The Other Side

Papa has always fantasised about the prospect of a different life, a better one which he can share with his wife and baby hedgehogs, a life on the Other Side. Though when they decide to embark on an incredible journey after much deliberation, they face obstacles and challenges they never would have thought they’d have to overcome in order to reach the place of their dreams, where mountains slope down valleys and wild flowers grow and birds fly free. But before them lies the Road, every hedgehog’s worst enemy and the bane at the heart of their venture. As Papa comes to realise, not everything’s as simple as it seems upon first glance and that they’ll have to confront oblivion if they are to survive and make it to the Other Side, to sanctuary and to the pursuit of their happiness. (I apologise for how childish this is, though I have tried hard to get it as good as I can possibly make it- however, any feedback would be much appreciated.) For the Unexpected Adventure competition.

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1. A Choice Is Made

“Beyond the Wild Wood comes the wild world,” said the Rat.” And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or to me. I've never been there, and I'm never going' nor you either, if you've got any sense at all.”
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

 

Papa didn’t know what was on the Other Side, but he knew it must’ve been something good. Why else would everyone refer to it in such hushed tones, and with such reverence? It was the stuff of legends in the Hollow and though no-one spoke about it much, you could always tell it was exactly what they were thinking, especially Papa. He loved the idea of escaping, far away, to pastures greener and when the world got too much, he liked to stretch out his paw, as if he could actually touch it. The Other Side. But then he’d pull his paw back in quickly and get back to what he was doing- he was allowed to daydream, but that was it. Too much daydreaming could mean mistakes and mistakes could mean death. That was how his Uncle Lionel had bitten the dust and he was definitely worse off for it.

   It was said that the Other Side was beautiful, that there were mountains that sloped down the valleys and wild flowers growing and birds flying free. And it was where hedgehogs could be safe. This, at least, was what was told in the bedtime stories that hoglets liked to hear and it was also true that Papa liked these stories. He took them slightly more seriously, however, and though he liked to pretend it was just daydreaming he’d often wondered what would happen if they all did somehow make it to the Other Side. How good life would be. How they wouldn’t have to worry anymore. How they wouldn’t need to be scared of the Road any longer. But these were just idle thoughts to pass the day and they never got to be anything more than that, if he wanted them to or not.

   It was a rainy day in the Hollow when Papa came to Mama with his plan. He was shaken up by the prospect of what he’d been concocting in his little corner and came to her with his prickles on end and explained to her hurriedly what it was he intended to do. And though he spoke quickly, Mama could just about grasp what he was trying to say. Blah, blah, blah, Road, blah, blah, blah, cross, blah, blah, blah, Other Side… When he’d finished he breathed deeply in and out, in and out, so excited was he. It was strange to see the hedgehog she’d once known speak so passionately about something, but it seemed to be the entrancing effect that the Other Side had on him. It took away his words, it amazed him, it intrigued him… and Mama was a little jealous. Never had he acted that way for her, no, god forbid his precious Other Side be taken away from him. She was agitated by it, and that made her consider all the dangers that crossing the Road could bring. Cars racing past, Uncle Lionel, the idea of putting her babies in danger… they were all too much to bear. Besides, they were comfortable were they were. They had a family and a home and a roaring fire- why give that all up for an impossible ideal, one that may never be fulfilled? One that mightn’t even exist? It was too much of a risk, she told him. Of course it was. To root up everything they knew and travel across the Road, the one thing they’d all been taught to avoid from a young age, was madness. Sheer and utter madness. But there was something appealing about this madness, something that set her soul on fire and make her tingle from her toes to the very tops of her prickles.  It whispered its name, cool and exhilarating: Adventure. An old friend returning once again to kiss her cheek like the bitter wind, to make her feel alive and ready to face the world. But what of the children? And the Hollow? And what would they do once they got to the Other Side? Papa placed his paw on hers tenderly and looked into her eyes, dark and deep reflecting his own eyes back to him. His said, “Let’s go on an adventure.”

They said, “Forget about the Road- we can handle it.”

They said, “Together, we can make it to the Other Side.”

Finally, with a weary smile and a caress of her husband’s face, Mama conceded. They would try and make it to the Other Side.

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