[Short Story] Waiting for the Molehog
Holes. There is something significantly strange and compelling about the holes that puncture the hillside and spread through the sides of the yard. They are round, empty and black, the entrance to a secluded network of tunnels that act as a conspiratorial highway for the furry beings that have long made effective use of the earth.
A girl is waiting.
She sits on a squat broken stool, low to the ground, the mouth of a fist-sized hole opened up before her. Her fingers are clasped tightly around a thoughtful bundle held together by a lace drawstring bag: the leftover remains of a late-afternoon salad, a glassy antique flute-like instrument, and a distorted version of a collapsing, threadbare book. A daily ritual for a girl whose outdoor whereabouts are confined to the miniscule space of her backyard, and whose interest in a particular form of animal-human interaction has sparked since then.
She stares fixedly at the hole,willing this invisible, mysterious creature to emerge out of its hiding. The entrance is surrounded by clumps of grass and clovers and weeds that have just begun to sprout, only to be torn down by the rare visits of the molehog.
The girl likes to think of them as spirits or ghosts, only coming out when the human senses are not aware, and seen by the scant few only lucky and watchful enough to spot them. They travel swiftly, deep into the heart of the earth, leaving no trace except for the fist-sized pock-marks that are scattered in the yard.
The girl, like the soil, remembers. The soil always remembers. The scratches, the bites, the claw-marks, the numerous tunnels that have been blocked off or that have collapsed, only to be re-dug again, the blood, the bones, the fur of countless generations worth of digging, all recorded in the soil. The girl does not underestimate the irresistible mind of the molehog.
She closes her eyes. Beneath the ground and deep into the core of the earth, an intricate maze of tunnels. They press, cold and empty against her sides, the grass root hairs on the side of the walls brushing her skin as she pushes forward. Ahead of her, an impenetrable wall of soothing blackness. She pushes forward without hesitation, making successful use of her sensitive paws and her coarse, sandy-like whiskers to navigate herself through the labyrinth’s endless supply of tunnels and burrows. She likes to think of the tunnels as snakes, hollow and empty and stretching their cramped bodies over a wide expanse of underground valleys, basking in the tranquil softness of the wet underground soil. Her footsteps echo and bounce in a rhythmic pattern around the thick dirt walls, the impromptu music that sets that caverns’ seclusive tone. The vigorous stench of decomposing yard waste and shrubbery is thrown into the air in celebration. A blinding streak of light hits the ground before her, the result of a leaky dirt patch in the root.
She likes to think of the tunnels as snakes, hollow and empty and stretching their cramped bodies over a wide expanse of underground valleys, basking in the tranquil softness of the wet underground soil. Her footsteps echo and bounce in a rhythmic pattern around the thick dirt walls, the impromptu music that sets that caverns’ seclusive tone. The vigorous stench of decomposing yard waste and shrubbery is thrown into the air in celebration. A blinding streak of light hits the ground before her, the result of a leaky dirt patch in the root.
However, the tunnels remain empty, and no voices which sound like the being she is seeking answer her call. It is time to return to the surface, where she will continue to wait for her anticipated friend.
Taking the place of the girl she had once been, hunched and bent over a rickety splintered tool, she continues to clutch her bag, the contents inside the memorable results of an improbable friendship. However tempting it might seem to her to curl up and lose herself among the comfort of the tunnels, a secluded void of reassuring darkness, she always remembers to return to the surface.
The girl, like the molehog, remembers. The molehog always remembers. The scrumptious, leaf-like vegetables shared, the gentle but vibrant music played, the humorous stories read worth countless hours of time, all recorded in the memories of the girl and the molehog, two unlikely but comical friends. The molehog does not underestimate the mind of the girl.
Beneath her, a diminutive being stirs. A reclusive but sympathetic creature. Ir senses her presence. The girl is also aware. A powerful evening wind plucks the leaves off the saplings and the evergreens away into the deepest, bottomless pits, similar to the way grapes are plucked from a vine, stored away by squirrels in holes in the summer dirt. The notes carried away by the wind, an old grandfather clock chimes six o’clock. It was time.
The molehog emerged.