with dozens of concentric eyes in different shades of browns and greens. In places, it was cracked and flaking. In other areas, still pristine and shining. His wrinkled flesh writhed and squirmed as he spoke through a mostly toothless mouth.
“Not a problem. I would imagine that time is somewhat relative when you have been alive as long as you have.” I looked at Alfonso again, trying to judge his age. I was no expert in tortoise physiology.
“Erm, how old are you exactly?” I asked uncomfortably, wondering if this was an appropriate question to ask someone so senior.
“3,437 years, 9 months and 3 days.” Said Alfonso quickly and confidently. Clearly, time was not as relative as I thought.
“Wow! What sights you must have seen! What memories you must have to share!”
Alfonso considered, chewing slowly and with great effort on a large mouthful of grass, his large leathery lips flapping loosely.
“If I’m honest. I spent most of it here. I like it here.” Said Alfonso, looking around the large jungle clearing where we were sitting. It had taken me weeks to get here, crossing two continents and taking four methods of transport. Twice I got lost, taking the wrong path through the jungle, and once I nearly died. But I was here, finally speaking with the oldest known creature. And it appeared he didn’t have much to say.
“How about this area? It must have changed a lot?” I gestured around the clearing and the surrounding forest.
Alfonso chewed some more, his small needy eyes slowly moving around the scene. ”Well…” He said slowly, which he did a lot. Was this something I could write about?
“I do remember once when it snowed here…” He said.
I wrote it down, it wasn’t going to get me any prizes, but it was better than nothing. Just.
I nodded. “And tell me, what about the changes in nature? In your lifetime, you must have encountered flora and fauna that are now extinct?”
Alfonso took another large bite of grass and chewed it slowly, considering his answer. Hopefully, this was something juicy to write about.
“Hmm.” He said.
I waited for him to finish, but he kept chewing. I looked at my notebook, and so far, I had only written down “snow”. This was not worth the journey so far.
“I think some of the birds have been around here for a while…” He said, his tiny eyes staring at the sky. “But I didn’t really notice…”
I snapped my pencil as I wrote birds, threw it on the ground in frustration and stormed off back down the jungle path that bought me here.
Alfonso kept on chewing.