“The War With the Raccoon People”

12 11 2011

I have a feeling of creative energy and the desire to write a story. I asked the all-knowing facebook and my friend Tim came up with “The War With the Raccoon People” so here ya go. Dedicated with nerdy affection to Tim.

Not all the tunnels the children made were of the hands-and-knees variety. Of the half-dozen children who frequented the green space behind the suburban sprawl, only two liked their tunnels low and close. Anna built her pathways high and wide, Jeff used tree limbs to make bridges over nothing instead of tunnels through the brush. Zach liked to make small corridors through the thorniest bushes and slimiest mud. Nobody followed Zach for long. Alyssa (“Lyss” to all but her mother) refused to use anyone else’s paths and instead followed the animal trails. It was Lyss who first saw them.

The green space was a last bastion of earth, stone, and tree in a city which expanded daily, throwing itself onto new ground with every exhalation of smog and cement. Covering something like five square miles the forest had been early claimed by deer, squirrel, rabbit and coyote. No other animal stayed long in a place so near the stink of human.

No animal, that is, until the raccoon came.

Raccoon are scavengers. Clever with their paws and more clever still when faced with the challenge of outwitting humans. It took only a couple of raccoon to lay claim to the entire green space before they moved their entire clan. Lock, stock and weapons they came, bringing their intelligence and their long-standing hatred of the humans whose blind power sought ever to kill all creatures but themselves.

Unfortunately, the humans were too big to be fought off by even the smartest raccoon warrior. At least, the adults were.

Lyss saw one. A glimpse only and that too quick for recognition. Drawing herself up and squinting she followed the line of waving ferns until they moved no more. It took one long whistle to call the other children to her.

A ragged circle formed as, one by one, the kids came through their private pathways to stand beside their friend.

With great formality they waited in silence until the Whistler spoke. “Zach, Anna, Jeff, Peter, Daisy” Her voice was ponderous, “I just saw a Something”.

“A Something?” It was Zach, the skeptic. His voice was challenging.

“Yes. It was small and moved fast.”

“A cat?” Anna was in charge of The Pet Recovery Detail and took her job seriously.

“Nope. Too big and the way it moved was all wrong.”

“What’ll we do?” Jeff was not known for patience, and preferred action to talking anytime.

All the kids spoke then, some voting to catch it, others to forget it. One voice shouted “death” in a shrill soprano.

It was probably that one word that sealed their fate. Raccoons don’t speak English but they know a battle cry when they hear it.

“We don’t even know what ‘it’ is,” Lyss pointed out, “so we can hardly decide what to do with it. It’s almost suppertime anyway and we don’t want the grown-ups wandering around back here looking for us. We’ll meet tomorrow after lunch.”

They dispersed with little argument. Kids know sense when they hear it and Lyss was persuasive.

Dark fell soon after, dropping into each hollow and leaf-shape. It blotted out everything in the woods except the feral gleam of two dozen pair of eyes. The raccoon had begun a council of war.

The next day the woods, though cosmetically unaltered, were a different place indeed. The kids met on the lip of the trees, at the line where green grass changed to fern and blackberry.

“Here’s the plan, kids”, Lyss stood on a small boulder and threw her shoulders back smartly, “We’re going to figure out what the Something was that I saw.”

“How?” Daisy interrupted.

“I was just going to say… We need to be our quietest. If it’s an animal it’s probably scared of people. Go your own ways, keep your eyes open and meet back here in two hours. Keep your whistle wet and sing out if you find it.”

They scurried off then, hairless beasts as comfortable in the woods as two-leggers can make themselves.

Zach got into trouble first. Sometime in the night something had changed his tunnels. They were no longer his familiar slime-floored paths. The twists and turns were all wrong, the bracken pushing close and forcing him forward. In ten minutes he was lost, utterly.

Daisy found her airy tunnels strung with blackberry, thistle, stinging nettle and ivy. All cleverly concealed among the normal harmless plants. Every scrap of exposed skin was soon covered in scratches, welts and nettle stings.

Jeff tumbled into a pit after only a quarter mile. Peter met the same fate, though in a different ditch.

Anna had the sense to let out a whistle, piercing and shrill, when she realized her paths were being detoured. Lyss, springing along a deer-trail, heard her and came running.

The two girls met, wide-eyed and panting, in the shade of a scrub oak. They said nothing but looked around for their friends. Only faint birdsong met their strained ears, only trees in sight.

“Where are the rest of ’em?” Anna’s voice was quiet.

“I dunno but I don’t like it.” Lyss tore a branch off the oak and handed it to her friend. Anna gripped it like a champion slugger.

A quiet rumble, then, like rain on hard earth. Back to back Anna and Lyss watched the ferns part. Beady masked eyes blinked, then narrowed in what could only be hatred.

“Lyss?” Anna’s voice quavered.

“Yeah?” Lyss narrowed her eyes and began to breathe hard. People in movies always breathed hard right before battle.

Anna never got to ask the question. A hundred years of raccoon hatred rose up in two dozen animals and the storm broke upon two small girls.

There was nothing for it but to fight. Anna dealt fearsome blows left and right, knocking the raccoons backward and out. Lyss had no weapon but her hands and feet. Blind panic drove both girls as they fought hands and feet against fur and claw.

The tide turned and turned again. Now the raccoon pressed close and the girls were almost lost in fur and flashing teeth. Now the girls drove the smaller creatures backward. It was an even match.

Even until Daisy, swollen and sore, came crashing through the underbrush, throwing stones with deadly accuracy.

The enemy scattered then, and the girls themselves ran. They found the boys, pulled two of them out of cleverly disguised pits, and cut a way into Zach’s muddy prison. All six limped out of the woods, wiping blood away and brushing off dirt. Anna and Lyss were cut and looked worst, but their mothers wouldn’t notice too much.

It had only been an hour since they’d set off to discover the “something”. Their discovery had not been what they expected and all were shocked. The woods were no longer safe.

No-one said anything. The girls hugged each other. The boys pointedly didn’t make eye contact. All cleaned themselves up as best they could and headed home.

They wouldn’t ever return.

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