For those of you who are not aware of Scamper, a children's book I wrote, I have decided to post the first chapter from the book on my blog. The book can be ordered for purchase through Xlibris.com, Amazon.com, Borders.com, Barnsandnoble.com, or for international orders at: Orders@xlibris.com. There is usually about a two week waiting period for orders.
CHAPTER 1 Falling
Deep, deep into the woods, far from any roads, and further still from any houses or cities, is a place where humans have never set foot and where animals have not forgotten how to talk. The creatures that dwell in this place call it Farwood. All that lies beyond the Farwood is known simply as the Yonderlands. No one from Farwood has ever set foot, paw, or hoof in the Yonderlands. Nor would anyone want to.
Or for that matter, have reason to. It was springtime. A time when young were born and days grew longer. A time for sunny days filled with the sweet scent of freshly sprouted wildflowers. But springtime in Farwood was also a time where one day could go from blue skies filled with fluffy, white clouds and warm, gentle breezes, to a day where dangerous winds blew under an angry, dark sky. This was one of those days.
A slate-gray band was inching out of the northwest horizon growing wider and wider and eating away at the blue sky in its path. The mild afternoon breeze suffered interruptions from the gusts of wind that served as messengers announcing the approaching storm. Because of the storm, darkness would come early this evening. In anticipation, all the animals scurried nervously about collecting food and securing their burrows, nests, or whatever form of shelter they made their home in.
In her nest atop a tree, a mother squirrel whispered comforting words to her five squirming babies. The changes in the wind and the sky frightened the little squirrels who had never seen a storm before. “It’s all right,” their mother cooed. “Don’t be frightened, it’s just a storm. Now listen to me. I don’t know how long the storm will last and I have to gather some food for the night. I’ll be back before the storm gets here.” She nudged them with her nose and licked the top of their heads to reassure them, then rushed down the tree to forage for food in preparation for the gloomy night ahead. When she reached the ground she glanced back at her nest and saw her wide-eyed babies peeking over its edge staring at her with worried faces. “Ooohhh,” she sighed when she saw the frightened faces of her infants. Forcing herself to look away, she gathered up her resolve and trudged off in search of their evening meal.
The baby squirrels strained to see their mother until she had disappeared from sight. Scamper, the smallest squirrel in the litter, shuddered trying to shake away his fear when he saw his mother disappear. One by one, the infant squirrels slid down into their nest and huddled as close as they could to each other hoping to steal whatever comfort the nearness of their tiny bodies might offer.
The storm grew nearer as the minutes dragged by. Whirlwinds popped up like ghosts, sweeping up last fall’s leaves in skyward spirals. A gray veil weighed down with heavy moisture spread across the earth replacing the blue sky.
Gliding in the air currents like a canoe riding the currents in a river, a hawk flew over the treetops with his wings spread wide. Round and round he circled, scanning everything below him with his hungry eyes. Alert to even the smallest movement, the hawk was hunting for a victim to serve as his bedtime snack.
As the storm grew closer and closer, dark clouds stole whatever daylight remained. The branch where the squirrel nest was perched swayed as heavy wind gusts fought the leaves for passage. Silver light flashed intermittently accompanied by a slight shaking of the ground under the tree. Scamper and his siblings shuddered nervously at the sound of the distant thunder.
The movement of the babies squirming inside their nest caught the hawk’s keen eye. Drawing his wings over his head to let the air escape and allow him to dive, the hawk swooped down on the defenseless infants. Scamper, whose senses were already heightened from his fear of the nearing storm, sensed that some other, more immediate danger was in the air and looked up just in time to see the outstretched talons of the hawk as he plucked his tiny body out of the nest. With Scamper imprisoned in his mighty talons, the hawk flapped his powerful wings to gain altitude and flew away with his infant victim.
Scamper’s brothers and sisters cried out in terror. His mother, who was hurrying back to her babies ahead of the storm, heard their cries. She looked up, but was powerless against the disastrous sight of the hawk flying away with her baby. Scamper’s mother cried out his name. It was the last time Scamper would ever hear his mother’s voice again.
Caught in the hawk’s taloned prison, Scamper could feel the intermittent thrusts of upward motion caused by his captor’s wings flapping to gain speed and altitude. For what seemed like a lifetime, the raptor-bird flew with his prey in the direction of the approaching storm.
Suddenly, the air around Scamper became electrified. All around him there was nothing but blinding light and deafening sound. A bolt of lightening cracked and struck a tree a short distance away from the flying hawk and his prey. Startled, the hawk let out a harrowing screech and loosened his death-grip around Scamper. Falling, and falling, and falling, Scamper covered his eyes with his tiny paws, too afraid to look down to what he feared would be his death.
Only seconds before his body was due to hit the ground, a powerful force snatched him and carried him upward, only this time, there were no talons holding him prisoner. An updraft of wind had whooshed under the tiny squirrel, carried him upwards, and threw him into the middle of a whirlwind. Leaves were swirling around him, under him, and over him. The noise of wind, leaves, and thunder mixed into a maddening symphony of chaos. Scamper was caught in a whirlwind that seemed to go on forever. Like a drowning victim who grabs onto whatever he can, Scamper managed to grab a large passing leaf and held on to it with all of his might. Leaf and squirrel spun round and round until finally the whirlwind danced away and released them from its stubborn grip. Riding the leaf like a glider, Scamper circled downward, downward, downward, until he landed with a thud on a pile of leaves that the wind had stacked. His racing heart was pounding in his chest and he was breathing so hard that he could hardly catch his breath. He was trembling from the fear and the cold, and was too dazed and frightened to move. The crack of a lightening bolt shocked Scamper back into the present. Rain started to pour. Each gust of wind brought with it an extra sheet of cold rain that pelted down on the wretched little squirrel. Scamper collected his wits and surveyed his immediate surroundings. He was alive and free from the hawk. He was free! Free? He was alone.
Peering through the dense curtain formed by the rain, he spotted a log with a hole in it. Scamper ran as fast as he could toward it. Stumbling on the slippery, muddy ground, Scamper fell face first into a puddle, pulled himself up and kept on running toward the safety that the hollow log promised. When he finally reached the log he scratched his way up its wall and into the hole. He was wet and shivering with cold. Inside the log it was dry and dark. Scamper took one last peek at the unfriendly world outside, and too exhausted now to feel even fear, he let himself fall into the comfort of the cavern that was the inside of the hollowed log. The bottom of the log was filled with small twigs and leaves that had drifted inside of it over time. Scamper nestled his little body into this soft and welcome refuge from the cold and the wind and fell into a deep sleep.