Thursday, 15 January 2015

General Smart's Grey Squirrel Band

Coincidences happen to me quite a lot. The chronology of these sometimes seems backwards, like a reverse history lesson or being rewound to a preceding time or event. With the story I'm about to narrate, I'm not sure where we are in the present state - whether all the occurrences have happened, are about to, or if they're way off in the future, but what I can tell you is that in this created land they're talked of as if they've passed.
The Balloonist in Enemy Land, which I'd read as part of a short story course and penned a condescending essay about, somehow opened up a window. Persons and details sought me out: a nutty professor or two, radio and television interviews, and newspaper clippings all seeming to confirm that this land actually existed. Sometimes it was just a tenuous link, which another person may have ignored, but I found it hard to believe that a such a small piece of information could find me through all other day-to-day trivia, so foolish as it may yet prove to be I listened. And here is what I've managed to cobble together.
Many, many years ago, a company of grey squirrels nibbled off a section of Surrey parkland and hid it. They painstakingly pulled up the roots of newly-planted trees and transplanted them, the same as hair follicles are to men going thin on top, to a sparse, long-forgotten beauty spot. It grew into a kind of beautiful, elevated wilderness which in certain places had panoramic views of the sort that any landscape photographer would wish to capture. The flattish pasture with its finger-bowl dips would have been pleasing to the human eye, if it was artistically inclined, along with its weird phenomena, but humans, as you've probably guessed, were not permitted.
The few that trespassed saw sights that have never been fully explained. Here, it is said mushrooms grow to towering heights, dwarfing microscopic infect life and other plants or creatures; black cherries thrive underground, turn into a bubbling jam and ooze like a volcano about to erupt; and ordinarily passive song birds turn into spies with warbling cries and hunting knives.
Other than the balloonist, who had inadvertently drifted in, only one small boy, named Jim, purposely stole in and got further without detection. The grey squirrels eventually captured him and released him on the border, where he stumbled home to speak of other strange things to his mother: clockwork robins made of brown sugar and grinning, guitar-playing sunflowers. Jim was put to bed, as the probable cause, his physician said, was eating an hallucinogenic mushroom, but once the fuss had died down the family quite literally disappeared. Packed up and left without a single word to their friends or neighbours.
Humans were indeed the enemy. And why wouldn't we be? After labelling them pests and blaming them for the demise of Reds, for culling and poisoning them. Tired of being persecuted, wouldn't you choose to build a hidden land of your very own?
But they lacked one thing: strong leadership. Grey squirrels only know how to bicker and fist-fight. They needed a general to head their battalion and fast. As chance would have it, a toy car, who'd escaped from the clutches of his boisterous owner, at that time was accosted by a blackbird. Unbelievably, the car spoke English and reasonable Squirrel, which, despite the high-pitched voice and size difference made him perfect for the job.
General Smart immediately instilled order and keeps the peace, to this day, in his squirrel brigade, even between his boys and their spouses. But when it comes to man even he sometimes struggles to control them for this after all is not a land for those seen as enemies. This is grey squirrel territory, and you'd be wise to remember that.

Picture Credit: Peter Francis