Eric is a story that I started writing in 2001 when I got a temp job which was ludicrously easy. Rather than seek out further work which would have ruined my day I used the rudimentary word processor and started saving this story on a 3.5 inch floppy. Ah… memories.
The idea was a kids’ story combining The Animals of Farthing Wood with The War of the Worlds. It got to a fair old length before life conspired against me and it fell into a dusty folder. I’ve been thinking about it of late and wonder if I ought to revisit the tale. This is the prologue, as it was 7 years ago. I’ll post the next bit next Thursday too. I’m looking for motivation folks! Any comments will be most welcome.
Eric furled his furry sinuous body about the young tree’s trunk, looking nervously left, other left, and round the back. It seemed clear. His long, sleek body stumbled into the clearing, tail lashing. He almost managed to tuck in all of himself as he dived through another mass of ferns. All was quiet, nice and still. His heart pounded loudly as he caught his breath. Eric flared his nostrils to relieve the strain of hours of nervous smelling and just in case he’d missed something. He sank down on to the cool, green-littered earth and sighed- very softly and very slowly.
It had been an appallingly busy day, Eric had been on the run for most of it but was still not sure why. He grudgingly admitted to himself that this was one of those instinctive things; he couldn’t think of a single weasel hero who had stood his ground (and lived). And he was lost, deep in the forest. Normally Eric stuck to the fringes, which provided a plethora of escape routes. Here he was surrounded by huge trees and heaps of undergrowth: great cover, but as Eric didn’t know which direction he was facing, he had no idea where to hide.
So, lost and tired, Eric tried to assess his situation. ‘Endangered’ sprang eagerly to mind, closely followed by ‘hungry’. This only reminded him of when he’d last eaten, a sadly abbreviated affair that morning. He had risen as usual and performed his daily ablutions and was settling down to a warming breakfast of neighbours’ eggs and toast. Not exactly bright-eyed and bushy tailed, perhaps a little bleary about the eyes and dry of nose from the Homecoming party, but ready for a day of slinking and lurking. Halfway through breakfast, Eric’s ear had pricked slightly at a distant whistle. The decorated walls and plush flooring of his rather fine home were an effective insulator from the woodland racket. Eric snapped awake seconds later as the roof crumpled around him. He tumbled backwards through the forced-open door, whisking his tail out as he righted himself. Eric looked at his house, now a thin veneer of wood pulp under a colossal cone of greyness. Eric simply stood there, horrified by the blatant destruction of all his possessions; only a thin squeak escaped his lips. Eric had no time to consider how lucky he was to have such good reactions, he just employed them directly. The vast bulk shifted on its haunches and lurched towards Eric. That was enough: centuries of weasel lore held that ‘if in doubt, run away’, and Eric was a traditional creature.
Eric had run a long way, far further than he’d even considered running before. He was naturally a frantically lazy creature. He preferred to stroll, perhaps scamper, but for now walking was the best he could manage. As his pulse slowed he started to think. Thinking has the unfortunate tendency to raise far more worrying questions than the minor query you start with. Eric hadn’t glimpsed The Thing since he left the smash, which begged the question- was he being followed or not? And then, what was ‘it’? It had clearly destroyed his home, but it wasn’t at all clear what business something that large had in falling. Rocks and trees just don’t get lobbed or dropped, and who could throw that? But that Thing (whatever or however it was) had definitely threatened him. Maybe not much, but it had lunged for him. That counted as a chase on top of threatening behaviour; Eric was feeling intimidated and not a little bewildered.
By lunchtime, Eric was leaning heavily towards going home, especially now his stomach had started to sound like a grievously ill hedgehog. The air was still, cooling a bit, but Eric could sense the mounting tension. He stood up, quickly scanned in front of him, to the left, other left, round back… And- GO! He ran again, possibly faster from a point several feet in the air, facing the other way. As he ran, and ran, he wondered how it had gotten so close to him, and so quietly. Leaping and capering around obstacles, he took frantic over and under the shoulder glances, just to assure himself that running was indeed the best plan. As is so often the case in stressful situations, one of those quick checks wasn’t quite quick enough and as Eric’s head swung back to the path it also swung into an inconsiderately placed branch… then everything hurt and went dark.