Monday, 4 November 2013

A Cautionary tale

The Little Hedgehog.

It was the end of Summer. The nights were getting colder and longer. The trees were stretching their branches and shaking off their leaves as a snake rids itself of its old, dried skin ready for the new one to emerge. They did this in the knowledge that, after the long sleep of winter there would be new life to look forward too. The ground became blanketed with the reddish, yellowish, brownish carpet of leaves that rustled and crunched under the feet of the children as they gathered up sticks and fallen branches for the bonfire. They laughed and sang, excited at the prospect of the glowing fire and their mouths watered in anticipation of the marshmallows that they would be toasting in its heat.

Deep in the wood, cowering under the hollowed out root of an old oak tree, was a little hedgehog. He wasn't afraid. After all, the noise sounded happy and not at all frightening. No, he was just confused. Everything was changing so quickly and he didn't understand why. He didn't understand why he felt so cold at night or why the ground felt so hard when he tried to forage for his supper. Even more strangely, all his friends seemed to have disappeared! For weeks beforehand he kept hearing this strange word 'hibernate' being mentioned. Somehow he sensed that he should instinctively know what it meant. But so far the meaning had eluded him.

Darkness fell. All the children had gone home and a sense of stillness and quietness had descended on the wood. The little hedgehog slowly uncurled himself from the ball of sleep that he had fallen into. He pushed his paws forward and like a cat stretched out his tiny limbs. Maybe if he investigated what it was that the children had been doing, he might find the answer to why everything was changing. It took some time because it was a long way to the edge of the woods and he had such little legs.

Finally he reached the edge of the wood. He was always very wary about venturing outside the safety of the wood. Especially after the incident with this enormous, hairy animal with four legs and an extremely wiggly thing at the back, which swooshed rapidly from side to side. If he hadn't instinctively rolled up into a ball when this monster had approached him at speed and sniffed him so hard, he was afraid that he would have been inhaled into the depths of the monster. He shuddered at the memory, but glancing around he could see that the coast was clear.

 Carefully, stopping every now and then to check that he was still alone, made his way in the direction that the children had gone. He found himself in a large clearing in the middle of which was as a mountain of wood that had been created out of the sticks and branches. It rose majestically up to the sky,  and how it didn't fall down was a mystery to the little hedgehog. Very gingerly he edged his way around the mountain. About halfway round he spotted a large gap in the pile. Tentatively he poked his head in. The gap seemed to be bigger on the inside. Feeling a rush of courage he proceeded to enter and found himself in a cosy little nook in this mountain of wood. It was so cosy and warm that he felt very sleepy and thought that he would curl up and have a little nap. After all there was no way that the big hairy monster would be able to get to him, surrounded as he was by all this wood! Little did he realise it, but he had by instinct settled down to await the coming of Spring by hibernating as generations of hedgehogs had done before him.

As he slept on, all the children from the day before arrived with their parents. They were excited and drooling at the thought of the marshmallows. Soon the fire would be lit and the sky would be alive with the explosions of the fireworks carefully guarded by the dads. The air was tense with excitement, yet still the little hedgehog slept on.

Bounding across the opening towards the bonfire leaped the big hairy monster of the little hedgehog's nightmare.It was in fact an old English Sheep dog. Racing around the bonfire he suddenly stopped by the gap where the little hedgehog had entered. He lifted his head and started barking excitedly, swooshing his tail and running up to his master and back again to the hole. "What is it boy? What's got you so worked up?" "Come here boy." But the dog continued to bark and push at the bonfire with the nose that had sniffed the little hedgehog. Eventually just as the the fire was about to be lit, the dog's master reached his gloved hand into the gap and with a look of astonishment on his face pulled out the little hedgehog. Still the little hedgehog slept on. Very gently the master wrapped him up in his scarf and determined to place him safely in a box of straw in his garage, to sleep out the long winter. The big, hairy monster was given the most enormous bone as a reward

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