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Posts Tagged ‘ya fiction’

The fox disappeared like a mist on a hot day. The mice stared at the spot he had been sitting, their mouths agape.
“What’s a bell weather?” Billie asked.
“Bellwether, one word. An indicator or predictor of something. I think he means I will instinctively be able to tell who is good or bad. I don’t know, though.” Ella wiped her eyes. “I’m really tired, guys.”
“We should at least cross the creek,” Aric said. “There’s a rock we can rest under over there.”
“You mean, wade?” Gran was staring at the water. “It’s really cold.”
“No, climb over on the rhododendron,” Ella suggested.
“Um, right. I guess I should go now.” Horace was still standing under the shelter of the rhodie. “You guys watch for corvids, okay?”
“Corvids?”
“Crows, jays, ravens,” Ella answered, automatically. “Enemies of owls and mice.”
“Right. Okay, Horace, it’s been cool.” Dish held up a fist to the owl. He took it down when the owl didn’t respond. “Maybe see you – you know where.”
“Yes, yes, I do. I think I can find my way. Follow the stream.” Horace blinked again. “Thank you.”
Twerp ran up and hugged the owl. “We’ll get dad out of jail, Horace.”
If the owl could have hugged back, it was evident he would have. He dipped his beak down to touch Twerp’s ball cap. “Yes,” was all he said.
“C’mon, guys, let’s go.”
Horace hopped out from under the rhododendron and lifted silently up into the air. He rose to find a roost for the day, camouflaged by tree bark. The mice scrambled across twisted branches of rhododendrons to the rock and fern protection on the far side of the stream. They found a dry spot filled with soft fir needles, hidden by fern fronds, and protected by the hard stone walls on two sides.
Aric took up a sentry post with his bamboo skewer aimed outward. The rest of the mice scurried around, creating a nest. Aric sighed. He jammed his bamboo skewer into the ground, point outward. He didn’t have anything for the other side, so he just hoped nothing would try to crawl in from that direction. He was getting paranoid.
Ella curled up next to Dish, with Billie and Gran on the other side. Aric and Twerp curled up at their feet. Ella hadn’t realized how tired she was: she scarcely closed her eyes and she was asleep.

She faced a centipede that had somehow grown large enough to knock on her bedroom door. It had a large set of mandibles in the front of its hard, roundish head, and a grouping of ocelli. It was poised as if to strike. I can’t see you, it whispered to her, but I know you are out there. I will find you. When I find you, I will kill you. All of you.
Aric yelled and came down on the ocelli – antennae that the centipede used for surrogate eyes- “Die! Die! Die! Leave my sister alone!!”
The creature reared back, it’s mandibles snapping. Twerp danced in front of it, mooning it. It poised to strike when Dish shoved a rock into its face. Billie came out of somewhere with a pair of scissors which she was using to cut off the centipede’s legs on one side. She was singing a song about how a centipede with legs only on one side was doomed to always walk in a circle.
Gran wrapped his arms around Ella and pulled her into the light. “Wake up, El. Wake up! We have to get moving!”

“Wake up! El! Wake up! We have to get moving!” El’s eyes opened. She was under the canopy of the rhododendron, in the arms of Gran. She started.
“Centipede.”
“What? No? It’s just the sun is setting. We need to follow the stream.”
“In the dark?” She wasn’t quite functioning.
“We hold tails, remember? Aric is leading the first leg. We keep whiskers to the water. Walk carefully.”
“Oh, and there’s helicopters circling, tell her that.” Billie sat down next to El. “Yeah, they’re searching the woods. Guess the old fox was right.”
“Mr. Nagato. The librarian.”
“But only sometimes.”
“Right. Watch out for centipedes.”
“What? Nevermind. Let’s go.”
They hiked in pairs or single file, staying to the cover of the rhododendrons, sword ferns, dying bracken, and huckleberries. There were plenty of dried berries still on the huckleberries, which mice apparently liked, so they picked and ate as they went. The little stream provided water to wash down whatever they gleaned as they hiked.
There were relatively few creatures out: a songbird warbled a tune that echoed off of tree trunks. A busy wren scarcely gave them a glance, except to flutter out of their way with a mild chirp. A very lazy-looking brown and orange newt hissed at them, and they gave it a wide berth. Something jumped into the water, once, but none of them saw what it was, and no other threatening action was taken. The drone of helicopters circled overhead, before drifting away.
A yellow jacket wasp flew along the ground, looking for something. It ignored them as they tip-toed past, afraid to stir up such a large wasp. A late dragonfly, bright grey, landed on a delicate plant stem and watched them as they passed. It looked very mean and dangerous, but Ella assured everyone that it wasn’t hunting mice.
The world was strange here: the sky and tree canopy was too far off to see. Green was more a shade of grey than a color, but there were many shades of grey. Blues stood out. Yellow and brown were bright colors. They could all see better in the daylight, but they still bumped into twisted rhododendron roots, or yet another grey rock, with regularity. Sometimes, they tripped over the creeping blackberry vines.
Mushrooms were all investigated with eager noses.
“First time I ever liked a ‘shroom,” Dish mumbled with his mouth full of chanterelle. “And it not even cooked.”
“I wonder if mice get high on poisonous ones?”
Open spaces didn’t appear as open spaces to the travelers: from their perspective, they were crossing a maze of fir cones and downed tree branches. They climbed atop a fallen tree and raced the length of it, hopping to the next one, always keeping the little stream to the left of them.
They were foolish, of course. The cawing of crows should have sparked a warning, but they were laughing and running with abandon, unmindful of their size and appearance.
The first crow served to frighten them into tumbling off of the log they were on, by diving at them and flying away, caw-caw-cawing in corvid laughter. The tumble was painful, but not injuring, and Gran shook his fist at the bird.
The second crow came from behind Gran and snatched at his paw. It missed, but Gran tumbled forward, which set the crows off on another round of cawing hilarity. Two crows swooped in the third time, and one succeeded in grabbing Billie’s tail for a short moment, sending her somersaulting under a rhododendron.
Ella had ducked under a low log and saw where Billie had landed. “Everyone! Run for the rhodie! Run! Get over by Billie!” Something in her mind told her they would be safe – at least for now – from the cawing bullies. She dashed along under the log before making a short scramble to where Billie was sitting up, crying.
“What awful birds!” Billie sobbed.
The crows kept diving, and one even landed behind Twerp, hopping along and cawing loudly and pecking at his tail as he ran. “Ouch! Ow! Stop it! Ow!” The crow stopped only when Twerp ducked under Ella’s log and rolled into the space under the rhodie. Gran and Dish followed , their paws flailing as if they could ward the black birds off. Only Aric stood up to face the onslaught.
He ran a little ways forward, but when a crow dove, he turned and weilded his bamboo skewer, poking the sharp end upward as if to stab the birds. They stayed above his jabs, cawing and calling. He kept getting closer and Ella stood as close to the edge of the old rhododendron as she could, squeaking at the top of her voice, “Run, Aric! Run! Hurry!”
“Not. Before. I. Make. One. Pay.” Aric thrust his skewer up at the grey feet coming at his face. He hit something and the crow suddenly back-winged, cawing angrily. Aric made a mad dash for the rhododendron then, barely making it under the safety of the low canopy. The three crows landed on the logs and low branches, cawing incessantly.
The mice scooted as close to the base of the bush as they could before taking stock of their scrapes and bruises. Billie was still sniffling, but Gran had his paw on her shoulder, comforting her. Twerp retrieved his glasses from the edge of the rhodie, using a twig. He cleaned them on his t-shirt, muttering that they weren’t broken, lucky for the crows.
“How long do you suppose they’ll wait out there?” Dish peered up, but couldn’t see the crows.
“A long time,” Ella said, dejectedly. “Aric made them mad. Crows hold a grudge.”
“Well, so do I,” Aric snapped defensively. “They were out to hurt us or kill us.”
“Yes, they were. I’m not arguing, Dork. I’m just explaining how crows think.”
“You don’t think – sniff – those are – sniff – someone’s familiars, do you?” Billie wiped her nose with her paw.
Ella shook her head, “No. They are crows being crows. We were mice out in the open, and they saw what looked like a good sporting time.” She sat. “Now what do we do? We have to get beck to the stream, but if we try to cross back out of here, they’ll be right on us – unless we move in the dark.”
“I don’t want to wait until night,” Gran said angrily. “We can’t wait until night. We’re taking too long as it is.”
“Any great ideas, O great leader?” Aric was still holding on to his bamboo skewer. “Maybe we find a bunch of skewers?”
Gran glowered at him, “Cut the sarcasm, Derp.”
“Guys. We can’t do skewers, Aric: we don’t have anything to sharpen twigs, and crows learn. That means, they’ll be ready for skewers next time. They’re smart birds.”
“Mean birds,” Billie pouted.
Ella stood up. “Look, I need to think. Billie? Come with me?”
“Wait, where you guys going?”
“To think.”
“No, you can’t leave the whole group. We stay together. All the time. No one is safe on their own, if all six of us aren’t safe.” Gran as much as put his hands on his hips.
“O Great Leader has spoken,” Aric muttered.
Ella, who had her beck to the group, spoke softly, “Guys. I think we have a friend.”
Everyone lifted their heads and peered in the direction Ella was looking, but it wasn’t their eyes that told them what she meant: it was their noses. A pair of deer mice sat on their haunches just under a sword fern, kindness and gentleness emanating from them.

13490 words

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