Third prize goes to this amusing tale from Sarah Williams:
(It may just have a familiar feel!)
“Ridiculous” Short Story Competition
She did not need a looking glass to know she must look a fright. But really, she didn’t believe anyone could look their best after taking a tumble down a rabbit hole.
She crawled to the brink, clawed her way over the edge, clambered to her feet and brushed herself down.
Actually, now she thought about it, most of the damage had been done not by the fall down the hole in the ground, but by climbing back up. She felt fairly certain, for example, that her hair had not been quite so disarranged until a root had caught in it as she ascended back to ground level.
It really was such a jolly silly place to leave a large, unprotected rabbit hole. There were no warning signs, no railings, it was simply an open-mouthed invitation to an accident.
Still, she’d been lucky, there was no real harm done, just a few scrapes and bruises. Admittedly, her dress was rather stained and muddy, but it was such a beautiful day that she found herself unable to worry too much about that when the bees were droning lazily in the sunshine.
Listening harder, she realised the noise really came from her sister, who continued to read aloud from the deathly dull book she’d chosen to amuse them that afternoon.
Amy shrugged, straightened her apron and moved away from the sound of her sister’s voice. She was sure Dinah would have done the same; unlike Amy’s older sibling, Dinah had very high standards of entertainment and was most selective in the company she chose to keep.
It suddenly seemed terribly important to Amy that she find Dinah. She looked around and tried to decide which direction a cat who liked hunting was most likely to have chosen.
The main choices seemed to be either towards the lake, or into the woods. As Dinah wasn’t a cat who generally liked having damp paws, Amy opted to head wood-wards.
At first Amy was very pleased with her choice. In fact she congratulated herself (and Dinah) on the decision. It really was a rather hot day out in the sunshine, it had made her head ache somewhat, so the cool shade of the trees was most welcome.
Gradually, however, she realised there was a different kind of heat as she went deeper into the trees. Although the sun was no longer beating down on her bare head, there was a damp mugginess which at times felt almost stifling and which made her head throb.
Also, she was still feeling rather wary about where she put her feet, she really didn’t want to fall into another rabbit hole, it had been enough of a struggle escaping the first. But the undergrowth made it difficult to see where to tread safely. And the low branches meant she had to be equally cautious about what she might walk into if she watched her feet too carefully.
All in all, after a while, Amy began to regret her decision to enter the woods. She now felt sure Dinah had decided to cool her paws in the shallow water at the edge of the lake after all.
Turning quickly so as to try and re-trace her steps, Amy felt something brush against her cheek. Her hand automatically sprang into action to wipe the thing away.
“Oi!” shouted a voice, “Mind what you’re doing, you could injure a body doing that!”
Amy lowered her hand as her eyes sought the owner of the voice. Seeing him, she blinked.
“I – I think I might have met your cousin recently,” she said. “Would he happen to live in a rabbit hole, perhaps?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, caterpillars don’t live in rabbit holes,” exclaimed the bright green caterpillar.
“Well,” mused Amy, “it really was a very big rabbit hole if that helps?”
“It doesn’t. We’re creatures of the air, not the underground,” was the tetchy retort.
“Actually, I’d never realised you were creatures of the air,” she began tentatively, “but I can see you are now.”
Indeed, her new friend was spinning from a thread which hung down from a tree branch.
“Well some of us are, some of us aren’t” the green caterpillar pirouetted on his silk. “But none of us lives in holes, however big they may be.”
Amy looked around her. She was no longer sure from which direction she’d come and so didn’t know where her path out lay. Really, she was now doubtful that her straight line route had been quite as straight a line as she’d hoped.
She cleared her throat gently.
“As you have such a good view, being a creature of the air after all, I wonder if you might be able to tell me which way is out?”
The caterpillar rolled his eyes unsympathetically. “All directions lead out. It just depends where you want to be.”
“Do they?” she wondered. “How curious. Well I’d really like to be out where I came in, if that’s possible.”
“Of course it’s possible. Just tell me where you came in and I’ll point you the right way.”
Amy pondered. She didn’t really know where she’d entered the woods, it was just where she’d happened to be at the time. Surely if she knew where it was, she could find it herself?
“Thank you for your help,” she said politely, “I think it might be best for me to just go backwards until I reach the point where I started from.”
“Yes, it might”, the caterpillar agreed and disappeared up his thread into the foliage.
Alone again, Amy looked around. She turned one way, then another. All directions seemed equally familiar and likely.
Then the idea occurred to her. Of course she wouldn’t recognise where she’d come from, it was all backwards now; she was coming from the other side!
She laughed as she realised what she had to do. If she was to recognise her route into the forest, she’d have to see it from the same direction. It was obvious, she simply had to walk backwards to re-trace her footsteps!
Turning her face towards the deeper woodland, Amy tentatively put her best foot back. Yes, she was sure she’d noticed that particular arrangement of branch and leaves on her forward journey.
Encouraged she continued, slowly and carefully, on her way.
Suddenly, just when Amy was beginning to wonder if she was actually going anywhere at all and whether all leaves and branches really did look rather similar, she felt something move against her ankle. She shuddered, then froze, hoping that whatever it was would go away without eating her.
Whatever-it-was wove between her legs and then, giving a little rumbling noise, rubbed against her ankle again.
“Hello, Amy, why don’t you stroke me,” purred whatever-it-was. “And what are you doing here anyway? Little girls don’t belong in forests.”
“Dinah!” cried a delighted Amy. “You’re here, I knew you would be! Do you know which way is out?”
“Well, it all depends on which “out” you want. After all, if you continue long enough, all directions lead out.”
“Even backwards?” Amy asked while silently wondering if Dinah might also have befriended a green caterpillar.
Ten minutes later, Amy and Dinah were dandling their feet in the cool, shallow water at the edge of the lake, when a familiar voice called “Amy, Amy, where are you!”
“Alice!” cried Amy in delight. “I’m here, by the lake, with Dinah!”
Alice ran through the meadow and, flinging her book to the ground, threw her arms around her little sister. “Where have you been, I’ve been so worried?”
“Well, I fell down a hugely big rabbit hole and …”
“Oh really, Amy, don’t be so ridiculous” scoffed Alice. “There could never be a rabbit hole big enough for a person, even a small one like you, to fall down. You’ve just been asleep somewhere haven’t you! And, oh my goodness, you do look a fright!”
Well done, Sarah! Keep writing, everybody. Heather.