When the great war ended on November 11, 1918; the world breathed a sigh of relief. The German aggressors has been defeated, and the world could pick up the pieces and get back to a normal pace of life once more. The anger of the victors combined with long standing feuds, to punish the defeated foes, resulted in a deep sense of resentment. That resentment turned into hatred, and as the nation of Great Britain buried its dead and attempted to rebuild their country, rumors began to trickle out. A charismatic man gave grand speeches, attended by dozens … then hundreds … then thousands. He had all the answers, and plans within plans to restore Germany to its ancient glory. The speeches once translated, horrified the surrounding countries leaders. The great nation, weary of war, turned a blind eye to the dangers building to the southeast and moved on with their daily lives.
However, the speeches continued, and the man with all the answers became leader of the Reichstag. The parliament was abolished, and the man seized complete control. Their flags were soon replaced with symbols of their ancient heritage, on a background red as the blood that flowed within their arteries. Religion was abolished, and replaced with worshiping of the man with the answers. The drum beat of war soon began once again, with aggression spreading throughout the continent. Italy soon began their conquest of Ethiopia, which was followed by the Spaniards fighting one another in a bloodied civil war. The world tried to stay neutral, to ignore things, hoping it would go away or at least settle down. It did not, and watched as the German army crossed the border into Poland. There was no choice, and once again Great Britain joined by its allies declared war upon Germany on September third of 1940.
Four days passed, and in the early morning of the seventh, the low hum of engines filled the air. As wives were waking their husbands to get ready for work, and making morning preparations. The bombs began to fall out of the sky, like drops of rain during a rain storm. Twin engine propellor driven Dornier Do 17 aircraft were flying in a tight formation, so low over the ground, one might think they could touch the planes’ metal bellies. Terrible whistling sounds could be heard, before a horrendous explosion of fire and concussive force destroyed all which surrounded the impact site. Buildings which had stood for hundreds of years, were levelled in seconds by wave after wave of aerial bombardment.
At first, it was just the military targets being destroyed: airports, naval ports, barracks, etc. However, the man with the answers … the Fuhrer as he called himself … ordered civilian targets to be sighted. Hours turned into days, and days into weeks: of constant destruction. Hope gave way to fear, as families sought means to safety. Instead of birds chirping, or children playing, the sounds of air raid sirens blaring in the distance was all that the subjects of Great Britain heard. As soon as the siren began to call, the humans began to run for their lives. Women and children screamed, as bombs rained from the sky. Surely if one were to head underground, it would be safe from the death raining from the skies above? The humans collectively began to head underground to their basements, to train tunnels that ran beneath their cities, or anywhere not of sight of the sky.
During the times of terror, radio stations ceased their normal programming to broadcast safety warnings. They stayed on air for as long as they could, until the powerful German air forces struck their radio towers. As one station went silent, the others attempted to boost their power, so they could continue updates as best they could, given the circumstances. Between the din of exploding bombs and gunfire, the same words were spoken in London and the surrounding area each day. First the Luftwaffe, the name of the german air force, would be sighted. Then the attack runs would start, with London being the primary target, though the surrounding areas were also struck. And invariably, once fuel was low and weapons depleted, the terror from the skies eased as the planes returned to their aerie in the fatherland. Timidly the humans emerged from their places of safety, to view their homes in ruins and the ground still smoldering from the fire of hatred that had been cast upon their land. The radios that still worked called out from their places within the destroyed structures, “the latest raid by German forces has ceased. I repeat, the latest raid has ceased. The Royal Air Force has chased the forces of Fuhrer Hitler back across the English Channel. Reports are coming in from all around the city, and the police have been dispatched to assist the areas in most need. Casualties have not yet been reported, but appear to be low at this time. King George….”
In the background as the humans dealt with their affairs, a different scene was unfolding to the east of London in the city outskirts. Farmland that was once full of vegetables had been obliterated by the weapons of war. Fire crackled, and the steam hissed as moisture was driven from the plants. Beside the fields, lay forests that had grown since the time before the human’s arrival. “Momma …. Mommma!” The sounds of a timid rabbit hung on the air, as the young one searched for a missing parent. The brown rabbit hopped frantically, searching, with pleading eyes and ears outstretched for any fleeting response. “Momma!” The rabbit cried out, and saw a hedgehog standing on its hind legs, peeking over a pile of stone. “Mister Hedgehog … can you help me find my Momma?” The rabbit cried out as she hopped towards him, but watched as the quill covered animal turn around with a sad expression on his face. He immediately pulled the rabbit close, and hugged her, “I’m sorry …”
The stone pile was once a wall that had been built to hold the hillside back. A German bomb had been prematurely released from the aircraft, and had exploded nearby, causing the wall to fall onto a nearby garden for the humans. The body of an adult rabbit was crushed by a pile of moss-covered stones, and eyes rolled back with a carrot still in its mouth. Tears flowed, and wails of sadness filled the air, as the female rabbit had found her mother. The brown hedgehog hugged tighter, closing his eyes as he too started to cry. Whispering, “the humans fight …and we always die first. They never think of what happens to the rest of us,” the hedgehog said with a curt tone. Tentatively, he took a step, and started to maneuver the hysterical young rabbit with him away from the pile of stones. It did not work, as the young hare broke free of his embrace, and hopped quickly to reach her mother.
The young rabbit furiously tried to lift the heavy stones off her mother’s body, “I can save her. Please Mister Hedgehog, you need to help!” The hedgehog turned around and walked slowly behind the rabbit, and placed a paw on her head between her long ears. The rabbit dropped onto all fours, and began to wail loudly. The smell of death hung in the air, and the horror of realization was dawning upon the young animal that her mother had left this world. Tense minutes passed until the hedgehog spoke, “I am truly sorry Mrs. Rabbit passed on. Please, come with me, I am sure my wife will have supper made. You can spend time with us, until you figure out what you want to do?” The rabbit shook her head, “I am staying with my mother. There is no place safe, the humans will not stop until we are all dead.”
Sighing, he turned around, “all right. If you change your mind, follow the path till you reach a stump, then make a left to find my burrow.” Scampering off, the hedgehog did just that … follow a human path well worn by farm workers. The humans were gone, hiding somewhere as the terrible objects fell from the sky. This meant he could be out and about with less concern than normal, as the humans would usually chase him off to protect their crops. Down the path, until the edge of a forest started, though the trees were sparse. Once a mighty forest stood here, until the humans cut down the trees, to build and heat their homes. Now, only stumps and the skinniest of trees stood here. In the winter, it was so bad, that they had even resorted to ripping the trunks out of the ground. This was problematic, having resulted in the displacement of many animals’ homes. Luckily, he had not had to find a new home for 2 winters, since there was a big rock in the way. The critter made a left, and saw the entrance to his burrow.
A female hedgehog was standing on her hind legs, looking worried to her left. Scampering up behind her, “guess who?” The female giggled as she wiggled her nose, “oh Phillip … I was worried. Where have you been?” The male hedgehog watched as the female turned around, and rubbed her brown nose against his. Their dark eyes matched, and the brown quills twitched occasionally. “I am fine Margaret … I was up the path to check on the garden. One of the human weapons destroyed it, and killed Mrs. Rabbit. Her daughter is there now, and will not leave the body. I offered our home for her to rest, but she would not take me up on the offer at this time.” Margaret nodded, “the poor thing … I will have a talk with her later. Come inside, I have supper ready.” She slid down a slight hill, and underneath the oak stump, before being followed by her husband.
The hedgehog’s home was plain, but very nice. The ground had been dug out to create a large central area. It was big enough to hold three hedgehogs, and the ground was covered with smooth flat pieces of flint stone. In the center of the room, was a pile of turnips. The two-hedgehog smiled at each other, and then took positions opposite of each other, and reached for a turnip to munch on. Margaret giggled when Phillip made a face, “well I am sorry … but turnips are the only thing growing at this time of year. What do you want, one of those humans made baked items?” The husband nodded, “a biscuit would be nice actually, but it is rare to find those around here. I did manage to sneak one off a farm hand’s lunch pail. No … no …turnips are fine … thank you my lovely wife. I shall go pick you flowers later.” Margaret giggled, “oh … Phillip.”
The hedgehogs were mated to each other, and had been trying to start a family. There were complications, and so far, nothing they tried had worked. While other males might have run off to find a more fertile option, Phillip chose to stay with Margaret because he loved her. He could see the pain in her eyes, as she desperately wanted young hedgehogs running around the burrow. The two continued to eat, until the pile of vegetables had been depleted. It was not long until Phillip exited the underground home, and scampered off through the tall grass to go searching for a flower. Margaret giggled, and waved as she watched her husband disappear behind a thorn bush. The sounds of whimpering started to be heard, and the female hedgehog watched as a brown rabbit peeked around the edge of the stump. “Oh my, you are the young rabbit Phillip spoke of earlier. Please come here, I have a few turnips left.” The rabbit nodded, and hopped inside of the burrow to follow the female hedgehog. Nibbling on an offered vegetable, Margaret hoped her husband was, ok?
Phillip had crossed quite a distance during this time, powered up on icky turnips, he was tooting so much that he had gained speed. It was not that the root vegetable tasted bad, it just made him gassy. So, picking flowers was a good excuse to get out, and vent literally, otherwise there would be an argument inside the burrow. Across the forest, and down a slight hill the critter scampered, until he reached the edge of a stream. The water was shallow, allowing him to cross easily. Ordinarily he would cross without a second thought, but there was something off about the water. Blood was floating on the surface, as it flowed past him. Wiggling his nose, he could see the purple and blue wild flowers just across the bank. But his curiosity was gnawing in the back of his mind, urging him to follow the stream.
Hesitating a moment, Phillip shook his head and turned to his right. Scampering along the bank, he watched as the stream weaved to and fro, and became deeper in spots. Strangely, there were no frogs or turtles present, which was starting to unnerve him. The water’s foreign coloration was becoming thicker, and an acrid smell was filling the air. Instincts were kicking in: run …flee …hide … but still the little hedgehog pressed on. Climbing over piles of gray rocks, and weaving between fallen tree branches he continued while trying to press on. Sounds began to fill the air, of crackling noises, like a fire dancing on logs within a hearth. Ahead was a small waterfall, cascading over a higher part of the stream, and more strange smells. Something was burning, but he knew not what?
Through the brambles, and between the logs …. Up the bank, and across a series of flat rocks that jutted out of the water … Phillip scampered until he could just barely see over the crest of the hill. Rarely did Phillip ever venture this far from his home, since this was where the humans’ worked fields of wheat. Blinking several times, the little critter looked on in horror as the entire field was on fire. A giant thing had crashed into the ground, and broke apart in thousands of pieces. Jagged pieces of metal were driven into the ground, and were sticking out at weird angles. Shards of glass were strewn about the area, while the smell of death hung heavy in the air.
Swallowing hard, Phillip scampered forward, and through a tubular piece of green metal. The insides were slippery, and soon the hedgehog was sliding very fast through it. He popped out the other sides, with paws covered in something black and gooey. It smelled bad, and when he tasted it, it was horrid. Spitting it out, the curious animal started to move about the wreckage. “I wonder if this was what caused the field stone wall to be knocked over?” The hedgehog said out loud, while walking past a long section of metal. It was a narrow chamber, that connected to a wide wing like metal piece, and had two upright metal pieces at each end. It was painted a dark green, though there was a red rectangle prominently visible. There was a white circle, with a strange black symbol in the center. Wiggling his nose, and hesitantly reaching out a paw, Phillip touched the metal. It was cool to the touch, and very smooth.
Turning, he continued to walk along the long section of metal, until he reached an even larger thing. It looked like a giant cave, though there was light streaming in from above. “Maybe something neat is inside? I always bring Margaret flowers, perhaps I can find us biscuits?” The critter nodded, and pushed the feelings to flee far into the back of his mind, and headed inside. As the hedgehog crossed over a jagged piece of metal, he could smell the unmistakable smell of death. The metal sloped upwards at a steep pace, and he could see two seats where human bodies were sitting. Their heads were snapped back, and dull lifeless eyes were staring at him. Phillip covered his mouth his paws to stifle a scream, as he looked at the human’s blood being splattered across all sections of the interior.
CLANG! There was a sound of something hitting the metal above him. As the hedgehog looked around, he started to see a small by human standards, metal case sliding down towards him. There were bars of metal that were running parallel to each other, with more metal connected on top of it, with a circular pattern. The screeching sound filled the empty chamber, and landed directly in front of his paws. It looked like a can of sardines, and was in the shape of an oval. “What bloody good luck, sardines …” The hedgehog said as he grabbed onto the can and started to drag it out. There were words written on the can, but Phillip did not know how to read. The same strange red, white, and black symbol was on the exterior of the can.
After some careful maneuvering, Phillip was able to put the metal can onto his back. The contents within did not seem to be too heavy, which meant the greedy humans must have eaten some already. Still, even if there was one left, it would be a treat his wife had not had for a long time. So, the hedgehog set off with his prize, and headed through the field of death and destruction. His speed was slower than before, and he needed to stop and rest occasionally. However, it was not long until he had reached the stream, and was in the process of heading back to his home. He couldn’t wait to show his wife what he had found, though he was sure to get a talking to for being gone so long.
The hours passed, and the sun drifted lower until it fell below the horizon. As the evening twilight started to appear, Margaret saw her wayward husband coming across the field. She was worried, and waved while speaking. “And where the blood hell have you been Phillip?” Phillip approached, carrying a metal can on his back, but no flowers. Phillip laughed, “no where have you been, dear husband?” The female hedgehog put her paws on her sides, “and what is that thing?” Phillip wiggled past her, and slid down the small decline into their home. His wife sighed, glad he was home, and followed inside. As the two critters stood side by side, they looked at the sleeping brown rabbit. The female hedgehog sighed, “she came here shortly after you left. I gave her a few turnips, and then let her rest.”
Phillip yawned, and slid the metal can along a dirt wall, and then turned around to face his wife. “We can mess with the can tomorrow.” His wife nodded, and moved closer to rub her nose with his. As the light continued to dim, the two critters slept side by side. Their quills tickling each other, while the occasional giggle from Margaret could be heard, “oh Phillip ….go to sleep.” The dark burrow soon became very quiet, and a cool breeze blew in from outside. It would be turning to winter soon, and the necessity to block the entrance would once again be in order. Though that did not need to be done at this time. It was early fall, and the time to eat beyond one’s fill to store up enough fat to last the winter was in order. Both critters would be properly pudgy eventually, and then they could nestle in for a long winter’s rest.
The hours passed, and soon the sound of humans talking filled the air and drifted into the burrow. Phillip was the first to wake, and hesitantly peek his head out the entrance/exit hole to his burrow chamber. There were at least a dozen human men walking around, dressed in a green brown uniform, with matching hats. They were armed with weapons, and were walking past in two rows. Wiggling his nose, he ducked back inside and faced his wife. Her worried eyes met his, and the two rubbed noses. Whispering, “Phillip, what is going on?” The male hedgehog whispered back, “two rows of humans … dressed the same … They are probably looking for those dead humans I found yesterday.” His wife shot him a look, “what dead humans? Phillip, what did you do?”
The faithful husband relayed his small adventure from the day before, and the field of wreckage that lay upstream from their woods. He described the chamber with the dead humans, and what happened with the can. His trip back home was uneventful, until he was called out by this female hedgehog with a saucy mouth. She giggled, “oh … saucy mouth huh? More turnips for you then today …. Dear husband.” The male hedgehog laughed, and turned to look at the oval shaped can. “I wonder what is inside that thing. I think it is sardines. Those used to be everywhere, but I think the greedy humans ate them all.” The brown rabbit had woken up, but was being very quiet, watching and listening to their banter.
The male hedgehog maneuvered around the burrow, until he positioned the can in the center of the underground home. Each animal could see the can clearly, and the hedgehogs began to paw at the can. There was a lid on top, and did not pull open like a sardine can. But after many tries, the top of the can started to slide off. There were a ridge on each side of the can, and with considerable effort they were able to slide the lid off. Setting the top of the can to the free spot beside the rabbit, the trio of animals looked inside the now open can.
There were stiff pieces of paper, with something written on them. The same strange red, what, and black symbol were on the cards. Setting each card out, Margaret sounded out the words, “Zy …a …nid. Der … co …dex?” Phillip grumbled, “all that work to bring back paper. Stupid humans, they ate all the sardines. Oh look, a white circle … I bet it’s candy.” Indeed, there was a white circle of pressed dust, and before either hedgehog could say a word, the rabbit reached out and grabbed the white circle and popped it into her mouth. Margaret grew cross with her, “NO! YOU SPIT THAT OUT THIS INSTANT!” Phillip nodded, “I might be wrong, it may not be candy. Please spit it out …” but neither critter words were heeded. The rabbit dashed out of the burrow, and out into the grassy area between the trees.
Margaret sighed, “next time … bring me flowers. I will go find our rabbit friend. Put those cards away Phillip, but keep them here. I like to practice my reading; it might come in useful one day.” Her husband nodded, and started to put the cards back into the tin, and watched as his wife’s rear end wiggled as she exited their home. Husbandly feelings emerged in his mind, but were replaced when he heard Margaret screaming. “PHILLIP! PHILLIP COME QUICKLY!” With the cards safely put away, he hurried through the narrow opening to exit the chamber, and climbed up the hill. He could see Margaret crying, and pushing at the rabbit who was laying on the ground and not moving. It was not very long, until he reached the lifeless body of the rabbit. “It wasn’t candy ….”
The female hedgehog was crying, and covered her eyes with her paws. “Phillip … why did you have to say candy? That was poison of some sort.” The male hedgehog placed a paw on his wife’s back, “I am sorry Margaret. It looks like candy; I have seen similar pills that the humans carry. There was the one pill that tasted sour though, and I had to sleep a long time afterwards. I guess some candy is sleepy candy? Maybe that is all it is,” he said with a hopeful tone. That fleeting feeling of relief was soon dashed as he watched blood ooze out of the rabbit’s mouth, as she took her last breath. The two critters stood there, mourning the loss of their rabbit neighbor, and silently pleaded with whomever lived in the sky to keep all animals safe.
A terrible sound filled the air, and whined loudly over and over. It was rhythmic, with a long high pitch, then lowered to a dull pitch, and back to high. Looking upwards, Phillip saw more of the wrecked objects from the field, flying in the sky. Grabbing his wife, “hide! Now!” The two critters quickly turned and started to run back to their underground home, and slid quickly through the opening. Margaret watched through the opening as object after object flew overhead, just barely above the tops of their forest’s trees. The sound coming from the strange objects was terribly loud. Two circles were spinning in front of the objects, but she could not see any more because her husband pulled her back inside. As soon as she was safely inside, Phillip started to move rocks into place to try and seal the entrance.
The male hedgehog was listening to his instincts, and the decision to hide was the best course of action at this juncture. Once he had made his burrow as safe as he could, he sat down opposite of his wife and rubbed his nose with hers. The two mates were silent, feeling the ground shake, as the humans’ terrible objects flew overhead. The distant rhythmic sounds continued, until suddenly they ended. In time the flying objects stopped, and the forest became eerily quiet. Neither hedgehog left their home, and stayed buried within their burrow. Since they had some time on their paws, Phillip puffed up his quills, and gave his wife the look. She giggled, “oh Phillip.” Outside of the hedgehog’s burrow, the forest of sparse trees stood. Their branches swayed in the wind, as the tall grass blew back and worth. Up the path, and past the collapsed wall of stone, lay a human village. It was in ruins, having been destroyed by hellfire raining from the skies above. At the edge of the village stood two humans, dressed in black finery and at each of the sides was a dog. They did not say a word, and only watched on as the British villagers started to emerge from their underground places of refuge. The existence of the strangers did not cause alarm, as the grieved humans were too busy checking on the condition of their homes, and looking for missing friends or loved ones. The strangers grinned at the scene of death unfolding in front of them, and gave each other looks of approval as they started to walk forward. The hounds at each side fell into line behind them and sniffed at the ground occasionally, searching for something unseen.