Today’s post is a random flash fiction piece I wrote after Kellyn Roth at Reveries posted a writing contest for a little story. You can find the challenge here. (And of course, congrats to Kell for getting 1,000 blog followers!)
Anyway, here’s my entry, entitled “The Wolpertinger.” It’s not a Christmas story, or even set in winter– surprise– but it does match the length requirements (precisely 1, 126 words). It was a product of my own imagination, plus the added wonder of German folklore. 🙂 This story, I think, can speak for itself on what it’s about. Even though it’s set in one of my fictional storyworlds. Don’t mind it.
So without further ado, here it is!
The hunting cry of an eagle shattered the endless silence of the forest, startling enough to make me jump back at least two paces off the trail. Behind me, Ruby stood still and tense, her head cocked to one side as she listened for any sign of our quarry.
“Do you hear anything?” Will asked nervously, his hand lingering by his pocket.
She raised her hand, silencing him, and turned to me. “Go on,” she urged, her voice nothing more than a whisper.
My nerves were frayed thin, but I surged bravely onward through the foreboding woods. It wouldn’t do to disregard Ruby when she sensed something peculiar, although I could trust her as far as I could throw a tree out of this forest.
The Warren Wood was the most intimidating place I’d been, and that was saying quite a lot. Now, traipsing up an overgrown trail that I could barely see, with a Fox and a grumpy fellow Guardian as my only companions, searching for a ridiculously evasive creature that could have been just a myth for all we knew, I was humbly beginning to think that perhaps I should not have taken up this challenge.
But no, I was too valiant and chivalrous to ignore the villagers’ desperate pleas for help.
What can I say? I’m a noble man.
A tired one, too, as I was nearing the end of my stamina on this trek. We had started at dawn, hours ago, and by now it was well past noon. Ruby had inconsiderately given us only a fifteen-minute-break sometime long before the sun had reached its zenith.
Not that we could even see the sun at this point.
Will fared no better. Ruby, on the other hand… I could have sworn that the more we hiked, she seemed to be getting less tired. Her steps bounced lighter and lighter, as we trudged slower and slower, until I began to suspect that she must be drunk on the joy of adventure or something.
Or maybe she was secretly an energy vampire, sucking all our strength gradually from our miserable carcasses as we bumbled through the dark woods.
My theories evaporated when she froze in her tracks, straining to hear something beyond my own abilities. Meanwhile, Will tripped over a root and caught himself against a tree trunk (loudly, may I add) before he could faceplant at my feet (which I honestly would not have objected to happening). Then, leaning on the tree, he drew his pocket-watch from his pocket and flipped it open to frown at the time.
I have never witnessed William Dyle smile at the time.
My thoughts were interrupted by Ruby, who excitedly pressed on past the trail, heading for the unappealing trees beyond. I had to gather up a considerable amount of determination to follow her, and Will dragged his feet behind me.
“Where are we going?” I asked reasonably. She was leading us uphill, and everyone knows the land around Warren Wood is extremely, noticeably flat.
“Shh,” was her answer.
A few minutes later, we came to a wide clearing ringed by a circle of ash trees. In the center of it, I was sure, something lay sleeping; but I couldn’t tell what, due to the very big, very extensive, very thorny thicket that barred our way.
Ruby hissed in frustration. “We’ve gone this far,” she muttered, eyeing the thicket warily. I almost opened my mouth to reply that she hadn’t even broken a light sweat, while my buddy and I were practically drenched in it; but I didn’t want to be thrown into the thicket, so I said nothing.
A second later, it no longer mattered whether or not I had made a snide comment, because that clumsy Will tripped again. And unfortunately for me, this time I was the object into which he stumbled.
So I fell. Into the thicket.
In the rush that comes when one is plunging toward the ground, I prepared myself for a multitude of thorns to tear into me. Therefore, I was very alarmed when my body landed, thorn-free, on a lush carpet of soft, dewy grass.
I tell you, I have never been more appreciative of grass than at that moment.
Will’s surprised grunt stimulated me into pushing myself off the ground. Ruby was saying joyfully, “It’s only an illusion!” and I intended to give both of them a piece of my mind.
But then I saw… it.
A small, rodent-like animal with antlers stared at me from a few paces away, its beady black eyes widened in disbelief. Two tiny, sharp fangs protruded from its mouth, and a pair of wings were folded at its sides, giving it a savage, barbaric appearance that was not, in the least, at all cute.
I believe I must have been bewitched, then, because the only coherent thought running through my mind was “It’s so adorable!” and pardon me if I say that I don’t normally think those kind of thoughts.
“It’s the Wolpertinger,” Ruby said in a quietly awed tone.
The Wolpertinger stared at me.
I stared at the Wolpertinger.
We continued staring at each other for quite a while, until I finally blinked. The rabbit thing reeled back, releasing some sort of chuckling, snuffling hiss that I realized was a laugh.
What a unique creature.
I slowly turned to Ruby, who stood between Will and me. “I’ll claim it,” he and I said at the same time.
Ruby lifted an eyebrow incredulously, looking from me to him, then back again. Then she glanced doubtfully at the Wolpertinger, which still rollicked in its strange hissing laughter.
“Two people can’t claim a creature at once, right?” Will said hopefully. Apparently he was as bewitched as I was.
“Well…” Ruby glanced back up at us, a smirk settling sideways over her features. “This Wolpertinger… it’s a truly extraordinary animal. I think they’ll make an exception this time.” She shook her head, looking bemused. “You’re not Andromedan, after all.”
“Yes, we’re aliens from an alternate galaxy,” I agreed, still gazing raptly at the fabled Wolpertinger.
Ruby rolled her eyes. “You’re enchanted, Austin.”
I did not deign to reply.
“Wait until Ivan sees this,” Will rumbled pensively. I wanted to sew his mouth shut— couldn’t the guy at least try to be optimistic for once? Besides, I was sure Ivan wouldn’t take his rage out on us once he did find out. It wasn’t as if he could have resisted this strange enchantment— whatever it was— any more than we.
Then I glanced back at the source of all our trouble, and a small grin found its way to my face. “I’ll wait,” I said.
“Well,” Ruby said with a sigh. “This is going to be interesting.”
Whew! I don’t know what to think of my own story, to be honest… Hah. It’s definitely not a normal for me, as I usually write in third-person omniscient. But yep, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed it. It was rather fun to write. 😉
Meanwhile, keep having yourselves a very Merry Christmastime!
Until next time,
~ Merie Shen