Previously: The time group fractured. Mindy used mental powers to get Hank Waterson to write a letter, warning his daughter Carrie about Glen.
PART 3.20a: WOODLANDS DETOUR 1
“This isn’t working,” Hank Waterson decided, after another twenty minutes of struggling with his novel. “I need to take a step back and get away from all this angst. Maybe… yes, of course. There was that collection of short stories requesting submissions before the end of the year. I’ll have another go at that.”
Hank closed his current document and reached into his desk drawer to pull out a small folder labeled ‘Woodland Creatures’. “Now, let’s see… I was superficially basing these new characters on Carrie and some of her classmates… I must remember to change the names later.” Hank half smiled as he browsed back over his character outlines, then began to write.
It was a bright sunny day, and Carrie was hopping merrily down the woodlands path, her long bunny ears jutting out cutely behind her.
“Did you want some barley to go with your hops?” chattered a nearby voice. Carrie turned to see a chipmunk watching her from a nearby tree stump. She immediately produced a huge croquet mallet from out of nowhere, using it to bonk Frank on the head.
“No rabbit puns!” the bunny girl accused.
“And stop watching Carrie!” came another voice, a smaller hammer coming down next to the mallet. “Remember, you’re dating me, not her.” Luci adjusted her skirt and twitched her long squirrel tail, after which both her and Carrie’s magical objects were dispelled back to the nothing from whence they came.
“I… I just thought Carrie might need some cheering up…” Frank protested, his eyes spinning around in a swirly pattern. “After last night’s date with Glen…”
“Hm. How DID that go?” Luci asked, scampering closer to Carrie. “Did you learn any more about him?”
“I learned he’s very generous,” Carrie said. She reached into her tank top and pulled out a small pendant on a chain. “Seeing as he gave me this present!”
“I still don’t trust him,” Frank protested. “I mean, Glen’s always wearing that mask…”
“He’s a raccoon,” Carrie reminded. She pulled out her mallet again for an over the shoulder shot, but this time Frank managed to produce his magical tennis racquet in time to block her. “There you go, much better reflexes that time,” the bunny applauded him.
“Your pendant seems to be glowing though,” Luci mused, scampering left, right, over Carrie’s head and then under her arms to try and get a better look. “Is that normal? Should we analyze it?”
“It does make me feel all tingly,” Carrie admitted. “But this is a magical forest. One expects to have such tingles.”
“Does one? Because we’ve been feeling less and less of those,” Luci reminded her, whiskers twitching. “It must be that the magic is fading, and we don’t know why.”
“Right, good point,” Carrie sighed. “Soon the humans in that nearby settlement are going to see through the illusions, and start wondering why we wear clothes and have opposable thumbs on our paws.”
“Actually,” Frank piped up again, “we English-speaking clothes-wearing animals are the exception in this forest, not the norm. It’s more likely that we’ll simply lose the ability for higher thought, reverting back to being much more typical forest creatures.”
“Yes, thank you for that uplifting reminder, Frank,” Carrie grumbled.
“He does make a point though,” Luci chattered. “If this magic fade keeps up, we may lose the ability to conjure our items, which makes us more vulnerable to… FOX!”
Luci made a jump for a nearby tree as Carrie spun, already whipping out her mallet. It’s handle connected solidly with a long pool cue, and Carrie grimaced with the effort of holding the solid length of wood at bay. “Why don’t you give this up already?” the bunny said through gritted teeth. “You’re never going to get me, Julie.”
“Just keeping you on your toes, much like how you do with Frank,” the fox replied, flashing a smile from behind the cue. “You don’t really think I’d eat a friend, do you?”
“I’d be more convinced if you’d stop licking your lips at the sight of me,” Carrie retorted.
“Aw. You know I can’t control my biology,” Julie said innocently. “Come on Carrie, have faith. This is only a test. Because here’s the thing, it feels to me like your parrying skills are slipping, and if I really wanted to, I could probably–”
Julie stopped speaking as, with a little flash, Carrie’s croquet mallet completely vanished. With a shout of surprise, Carrie jumped to the side, even as Julie executed a quick flip over her pool cue to land on her feet instead of her face.
“Hey!” Frank shouted in surprise. “You shouldn’t be able to counter her conjured item like that! Not that I’m complaining or anything,” he added, as Julie turned her gaze upon him. “And I’d get stuck in your throat, we know I would.”
With a shake of her head and a swish of her long red tail, Julie flipped her long wooden pole back into the null space from whence it had come. “I’m so misunderstood,” she lamented. “I’ve never so much as nibbled on a fellow sentient creature. I eat berries, grasses and fruit.”
“And insects, and fish, and mice…” Luci muttered.
“None of whom talk back to me. What, a fox girl can’t vary her diet from time to time?”
“Don’t change the subject,” Frank protested. “What was with your dispelling of Carrie’s mallet??”
“Julie didn’t do that,” Carrie admitted, her bunny nose twitching. “It’s weird, I just… couldn’t hold it any more. You were right, Luci. This magic fading stuff is accelerating.”
“Or you’ve been playing around with your magic abilities too much, Carrie,” Julie retorted. She produced a nail file from the fur behind her ear and began using it on her claws. “It’s like I’ve always said. Only strike when it’s to your advantage to do so.”
“Still, in the year since we got these powers, none of us have ever really questioned where the source magic came from,” Frank chattered. “That now feels like a major oversight on our part.”
“Yeah, you never know what you’ve got until you start losing it,” Luci agreed. “But at this point, where would we even start looking for the source of our sentience power?”
The four animals exchanged uncertain glances. The silence was broken by a familiar voice came from overhead. “News, news, I’ve totally got news, you know!” Chartreuse called. “Calling all sentients, I’ve totally got… oh hey, there you guys are!”
“Oh good, a visit from our resident loon,” Julie said dryly.
Chartreuse dipped down lower, circling above the others as she spoke. “There’s news over at the lake!” the loon wailed. “Clarke’s found something that could be important, we should all, you know, get together and get over there ASAP! I’ve already notified Corry and Laurie and they…”
“What?!” Julie interrupted, jerking her head up. “Nuts!”
“Hm? Nuts?” Luci said, perking her head up.
“Chartreuse! I asked you to STOP telling Corry stuff before you tell me!” the fox girl shouted. Quickly discarding her nail file, Julie dropped to all fours and dashed off in the direction of the lake.
“Well, Corry was totally closer,” the loon said to Julie’s retreating form. “Now, hey, has anyone seen Glen?”
“He’s doing his nocturnal thing,” Carrie replied. “It’s okay, I can fill him in later. Come on, I’ll race everyone to the water’s edge!”
“Race? Oh, sure,” Frank mumbled as Carrie bounded off without waiting for a reply. “Except since the rabbit is always the fastest, what’s the point…”
At the mouth of the lake, the only sound was that of the river water splashing down over the rocks. A bear sat quietly on the bank, looking into the rushing current, apparently scanning for fish. He adjusted his silk shirt, cocked his head to the side… then quickly spun, producing a reinforced yardstick. “Don’t even try it.”
“Try what?” Julie inquired, standing up from where she had been crouched the grass. She brushed off her jeans.
“You know what,” Corry grumped, still pointing the yardstick at her. “You and that pool cue, you’re always searching for some balls to smack around. There will be none of that happening here!”
“Ugh, well what ELSE am I supposed to do with my stupid cue?” the fox sniffed. “At least YOU got a handy measuring tool.”
“Hmph,” the bear grunted noncommittally. He dispelled his stick and turned back to the water. “I still can’t believe how we predatory animals were somehow reduced to conjuring up little more than makeshift clubs. I mean, who decided that any potentially useful weapon could only be generated by the prey?”
“Fate?” Julie guessed, moving closer to Corry while still keeping a respectful distance. “Or, see it as a challenge. If we don’t have an actual mallet, we’re forced to think, which keeps our minds fresh.”
“Mmm. Yeah, I guess. Still, if I had a human crossbow, I could take over your part of the forest in no time.”
“And if I had a human rifle, you’d be ousted from your area so fast it would make your head spin,” Julie smirked. “But since that’s not the case, we have to make the best of our situation. Like how your sister does.” Julie pointed past Corry towards the treeline. Laurie was now visible there, amusing herself by trying to balance her beachball on her nose.
Corry’s face took on a pained look. “I say again, you and your pool cue leave my sister and her artistic interests out of this! She may be more teddy bear than brown bear right now, but eventually she’ll realize how she’s capable of so much more.”
“Right. Last I heard she was catching fish by talking them to death.”
“Julie…” Corry began dangerously, but he stopped upon hearing another animal approaching from the forest. At almost the same time, a beaver broke the surface of the water nearby.
“Hey!” Clarke called out from the lake, shaking water from his head. “Everyone assembled yet?”
-Yes, we will get a few parts of this. Are you enjoying it? Do you think it’s a colossal misstep? Does the animal mapping at least feel accurate? You can always vote or comment.