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The Witness

by Salvatore Serio 5 months ago in wild animals

When horror comes to your home...

The Witness
Photo by Vito Natale on Unsplash

The leaves of the trees rustled in the soft wind as it entered the forest in the early dawn. The wind carried with it an array of smells all but alien to the inhabitants. Strange sounds, too, echoed in from the open ground just outside. Most of the residents, however, ignored the strangeness and went on with their daily rituals.

At the top of a tree near the edge of the wood, a squirrel emerged from a hole. Fully rested from his slumber, the sounds and smells had finally struck his curiosity. Late during the last night, he heard monstrous sounds from just outside of the tree which he named home. Clings and clanks and shouts of the strange two-leg beasts rung through the night. He had thought to look out and see what the commotion was all about during the night, but the closeness of it all unnerved him to no end.

Now, he felt a little better about coming out and greeting the morning. The breeze was gentle across his fur. The air was crisp and delightful. The squirrel paused a moment to take it all in and to shake off his slumber. Still, there was something strange in the air, a feeling of tenseness that he had never felt before. He could see movement in the open field outside of the forest. Quickly, he scurried further up the tree and to the edge of a branch so that he could get a better view.

The site was unbelievable to his tiny eyes. More two-leg beasts then he had ever seen at once lined the field not too far from the forest. Oh, he had seen two-legs before. Most instances were no more than a few, however. They would pass by chirping in their strange sounds. Usually, the two-legs he has seen would be adorned with extra skin and other ornamentation of puzzling purpose. Perhaps it is because they have very little fur of their own. He once went by a large watering hole and saw a couple of the two-legs running around in the water. They did not have any of the ornamentation he normally saw on them.

These two-legs were adorned with the strangest ornaments. Most had large, shiny rocks on their heads and surrounding their bodies. They carried long sticks and other wondrous objects. Quite a few had weird sticks with hair that would cause smaller sticks to fly through the air. He had once seen a couple two-legs use those to kill a horn-head. It took several flying sticks to do so. They eventually carried it off.

He could see many of the two-legs on top of larger four-legged beasts. Like the two-legs, those beasts had plenty of ornamentation as well. He typically stayed away from two-legs, partially because they were dangerous, but also, he didn’t want them to adorn him with such strange, objects.

Those huge four-leg beasts that carried the two-legs were certainly fast. Just a couple days ago he was burying his nuts and was nearly trampled by one as it raced through the forest. While he was working, he felt a rumble on the ground and turned to see the beast stampeding up the path. He barely got away in time, a testament to his own speed which earned him the name of Quick-foot. After it had left and the dirt began to settle down, he returned to finish his work only to find that the nut he had been burying had been crushed.

As he looked out at the gathering of two-legs he was awestruck. What shocked him more is even further across the field was an even larger gathering of two-legs similarly adorned as the first gathering. He stood watching for a long while as they moved around their respective gatherings. They were all lined up facing each other. Skylight began glittering off of their ornaments as the morning lingered on. Was this the strangeness that he felt earlier? It must have been. In all of his days, he had never seen anything like it.

Well, whatever the case, he had work to do. It would not be long before the air turned cold and he needed to gather his harvest and prepare for his long slumber. He skittered back down the tree to the ground looking to see what the night produced for him to gather. He scurried across the wood to his favorite spot, a large tree with many delicious nuts, all but forgetting the crazy two-legs and their gathering. The tree was not too far from his house tree. He would have made his home there, but for the hoot-bird that often perched there at night. Now would be safe, though, for the hoot-bird only came here during the night.

He approached the tree and a heard a thud next to him. A nut had nearly landed right on his head. Looking up, he could see another squirrel with a big ears and a short tail high up the branch. Quick-foot knew him as Long-ear. Long-ear often tried to invade this tree but Quick-foot was usually able to keep the horde for himself. His delay this morning had cost him his early advantage. He was bigger than Long-ear, however and it wouldn’t take long to send him running.

Long-ear often caused a lot of problems and rarely listened to anybody. He never seemed to learn his lessons either. It was last season when Long-ear lost his tail which had been the envy of all other squirrels. And all because he wouldn’t listen to Quick-foot or the other squirrels! They were running around the forest gathering their nuts and fruits when Good-eye spotted several snarl-fangs in the area. He jumped up the tree and began barking warning. Quick-foot heard the call and repeated the bark, racing high into the nearest tree. Within moments, the other squirrels had all sought the safety of the trees… all but Long-ear. He continued about his work finding nuts and burying them for harvest.

Suddenly, the snarl-fangs emerged from the woods at a full sprint straight toward Long-ear. Quick-foot and all of the other squirrels barked like mad. They didn’t like Long-ear that much, but did not want to see any squirrel fall to the fate of being crushed in the snouts of the snarl-fangs. It would be too horrendous. Finally, Long-ear looked up and saw the snarl-fangs approaching and began to run to the nearest tree. As he jumped up, one of the snarl-fangs grabbed his tail and pulled him down. As luck would have it, a few two-legs (before today, the most that Quick-foot had ever seen) emerged from the wood and the snarl-fangs fled. The two-legs pursued them, shouting and waving around their long sticks and flying sticks. Long-ear was saved and scurried back up the tree, but his once full and beautiful tail had been badly damaged and soon fell off.

Quick-foot thought about this and considered letting him go, just this once. After all, the tree was big and had plenty of nuts. With this in mind he began to make his way up the tree to see what delicious morsels he could find himself. When he got halfway up, however, Long-ear was quick to react and began barking furiously at him. Quick-foot paused at the reaction but continued up the tree. Long-ear scurried fast toward him forcing him to flee down a branch. He made it to the end and leapt to another tree. Satisfied that Quick-foot was no longer in the tree, Long-ear ended the pursuit and returned to his business.

Quick-foot sat in the other tree looking back at Long-ear. That was HIS tree and he was being gracious enough to let Long-ear stay only to be chased out. This would have to be corrected. At that time, he could hear noises coming from the field with the two-legs. His view was obscured by all of the branches but he could hear the two-legs roaring with such ferocity. The sound seemed distant, but was loud. He wondered what happening. Turning back toward Long-ear, he noticed that he was transfixed toward the source of the sound. Quick-foot’s tail twitched in excitement… something that Long-ear could never do again.

Quickly he ran further up the tree that he was in. He ran out on a high branch that would take him back to his tree. A look below showed that Long-ear was still looking in the directions of the two-legs. Quick-foot looked that way and could see a little better from this higher vantage. He saw flying sticks with the ends glowing soaring through the air and raining down upon some of the smaller gathering near the trees. He could hear clangs and clings coming as groups of the two-legs clashed together. But, he did not have time to watch. He had business to attend to. Regaining his tree from the ungrateful Long-ear was his top priority. After another glance at Long-ear to see that he was still staring off at the distance, he made his move.

Quick-foot leapt across to his tree. He froze after he landed on the branch and waited for it to stop waiving, fearful of giving himself away. Long-ear was still transfixed with the two-legs. That was good! If all goes well, he will have his tree back in no time. He carefully made his way to a branch sticking out above Long-ear. Shimmying along, he kept a close eye on his target. Long-ear was frozen… this was going to be easy.

In a flash, he jumped down and landed right in front of Long-ear. Long-ear jumped back in surprise, then turned and fled toward the trunk of the tree. He was fast, but Quick-foot was faster. Quick-foot jumped and tangled with Long-ear. He would teach Long-ear a lesson he will never forget. Quick-foot dug his claws into Long-ear’s side and big down on the back of his neck. Long-ear barked and yelped in a fury, trying to shake off his ambusher.

As they tussled, neither noticed that the roar and screams of the two-legs had grown louder. Quick-foot was methodic; he would bite and scratch then let Long-ear loose, chasing only a moment after. He would catch Long-ear and do the same over and over. He wasn’t trying to kill or even hurt Long-ear badly… well, not too badly. He just wanted to show him that this was his tree. After several times doing this, he finally stopped chasing and stood there. Long-ear scurried down the trunk of the tree. He stopped and looked back at Quick-foot. Quick-foot stared back, slowly stalking closer and barking ferociously. He stopped when he reached several paces away and they just stared at each other, oblivious to the world. Then a ‘thwank’ echoed through the forest and the shaft of a flying stick was stuck into the tree between them, trembling like crazy.

Long-ear darted around the trunk and back up the tree. Quick-foot looked out to see a rush of many two-legs running his way. He scurried up the tree, himself, forgetting all about Long-ear. The two-legs reached the tree and passed right by without even a pause. More were coming in waves from the direction of the field. Some of them had fear frozen on their faces. Others had determination. However they looked, they weren’t paying any attention to the tree or the squirrels. They fled right past. Some fell as flying sticks struck them in their backs. Many were dirty and their faces were caked with red.

Quick-foot glanced toward Long-ear and saw him leaping from the tree. Perhaps he did learn his lesson from the encounter with the snarl-fangs. With another look at the crazy two-legs, he decided to follow Long-ear’s example. Only a few leaps would take him home and, right now, there was no place he would rather be. He scurried further up the tree and found a branch that would lead him back to his home-tree. Without hesitation, he jumped for the nearest tree.

He quickly continued his flight and made it to the next jumping point. Before leaping, he looked back down and saw a group of two-leg stop running then turn, as one with more ornamentation than any of the others began barking and chirping with a deep bellow. The two-legs took their pointy sticks and held them out in front of them as another group of two-legs slammed into them. An explosion of red fluid came from those that hit the long sticks. Behind that group, more two-legs rolled over them waving stone sticks around and hitting the first group. Shouts of pain rose up as the thick red water began to cover the ground. Quick-foot could not take anymore. He made his jump and fled faster than his paws had ever carried him before.

A few more leaps and he was in his home tree. He scurried toward the hole where he made his home. With one last look at the horrendous carnage below, he darted in, hoping to escape the nightmare.

In the sanctity of his hole, he could still hear the screams and shouts. What madness drove the two-legs to this? Was it like his scuffle with Long-ear over his tree? Whatever the case, he just wanted to be free of it. It seemed like forever before the screams started to die down and the clanging ended. Quick-foot hesitated to go out as he still heard the chatter of two-legs outside. It sounded like some were right outside his tree. Alone, he huddled there… waiting.

Finally, there was quiet! Despite that, Quick-foot remained where he was. He was scared more than ever before… even more than when the snarl-fangs took Long-ear’s tail. Steadying himself, he finally worked up the courage to emerge from his hole. Slowly, he peaked out his head. Unlike earlier, the air was silent. The trees no longer danced to the wind. Stillness and silence filled the environment. A horrific stench insulted his sensitive nose.

Quick-foot fully exited his sanctuary to get a better view. He could see the aftermath of the carnage. On the ground, two-legs littered the forest as still as the evening air that had greeted him. The ground was covered in a crimson sheen. In some areas, flying sticks stuck out of the ground like quills from a spiny-back. He couldn’t stay there. Quick-foot made his way to his tree.

As he made his way from tree to tree, afraid to touch the ground, he saw the spot where the two-legs clashed with pointy sticks and stone sticks. Dead two-legs were piled up in that spot several high. Quick-foot knew what death was… he had seen it before. He knew squirrels and other creatures that he would never see again, some taken by other, bigger creatures like the snarl-fangs, some by two-legs. Some of them just grew too old and died. He knew of the finality of death. He continued on! It was too much for him to take in.

Quick-foot reached his tree. He could see that many nuts had falling during the chaos of the day. Those nuts were now tainted as they now lay on the crimson ground. There were still plenty of nuts hanging on the branches. But no, he could no longer stay here. Long-ear could have this tree if he wanted it. He had to get away from this place. Far away! This forest where Quick-foot had called his home since birth was now foreign to him. The memories of this night would haunt him. He had to get away.

With one last look at HIS tree, he turned and ran, leaping from tree to tree with haste. He would run faster than ever before, than he did last night even. Quick-foot would escape this nightmare place. He would find another home and hope never to witness anything like this again.

wild animals
Salvatore Serio
Read next: Calling All Wannabe Pet Owners
Salvatore Serio

My name is Sal. I am a father, a (Navy) veteran, a geek, and a writer.

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