Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't Trust The Squirrels

I flipped the page of my Shakespeare anthology. One tiny, translucent page. Only eight-hundred ninety-two more. Oh. I rubbed my forehead and looked up for a moment. The breeze played with the grass and bent the snapdragons my way. I felt glued to the park bench, chained by the book in my lap. How cruel.

A squirrel scampered down the oak tree to my right, tail waving like a furry duster as it darted across the grass. It stopped a few feet from me, sitting upright on its little paws.

Aww, how cute. I smiled, grateful for the little break. The squirrel tilted its head, black eyes looking into mine. Like it was trying to say something. I tilted mine too. For an instant, I thought I heard someone whispering. Do it... I shook my head. Hearing things now. Great.

Do it. Listen to me.

I frowned. I could have sworn the squirrel was speaking the words to my mind.

Yes. Look at my eyes.

I did. So warm and brown and glowing. They understood me. Understood my overwrought brain, ready to crack if I had to bog through one more passage thick with 'thees' and 'thous'. Understood the throbbing in my left ankle from praactice. Understood how badly I wanted to hit Brian upside the head with my Shakespeare book. Gosh. I dwelt on the last one in silent communion with the squirrel. He was so obnoxious. Couldn't we both see how the world would be so much nicer without him?

There. He's right there. Go.

I could see it how. The corner of my Oxford anthology connecting with his head.


I picked up my book and stood, the world falling silent around me. All I saw was Brian, standing by the fountain.

He tilted his head back and laughed, iPhone pressed to his ear. "Yeah, I'll definitely be there, if they haven't closed up the gym yet." He half-turned and did a double-take as I swung the book. "Anna, what the heck are you-"

I swung.

He stood there for a moment. Silent. Eyes wide. The iPhone fell, hitting the ledge of the fountain and dropping in with a soft hiss. And then his eyes rolled back in his head as he crumpled.

Men in black burst from the bushes, running toward Brian, checking his pulse, his forehead. One of them turned to me. "What have you done? Didn't you know he's the Canadian ambassador's son?"

The fuzz in my brain dissolved, and a nasty electric pulse shot through my skin. I dropped to my knees, mouth forming a perfect Cheerio. "Oh no." I gasped. The squirrel.

I looked to the fountain, at a gargoyle with water spewing from its puckered mouth. The squirrel posed on the demon's horns, flicking its tail in serpentine patterns. It winked at me before leaping impossibly far across the fountain, landing, rolling, and dashing off.

One Year Later

I huddle in the basement, blanket curled around me as my sister plays with the television aerial. Static flickers across the screen in a buzz. A reporter flashes on. He clutches the microphone, glancing with furrowed brow toward the sky. "The latest news I've gotten is that the army is advancing from the south. We have no idea in what numbers, as communications are continually cut off. All I do know is that Canadian and U.S. forces finally signed a treaty last night, making a mutual pact to fight the now universal threat." He holds a hand to his earpiece, visibly blanching. "Oh no. I've just received word my station will soon be under attack. I-"

Something explodes, and splinters fly everywhere. The reporter gasps, eyes wide, clutching a hand to his chest, where an acorn-shaped bullet protrudes. He topples. Excited squeaks and chattering fill the room. A squirrel with a red-tipped tail jumps into the view of the camera. He looks straight at me and winks before the camera blinks out.