Tunnel is this week’s #writephoto prompt. I’m still doing #30DaysWild, so my thoughts turned to nature writing again.
It’s lovely to see the number of participants in #writephoto growing again, and that’s all thanks to KL Caley hosting it at New2Writing.com, and her diligence in sharing our efforts. I try to visit as many people as I can each week, but last week was disastrous for that, since I was at an online conference all day, every day, and keeping up with the essentials was all I could do.
Here’s this weeks”s photo…
And here’s my effort. Most people will probably work out which creature it is quickly, but I’ve revealed the protagonist at the end. It’s around 600 words.
The floor, walls and roof of this tunnel are worn smooth. Whoever dug it first has long since passed into dust, or maybe one of the worms had them. Or maybe they put their head above ground and someone was waiting to pounce. I scuttle along, doing my business as I see fit. No point in worrying about the others.
It’s a good tunnel, even if there are stones which poke out sometimes, and threaten to catch the unwary. Ouch! Like that one. I can’t smell anyone up ahead, or feel anyone coming up behind me, but I still wish to leave this ratrun as soon as possible.
It was probably one of my forebears. The tunnel maker. We are all tunnelmakers. We are known for it, as well as for a sense of doom and awareness of when things are wrong. That tunnel, the one I’ve just passed, something is wrong down there. It’s not a smell, or a vibration, I just sense it with my whole body. My whiskers sense the space and its scents, as clearly as if the tunnel spoke to me, or at least, it spoke to you, since you can’t smell or sense like I can, and you use hearing mostly.
I can feel a worm running parallel to this tunnel I’m on. It’s the vibration. If I was hungry I’d be tempted to plot a course to it from about…. here, in at …that angle… and meet the worm after no more than three quick scrabbles of my spadelike front feet and their formidable claws. Design for digging. I’ve never quite worked out how the worms make their tunnels, since they don’t have feet, let alone claws. Someone said they sense gaps between the soil and push through to other gaps when they close. ‘Like breaking from one chamber to the next’ I’d said. They called me ‘smartycoat’ after that.
All the while I’m aware of the vibrations around me. Some heavy thing is above ground at the moment. It is moving with me, but steadily, not like the rhythmic plods of a human. Or the patter plods of a fourleg. All fourlegs seem the same to me, some are heavier, some lighter, but I don’t worry about above ground fourlegs unless they are accompanied by lots of two legs with something heavy extra. Our legends warn us of traps and dogs digging to find us and horrible air pressing through the earth to destroy us. So if we feel that, we raise the alarm and run to different locations, stopping up the tunnels and critical points. And never, ever, come up for air and a feel of the open world of the surface if you can feel twolegs are around.
Ah, there’s the worm. He’s so close I can feel the earthwall moving in my direction. Now he’s going up. A pitterpatter vibration attracts him. No, don’t—it’s trap set by the lightweights. They point sharp things in the ground to find worms and beetles, and pull them out. One time I was just about to snatch a beetle for my supper, and the piercing beak speared it, right in front of me, and dragged it out. It let light in from the sky above, and I withdrew hurriedly.
Enough of my philosophising. I must get on and find my dinner. I heard of a nice compost heap being put on a garden just along there. That’s sure to be full of worms.
© J M Pett 2021
And this was the handsome gentlemen in the black velvet jacket: the mole. They used to be trapped for their fur, hence ‘moleskin’. Unfortunately today’s moles are still not protected by law. Wearing clothes made from mole pelts would cause outrage, but many people object to the molehills they leave behind, and want rid of them.
Have a read of this nice article by a former mole-catcher turned author!
More Short Stories
If you liked this, you might like my Critters and Crises flash fiction collection.
Time and Tinplate came out last week.