The Little Swimmer – The Monksville Chronicles #95

Nudderbudder comes upon what he believes is the perfect hollow – fully rotted out, high up off the ground, entrance facing the water – and is relieved when the place reeks of Buggaboo’s scent.

‘He must have stayed here through the night,’ Nudder’ thinks to himself as he approaches the tuft of grasses his friend the flying squirrel likely used as a pillow. When he moves the tuft aside, though, he’s overcome with dread.

‘These are… these are bones. An owl sleeps here.’

It is at this point that Nudderbudder slowly gazes up into the tree and sees the makings of a nest supported by crossed branches suspended over the base of the hollow. He almost growls out of fear and fear alone – almost – but in doing so he’d wake the owl, and that cannot happen. It may be day, but an owl disturbed is a hungry owl indeed, and a fearsome one at that. Slowly, soundlessly, moving like a puma in the night, Nudderbudder creeps out of the owl’s hollow and scurries down the tree.

Up in his sanctum, Lúaloch closes first one eye, and then when the sound of the intruder climbing down the tree dissipates into silence, he closes the other and drifts peacefully back to sleep.

From the bottom of the tree Nudderbudder picks up Buggaboo’s faint scent; the trail ahead is not a clear one, but he does not have to follow it long before he stumbles upon the long pile of rocks that leads to the rocky shore across the Reservoir from Dino Island. Buggaboo’s scent is potent here, very pungent, but rather than slipping into the cracks and crawling through the chasm held within, Nudderbudder climbs on top of the pile and scampers all the way to the end where the rocks tumble into the water below. He stands on his back legs and sniffs the air with virile; it is here where the flying squirrel’s trail goes cold, but Nudderbudder can see what transpired all the same – Buggaboo, the confident li’l’ bugger he is, took up a home in the owl’s den. The owl sniffed him out, or perhaps the banshee heard his breathing, or mayhap it sensed him on a metaphysical level; regardless, the owl chased when the flying squirrel fled, and the only reason Buggaboo lived is because he ducked into this rock pile. When he reached the end here, he must have jumped and tried to glide to the other side.

‘Buggaboo, you’re a flying squirrel but you cannot fly, surely you know that… surely you’re not crazy enough to attempt to glide across the whole Reservoir.’

Ah, but surely he is, and Nudderbudder knows it all too well. One of two fates took his gliding friend, then – either Buggaboo made it across the Res’ and he’s sleeping soundly out in The Crater, or, well… he’s sleeping soundly somewhere else. Somewhere else entirely.

The ground squirrel closes his eyes and squeaks out a tiny sigh, lowering his head and taking his right paw in his left.

Then, he thinks to himself, ‘Buggaboo, you best have survived,’ and leaps off the rocks, landing in the lake with a small splash, not quite as small as the flying squirrel’s splash, not quite small enough to evade the perception of Leonidas, but small enough for a landwalker who should never attempt to breathe the lake. He’s good in the water, good enough to know he won’t drown, but Nudderbudder is the little swimmer in this very big lake, a lake occupied by ‘breathers more than happy to fill their stomachs with whatever morsel may break the surface.

Nudderbudder is only halfway to Dino Island when he feels a massive fin brush against his soaked tail. ‘No,’ he thinks to himself, swallowing down a gulp of murk when he tries to gasp. ‘No, not now! Please Mother Monksville, do not ‘munk me now! I have so much left to give!’

Changing his course to land him on the bent shoreline between the two isles, Nudderbudder begins to whip his tail back and forth like he’s seen the surfaceswimmers do so many times before, and this helps a bit, this actually speeds the swimming squirrel up and propels him closer and closer to his destination. In the distance he hears a soft but rhythmic splashing, like tree branches hitting the water, but he cannot pay any mind to that now! There’s something beneath the surface, something chasing him, something born from the murky depths, something that shies away from the shinelight out of not only choice but preference, something wicked and… there’s… something… good Mother, something is waiting for Nudderbudder on the shoreline. Something huge, something black like the starpool, something just hungry enough to consume one more soaking wet ground squirrel before he returns to his cave to rest his head again.

On the bent shoreline between the two isles, Merksus the black bear sits on his back legs, mouth drooped open and pink tongue dangling, waiting for his second meal to deliver itself to him.

A booming kee-aww explodes above Nudderbudder. He cranes his head up and sees a kind of plumage no red hawk could dream of bearing on its belly, a pristine white plumage flecked generously with regal black specks from which brown eagle’s wings spread. The very plumage of an avian fishcatcher, of the one true Sea Hawk.

‘Buggaboo… you ‘munked me, Buggaboo, you… well, I suppose I’ll be seeing you again soon, old friend. Yes, very soon indeed.’

But how soon? Nudderbudder does not know. Cannot know, for he is a mere mortal, a landwalker in a Universe where land, sea, and air make up a fraction of what there is to see and where there is to go, a ground squirrel in a valley flooded by the mad dance of the Monks Tribe, a lost soul well on his way to The Void to take his long dark rest. But Nudderbudder keeps paddling ahead, he swims and swims and swims, never relenting, never giving up, let’s see that cursed black bear try to catch him, he’ll hop on the shore and dash up a tree and then hop from branch to branch until he finally reaches The Crater, the wonderful Crater, the homeland of his family before they were all torn down in a fury of feathers and clumps of snowflakes – Nudderbudder dodged certain death that day, he made a bargain, cheated his own demise and escaped with his life but death always comes to collect; all things have an end and the long curtain must always be drawn, but still Nudderbudder swims, still he tries, still he gives this life his all because the ground squirrel doesn’t know where he was before he was born, he doesn’t know where he’ll go after he dies, all he knows is he lives forever in this moment, in the here and now, this moment is all he’s ever known and for it he will fight tooth and claw, he will fight for The Crater, he will fight for Buggaboo, Nudderbudder will fight for his li

This has been the twelfth subchapter of the last chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:

The Monksville Chronicles

I’ve written a few other books, too. Even fixed the link. Click here to see the list.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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