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Over the Brook

Mother and Daughter often liked to go for walks around their woodland home between the hours of four and five pm. In the summertime the trees stood at the perfect height to filter the sun through their bountiful leaves and fluffy canopies, casting the late afternoon in a perfect golden dapple. Mother would step across the babbling brook at the edge of the forest, and spread her arms wide so as to catch Daughter, who leapt after her. Then, they would walk the little forest path as the sun met the horizon, and when they finally returned, they liked to share a cucumber from the garden. 

Mother liked to point animals out to Daughter. They often encountered squirrels, finches, and even a beaver or a faun on these walks. Daughter would watch with adoration, eyes opened wide at each critter they met, never failing to show the awe and respect that was due to the other denizens of the forest.

    On one warm summer evening, Mother and Daughter met a creature they had never seen before. Not even Mother, with her many years of biological studies, could recognize the long-bodied creature. It was furry on its stomach and tail, but on its snout were patches of shining purple scales. Catfish whiskers sprouted from it’s wet dog nose, on the end of a long snout, and tiny, snubbed fangs poked out from beneath its lips. The creature was not much larger than a breadbox but it scurried across the path ahead, roving from one side to another in the blink of an eye.

    “Mama, what’s that small creature?”

    “I can’t be sure. Let’s have a closer look.”

    Mother and Daughter approached the little thing, and as they did it paused. Now, standing still in the middle of the path, the animal blinked at them. Then it began to speak.

    “I woulrehhtir ghoudduzuummer uwiyreellse”

 Human sounds flowed from the creature’s mouth, but not in any language Mother or Daughter had ever heard before. It spoke in a lowered voice, perhaps not wanting to be heard, and yet Mother and daughter did in fact hear it, the sounds tumbling and falling, like a crowd of people trying to talk over one another.

Then all the sudden it darted off the path once more, to land in a small nest just out of sight. Mother and Daughter crept closer to its place on the side of the road. Slowly, so as not to disturb, they peered through the brush to admire it. 

In its nest, the creature had wrapped itself in a circle, head meeting tail. It’s long and slender body, almost like that of a polecat’s, spun in circles like a dog, and it moved so quickly that its outline began to blur. 

Maybe it was injured and in need of help? Mother and Daughter stayed with the little thing, but always kept their distance. It circled late into the night before Mother sighed.

“We can’t help this, Flower. Let’s go home.”

“I don’t understand Mama. What’s wrong with it?”

The walk back was swift and dark. The babbling brook had calmed since the evening, and Daughter could step across it without help from Mother. In the morning, Mother called a local animal professional.

“So you’re asking me, what runs, but never walks. Murmurs, but never talks. Has a bed, but never sleeps. And has a mouth, but never eats?”

“Why, yes.”

“Ma’am you must be pulling my leg. You’re describing a river!”

Mother and Daughter were never able to find the creature again, but in the coming days and weeks, the creek outside their home flowed stronger than ever. They neither saw nor heard anything about a tiny, long-bodied animal with fur and scales and whiskers and a tail again.

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