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       Oblivious, p.1

           Michael Carter
 
Oblivious
Oblivious

  By Michael Carter (c) 1996, 2013

  The blinding rays of the afternoon sun shone down on the thick verdant roof of Hobs Wood. A number of them managed to penetrate the thick green canopy, and they beamed down like beacons onto the iron-rich soil. Somewhere within the wood, a yellowhammer peck, peck, pecked at a tree, carving a crevice from which it could extract aphids. Elsewhere, the daisy-like yellow petals of a Leopards Bane shimmered in the light breeze, but failed to dislodge a honey-bee who was busy surreptitiously gathering its pollen. The English wood; calm, gentle, serene.

  Andrew Hunt, instead of being at the college he barely attended, studied the undergrowth intently. He was crouched to a squatting position and examining a small earth bank that overhung with nourishing grass millet. He was waddling slowly down the bank, pushing the grass and weeds aside to check for the entrance to the badger sett that he’d spotted earlier. It wouldn’t take long to find it again, if he was patient.

  Unearthing a moth-attracting honeysuckle, because it was in his way, he carried on down the slope, until he spotted the familiar formation of flat grass and chewed fern that signalled his prize. Grinning, showing already-crooked teeth, he pushed the grasses aside to check on the size of the hole. It was about a foot high [he couldn’t deal with diameters] and the same wide. Peering inside, he saw only musty darkness, but nodded with relish, grinning still, as he noted the fresh prints at the edge of the sett. He didn’t know yet, but suspected, the two adults and three small cubs that nestled in their sleeping chamber, deeper in the darkness and security of their tunnel. He stood up, happy, contented, stretched his arms, and wandered back to the stream, kicking at flowers and shrubs as he went, hitting out at trees with his stick as he passed them by. Somewhere he could hear something tapping, pecking at a tree, annoying him. He wished he could find it and make it stop its din.

  His plan was to find a boulder that was large enough to block the entrance to the sett; he would roll it from the stream and cover the hole. Then he would leave, go home, ring his mates; alright lads, we’re ‘on’ for a bit of sport tonight, he would tell them. After that he’d have to prepare. Gather a few shovels, a hoe, and some marking poles from his dads shed; get some old newspapers, firelighters and petrol together; into town for supplies, a couple of six-packs, a bottle of sherry, some smokes. They would have a drink at Andrews house first, build confidence with liquor, then leave at about half eleven, to get to Hobs Wood around midnight.

  By the stream, he spotted a boulder that was of perfect size for his requirements, and began slowly rolling it to its destination. He passed the time, building excitement in his head, pondering on his past exploits. He thought that the time when they had gone over to Bluebell Wood at Broadgate had been the most thrilling; Andrew had smoked them out, five dirty badgers, and he and his mates had been ready for them. They had disposed of them in delightfully cruel ways. Andrew laughed out loud when he remembered the cub that he’d tied to a tree branch; it had made pitiful noises, cried for its mother, while he poured on the petrol and set it alight. He remembered distinctly the noise it had made. He had tried to mimic it at the time, mockingly, but he couldn’t, he had been laughing too much. Then there was that other one, that Grant had impaled on a garden fork, the bigger one that Misty, Deano’s alsation had mauled [not without a bit of injury itself, stupid dog], and the other two little ones that they’d all kicked until they had stopped moving. A fine night, Andrew thought; maybe a bit sick, but God, it was funny.

  As he approached the sett with his boulder, unseen eyes watched from behind a bush. It was a squirrel, grey, foraging its domain for fallen berries. It stopped in its business, still as a rock, apart from its twitching whiskers. Its sparkling eyes flinched as Andrew laughed again, probably recalling another macabre incident; the laughter itself was almost aggressive, a coarse, harsh sound in the lovely wood.

  It was then that he tripped, and smacked his head off the bottom of an elm tree. On the way down he grazed his cheek on a niche that was carved into the bark. The yellowhammer fluttered off, its job complete, and perched effortlessly on a nearby branch, well out of reach. Andrew swore loudly as he lay on the soft ground and spotted the twisted elm root that he’d tripped on. He was about to sit up, and he intended pulling the root out, burning it, destroying it somehow, bloody thing. He was pondering this in his rage when a hornet quickly buzzed in and stung him on the arm. He cursed again, flapping at the creature, and rubbing the wound with his other hand. From its hiding place, the squirrel continued to watch silently, but its eyes glanced up to the gently-rustling leaves above. A festoon of tiny leaf-aphids, brown and green, parachuted down from the boughs high in the trees. They landed on Andrew’s hair, his face, scattered quickly across his body. Frantically, still on the ground, he brushed them off, away, but there were many hundreds of them, and still more gliding down from the branches above. He tried to get his footing; his ankle clicked and throbbed with pain. He noticed there were little insects on his legs, his torso, his arms. The aphids were clumping together in brown and green masses and sprawling for his face, over his neck, his chin. There were hundreds of them, everywhere, scurrying about him, itchy and irritating. He was brushing them away as fast as he could; his breath was growing laboured, there was panic in his face. His harsh laughter was gone.

  A second hornet stung him, on his wrist. Another, nip, on his finger. He cried out in pain, unintelligent words. As he did, some of the aphids crept into his mouth, in his cheeks, tingling under his suddenly-dry tongue. Suddenly flying enemies hovered around him. Dragonflies and wasps and bees, hornets and moths and mayflies, stinging, prickling, nipping, even some of the bees sacrificing themselves for the greater cause. He shouted out, it sounded like ‘Help’, and flung his arms all over, hitting himself more than his tiny foes. Andrews left arm was turning an angry red colour; quickly, it become numb and he found he couldn’t move it.

  He lay there, on the brushy soft ground, not opening his mouth for fear of more insects getting in. He was still trying to swat them away with his good arm, but his fingers, and his palm, and his wrist, too were now beginning to get stung. A Rose Beetle clambered into Andrews left ear, and as he desperately shook his head to try and get it out, a raven swooped down and defecated on his face. Beetles, grubs, wood-lice entered his ears and mingled in his hair, bristling on his scalp. Hornets and wasps continued to sting his body and face; the bees circled his head, buzzing with threat and anger. More birds of every species flocked down, wrens, robins, thrushes and rooks all depositing their waste on Andrew. Increasingly, they braved a swoop between his flailing arm, and had a vicious peck around his eyes.

  Finally Andrew screamed. A fat tree-spider clambered into his mouth and spilled its digestive fluids into his throat. The arachnid cavalry had arrived; quickly they insinuated over his body, up his trouser legs, in his shirt, everywhere they could find. Andrew was shaking madly, racking his body like seizures, and while shaking his head from side to side, and in an occasional blinking his eyes open, he noticed the yellowhammers handiwork chipped into the bark of the tree that he’d fallen against. He screamed again, for the last time, when he saw three words in the wood. Three words of the wood.

  ‘L E A V E

  U S

  A L O N E‘

  The grey squirrel watched on, contentedly, as the birds continued to peck and carry off small pieces of skin and flesh, as the buzzing fleet of insects continued to sting, and the aphids, beetles, spiders, mortality’s little soldiers, continued to crawl and nip and bite. The digestive juices of a million spiders, the pinching claws of a million bugs, a hundred beaks, a thousand claws; united, they would destroy and dispose of this invading alien carcass. Larger animals would pick up and scatter the bones. In a few days it would be g
one.

  Inside the dark, damp hole, just five feet away from where Andrew lay dying, four innocent badgers slept on, oblivious.

  -FIN-

  I think its an ok little story, nature’s revenge kind of thing, and hope you enjoyed it. Originally it was one of the first serious completed stories I wrote; I was only 18 [which is now the age of this story].

  Also a quick shout-out to Jonathan Strickland, who gave me some wise advice, and to my wife Emily for encouraging me to keep sending it out.

  Anyway, thanks for reading. Do tell me what you thought and leave a review wherever you got the story from. And leave them poor badgers alone... If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a BIG surprise...

  Michael Carter 9/01/14

 
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