THE SQUIRREL AND THE EASTER EGG
by Nick Edinger
Alice had seen several ovals around the garden before, but never one like this. This one emitted a rapid, shrill noise that made Alice cover her ears with tiny claws.
She scurried over to it anyway. Rapidly, she stroked a bushy tail over the egg; it was smooth like the rest, and this wasn’t the first bright-orange oval she had seen. She tried to pick it up, yet each attempt lasted only a few seconds and ended in panting. The giant, purple duck statue, frozen mid-walk, kept watch between the towering ferns and hostas. Alice scratched her pale underside furiously, staring at what looked like an eye on the oval. It reminded her of her own beady eyes.
To the east, the Gate Wall swung open with a shriek. Alice leapt on top of the egg, covering it with her brown fur, blending it in with the nearby evergreen trunk. This only muffled the beeping, so Alice began to shake and sweat. She heard another strange sound- an irregular clicking- before hearing the old stomping. She couldn’t close her eyes.
A white and leathery foot with a maze of grimy strings on it, as big as Alice herself, stepped above the cracks in the stone walk. Each foot was connected to a thick, blue trunk that didn’t look like any skin Alice had ever seen. She was too close to the ground to see more of the beast, but she lay frozen at the thought of its wide, lumpy face and long claws. The stompers stopped moving and turned to face Alice. She was frozen for a long time. Then, they turned back and began walking towards the grapevine crawling up the side of The Cube Nest.
Once the thumps grew distant, Alice didn’t even look both ways before rolling the egg across the bumpy pathway, pushing it along with her little nose. At the other side was her cache, which was where she stored food. Already, she could smell the berries, acorns, seeds, walnuts, tree bark, and stolen bird feed from the hole underneath the wide oak tree. Placing the egg over the hole, she began to dig, hoping to find some way to fit it inside.
Descending from the tree came her good friend Eugene. “Alice, what is that?” he asked.
“It’s mine,” replied Alice, still digging around her cache.
“Are you crazy?” Eugene squeaked. “You can’t take things from the ancient ones! They have diseases! Didn’t you pay attention to those after-school specials?”
“C’mon, there’s gotta be something good inside. Besides, you were ok with me taking that sweet-tasting bar they dropped.”
“This is different!” Eugene’s own long, bushy tail began to wiggle nervously. “The ancient ones are very protective of their Easters! We could get it trouble!”
The hole began to cave in, and the egg fell inside; Alice’s digging had finally done it. She jumped into the dark and wet cavern where she stored her food, and took a pause to sniff in the wonderful scent.
Eugene climbed further down the tree and peered his small head into the cache. “I wish we could do one of our usual adventures.”
“Sure! I just need to cover this noisy… you called it an Easter, right?”
“Right.” Eugene carefully climbed inside the hole lit only by a grey sky. “I saw a sign inside The Cube Nest that said, ‘Happy Easter.’ They put it out every year they put out those ovals. I think the big bully ones hide the little one’s Easters, and when they find it, they’re happy.”
Alice smiled. “That sounds fun. Let’s do it with your history books!”
“No!” cried Eugene, but they were both laughing about it soon anyway.
They stopped laughing once they heard the irregular clicking. Both of them dove into Alice’s pile of half-eaten food and looked up. Minutes of stomping later, the ancient one came into view. It was shaved like a newborn squirrel, and wore clothes as bright as the Easter. Most ancients moved with their eyes open, but this one did not. It had a metal branch she kept tapping in front of her; Eugene and Alice could see that this was what caused the clicking.
“Is that- is it blind?” Alice asked in a raspy voice.
“I think so,” replied Eugene in an equally low voice. “I think we should give back the Easter.”
“But they have so much already!”
“Maybe,” said Eugene. “But that doesn’t mean we can just take it. We don’t know what it means to them.”
Alice looked up to the sky, and she could see glazed tears on the ancient one’s monstrous cheeks. It brightened up, however, after turning towards the sound of the beeping eggs and smiling.
The squirrels began to panic and chatter among their pool of food. The pale hand with mighty fingers and a dirty palm began to close in on the hole.
“Do something! Quick!” Alice whispered to Eugene.
While tightly closing his eyes, Eugene scuttled underneath the egg and pushed it up. Two of the ancient one’s five fingers snatched the egg, and the squirrels heard a joyous cry erupt from the egg’s owner. The stomping began again at a faster pace this time, for the giant creature began to skip off.
No one broke the silence for a long time, save some birds. After a while, Eugene turned to Alice and said, “Sorry about losing your Easter.”
“Sorry!” exclaimed Alice. “That was the best part! We’ve gotta do it again!”
Alice started a bounding stride out of the hole and into the garden of trumpet vines and stinging nettles. Eugene soon followed, glad to be on a good adventure for once.
Copyright (C) 2013 by Nick Edinger