Previously: Hank Waterson writes a story about woodland creatures with magical powers who have the names of Carrie’s friends. Raccoon Glen found evidence Fox Julie was a traitor.
PART 3.21b: WOODLANDS OMEN 2
“Carrie, she should get the benefit of the doubt,” Clarke put in quietly. “If we persecute people based largely on their animal heritage, we’re no better than the humans.” Carrie blinked at the beaver in surprise, appeared to think about that for a moment, then with a frown, she released Julie’s tail.
“But, okay,” Laurie said, puzzled. “If this documentation IS fake, and Julie’s NOT the traitor… who else COULD it be?”
As if on cue, there was the sound of something breaking the surface of the earth less than a metre away. Everyone turned in time to see a groundhog poke his head out. “Oh, g-g-good you’re still h-here!” it said in relief, scampering out of the hole. Behind him, a squirrel peered out of the hole as well.
“Luci?” Frank said in shock. “Where have you been?”
“Covert work underground,” Luci explained. “Sorry that me and Tim are late, but he can’t conjure his flashlight any more and we took a couple wrong turns.” She jumped out of the hole and shook the dirt off of herself.
“We were able to translate a pertinent passage though,” Tim said, holding a sheaf of papers out towards Julie. “I think you’ll be p-pleased with the r-r-results!”
“Passage? Covert mission? What the devil is going on here?” Corry said.
“Something I turned up in the warehouse the other day,” Julie said, running her eyes down the top sheet. “Evidence of the fact that the humans have been planning their recent dumping activities for MONTHS, along with the ‘inside informant’ – who, ergo, is not me. The problem was, the critical passages were either in code, or a language I didn’t recognize. So I somewhat reluctantly called for Tim and Luci’s services.”
“This is a very clever smokescreen you’ve put together in case of capture Julie,” Glen said, folding his arms. “But you underestimate our ability to see through it.”
“Hold on. Let’s see what Luci and Tim turned up first, then compare,” Lee suggested.
Julie flipped to the second page, then quickly the third, before looking up at Tim in surprise. He nodded and shrugged. “Let’s get him then,” Julie declared. Throwing the sheets aside, she pounced – however, Glen was already moving.
With a speed no one had expected, Glen dove to the side, rolled a metre away and came up with one palm extended. “Freeze,” he ordered. All the other sentient animals stopped in place, with looks of surprise on their faces.
“Whoa, you’re totally more powerful than you look,” Chartreuse said, trying in vain to move her feet or her wings.
“Damn straight,” Glen said, now making no effort to hide his evil grin. “Of course, it helps that all of you have had your powers mostly leeched away by this point.”
“But… but you’ll soon be losing your powers too!” Laurie protested. “Glen, why are you doing that?”
“Because,” Glen explained patiently, “as Tim’s translation no doubt revealed, my powers aren’t tied to this forest like yours are. And once you all revert, the humans will be granting safe passage for me and one other, all the way back to my real home. Far, far away from here!”
“The translation actually wasn’t that specific,” Tim admitted. “It just said the r-raccoon wants out of here.”
“We were kinda hoping that by doing things this way, you’d give everything away,” Luci added.
“Oh. Well, whatever,” Glen said with a shrug.
“Wait, who’s the other one you’ll be with?” Clarke asked.
“Who else?” Glen said, gesturing towards Carrie.
The bunny twitched her nose. “Me?? News flash, Glen, I don’t I want to go with you if this is how you treat my friends! I mean really, Glen, how COULD you?”
Glen shrugged. “Carrie, my mission was to track you down, and use a magic charm to help you understand your own inherent powers of sentience,” he replied. “Unfortunately, at the same time as I was awakening YOUR powers, Mindy and Shady were prowling through the forest, scouting for ways to expand that human settlement. To keep my item hidden from their probing, I buried it in that clearing – not realizing that it’s aura was still active, and able to affect other animals!”
“So, what, you think we gained our intellect and magical abilities because of this magical charm you owned?” Luci scoffed. “Please. I’m more special than an ordinary, everyday squirrel!”
“Believe what you like,” Glen said airily. “All I know is, after years of travel to track down the Chosen Bunny, I had to spend even MORE time messing around here, to learn how to reverse sentience on a bunch of useless creatures!” Glen shook his head. “I had hoped that by splicing together my Linquist contract with the signature I found for Julie, you’d all be thrown all off the track… and in another day, things would no longer matter… but, no matter. You’ve become weak enough for me to gain the upper ‘paw’ regardless.”
“Glen! If this is the real you? I’m staying right here!” Carrie said. Her body tensed. “And… and I’d totally put my paws on my hips to emphasize that point if only I could move!”
“I am sorry to hear you say that. But you’re coming with me regardless,” the raccoon said, smirking. “Because if you hadn’t figured it out yet, you dumb bunny, your powers aren’t tied to this forest either. It’s not the dumping, but rather that pendant I gave you earlier in the week which is suppressing your abilities. And once you’re powerless, we’ll be going. Don’t worry, your powers will be restored when we arrive back at my home.”
“But that’s kidnapping!” Carrie shrieked. “You won’t get away with that, or with using my powers in order to start a future war!” She shuddered. “Wait, how did I even know that’s what you were involving me in?”
“As the Chosen One,” Glen said. “Deep down, you knew all along.”
“You… you spent all this time tracking me down because your faction needed more power in order to stage takeovers of neighbouring forests!” Carrie realized. “And somehow you knew I could be more powerful than any of the other animals on Earth!”
“Oh, great, Carrie’s a powerful weapon. This information would have been useful a week ago,” Corry sighed.
“Too bad there’s no such thing as time travel,” Julie agreed.
“But Carrie, if you’ve got a bunch of magical power inside you, how come you can’t use it to shatter that pendant you’re wearing?” Laurie said.
“I… I’m not sure how to even move,” Carrie said. She grimaced in an internal effort, tears springing to the corners of her eyes. “I’m sorry guys. I… I don’t think I can do anything!”
“Here, let me get that for you then,” Lee offered, moving to take the offending jewellery off Carrie’s neck. There was a beat, as all eyes shifted to the porcupine. “Yeah, hey, I could move all along, I just wanted to hear Glen reveal the plot,” Lee said, tossing the pendant aside.
“Hmmmm. A natural immunity? That’s not good,” Glen mused.
Freed of the magic draining item, the blonde bunny quickly rounded on the raccoon, her blue eyes bright. “Kidnap ME will, you? Threaten MY friends?! Well then, it’s YOUR turn to freeze, you EX-BOYFRIEND!”
Carrie bounded forward, catching Glen before he’d even taken two steps. One tap on his forehead, and he dropped like a stone, lying on the ground as if he was frozen in time. Carrie blinked down at her paw in surprise. “I can DO that?”
With Glen down, all the other animals gave a collective sigh of relief, having regained their own mobility.
“Nice work, Carrie!” Chartreuse said, gleefully clapping her wings together. “And that was a totally cool fake out, Lee!”
Lee shrugged, tugging at his jacket lapels. “I live closest to the affected clearing – I must have built up a little extra internal power or something.”
“So what do we do with Glen now?” Tim wondered.
“Humans don’t look twice at roadkill,” Julie said offhandedly, producing another nail file from her fur.
“Julie dear, that’s a little gruesome, even for you, isn’t it?” Clarke said, reaching out to touch her arm. Julie hesitated, then gave a yielding nod.
“I say give HIM that pendant,” Luci suggested. “Seal it permanently around Glen’s neck somehow. I mean, if it worked on Carrie’s powers, surely it will work on his.”
“Good thought,” Frank agreed. “In fact, now that we know who our insider is, we can threaten the humans with exposing all this dumping they’re doing. If Shady really wants to keep things quiet, they’ll have to stop their interference.”
“Ooh, but what about cleaning up the damage that’s already been done?” Laurie said worriedly. “Chartreuse, your conjurable conjuring crystals, could they purify the area?”
Chartreuse shook her head. “Already considered it. There’s, you know, too much there for me to handle.”
“Well, from what I learned about this glop from Mindy, there is a primary ingredient,” Julie offered. “I believe all we’d need to do is figure out how to neutralize that. Then the problem will take care of itself.”
“In that case, it’s a good thing I’ve spent the last few days analyzing slime from the clearing,” Corry spoke up. “You’ll be pleased to know that we’re not up against anything radioactive. Though the strange thing is, the primary ingredient – and believe me, I triple checked this – it seems to be… well… lime jello.”
“J-J-Jello?” Tim said, surprised.
“If jello neutralizes magic, remind me not to forage for it,” Lee said.
“Hah. If THAT’S all it is, I’m sure we can come up with a counteragent,” Carrie asserted, dusting off her paws after having given Glen a kick in the ribs. “Why, by working together, there’s nothing we can’t do!”
“What’s more, Corry’s analysis also explains why these humans were able to dump so much of that stuff within a fairly limited area,” Frank remarked.
“Oh? How do you figure?” Luci wondered.
Frank shrugged. “Isn’t it obvious? There’s always room for Jello.” He had no time whatsoever to parry before the hammer and the croquet mallet came crashing down on his head.
Hank Waterson leaned back in his chair, letting out a yawn and massaging a cramp in his wrist. How had he managed to get through all that in one sitting? A glance at the clock showed that it was after 2 am. What incredibly inspired writing!
Yet now that he was actively thinking about it, Hank realized that he had questions. For instance, where exactly had the idea for that Mindy person come from? Why had he made accusations against Carrie’s friend Julie? And why had he turned Carrie’s boyfriend into the traitor? Was his subconscious trying to tell him something? Maybe he should keep Carrie grounded, so that the two of them wouldn’t be able to spend time together…
“What am I saying?” Hank muttered aloud. “This is fiction. It has no basis in real life.” Besides, Carrie was good at finding a way around rules she didn’t like, so it wouldn’t do to keep her away from Glen. Moreover, he would be changing the names of the characters anyway. He could even change the villain’s identity once he got into editing. The whole story was still in a rather indeterminate state.
Shaking his head, Hank Waterson carefully stacked the story’s character sheets, and placed them back into his ‘Woodland Creatures’ folder. He then reached out and turned off his desk light, blissfully unaware of that fact that everybody’s temporal reality had recently entered a very similar indeterminate state, courtesy of his own daughter.
-Next Episode: Do You Mind?
-I hope you enjoyed this little detour/omen. Had you figured out who the traitor was? Do you see how things might tie into the real plot? Feel free to comment or vote for T&T.