This little story idea was outlined for submission to a children’s anthology (later cancelled). I haven’t gone beyond the idea and basic outline, and animal-protagonist stories seem to have hit a dull patch so I haven’t gone further with it, but tell me what you think …
Image: Bilby (an Australian animal), digging at the fenceline, desperate. Hills behind, vehicles raising dust, dogs, sun rising, trees wilting. A large raptor circles the area.
Objective – get home
Obstacles – the way home is closed (show why they come through to this side, rather than stay safe), dogs (big and vicious, not indigenous dingoes – who are smarter!) and hunters (vehicles and guns) are closing in, a raptor circles, the dog-proof fence is too high (show this).
Internal dilemma/decision: consider the options, it’s down to this: die or not; she chooses to be brave and use what she has in the environment, in her head, and in her desire to live, and a little sneak at the thoughts that might appease her family group.
Outcome: makes it home, but there’s a price to pay for not following the rules (the family issues), and she’s banished from the group (until she’s earned her way back, or someone else falls victim to the rules of the society).
In a nutshell:
Rhona, the Bilby, ignored the call to go home from the feeding ground (and some fun? Is she young and tempestuous? Playing with the young kangaroos, perhaps, or going too far from the family group in search of good forage.). She’s now stuck on the wrong side of the fence and the escape hole is filled and tamped too hard to dig through without help – and the family isn’t within sight or call.
Her options are:
keep digging, in which case she’ll be caught and torn apart (because the ground is hard now, and was tamped down by each member of her group as they returned to home ground);
she can run, but if she runs, she’ll be chased until she dies, gets eaten, and her family will be the only one in the community with no daughters to improve their standing with the other members of the group, or the creatures of the desert.
Or she can think like a smart creature. A true survivor for a land that needs strong legs and quick minds. She can make use of her surroundings, her abilities, her need to survive. What can she use to get her to the other side?
*** Example/idea for progression:
The games last night were so much fun that Rhona (the food so fresh and green, the insects so fat and rich) was the last Bilby on the wrong side of the fence, missed the opening to get back home. Now the dogs are coming with their accomplices, the machines that run faster than is natural, the killing bees that fly faster that Rhona can dream.
The base of the fence is compacted. The old ones do that to ensure the dogs can’t dig through and kill the whole colony. Rhona must think of something else. She can’t dig fast enough to get through, and even if she could, it would weaken the security for all.
There is a hill, and alongside the fence is a sandy track. No rain has fallen for weeks, but there was dew this morning. It was what woke her up after gorging on crickets. She taps the surface. It’s firm enough.
Right. Run toward the dogs, down the hill, and take the chance. Reaction moment – is she mad?
She hunches, leaps, races along the ground faster than a skirling kite on the down-dive. The first dogs spread out to flank her, but she leaps, she leaps higher than she’s ever leapt in her life, and keeps running.
The dogs spin and turn and yelp and bark. The frenzy continues, but the vehicle is coming now, and the long sticks of death sputter and buzz.
Rhona leaps at the mid-height tensioned wire and bounces back onto the track. She pelts along the track, the lowest end of the track is close now, she just needs to let one dog through.
She bounds away from the fence, sees the black-faced dog head in close to the fence.
That’s what she wanted.
Rhona turns, puts on her fastest speed, her back legs bounding as if she were a roo, and she takes off like a boomer in a rage. The fence is too high, she can’t leap from the ground to reach the top strand, but the dog is there, and he spins toward her, spittle and teeth spreading fear and stench in the air. Reaction – fear if she fails. Regret? No time for that.
One front paw lands on the dog’s head, digs in for balance, a little hope surges along her spine, she thumps both back feet on the thick neck, makes the biggest bound she’s ever made in her life, and up, up, up.
One front claw catches the top string of wire, it pings and twangs. Rhona leans all her weight forward, dives toward the ground (show some confusion about which side is the right side, are the tracks to each side the same, etc.), sprawls and falls and bounces up, ears up, waiting for confirmation – is she on the safe side?
Saliva covers her ears and neck and belly. The dog snarls and growls and lunges into the fence, but it can’t break through.
This is the dog-proof fence, and nothing can get past it, the maintenance a regular event (how would she know this?). Rhona turns and hops toward the den, but her family surround her and push her toward the rocks. They will not let her sleep in the den with them today.
The price of failing to comply with the rules is a high cost, and she will be shunned and denied comfort for long enough that someone else will do something equally as silly.
If she can survive without the group to warn of danger as she sleeps in the open.
And when she’s back in the den, she’ll start hopping out with that nice young buck in the group with the dark ears.
This is a schedules post ‘cos I’m away from the desk for a coupla days. Back soon.