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Black Smudges in the Woods

Wed, 19 Jul 2023, 09:21 AM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

A squirrel complained at twilight from somewhere in the woods. You might know the growling-whining complaint of a squirrel. It would serve perfectly as a sound effect of some lurking creature in a sci-fi movie.

I turned to look. The noise stopped. I looked away, and it resumed. Then another squirrel joined in. I turned to look. Their noise stopped. I looked away, and they both resumed. This went on a few times, each round louder than the last. I imagined them slowly approaching me and at their loudest, expecting them to be glowering at me in the dimming darkness from margin of the woods.

The growling and whining no longer sounded like squirrels. The hair stood up on my arms.

I walked to the edge of the deck and stared into the the forest. There I waited, determined to force the creatures to make the next move, which they did. At the top of a topless tree there were two black smudges of shadow moving only slightly, growling and whining. 

“I see you there,” I said. Silence. They stopped moving, and I was no longer certain that they ever had.

One of these smudges was on the side of the topless tree, silhouetted by the twilit woods. The other perched atop the shattered trunk where the rest of the tree had snapped off some time ago. I stood motionless and waited. Then the top smudge moved toward a hole in the tree that I had not noticed and disappeared inside. 

Even as the other black smudge on the side remained in place, there came a commotion from inside that hole. And after some time that seemed to go on forever but was likely only a few seconds, two black smudges emerged from the hole, one chasing to the other, spiraling around trunks and branches as the first one leapt to other trees and raced away into the canopy. While those two were chasing each other, the third moved slowly around the topless tree to the hole and went inside. 

Now all was quiet. There was no more growling. No whining. And soon the chaser of the two returned to the tree, perched on top, and eventually climbed into the hole.

I never saw the third smudge again.

© jumpingfish by David Hasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License