Whiskers from Westerdelle: A Story Series!

I promised all of my email subscribers a week ago that today was going to be when Thoughts of a Learner would do something that it has never done before: namely, host some fiction! And here it is! That said, for the next several months from here on out, excluding whenever there’s an interruption, I intend to share an original and age-appropriate fantasy bit by bit to the blogosphere.

Tonight, therefore, I’m excited to present to you

Whiskers from Westerdelle: The Dawn of Another Land.

Enjoy the first excerpt!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter 1: Westerdelle

The sun was slowly setting and the trees of the jungle shaded the ground around them accordingly with a somber green and muddy darkness. With the exceptions of glowing flamflam flowers that had arrived later than usual that year and the immature fruits hanging with an aura of reddish gold around each sphere, the only colorful item in the vicinity now was Bye-Bye Buttons himself. The little Knop closed his baggy and worry-lined eyelids, pressed his six tentacles firmly onto the ground, and listened.
Faraway rocks rumbled. A tree crashed down. A herd of little somethings–plorks, probably–were squealing frantically and drumming their hooves in a run that, for some of them, would be the last run for their lives. Bushes were being slashed and whacked back and forth, and a terrible roar rose up that shook the earth.

To Bye-Bye Buttons, the noises at this hour meant that the Boof was coming.

He acted as quickly as any Knop could. He inched and slithered little by little until he reached the nearest piplock tree, whereupon he scrambled to hide in the nook that the lowest fork of branches had to offer. The luscious but inedible smell of piplock leaves covered up any scent of his own flavor. He closed his fiery yellow eyes again to be unseen.

The foliage ripped open on the other side of the clearing.

According to the few sightings wherein an involved Knop had amazingly survived, the Boof was a four-footed creature as large as a treehouse, with a great brown back coated with stiff sharp spikes. Each foot was itself a spiked hoof capable of shredding underbrush into an unredeemable mess. The Boof had a giant mouth ringed with deadly teeth, and it spent each summer night on an endless rampage for food. The Boof was always hungry. Sometimes it ate rocks.

Bye-bye was suddenly curious. He cracked one eye open to have a quick look for himself, but he was too late to see much. The squat and speedy hind legs of the Boof were just disappearing to the left, and the animal that had been screaming the loudest, a grank, was now eerily silent. The smaller plants in the clearing had been destroyed, and the air outside of the piplock tree smelled putrid.

The Knop took a deep breath and yelled fearlessly toward the darkness into which the Boof had run. “SEE YOU TOMORROW, MR. BOOF! YOU WILL EAT NO KNOP TODAY! AND MAY A SAW-TAILED SNAKE SOMEDAY FIND YOU AND GNAW OFF ALL FOUR OF YOUR FEET FOREVER!!” He knew from experience that the Boof would either be unable to hear him or else be too busy eating something in another part of the island. In his heart, he mocked the wicked and dumb beast that couldn’t find him, cracking a small smile around his four upper fangs that was a Knop’s closest thing to a laugh.

Suddenly, Bye-Bye remembered. He panicked. It was counting day. Odds were he was going to be late. Furthermore, the other predators aside from the Boof, such as snakes and hostercats, would also soon be out and hunting. He had to get home, relying on hiding places and vibration sensations and his two glowing eyes in order to survive.

And it was not easy for a Knop to get out of a tree.

Bye-Bye roved his eyes around the clearing in search of options that would make his journey to the ground more convenient. None of the piplock’s branches were bent down low enough to help him, but perhaps a landing inside of some tall and soft grass would suffice.

The Boof’s destruction was repulsive, and as Bye-Bye searched, he was forced to look at it: uprooted grass and other plants mixed up with dirt and arthropods and worms, misplaced stones and piles of refuse and slimy bones. Emberus the chief would probably send out a Knop or two like him to bury the waste and collect the bones in the morning.

Bye-Bye groaned. Suddenly, the remaining rays from the setting sun alighted on a single object not far off. It bubbled and sparkled off every luminescent color of the rainbow.

Bye-bye stopped groaning and gawked.

The Boof’s destruction had unearthed a Firespring.

This Firespring in particular had evidently been covered; Bye-Bye had not seen it earlier. Whether or not the covering had been done on purpose, it was hard to tell, but Bye-Bye nevertheless suspected that it had been hidden on purpose all the same.

He would go to it. He would throw his whole self inside of it and drink the water that was promised to make its recipients smart and strong and handsome forever. Then he would go home and pretend that he had not done a thing. Resolved, Bye-bye Buttons thus bravely extended his first tentacle to climb down the stubborn tree.

“Bye-Bye,” a voice whispered.

“NO!” The caught Knop lost his balance and slipped. Quickly hugging a branch, he managed to save himself from falling, even if that meant hanging upside down and swinging pendulously. “What is it, Aprille?” he at length asked her stiffly, having recognized her voice. His whiskers hung in a mess about his face and his long eyebrows trailed upon the ground.

Bright and somber blue eyes stared back at Bye-Bye Buttons, eyes belonging to a female Knop who was exactly one year younger: Aprille Thummins, Princess Knop of the Island of Westerdelle. She said in her matter-of-fact way, “I thought you knew. It’s counting day. Father is going to start in five minutes, and if you won’t hurry, then he will punish the both of us for not caring to show up.”

He was surprised. “You mean you came all this way to–,”

“I said what I said. Why are you hanging upside down?”

Bye-Bye sighed. “Please look away from me.”

Aprille did so.

Bye-Bye squeezed his eyes shut and dropped to the ground. The impact hurt him only a little, thanks to his instinct to instantly wrap all six appendages around to the top of his head, but such an action made him as well as any other Knop in the same predicament feel helplessly exposed and embarrassed.

“Finished?” asked Aprille.

Bye-Bye uprighted himself. “Yes I am, thank you.”

“Let’s go.” She primly glided out of the clearing without once looking back.

Bye-Bye risked to glance behind him one more time at the forbidden Firespring. It pulsed and flowed invitingly. He could not afford to miss counting day, but maybe he would volunteer to deal with the Boof’s mess in the morning after all.

He scrambled as fast as he could after Aprille. She was a very pretty Knop with fuschia fur, tentacles trained to move smoothly and quickly, and whiskers styled in a feminine fashion to hide her inherently jagged teeth. She followed all of the rules in general and to him she was the best of all of Westerdelle’s talking beasts, even though he himself had little respect for most of the rules made up by Emberus the chief.

Sometimes Bye-Bye wished that rules like counting day and the Knop hierarchy did not exist. He wished for them to be gone namely because they made the Knop creatures unlike all of the other animals. They were slaves to an order that made them be intelligent but also full of worries about each other and even have certain social restrictions.

Emberus had said that the rules were derived from the Appointer’s good will, but rumors had it that they had in fact come from something evil. Bye-Bye couldn’t say which statement was true. And sometimes he loved the rules, because they helped make him and the others feel dignified and important. Breaking any of them was similar to hanging oneself upside-down from a tree. Nobody wanted such humiliation. And so, therefore, the rules existed.

The forest was by now completely dark, and while the carnivorous beasts still prowled, granks who were safe high up in the trees were calmly chattering and screeching nonverbally to each other. Flowers and fruits grew ubiquitously, glowing by means of a lovely luminescence that they themselves produced. A yomper’s distant song to his mate could be heard, the sweet and yet lonely tune stirring even the hardest of Knop hearts. These and so many other things made the night seem rather pleasant instead of lethal.

But Bye-Bye Buttons and Aprille Thummins knew better. They inched their way down inconspicuous paths, always turning away from any smell and sound that would otherwise alert any sensible Knop that his or her life was in danger. The only creatures in Westerdelle who were afraid of Knopf* were plorks and bugs. As for the rest, the Knopf were at their mercy.

Aprille led Bye-Bye through one last small passage between two trees. He knew it well. No boof could follow them. One last dark clearing greeted their eyes: lying in its middle was the single wooden box elevator, empty and waiting.

“We’re here!”

To be continued…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*In addition to its meaning in our own land, Knopf is seriously also the plural word used when speaking about more than one Knop in Westerdelle. Why this is so, nobody there knows.

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