I’ve had an ongoing relationship with the squirrels in my front yard. This relationship even grew to include other squirrels throughout my neighborhood. I see them. They see me. *sees a squirrel outside the window* *knowing stare*
Needless to say I was thrilled when Chuck Wendig posted his first flash fiction challenge of 2016 (1,000 word limit) and I was able to compose a story based on this photo of a happy squirrel eating a pine cone. Enjoy!
“Red squirrel,” Darryl said.
“Huh?” I looked at him with blank eyes.
“Must be a red squirrel around here somewhere.” He looked off into the distance.
“I haven’t seen any squirrels. In fact, I feel like we’re the only thinking creatures out here.”
Darryl stopped and looked around. “I wish.”
He continued walking. We were coming up to our target now. In the distance, I could see the top of the low-lying building poking out of the ground. The beings from The Conservatory had told us that this was the better way to build. To make our homes and workplaces a part of the surrounding area.
It was true that their structures were much more energy efficient than ours. Building underground with vast windowed ceilings to let in warmth from the sun meant the indoor temperature stayed comfortable with less need for climate control systems. But, the efficiency of their designs didn’t make their methods of enforcing them any easier to swallow. I can admire the theory behind an idea and still find the results of its implementation utterly unappealing.
“Anyway,” he said, “about the squirrels. I saw a pine cone core by the last tree we passed.”
“Squirrels are the only animals around here that eat pine cones and discard the cores. A bare pine cone core is a sure sign of squirrels.”
“Supposing that discarded pine cone does have something to do with squirrels, how are you so sure it’s a red squirrel?”
“I admit it could be a Douglas squirrel. Heck, maybe it even is a gray squirrel. But, nobody’s seen one of those this far West in years.”
I goggled at him then. “I didn’t know you were such a squirrel scholar.”
His usual jokester smile faded. “Well, Tattie. There’s a lot of things you didn’t get a chance to know about me.”
That stung. Darryl had never shown any animosity towards me up to that point. Ever since we found ourselves working together a couple of weeks ago he’d been an optimistic and jovial man. I was proud of him.
We continued on in silence, our hiking boots thudding against the cold, hard dirt on the path. They matched, except for his being several sizes larger than mine.
I thought about the past as we walked. I’d never had any regrets about my life. I had things I’d wanted to do, and Darryl had come along right when I was in the middle of them. I had no money. My boyfriend had offered to marry me. But, I knew that path would end horribly for all of us. Sam and I just hadn’t been compatible. It would have been unstable and unfair for a child. I wanted better than that for Darryl. And, I wanted better than that for myself. I hadn’t thought I needed to explain that to him.
When the Merricks offered to adopt him, I wanted him to have the best kind of life. A life with a family he knew would be there for him. And although we technically signed a semi-open adoption, I rarely made contact because I wanted his family life to be secure and clear to him.
The open adoption was for him. So he wouldn’t have to live his life with questions and would have access to my updated medical history. If I had been thinking about my own feelings, I would have closed the door entirely, like tying a tourniquet to a leg you know you’ll have to lose.
“So, what happened to them?” I didn’t know what else to say to him.
“The gray squirrels. You said they used to live in this area.”
“Our friends up there decided to play conservationist. Just like they did to us. Started rounding them up, relocating them to their native areas. And, let the natural processes that coincide with overcrowding in a defined boundary take their course.”
I shuddered. I knew exactly what that had done to us. The Conservationists had pushed everyone into the major cities, saying that was the natural habitat of the human on this world. They designated the rest of our planet nature reserve areas, allowing other species to develop unhampered by humanity. And, then they began training some of us to uphold their conservation measures. People like me and Darryl.
In the meantime, they sent their people to “redevelop” the cities so humans could learn to live more in tune with nature. Species allowed into the city were severely restricted. It certainly wasn’t the life we were used to. Didn’t they understand that they were the invasive species?
What was so damn infuriating is that they never gave us a chance. No diplomacy. No discussions.
I stopped walking and looked over at Darryl. He’d seemed so optimistic at the outset of our journey. Now, he just looked determined. Maybe my prior judgment had been affected by wishful desire.
“Ready?” he asked me.
And this time I was. I motioned to the other conservationists in training, who had also made the trek toward the building. By now, the building’s inhabitants definitely knew we were here. What they didn’t know was that they hadn’t cowed us into faithful pets whimpering in our cities.
They had never encountered anything like the will of a human.
We were going to take our planet back. Did we want to do things differently this time? Hell yes, but we were going to find our own way.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions regarding this flash fiction story below.
Copyright 2016 Diedra Black