“A lone Xweetok was running through the forest, alone and unwanted. ‘CRACK!’ A twig snapped behind her. ‘Cr-ee-ak’. A branch swayed in the wind. She looked up, expecting to see the moon, but the mass of branches concealed any light it would give. ‘Pat-Pat-Pat’ came the soft sound of paws behind her. She began to run again, this time with her eyes closed, not wanting to see what lay ahead of her.”
Sitting around the fire were about six young Xweetoks. In the old rocking chair sat their guardian, the Xweetok called Faith. She was blue and middle aged, but when she told stories a fire lit up in her eyes. Providing for all the lost ones she came by in the forest, she was like a mother to all who stayed there. The young ones gasped as she took them through the haunted forest and they felt as if a wild beast was running after them even inside the huge hollow log they called home.
“And then out of the darkness,” continued Faith, “a hand grabbed the young one and pushed her into a shallow hole in the earth. ‘Lay low,’ came a hoarse and whispered command. A few moments later, breathing hard, a huge beast strode past and snarled.” As she said that last word she lunged out of her chair and into the little huddle. They all screamed as loudly as they could.
“But!” she began again crouching low next to them. “He could not see her or her companion. He sniffed and scratched at the ground until...” Here she stopped and went back to her rocker. “Until tomorrow night we will not know what happens!” she said, grinning.
Half a dozen squeals of protest arose and she held up a paw. “No buts! I’ll be surprised if I haven't given you the spooks!”
One Xweetok named Pip jumped up. “But we want to hear what happens! Please?”
“Any more out of you and there won’t be the rest for two days.” The protests went down instantly. Chuckling Faith stood up. “All right, I won’t do that unless you all don’t get into bed!” Twenty-four paws could be heard pattering off into bed with great vigor.
“Good night, my young ones,” whispered Faith. “Sweet dreams.”
Six goodnights muffled by blankets rose from the pile of leaves in the corner. Faith went around blowing out candles, one by one. Before the last one was blown out she carried it to the door. It opened with a loud creak and she gazed out into the wild looking forest. Before she closed it once more she thought she caught the slightest sound of cracking twigs. She hurriedly shut it, trying to erase memories and thoughts that tried to dive through her mind. Looking back at the little sleeping forms of her adopted, she said, “I have been giving myself spooks.”
She woke up later when she heard whispering.
“It’s got to be her!” insisted one voice. She recognized it as Pip’s.
“How could it be? She wouldn’t tell us about herself!” piped up another.
“Even if it was her!”
Instead of interrupting the arguing, youngsters Faith gave an unruly snore. This was getting interesting.
“Yeah!” That must have been Joy. “Why would she tell us stories about herself?”
Ahhh, though Faith. Smart youngsters.
“Or maybe she’s telling us about someone she knows!” Their voices rose and woke some of the younger ones up. The noise was now past the point that would have woken Faith up and silently she sat up in her chair.
A hush fell over all. They heard a creak and not realizing it was Faith’s chair, their minds went back to her story.
“W-who do you think was ch-ch-asing her?” Others got more to the point.
“It’s like the creaking in the story!”
And uproar. A few dove under their blankets and some ran over to Faith. One even jumped into her lap. But she was not expecting Faith to grab her in a huge hug. After calming them all down and explaining the mysterious noise, she said, “How’s about the rest of that story? You’ve been doing some thinking yourself, haven't you?” She looked over at Pip who shuffled his feet noisily.
“Yes’m,” they chorused.
“Good. Very good job. Some of you have found me out. As I was saying...” and she continued the story.
“I was thrown into the hole that was about three feet deep. Leaves covered me and I heard the sound of snarling and sniffing. It was as I had guessed, a wild Lupe of the forest! Chasing after me! He couldn’t find me and then, and then! A gust of wind blew and leaves with my scent went flying by! He had us. But then my new friend picked me up by the scuff of my neck and ran to an old hollow log. Yes, it was this very place.”
She had added that last sentence because the Xweetoks’ faces had a shocked look, but it was more at the thought of their motherly friend being carried by the scruff that put it there.
“A door slammed behind us and I found myself in a room not unlike it looks now, my children. Except there was no fireplace. I looked up to face my savior and found myself looking at a Xweetok like myself! He was old but not too old for an adventure. No, not he. Good old Mr. Jorse. I know, a very odd name, and yet for a very odd person. He hid me, never asking questions about where I came from or ever hinting he didn’t want me. He loved me like a father should have and I loved him as a daughter should. It was quite a new feeling, this sense of belonging.
But even though he tried to act young, he grew older with years, and by the time I was mostly grown, he was worn out. I had more chores to do than usual, such as the ones that you will have when I grow old. It was at this time that the wild Lupes decided to give us a visit. I was out collecting fruits for our meal when I scented something I had only smelled once before on a dark cold night. I dropped everything and ran back not knowing where to go. I led them right to my home and-”
Here a tear trickled down Faith’s cheek and the little one on her lap snuggled closer.
“I didn’t know they followed me and I ran to Jorse. When he asked me what was wrong I couldn’t speak at first, I was so frightened. He had just gone to bar the door when it crashed open. Once again he hid me in a pile of leaves and none of the Lupes saw me. They were too busy destroying the house. I never saw Jorse again.
“They left the place in ruins, children. For days I wandered about, not knowing what to do. I finally thought of what Jorse would do and I cleaned everything up. It became my home and I lived all alone. That is until you came along, Pip.”
All eyes turned to the oldest one in the group. His eyes widened, amazed by the fact that he had been the first ever after the attack.
“Then I knew that I had a job to do. Just like Jorse, I started taking care of anyone who was lost. More of you showed up and now I have all of you with me. A family. Something I never had. So children, never think lightly of your family. Always count your blessings and love each other.’”
They looked around at each other and the old log. They were very grateful for it and thought of what had occurred here. Finally they looked back at Faith, who smiled at them warmly, and one by one they all ran up and gave her a huge hug.
“Now, to bed, all of you! My, it is very late. How could I have kept you all up just for that story? I’m sure you didn’t want to hear the rest...”
She was interrupted by six voices protesting, as usual. She said, “Good night, my children.” They all gave her one final hug and went off to bed, and sooner than they would have guessed, they were all fast asleep. Only the Story Teller, loving as ever, rocked in her chair and gazed at them in silence. Her last thought before drifting off to sleep was, “What a wonderful family.”
This is just a reminder to all of you. No matter how bad things look, you always have family.