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Greetings. I am ~Squirrel~ ~Mason~, and I filled out an application to help fight the Night Creatures. I was surprised to be accepted as a spy because I had the reputation of being a poor, uneducated, ill-mannered, ill-tempered outcast. And I was. After all, I am an orph, as we are known in The Woodlands. I suspect that there are many of us hidden away in the woods, all orphaned by Night Creatures who attacked our families mercilessly in the night and left us to grow up on our own.

Since I was all alone, not much was expected of me. My home was simple. My food was simpler still. And of course, there was no one to teach me, so I knew very little at all. I was very independent having had to fend for myself since that day when I heard the horrible howling as my parents were carried away, the horrible day that I became an orph. Although I was not personally acquainted with other orphs, I suspected that most of us had a common desire to fight the Night Creatures.

My home rested beneath the root of a dead hemlock tree with a round hole for the entrance. I had found the skull of a wild boar, complete with tusks, which I had spent considerable effort dragging to the hole. The sun bleached skull was positioned so that any visitor had to walk through the boar’s wide open mouth, to get to my door, which effectively put an end to any visits, friendly or otherwise.

My home had two windows, which were also round, cut into the hollow base of the tree. They looked like knotholes until you were close. The place creaked appropriately with any measurable gust of wind, since the hemlock tree was dead. ~Lugubrious~ in appearance on the outside, it was cozy enough on the inside. From there I welcomed the thought of a life dedicated to ridding The Woodlands of Night Creatures and eagerly awaited contact.

And I waited.

And waited.

Had I been overlooked? Forgotten? As days passed, my disappointment increased and my enthusiasm ~waned~ until, frankly, I gave up all hope. I spent my time winning imaginary sword fights with a stout stick from an ash tree, which I had a sharpened to a crisp point at one end.

THUD! One day a rock hit the hollow base of my tree, and my home reverberated, but that was nothing new. Creatures sometimes hurled rocks at my house, which was rumored to harbor an insanely rabid animal (a rumor I myself started with my wild boar skull, and also by posting a sign, which read: BEWARE! KEEP OUT! DANGEROUS RABID CREATURE LURKS WITHIN!) Others just assumed the place was haunted.

I had perfected a mournful howl, which echoed throughout The Woodlands when I moaned into a hollow branch. Of course, that elicited much fear and an occasional rock. I peered out my knothole in time to see a white squirrel. I had never seen a white squirrel before, but I knew they existed. Here was one right outside of my home. Quite young, but scrappy for his age. The ~irascible~ creature clapped his paws excitedly when the rock hit the tree.

Soon he was busy searching for more rocks. I knew that there would be few to be found. Any rock close by had already been pitched at my tree. The ~ornery~ white squirrel had brought his own rock. And it was a fine one at that! I watched while he looked under leaves and brush in search of more rocks to hurl at me. Then, around the bend, his mother appeared. She wore a ruffled blue cotton dress and she was wringing her paws.

"There you are! You naughty thing! I told you to stay away from here. Don't you know it's dangerous? We don’t know what manner of creature lives here. I have your brother searching for you. We are beside ourselves. Your father will be ~infuriated~ when he hears,” she ~berated~ him, then she picked the ~miscreant~ squirrel up by his tail and hauled him away.

I ~contemplated~ what a nuisance it would be to have such a ~worrisome~ mother. What an ~aggravation~ to have a father who got angry each time you misbehaved. What an annoyance to have an older brother looking after you. Yet, how I longed to be bothered by all three.

After dark, I ventured out and carried the rock inside so that I could heat it on an open fire and dump it into my waterhole. The steam that rose created a perfect eerie gray fog, which added to the ~illusion~ and kept me safe.

Then I drifted asleep to the mysterious sound of singing that I would hear occasionally in the night. It came from high up in the trees and at first resembled the sound of a bird. But it was not a bird. Instead it was some other creature who imitated birds very well, but had a voice all its own. It rose and fell and echoed against the distant hills and carried me away into a pleasant sleep. I opened my ~bleary~ eyes to the whistle of a rat and the pattering footsteps of lizards.

Once a week, as regular as clockwork, a cart drawn by a pair of identical ~chuckwallas~ rambled down the road by my home. The chuckwallas (lizards with large puffy bodies and saggy skin) were identical one to the other. They pulled a cart driven by a large brown rat with a wooden hind leg. The rat whistled a low deep tune, ~somber~ like a funeral ~dirge~. He had a foul temper and drove the chuckwallas hard, yet the lizards seemed a content pair as they trudged along the path despite their awful driver. The cart had a dumpster on it, which I had surmised was for taking loads to the dump. It ~intrigued~ me that it had come from such an ~imposing~ place, HighTower, and it intrigued me that it went to such a lowly one, the city dump. And, of course, the piles of junk that it hauled intrigued me most of all. On occasion an odd treasure would jostle free and land along the path. That is where I got my prize possession, a charred pot, which I used for cooking soup. They usually passed by me quickly as did most creatures that feared my “haunted” home, but it was a warm day, and rainwater had collected in the small pool of water next to my tree.

I never howled when the cart drove by for I enjoyed watching it and did not wish to hurry it along. The chuckwallas pulled up short at the base of my tree and stopped to take a sip of the water. I made it a habit of washing my laundry annually, whether it needed washing or not. And on that particular day, my clothes hung on a tree limb to dry. I panicked, for I had forgotten to take them down. The chuckwallas looked up and sniffed them, and the large rat sitting impatiently waiting in the wagon said, “Filthy rags! They’re just a bunch of filthy rags!”

That's what my clothes were to him. Filthy rags. And I suppose if he met me, that is what he would think of me as well. Nothing but a filthy rag.

Soon the wagon was off on its way, jostling down the path. Someday, I thought, I would follow that wagon and see where they dumped the garbage from HighTower. But for now I was content to wait for my orders so that I could take my revenge on the Night Creatures, for they were responsible for what had become of me.

On that very same day, another carriage came rolling past my house. It was one I had seen less frequently. Unlike common carts that were drawn by a variety of different lizards, this cart was drawn by four ~mourning doves~. Only the wealthy could be afforded such care. The carriage was trimmed in gold and had thick velvet cushions to guard against any unpleasant jostling as they traveled down the road. The ~canopy~ , trimmed in an ~assortment~ of silver and gold bells, jingled merrily. A mouse and his two sons chatted as the carriage rumbled by. The father handed the reins to the older son who took them gladly, laughing as the wheels turned and turned and turned past me. The mourning doves that pulled them along seemed happy enough, and I assumed the mice were not hard taskmasters. Yet I did not care for them at all, especially the sons. Who were they to be born into such an ~ostentatious~ life while the rest of us suffered? But even more than that, who were they to have a father who cared for them when I had none.

I leaned into the hollow branch and howled as low and mournfully as I possibly could. The mouse shook the reins, and the mourning doves spread their tail feathers in alarm, revealing white spots, which looked like necklaces of pearls. The mourning doves’ ~melancholy~ ~lament~, coo-ah, coo, coo, coo lingered in the air for a moment, and then they took off running at breakneck speed. I watched the carriage pass on its way and wondered if I ever would ride in such ~flagrant~ luxury to some place of interest. Or if I would ever ride anything to anyplace at all. And if I could choose, when all was said and done, I thought the cart on its way to the dump would be the most fun.

The trouble with living alone is that it's always your turn to do the dishes. But then, you are also in charge, so you can choose not to do them. And so I left my dishes in an untidy heap, and I lay down on my bed of leaves piled haphazardly against the wall and ~contemplated~ the Night Creatures.

On the wall opposite my bed was a patchwork of paper, scraps of newspaper articles torn from The Woodland Scurrier, which I had ~retrieved~ - okay - ~pilfered~ off the front step of a ~reclusive~ chipmunk, my closest neighbor. Each told a different story, but each shared the same theme, an attack by Night Creatures. My eyes scanned the articles, just as I did every day and every night, looking for some clue; looking for any information that would tell who these creatures were, what they were about, and why they haunted The Woodlands.

The headlines were alarming: Night Attack Leaves No Survivors!, THREE MICE ORPHANED!, MouseKing Finds an Orph hiding in the Castle’s Dumpster!,…and, of course, the article that told of my own misfortune, the day I myself became an orphan. The yellowed article with curled edges was a grim reminder of what had been taken from me:

The Woodland Scurrier Innocent Family of ~Squirrels~ Attacked Under the pale light of a full moon an undisclosed number of creatures carried out a merciless attack against an innocent family of ~squirrels~. Only the youngest survived, a weedink named ~Mason~. Those who witnessed the attack said that the ~perpetrators~ were Night Creatures known for wearing dark hooded cloaks to hide their identities. A reward has been offered for their capture. MouseKing is encouraging all of The Woodlands to stay alert and stay hidden, especially during the dark of the night.

I wanted to fight these Night Creatures, and I wondered why I hadn’t been contacted.

Chapter SNEDS

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  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13
  14. Chapter 14
  15. Chapter 15
  16. Chapter 16

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Chapter 1: The Spy's Home

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