Wednesday, August 26, 2009
(Click for Audio)
"Okay. We can go back now."
Rosie wasn't listening. She picked her way through the forest outside the sanctuary fence, moving farther and farther away. Every few steps she would pause, press her sensitive nose to the earth and snuffle inquisitively. High above the leaves rustled their secrets, talking to the wind. A Stellars Jay chided noisily.
"Rosie!" Roscoe grunted. "You said just a romp, then we'd go back."
"Haven't finished romping yet," she replied.
"We're going to get lost."
"No we're not."
"What if somebody sees us?"
"Quiet," Rosie ordered, tilting her head and rotating her right ear toward a sound that interested her.
Fearing the worst, Roscoe focused both his ears in the same direction, listening intently. Frightened as he was, he had to admit it was exciting being on the outside. His whole body tingled. The slightest puff of wind raised the bristly hairs on his back; his nose twitched incessantly, analyzing every molecule of air; his ears could pick up the sound of a leaf falling even before it hit the ground...
"Water," Rosie said.
Roscoe could just make it out too - the sound of water gurgling and splashing. He'd never heard water that way before. It hissed, when Janice squirted it out of their garden hose, and drummed when it hit the bottom of an empty bucket or drinking dish. But this was definitely a playful sound.
"Come on," Rosie commanded. "Let's take a look."
They darted across an opening, their hooves clattering on the hard surface of a paved road, then back into the trees on the other side, pushing on through the underbrush. The babbling got louder with every step, until they burst through the resisting shrubs, tumbled down an earthen bank and landed on their backs with a loud splash.
Roscoe squealed loudly, thinking surely they'd blundered into a trap.
Rosie squealed too, but with laughter.
"What's so funny!" Roscoe objected.
"You," she said. "You're afraid of your own shadow."
It was true, Roscoe thought sadly. Rosie was far braver then him. If it wasn't for her, they'd never have ventured outside the sanctuary, and they'd never have any stories to tell, except the same old story as everyone else.
"Wow!" Rosie cried out.
He followed her over a gravel bar to the edge of the flowing brook. Now the burble was so loud it blocked out everything else. They'd never seen so much water flowing so fast and so noisily. Rosie waded into the stream until the cool water tickled her belly. Then she drank. "It's good," she announced. "We've made a very important discovery, brother," she said.
"Water doesn't only come out of a hose. There's plenty to drink for a wild pig."
"We're not wild pigs, Rosie," he protested.
"How do you know?"
The question stumped him. How did he know? "Because we grew up inside the sanctuary fence," he answered at last. "Janice has given us everything: food, water, shelter, fresh straw."
"But we can become wild pigs, can't we?"
Roscoe stared at her, amazed. "I don't think you become a wild pig, Rosie," he said thoughtfully. "I think you're born that way. Just like Buddy could never be a wild dog; and Mr. Trots could never be a wild horse; and Scratch could never be an eagle..."
They laughed at his joke about Scratch. But Roscoe still felt a bit funny, thinking what life would be like for a wild pig. A part of him shivered for fear; another part tingled with excitement, and he couldn't decide which part of him was telling the truth.
"Shhh!" Rosie said urgently.
She was listening again, this time to the forest behind them. Roscoe tuned in too. A twig snapped deep inside the brush. Leaves swished, as if they were brushing against sleek fur. Something was moving inside the woods, and it took the shape of a dark, sliding shadow inside Roscoe's imagination.
"Let's go!" Rosie whispered.
"We can't," she said. "Whatever that is, it's between us and the sanctuary. We'll have to go the other way, and circle back when we can."
There was no point arguing. Rosie was right. They trotted upstream, moving as quickly and quietly as they could, then fording the brook and scrambling up the far bank and into the forest on the other side. Like a real shadow, the thing stalking them followed... or was Roscoe only imagining it?
Fear, he thought. That was part of being a wild pig, too.
"We're going to find them," Rosie said suddenly.
"The pigs, Roscoe," she answered fiercely. "The wild pigs. We have to find them."
Next - Segment 6