In the days that followed Patches arrival to the forest, Pudgy and his friends ran around and played under the warm late spring sun. Summer was approaching, so each day it grew warmer. The cat had grown enchanted with the idea of a tree house, and so the woodland critters asked their dragon friend if he would be able to help them with one? Cobalt said yes, and after locating the perfect tree, construction began. The former human made the house circular, and it used a couple different building techniques. This was so the house would be secure, while not killing the tree in the process. Circular braces around the trunk, tension rope lines, and a strategic location allowed the circular home to be built. The beavers were happy, as this was another project that required them to cut down a couple small trees nearby to their dam.
A long rope bridge was then made, and tied between several trees, at varying angles, to allow the woodland critters to access the tree house. The entry point to the bridge, was above Pudgy’s underground home which made for ease of access for all. The dragon grinned as the cat peeked out of the new tree house, and waved her paw at him. It was built high enough to stay safe from predators, and offered a wide view of the forest. When Pudgy stopped by for a visit, he could just barely see the edge of the forest, and the ruins of the human homes. This made him sad, but a hug or two from his cat friend made him feel better. Shortly after the hedgehog’s first visit, a request was made to add a hoist lift, so that Patches could bring up supplies as well as friends. A system of pulleys were configured in such a way to make it work, but after the cat hoisted Pudgy, she couldn’t move due to exhaustion. Thus a better hoist style system would be needed for heavier loads, which the dragon had to take time to consider.
In between hedgehog and critter projects, Cobalt worked on his cavern home. While not as technically advanced as Pudgy’s, the immediate need for a place to sleep out of the rain was solved. The floor was dug out, and the resulting floor graded in such a way to ensure the water did not run into the cave when it rained. A log wall was built in front, with a door that was accessible by the former human in his animal form. There was now a door which could close, to offer him a semblance of safety and privacy. Moving some stones around, resulted in a small stacked stone wall to hold back the dirt. He capped it with thick but flat shale rocks, which allowed his hedgehog friend to sit on the wall when he came to visit. It was shortly after the home’s big construction was finished, Pudgy came over to have a sleepover. Inside the cave were smooth rock walls, though no lights. The former human had some ideas what to do next, but there was no rush on that. Pudgy thoroughly enjoyed the new place, and scampered around happily exploring every bit of it. Cobalt was so much bigger now, that he mostly filled the cave with his dragon body. This also meant that there was not much sleeping, until very late due to multiple excited ideas presented by the visiting critter. When Cobalt awoke the next morning, he found his hedgehog friend hugging his leg.
The hedgehog’s big room was further transformed into a large warehouse, with three floors. Each floor was stepped back a quarter, with safety railings, so critters would not fall off. This allowed someone on the concrete floor to be able to speak to another on the higher floors. Ramps were built to connect all levels, as well as places to store things. The construction of floor 2 and floor 3 was in a U shape, which allowed both communication, light, and airflow in the former meeting room. All manner of stalls, bins, and other storage measures were built by both dragon and hedgehog, with bunny held as well. After all of Pudgy’s woodland friends were satisfied with the results of the upgrades, Cobalt removed the bi-fold doors from the big room. This drew audible gasps, and a whimper from Pudgy. There had been many happy gatherings in the big meeting room, as well plans discussed for adventures. While the dragon worked, the critters scampered around and helped to work on the interior.
Due to Argente the silver fox growing older, she was growing larger. This required modifications to accommodate the larger critter, which required the doors to be widened. Cobalt fixed the interior door from the warehouse into Pudgy’s home, as well as the exterior front door that led into his main living area. The gears were disconnected on each side of the warehouse room, and the parts placed into a storage stall. Patches made the suggestion that the gears could be used on her tree house lift. The dragon agreed, while the bifold doors were converted to be sealed shut. Extra bracing was fastened inside the door jamb to provide a rigid structure which the original bifold doors would be connected to. In the bottom center of the original door opened would be a fox sized door. A landing was built which would eventually serve as a grand entrance to the warehouse, along with a ramp that led to the main floor or the one above it.
After allowing the critters one last look through the large doorway, the dragon connected the door panels, and then nailed them shut. Pieces of scrounged scrap metal were then affixed to the outside of the newly sealed door, and the joints caulked appropriately. This was to protect the wood from moisture and rot, as well as provide further strength to the sealed opening. The reason why they needed such a strong wall, as that shortly afterwards the dragon began to camouflage the former large room. He located and moved large stones, as well as dirt over the former big door entrance, so he could further disguise the hedgehog’s home. While this exterior work was occuring, the fox sized door was open, which Pudgy peeked from while wiggling his nose. Argente and Patches scampered outside, and helped the dragon move dirt, as well as plant things in the new ground being laid. Once everything was finished, the dragon sighed happily. He realized that all of these projects had used up the building supplies and materials that the former human had brought over from his home.
Sighing tiredly also while looking at Cobalt, Argente took a few steps back and nodded in satisfaction. “Well, it is done, the big room has now been sealed off. Cobalt, this means that if you ever come back as a human, you can’t go in again?” The dragon nodded, “yes that is true … I will need to bring a tent.” The animals laughed, and then watched as Pudgy scampered out to take a look. Looking from left to right, there was his expanded normal round front door, then two round windows, and then the new round front door to the store house. “Pudgy like the way home looks, but maybe we should also put the storm door barricades, in case of monsters?” Argente giggled, “yes, I think so too Pudgy, but Cobalt …is out of materials?” The former human nodded, “yes, that is correct Pudgy. Which means that if we want to do any more building, we need to find a source of supplies. Tomorrow, I would like to head to the grocery store and hardware store that is close to here.”
Pudgy bounced happily, “oh boy, maybe the cookie lady will give Pudgy a cookie!” The former human smiled softly, “ Pudgy …the cookie lady went away. But, maybe we will find cookies there?” The hedgehog looked up at him, then realized what he meant, the nice old woman who worked at the store was no longer here. That meant she could not make the cookies, there would be no cookie to give. The critter whimpered and wiped a tear away from his eye. Not that he wouldn’t get a cookie, but the nice lady went away. She was so old that she had to sit while baking, and her hands were gnarled from arthritis. Pudgy hoped she went to the gray place Cobalt spoke of, and was able to rest.
As the Argente padded over to hug her hedgehog friend, Patches the cat meowed. She had come over to watch the building, and once satisfying her curiosity, scampered off to her rope bridge to head back to the tree house. The dragon looked at Pudgy, “I want to take a look at my old house Pudgy. You stay put here … I will be back.” The hedgehog and silver fox nodded, and headed inside the store house. The two critters turned to peek out of the doorway, they watched the dragon slowly walk off. Cobalt looked down while walking, at the newly fortified grist mill’s exterior rocks defenses. To provide protection from flood water, as well as flood debris, large stones had been sunk around both the mill and the water wheel. A thick application of clay further enhanced the water break, and a much sturdier roof on top. While the mill had been repaired and strengthened, it was still a water logged mess on the interior. It would be several days to dry the millstones, before grinding could be initiated once more.
Cobalt walked up the hill, and past the thorn bush, to reach the scary delivery truck road. Across from the dragon was standing along the road, where the former hill that ran behind the former human’s home. The hill had collapsed during the storm, with huge rocks being snapped off and jutting out in strange angles. The sink hole’s reach had spread all the way to the hill, and in its place was an eerie gentle hill sloped upwards to where the human homes once stood. While walking across the asphalt road, the dragon could see that large settlement cracks had formed, causing some sections of the road surface to be higher than others. Caution was key, and gingerly he stepped onto the ground. It felt firm beneath his clawed paw, so Cobalt continued to walk forward slowly. His neighbors’ homes were jutting up, and leaning forward at a steep angle. There had been multiple lightning strikes, so the burned out second floors of the various homes were cracked off at the floor joists, and laying in varying spots along the road that ran along the front of the houses.
The dragon continued to walk through the tall grass covered land. There were bricks laying in crumbled piles beside the destroyed structures. In addition, gaping holes had now been opened up in homes’s exterior walls. Horrible smells of sewage, rotting food, and other decomposing materials filled the air. A high pitched sound kept occurring from somewhere, which led Cobalt to stop behind one home. A tiny brown dog was barking loudly from a second floor deck trying to get his attention. “Hey, you need help?” Cobalt called out, and watched as the dog nodded, “my human disappeared and now the house broke apart!” The dragon headed over and raised his head so it was even with an opening in the deck. The dog barked again, looked at the dragon, then squeezed through the opening between the deck rails. The canine slid down the dragon’s neck, and eventually his back, to land on the ground. The dog did not wait, and shot off through the yards running at top speed.
Cobalt continued to walk to where his home should be, thinking to himself that he was very glad to stop by for a visit today. If the dragon had not been walking along, that dog would have been stuck, in a very dangerous building. Upon arriving at the location of his home, the destruction was total. Like the various homes passed, the first and second stories were completely burned out. The front exterior walls were missing, and one could see all the way through the home to the front driveway. The large red vehicle was missing, having been swallowed up by the earth. Slowly walking to the patio door, it was now leaning forward at a 30 degree angle inwards. The rest of the basement was angled forward and down at a much steeper angle. It looked like the concrete foundation had snapped in two, with a large crack in the concrete slab. The remaining supplies that had been piled in the basement for transport were ruined. There was also a pool of sludge inside, that smelled very bad. Realizing the very high possibility that the noxious odors were flammable, the former human turned and quickly took off. He headed in the direction towards what used to be the crest of the hill behind his home. However, it had grown much gentler, covered by plants that were growing at an accelerated rate.
The ground started to shake again, which meant that these areas should not be ventured into again for a long time. The former human jumped from atop the small hill as he quickened his departure. The intention was to land a fair distance away, and run down the remainder of the much softer sloped hillside. But an odd thing occurred, without realizing it, his wings unfurled from his back and caught the air. This resulted in a bit of lift, and the dragon coasted over the hill. The flight patch resulted in crossing the delivery truck road, then over the thorn bush. The dragon had no idea how he had made his wings work. The sight of Cobalt flying drew all manner of looks from the birds in the trees, as well as excited frenzied chirping. Landing with a hard thud beside the grist mill, the former human craned his head and neck, to see the wings fold back all by themselves. “Ok, I need to figure out how I did that?” Resuming his composure, Cobalt walked towards the hedgehog’s home.
Pudgy had been watching, and was bouncing excitedly in front of his home. “THAT WAS SO COOL COBALT! YOU WERE FLYING!” The little hedgehog shouted, while the bunnies were sitting beside him with their mouths open. The dragon laughed as he walked up, “I wish I knew how I did that. I have to think hard to be able to walk around on all fours, so the wings came out due to reflex maybe? I need to try that again sometime. Pudgy, tell everyone not to go over there anymore. The ground is not safe … all of the homes have been swallowed up.” The critters nodded, and then scampered around looking at Cobalt, trying to help him figure out how to make his wings go out again. While they were not able to help in that regard, everyone had fun playing with their dragon friend. In time, the sun began to go down once again, so the former human said his goodbyes. Walking past the warehouse doors, Cobalt turned to the left and headed up the hill, and out of view.
The bunnies helped Pudgy secure his home for the evening, before returning to their warren. It was warm out still, so there was no need to light the wood stove. Climbing into his bed, the hedgehog wiggled as he got comfortable. He shut his eyes, only for them to open up once more. The trip into town was causing his mind to race, as he wondered what exactly it would look like. Where Pudgy and Cobalt lived was developed by human standards, but there were many forests and farms around. It was nowhere near as developed as California, which Pudgy very much preferred. Eventually though, sleep arrived, and the hedgehog rested in his underground home until the morning light came. Excitedly, the hedgehog bounced out of bed and got ready for the day.
There was a knock at the door, which caused Pudgy to scamper over to his front door. Upon opening it, he found Argente waving her paw at him. “Good Morning Pudgy, are you all set to go?” The little critter nodded, and ran back into his home. The critter grabbed his travelling backpack, though it was completely empty. After putting the backpack on, Pudgy returned to the doorway and exited his home. Pulling the door closed behind him, the lock was put into place to secure the door. Turning back to Argente, the hedgehog saw Cobalt walking up with the wagon in tow behind him. As the dragon slowed to a stop in front of the home, “all aboard! We are going to head to Mr. Bear’s cabin first, before heading into town.” Both the silver fox and hedgehog scampered over to the wagon, and climbed up into the empty wooden wagon.
Once the two animals were safely inside the wagon, Cobalt started to walk once more. Pudgy noticed the way that his dragon friend was moving. He was walking in a slow methodical way, which made sense. The human had learned to walk on two legs, and now had to use four to move around. Pudgy always used four legs, so it was second nature to him. Even though he was slow, it was still much faster than hedgehog speed, and plus the critters could ride in the wagon. There was a path that ran beside the creek, but it was at an angle. So as the wagon tipped to the left towards the creek, Argente slid over and smashed the hedgehog who started to chuckle and tickle her. The female fox started to giggle wildly, which drew a smile from the former human. Past the three waterfalls, make the right, up the hill, pass the granite boulder, and then pass by the stand of pine trees the trio headed.
Upon reaching the cabin, Cobalt’s tail let go of the wagon. He strode up to the front door, and then carefully knocked on the thick oak front door. There were shuffling noises, and quiet bear sounds, before the door opened up. To the surprise of the dragon, a new bear answered the door. He was much older, with gray fur covering his entire body. When the much older bear saw the dragon, he bared his teeth and growled. “Who are you?” The dragon eased back away from the cabin, hoping to diffuse the situation. “My name is Cobalt, we were looking for Mr. Bear.” A familiar growl quickly was heard as the familiar head of Mr. Bear peeked out from the hallway exit from the back bedrooms of the cabin. “Father, the dragon is all right. He’s a friend of mine,” The younger bear said while slowly walking out. As the gray bear nodded, he took a few steps back, and looked at the younger brown bear. “I see, that story of yours appears to check out. And where is that hedgehog you spoke of …”
The gray bear trailed off, as he looked won and a tiny brown hedgehog was now hugging his leg. Pudgy wiggled his nose,”HI! My Name is Pudgy, who are you?” The much older bear could not help but laugh, and started to smile. “I am Mr. Bear Senior.” Cobalt chuckled, “a fellow Junior too huh, Mr. Bear?” The brown bear laughed, “Yes. What are you doing here?” As Argente padded up to stand beside Cobalt, the dragon spoke, “we were heading into town. I want to go to the grocery store, and see what we can scavenge.” The brown bear nodded, “Father … shall we head into town along with Cobalt, Pudgy, and Argente?” The gray bear looked thoughtful, “if the humans are indeed gone, then we should not fear going into town. Plus, I would very much like to hear what has been happening from your friends.”
The hedgehog let go of Mr. Bear Senior, and then scampered back over to get into Cobalt’s wagon. Argente followed suit, and then watched as Cobalt’s tail picked up from the ground, and wrapped around the handle of the wagon. The two large bears exited the cabin, and the gray bear secured it. Mr. Bear Junior ran around the side of the cabin, and hooked up his wagon to pull it. There was a long leather strap tied to the wagon, and was long enough to hook around the throat and run over his back to allow pulling. As Mr. Bear Senior strode slowly up to Cobalt, he saw the hedgehog and silver fox in the wagon waving at him. “There is a path from my cabin into the woods, which connects to a human walking trail. That connects into the town’s main street, so let’s get going.” The brown bear said as he turned around and walked towards the trail.
Cobalt fell into line behind the brown bear, and the elderly gray bear was walking behind the wagon. As Mr. Bear Junior said, there indeed was a trail, well worn from many deer having used it. It stretched through the forest, and over a log bridge that crossed the creek. The wagons were able to cross the bridge, as it was an absolutely massive oak tree that had been struck by lightning and split down the middle. Each large animal crossed one at a time, just to be safe. Up a gentle hill they climbed, until it turned sharply to the right, to go further up the hill. In reality, this was a series of switchbacks that had been cut into the hillside to allow humans to be able to get into the forest proper behind the town. Mr. Bear Senior saw an electrical transformer box that was painted green on the one corner, so this signified an underground buried line somewhere.
After a short hike, the animals reached a small overgrown park. The humans had built a trailhead entrance, with a war memorial. Sadly, the plants had grown so high, that everything was covered. But the tops of American flags could be seen, as well as a bronze placard dedicating the memorial to all the brave souls who died in the Korean war. Mr. Bear hesitantly strode out of the park, and onto the concrete sidewalk. Cobalt moved to his right side towards the road’s edge, and sighed at the sight. The main street of the town was empty. There were no cars, no trucks, no sign of human life anywhere. The world really was devoid of humans, and the sheer quiet that enveloped the area was immeasurable. Gone were the typical sounds of passing cars and their engines, of the firetrucks and ambulances as they sped off to save the day, the sounds of air conditioners to cool the buildings, or even the sound of people talking.
Pudgy looked around from the wagon, and he had never seen the town this empty before. The buildings still stood, but the once neatly cut grass lawns were unkempt with plants growing wild and free. While both the brown bear and blue dragon walked side by side, they saw deer grazing in front of a chiropractor’s office. The bushes had been stripped clean of berries, as well as leaves. The deer saw the two large animals and their heads raised, so Cobalt waved his clawed paw at them. “Hi guys, we’re heading to the grocery store, you need anything?” The deer looked confused, and shook their heads, before starting to warily graze again. Cobalt laughed, “I still can’t believe I can talk to and understand animals now.” Mr. Bear Senior looked at Pudgy, “is that your human friend who turned into an animal?” The hedgehog nodded, and ran around the wagon and peeked out at the buildings as they passed.
Upon reaching a four way intersection, Cobalt looked up to see the traffic lights were dark. So he looked left and right multiple times, despite the streets being empty. It would be just his luck to be run over by a car, so carefully the dragon proceeded across the street. Doing the same procedure, he crossed at another crosswalk to the slight hill that ran in front of the grocery store. Mr. Bear and his father laughed, and just went diagonally across the street to join the dragon.
The grocery store was an italian one that had opened back in the 1920’s. Pudgy wiggled his nose and frowned, when he saw that all the glass on the front windows had been shattered. It looked like cars had rammed the front of the store, as broken glass and aluminum braces were laying around the parking lot. The original lighted sign still listed the specials, which included a chipped ham sale. Chipped ham had been on sale since the Pirates won the pennant in the 70’s.
As Cobalt slowly moved forward, he brushed aside the glass to clear a path for the two bears who were following. Pudgy watched as the grocery store was a wreck, with shelves laying on the floor. The small wooden tables where the bakery specials used to be laid out for sale, had all been smashed into pieces. Cobalt turned around a bit to be able to crane his beck and watch Mr. Bear and his father enter the store. “Shout out if you need help, we do not know what is in here with us?” The dragon said, which drew nods from the two bears. Each of the large animals took an aisle to explore, but what they found was disheartening. Every shelf was empty, and every end cap was empty as well. The store was not very wide, but it was deep, so the vast emptiness stretched all the way to the back of the store.
The freezer cases were silent, as all frozen food within had been either purchased or stolen. The fresh food sections were empty, save for a few rotting vegetables with their unique odors wafting in the air. After exploring the store, the group of animals met at the pet food section. Mr. Bear Senior looked at the dragon, “we did not find anything, how about you?” The dragon shook his head, “no, but there is a second level to this building. The basement has the warehouse and locking docks, as well as a hardware store. We have to go around the building to get there, because the elevator won’t work without power.” The trio of large animals nodded at one another, and proceeded to exit the store through the safe path that had been cleared out.
The grocery store building’s parking lot was at an angle, with a steeper than expected hill, which was shaped around the front right side of the building. As Cobalt quickened his pace, the wagon moved faster which caused Pudgy to go, “whee!” The former human laughed, and saw the side door to the hardware store was smashed open as well. The hardware store was full of many things, except cigarettes and tobacco products, as that section had been cleared out. The dragon noticed that there were two larger than normal cats sitting in front of an old school 70’s cigarette vending machine. They were a mixture of brown gray fur, with underpinnings, and striped darker colors. A very familiar male voice spoke from the cat on the left, “just one cigarette. I just want one, and they took them all!” The second cat nodded its head, and spoke with a female voice, “well perhaps this town has a gas station somewhere?”
Pudgy recognized the voices, and bounced over the wagon’s wood slat fences. Cobalt watched the hedgehog scamper past him, and start bouncing happily behind the two cats. “Mr. Waffles! Mrs. Waffles! You came to Pennsylvania!” Cobalt noticed the tails were short and stubby, and watched as they turned around, narrow yellow eyes locked onto his hedgehog friend. It had been a long time, but the former human recognized that these were two bobcats. However, like Pudgy, he recognized Mrs. Waffles voice due to a telephone call he had with her. Before Mr. Waffles could react, Pudgy was being hugged by Mrs. Waffles. “PUDGY!” In her new cat form, the hedgehog was much larger, and way easier to hug. Mr. Waffles padded up to the dragon, and looked up at him. “My word Pudgy, who is this?” Cobalt grinned, “hello Mr. Waffles, it’s Cobalt.”
The male bobcat eyes went wide, and then laughed, “no fair, why do you get to be a dragon?” The dragon laughed, “I don’t know. I am glad to see that you and your wife are well. Pudgy, Argente, Mr. Bear Senior, Mr. Bear Junior, and I live in the forest near here. We stopped into town for supplies, but the grocery store upstairs is wrecked and empty.” The silver fox bounced out of the wagon, and padded up to see the male bobcat. She waved her paw, “hello, my name is Argente.” Mrs. Waffles let go of Pudgy, and then padded up beside her husband, and waved her paw at Argente. “Oh my Argente, you are even more lovely in person than Pudgy described.” The female fox giggled, and would have blushed if she could. The dragon looked at the group of smaller animals, “everyone stay here, and socialize. I need a few things.”
Cobalt turned and slowly walked through the partially darkened store. But he had shopped here before, and knew where things were. As the dragon moved through the store, he grabbed tubes of caulk, glue, duct tape, nails, screws, electrical wire, fire starters, assorted tools, outdoor patio lights, and a solar battery charger. The wagon filled accordingly, and in time he started to head towards the open exit doorway. The bobcats, hedgehog, and silver fox were outside in the parking lot already. So Cobalt exited the store, with his wagon in tow behind him. Slowly the dragon maneuvered, and smiled at the group. Pudgy waved at Cobalt, “Mr. Bear and Grandpa Bear already headed to the warehouse.” The new name for Mr. Bear Senior made the dragon smile, and he nodded as they all started to head around the rear of the building. Like the doors in the front and side, the rear doors were wide open.
Pope ran up ahead of the group, and then stuck his head inside the doorway. There were two large bears pawing at a crate of something. Soon the dragon passed by the bobcat, and called out to the bears. “Did you find anything?” Mr. Bear Junior shook his head, “looks like this place is empty too. No humans means no trucks, and no trucks means no food.” Cobalt nodded, “oh, we found some new friends. This is Mr. and Mrs. Waffles, “ he announced as the two bobcats walked in and waved their paws. Pudgy and Argente scampered in, and then immediately headed down a long shelf that ran along the edge of the foundation wall. The two bobcats noticed this, and sniffed the air. Their noses had been much more attuned in cat form than human form, and could smell something as well. Pope and his wife followed the hedgehog and fox, and soon found them climbing up onto a shelf. “What did you find Pudgy,” Pope asked with a curious look.
The hedgehog wiggled his rear end, “jackpot! Pudgy found food!” Argente giggled as she tried to squeeze into the low height shelf. Mrs. Waffles turned around and called out, “COBALT! Pudgy found something!” The female bobcat soon saw the dragon walking down towards them, and then Argente wiggling out of the shelf with a large plastic bag in her mouth. It was a bulk sized, 5 pound bag of mixed unsalted nuts. Soon more little bags of nuts were being pushed out from the far back of the shelf, and the two bobcats helped to get out the bags onto the floor. Pudgy peeked his head out, “Pudgy did not find any more, but can see other things hidden away back here. Pudgy need some help,” The hedgehog said, while watching Mr.s Waffles climb up and crawl on her now fuzzy belly beside the hedgehog to the next stash of food.
What had happened, was months and years worth of food deliveries caused some things to wall behind the back of the shelf. The expiration dates showed that this food was still good, but would expire relatively quickly. Cobalt started to load the wagon with the treasures that they found, as well as shuffle around the hardware store supplies. Large bags of mixed nuts, coarse ground cornmeal, and then they found blue cans of meat. It was a meat product that was featured in all movies, in a familiar blue can. Except, these were all the bad flavors, which made an already bad food product a bit worse. Cobalt picked up a can of low fat, honey sriracha with cayenne, and popped the can lid off with his claws. The dragon popped the can open to release the seal, and then emptied the can into his mouth. The flavor was not as bad as he remembered it, which meant either they improved it …. or he was too hungry to care.”
Mrs. Waffles was pawing at a can, but was having a terrible time with the pull top of the meat can. She looked up mournfully at the dragon, “Cobalt, can you please open the can?” The dragon nodded, and opened a can of fireball super pepper meat product, and then set the can down in front of her. Like the dragon, when she was a human, this would not have been good at all. But somehow, it tasted much better, which drew a visit from her husband who also munched from the opposite side. Argente looked up at Cobalt pouting, and he opened her a can of turkey meat product with honey. Pudgy was too busy exploring the shelves, and pushing food out to notice he was missing snack time. Eventually the two bears arrived, and were having a snack of pressed blue can meat products as well.
Pudgy eventually noticed no one was talking, so he poked his head out. There was an empty pile of cans, with everyone eating rectangle bricks of greasy meat products. “You all are gonna have a tummy ache! Cobalt! Pudgy found dried grains!” Soon tubes of dried grains were rolling out onto the floor from the bottom shelves. Eventually snack time was over, and then work resumed to fill the wagons. The hedgehog had in fact found dried corn, wheat, oats, barley, and many other types of grains. The store had its own flour mill from back in the day when they would get product from the local farms. The wagons soon were full, to almost overflowing. That was when Mr. Bear Senior noticed the spines on the back of the dragon. Bags of food were filled, and then hung off the dragon on each side. While he looked ridiculous, this also meant that he could carry much more in the way of supplies.
The warehouse was emptied of what was remaining food wise, including a large box of plant seeds and other assorted items that would help with the forest. The dragon was moving slower now, since he was weighed down. Pudgy had even filled his backpack as full as he could with sugar packets he found from an open box of coffee supplies. So while the hedgehog rode on Argente’s back, she padded along beside Cobalt. The two bobcats also scampered along beside the dragon, and were looking back and forth excitedly as they crossed the street and reached the sidewalk across the street from the grocery store. Mr. Bear’s wagon was full of every meat product he could find in a can, as well as dried products in bags. With a dragon now in the woods that could open cans, the possibilities were endless.
They expanded ground headed past the chiropractor’s office with the herd of grazing deer, through the war memorial park, to reach the trailhead into the forest. Mrs. Waffles looked at Argente, “is this the way to Pudgy’s house?” The silver fox smiled and nodded, “This is the way to Mr. Bear’s cabin first, then yes to Pudgy’s house. Pudgy always called you Mrs. Waffles, is that your name?” The female bobcat nodded, “well that is my married name, my first name is Tess.” Argente giggled, “it is nice to meet you Tess.” Pudgy nodded from the back of the fox, “Tess is a pretty name.” Pope grinned and wiggled his whiskers a bit, “yes she is … in human form, or in bobcat form, she has a nice rear….” The female bobcat wiggled her rear end at her husband who was following, then laughingly said, “you get up here beside me Pope!”
Down the switchback trails they headed, across the oak tree bridge, and up the small hill to the clearing beside the bear’s cabin. After goodbyes were said, and multiple hugs for both of the bears, the dragon headed back to Pudgy’s home with the critters following behind the wagon in town behind him. Past the strand of pine trees, down the hill, past the granite boulder, make a left, and head up the creek. The angle of the slope was a bit rough for the heavy wagon, so with the assistance of the Waffles, they were able to get the wagon up the falls without anything spilling out. Once everyone had passed the third waterfall on the creek, Cobalt nodded to himself, “we definitely need to smooth that out. Add that to the list of forest projects …”
In time they reached the beaver pond who were swimming around and working on their dam. Pudgy and Argente introduced the new bobcats to the beavers, while Cobalt continued to walk up to the home. The added weight from the wagon and the bags suspended on him, was starting to take its toll. The dragon needed to rest, and when reaching the front of Pudgy’s home, sat down and flattened himself out panting. Eventually, the Waffles padded up, and saw the exhausted dragon laying on the ground in front of a hill that had two round doors and two round windows. Tess started to bounce excitedly, “Pope, this is Pudgy’s home! We finally get to see it!” Her husband padded up beside her, and grinned, “why yes it is…” Inside, he wanted to bounce excitedly, but he was being stalwart just to tease his wife. It worked, as she smacked him on the rear end.
Pudgy dismounted Argente, and then scampered up to his front door. After working the lock, he opened the door and started to open the windows. Then the door opened that led into the storehouse, and out scurried the hedgehog to hug Cobalt’s nose. “Thank you for taking us to the store today, Cobalt. You rest, we will unload and put things away.” The tired former human nodded slightly, and laid there resting. All of his muscles were on fire, his back hurt, and the spines tingled. The dragon was feeling pain in places he didn’t know he even had. The Waffles started to unhook the bags from the dragon’s back, and pulled them inside the storehouse door. Pope was shocked to see what was inside the former big room, with three levels of floors. Pudgy directed where things needed to go, and soon the entire bottom level was full of supplies. This meant that things needed to be taken up the first level. Tess climbed up the ramp, and soon was helping to pull bags of food up to the first level.
In time, all food had been emptied from the bags and the wagon. The only things left were the hardware supplies that Cobalt had scavenged. Having caught his breath and recovered, the dragon stood up and said his goodbyes. Pudgy waved as his friend departed, but then soon found that Tess and Pope were laughing loudly with Argente inside of Pudgy’s home. The hedgehog scampered inside, and found them looking at the hedgehog’s wall mounted phone. There was a silly video playing, where Pudgy was dressed as a famous pro-wrestler dressed in an army outfit. Tess looked a bit sheepish, “I’m sorry Pudgy, I accidentally bumped your phone. That silly video started playing,” the female bobcat said while giggling.
Pudgy smiled, and then scampered over to his sink. It was still too warm to light the stove, so hot tea was out of the question. he started to work the water pump faucet for his sink, and began to fill tiny mugs of cool water. Making several trips back and forth, setting mugs of water on the table in his kitchen, Pudgy turned when finished. He was smiling ear to ear, “Pudgy very glad both Pope and Tess came to Pudgy forest.” Pope nodded as he picked up the mug of water with both of his front paws. After taking a long sip, the male bobcat sat his mug back down on the table. “We are too Pudgy, would it be all right if we stayed?” The hedgehog nodded, “Inside the storehouse is plenty of room to stay.” Tess grinned, “stay for now, until we can find our own place to live. But we can still come back to visit afterwards, right?” The hedgehog bounced happily and nodded. Argente giggled, and nodded as well, watching the two bobcats’ faces light up. The forest had gained two new friends, which made Pudgy very happy.
One reply on “Kodiak Queen: Chapter 2: Provisions”
Good to see the Waffles’. I’m glad the world of the forest is being built up.