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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2. No Turning Back

Saying farewell to the Hollow proved harder than expected. Mama in particular found that she had a special fondness for the place, from the comforting scent of pine needles that greeted her nostrils and the memories that each room contained, so much laughter and the ghosts of their past selves running through the place still, like faded reminders of what had been. Where her children had been born, where they took their first steps, where she and her husband had first fallen in love with the Hollow and each other… so many things to leave behind, though for a worthy cause at least. Papa kept telling her to think of the Other Side, the mountains and the flowers and the streams while she knew that she’d grown to love the side they were on, all along. But the Other Side would be better, surely. It had to be. Why else would all the stories be told about it and Papa’s yearning for it be so strong? There had to be something special beyond the tarmac to make people (and hedgehogs) behave in such a way. She could only wonder what it was.

   As they walked, Papa told the hoglets of the magic of the Other Side, how wonderful it all was and how much they’d do and see and what wonder was waiting for them. Appreciatively, they nodded and laughed and asked questions in the right places, which gave the impression that time was flying by, which made Papa wonder whether this was such a good thing. He’d been so confident before they’d left, so sure of the way to do things and the way to cross the dreaded Road without following Uncle Lionel into the abyss. But that was then, when the whole notion was little more than an abstract idea, a dream with which he amused himself from time to time ever since he was a hoglet himself. It all seemed so real given that it was actually happening and not in his head. His feet felt heavier the further they walked, as if weighing him down from the inevitable or saving him from it and though he pretended like he knew where they were going, he really had no idea. By that, he knew the direction but not to what they were heading, not what they were leaving behind, not the risk and not the devastating consequences if they failed. He just resolved to put one foot in front of the other until they got there, whenever that would be. And maybe things would be better then. Maybe everything would turn out alright and they’d all live happily ever after where mountains sloped down the valleys and wild flowers were growing and birds flew free. However, the nagging thought of what if it wasn’t going to be like that pressed on him even more. So, he continued to reassure the hoglets and his wife that things would turn out fine and carried on telling stories of the Other Side until he went hoarse. Though, secretly, it was also a bid to reassure himself as well, to repeat that everything was fine, everything was fine, everything was fine… and then maybe when he opened his eyes everything would be so. But it was the uncertainty that killed him, though he wasn’t about to turn back. They couldn’t turn back. Instead, he just kept putting one foot in front of the other until they got there, if they got there.

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