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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3. The Road

It took a day and a night, but they finally arrived. Their paws were sore and blistered and the hoglets moaned for food and drink and rest, but they continued despite the bad weather and poor conditions until they reached It. The Road. The single obstacle that stood in the way pf them and the blessed Other Side that they’d sought so vehemently for, for so long. Papa thought it put it all in perspective, to have it in front of them, to be almost at the end of their journey and yet with so far to go. The monstrosities of Men whizzed past like bullets, never ceasing and never stopping, save only for a red light or two. Mama turned to Papa and they stared into each other’s eyes for one solemn moment, drinking in everything about the other as if to spite the world if they were to stop their travels so close to the end. She clasped his shaking paw in her own and hugged the hoglets close to herself, in one last defiant act of closeness before separating reluctantly. There was no time to waste. The real challenge had begun. They were ready to face it.

   Papa stepped forward slowly, the blustering wind smacking his face as he edged ever nearer the Road. Closer, closer, with every baby step he took until he could practically touch the motorised death wagons that Man was so fond of. He stretched out his paw as the others behind him held their breath audibly, no-one moving lest tempting the hands of fate. He closed his eyes and counted to three. 1…2…3! Papa fell from the pavement, tumbling from the edge and truly into the lion’s den, as it were, at the point of no return. He took a step forward. Everything fine. He took another step forward. A silver car rushed past him, knocking him to the ground and eliciting a fretful gasp from Mama, who stood on the pavement with her paws covering her face, watching through the gaps between her claws. He dusted himself off and got back to his feet, slightly more cautious now of coming cars. They were zooming past at an alarming speed, which made him jump every time and also gave Mama a mini heart attack whenever it happened. He still felt as if he were very far away from the Other Side, the paradise of their dreams, when he was around halfway across the Road, which was being unreasonably cruel to him that particular day. Papa wondered how far Uncle Lionel had gotten, but he immediately shut out that thought. It didn’t bear thinking about, to be splattered all over the tarmac when he was nearly at the end of the quest and to leave his family to fend for themselves in the world. The Hollow and its comforts were now long gone, as was the life they’d abandoned for what they’d thought would be a better one and it had been his idea from the beginning. His. No-one else had even given it a second thought but it was his curiosity that had them standing in these places, nearly getting killed and for what? A vain hedgehog thinking he could make a better life for his family. But as the self-pity crept in, he realised that, no matter what, he would have to make it to the other side. No other way. No other option. He had to do it. He would do it. His chest swelled with pride and he took a valiant step forward…

   And was hit by a car. Mama screamed from the pavement, flinging her paws wide to help her husband though he was too far away and she couldn’t possibly get as far as he had. She could hardly leave the children nor take them either. She was stuck, unable to help her husband so consigned to watching him die. Oh, they never should have listened to him in the first place! They should have stayed at the Hollow, where it was warm and cosy and they couldn’t be hurt! But, no… There they were, on the brink of oblivion with all the plans crumbling around their ears! Oh, no, no, no… Papa, no… Suddenly, one of the hoglets tugged her arm, breaking her out of her misery for a second and it pointed at the Road, where Papa lay. The car that had hit him had stopped, for some reason, and out got the driver. Mama had never seen a Man before and she’d always thought they were ten foot giants who gobbled up naughty little hedgehogs for tea, or at least this was what she’d been told. But the Man who stepped out of the car knelt beside Papa, checking to make sure he was alright. This puzzled Mama very much, so much so that she stopped crying and watched the scene unfold. The Man lifted Papa from where he lay on the Road and placed him on the grass on the other side, before climbing back into his car and driving off again. The Other Side! The Other Side! Papa had made it to the Other Side after all! But this ecstasy brought also a profound sadness for Mama that he’d finally made it to the Other Side, but wasn’t around to see it. Again, she began to cry, huge, heavy sobs that caught in her throat and soon the hoglets began to cry and then they were all crying, huddled into a little group, rocking back and forth. They were all so overcome with it all, that a hoglet had to tug Mama’s arm three times again until she lifted her head to see what else was happening.

   There, on the Other Side, Papa stirred and wriggled his paws slightly. As his eyes flickered open, Mama began to cry again, big tears of joy that rolled down her cheeks and filled her with a soaring feeling that she hadn’t felt for such a very long time. Papa was alive. Papa was alive. She repeated these words to herself over and over, as if trying to convince herself that this was actually happening and not just some blissful dream. Rest assured, it was real and her heart jumped when he sat up and smiled at them, from the Other Side. The hoglets whooped and cheered and Mama could barely contain her happiness. Papa was alive. Papa was alive… Carefully, she and the hoglets made their way across the Road. They encountered much of the same struggles that Papa did, but when they reached the Other Side there was such rejoicing and hugging and kissing and celebrating and they were all so happy to be alive that they practically fell into each other’s arms. They had done it. They were together again. Papa was alive. All was well.

   They had made it to the other side.  

 

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