Chapter Six: Journey
Her labors required most of the night to accomplish, and moonset was nigh as she started out again from her burrow to retrieve the last of the nuts. She had managed to fill two cells and part of another with her prizes, but she was loath to leave even one behind, for who knew when the rains would begin to fall anew? Scampering along the route which she had now committed to memory, she thought ahead to the moment when she would be able to settle into her soft nest, secure in the knowledge that she had harvested an adequate supply of food to tide her over in case of storms.
A slight rushing movement of air suddenly ruffled her fur and she felt a tight constriction around her middle as if she had been snared by steel bands. Sharp, tiny barbs dug into her belly, and she felt her feet leave the ground. She began to wriggle violently; she whipped her head frantically from side to side, attempting to snap at whatever was clutching her. This was an entirely new experience for her, and she cared for it not at all. Failing to connect to anything with her teeth, and lacking any comprehension of what was happening to her, she began to shudder in an extremity of fear as the argent moon shone pitilessly down upon the land and the predawn breeze combed roughly through her quivering whiskers.
It seemed to her to be an eternity that she was speedily borne through the suddenly hostile darkness, disoriented and lost as she was in a fog of terror. The end of her journey came suddenly, as she was jarred against an unyielding surface that felt like intertwined twigs. She found herself staring fearfully up at two large white creatures which seemed to consist of nothing but huge round eyes and gaping maws. They were each emitting a horrid rasping noise as they craned their necks toward whatever was clutching her in an iron grip. Her gaze shifted upward as something descended from out of the darkness, pale and round and growing larger as if the moon were plunging from the sky, falling directly toward her. She squirmed violently to avoid it, and felt a number of loose twigs at the edge of the nest shift and give way, slipping out from beneath her and causing her to scrabble futilely to maintain a foothold on the sliding surface. She found herself plummeting earthward as the owl that held her momentarily lost its balance, spasmodically releasing her from its talons as it attempted to regain a precarious purchase on the nest.
She fell for some distance before landing roughly upon a large branch. It knocked most of the wind from her, but as she saw the dim outline of the owl soaring about, fully intent on relocating its prey, the frightened mouse scuttled feverishly down the length of the branch, her inkdrop eyes wide as she searched for some way to escape the inevitable. As the owl spotted her and swooped closer, preparing to pounce, the little rodent dashed into a small opening in the trunk of the tree and burrowed in as far as she could, turning to peek fearfully out again to see what might happen next. The owl landed on the branch and strode to the hole, first peering in with one eye and then inserting its beak into the claustrophobic cavity, snapping viciously at the cowering mouse. She huddled against the back of the restricted space, praying that she was in far enough to avoid being taken captive again by the furious feathered frenzy.
The enraged owl, disgusted with itself for so easily losing its plump, tender prey, made many futile attempts to recapture the tantalizing tidbit. Eventually it became frustrated, concluded that it was wasting its time and emitted a peevish rasp before flying off to seek easier prey. The relieved little mouse curled up into a tight ball, deciding to stay where she was until she could be sure that she was no longer being hunted.
I thought about including chapter seven because this chapter was short, but my energy is flagging, so I think I'll wrap it up for now.
P.S. Please see my previous journal entry for some falcon photos courtesy of that most excellent photography company,
Eastman Kodak Co.
Thank you for stopping by. Peace.
All content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005