As my band of squirrels and I stepped bravely into the unknown shadows of Quatriland, I was struck with the sense that I was leaving something behind. Try as I might I could not bring my mind to wrap itself around just what it was I was forgetting. I had my squirrels, and the Queens letter was safely tucked into my hair,yet apart from the obvious absence of my shoelaces, I felt something else very important was missing. Stopping to look back, I saw that what had been a faintly lit path had now taken a new form, rendering my way here completely unrecognizable. Now, a long, tree lined avenue stretched away from me into the far, far distance, a strange intense blue haze hanging over the branches, like moonlight with no moon . It looked a lot like the glow I would see when Nurse gave me the third pill. I turned away and peered forward into the murky darkness. It was then I realized that the large jar I had been clutching tightly to my chest had abruptly and inexplicably disappeared.
"Gosh" I exclaimed, jumping when my voice echoed loudly." One could go mad up here" !
Oddly, as I said these words, a strange sort of discomfort settled on my shoulders and the feeling that something was missing grew even stronger. My eyes were drawn back towards the strange blue glow behind me and I found myself liking it less and less. What am I forgetting ? I looked at the squirrels to see if they might have an answer, but they stared at me blankly, simply impatient to get going.
Absently, my mind wandered to Nurse, when she would shove the pills into my mouth, the Pirate usually watching from a safe distance. He was a wary man. Life at sea would do that to you I suppose.
"No"? I mouthed automatically. What?
A shudder rippled through me and left me cold, my skin breaking out all over in goosebumps.
I was filled with an immediate fear that Nurse would come charging down that avenue this very moment, eyes all bulgy and full of rage, her red jowls flopping up and down with each stride she took .
The image began to intensify toward the verge of becoming all too real, which from past experience could happen quite quickly. She would take the squirrels first and it would be a bloodbath. There would be pills and fur everywhere.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to push the image of Nurse out of my minds eye. The rage I felt at being stripped of my shoelaces still burned inside me, fuelling my imagination of her ugly, mean face but I did my best to ignore it. Turning my back to the avenue I began to walk blindly forward with my hands out in front of me, keeping my eyes shut, my bare feet occasionally brushing off a furry flank of one or other of my forest friends. As I walked further away from the blue light and deeper into the murk, I felt the panic abate slightly.
Oddly though, that heavy feeling of something forgotten did not leave me, in fact, it settled like a weight on my chest, pressing down upon my rapidly beating heart. I also noticed, as I picked my way along, that the pleasant fuzziness that usually hugged my brain was rapidly loosening. The fog that so commonly settled over my thoughts was thinning out, parting to reveal a clear and starry sky. And I hated it.
It confused me, scared me, and all the time it made that heaviness in my heart worse.
What am I forgetting?
Tears started to stream down my face, my throat tightening. Strange memories began to surface, flashing through my mind for a fleeting second, impossible to catch, before diving deep down into the depths of my forgetfullness again.
They were alien, separate from me yet still within me ,and as I tried to grasp at them they slipped from my hold with an ease that left me unnerved. The air around suddenly felt sharper, colder, my skin tingling as new senses awakened and responded. A slick, chilly sweat broke out all over my body, seeming to seep from my very bones like ice water bringing with it a tremble that thrummed through me and made my teeth chatter.
What is it?
Suddenly, It hit me.
A squirrel paw.
The creature slapped me firmly across the left cheek from its place on my shoulder. The sound of its tiny palm meeting my bare cheek echoed around the place with a resounding 'snap' noise .It stung more than I expected a squirrel slap to sting but it brought me to my senses. The peaceful fog settled over my brain once again and I sighed with relief.
"Thank you" I whispered, and he responded by neatly tucking an acorn into my hair, next to the Queens letter. Naturally. This was a common gesture of goodwill among the squirrel folk. The other three were all about my feet, scuttling back and forth over my toes, growing increasingly impatient. They seemed to lack the decency their friend had.
Now, to get the shoelaces.
The next step I took forward was into thin air.
I lurched forward making a funny sound as the ground disappeared beneath my feet and panic cut any chance of a scream short.
I did however conclude in that split second of hovering in dead air then dropping like a stone, that it may have perhaps been wiser to have summoned flying squirrels instead of the tree variety. Much more versatile.
Also, as I plunged down through blackness, I noticed a tiny set of claws bury themselves deep into my shoulder.