‘Like father, like son’
From an early age, that’s what I heard constantly from my family. Sometimes it was said with affection making me swell with pride at the thought I took after my father. At those times I thought I was on top of the world, someone was comparing me to him and making a positive connection between us. I liked being compared to my father, even though he’d not been in our lives since I was little.
I remember the good times we had. The long walks around our village with him telling me all about the characters that used to live here. We’d sit on an upturned log and he’d tell me about what it meant to be a Squonk. He told me tales of all the others of our species, how they’d had to hide from the fear of being hunted. He told tales of Marmaduke, the Squonk pirate who’d been the terror of the seven sea until he’d been viciously hunted down by a the fabled Squonk Hunter, Radimous Wreek.
I used to hang on to his every word and when he’d finished I’d ask for more stories until I’m sure he made up the stories and the names as their deeds and names got more hilarious. Then he’d tell me in hushed tones that I never should never reveal, even to my friends, that I was a Squonk. He’d look around, as if scared someone would overhear, and tell me the story of how we’d become human.
‘Long ago’, he’d always start and I’d sit up straight and listen to the familiar words.
Squonks were once an ugly creature who spent most of its time living under the rocks of hot springs in the wilderness. They’d hidden away in their small communities keeping away from others, content on living life in their own way. We were a peaceful species, never causing anger and distress. Then one day a group of humans found us under our stones. At first they treated us well curious of us. One day, legend has it, their tribal leader fell ill and was close to death when one of the Squonks showed the humans our unusual trait. You see a tear from our eyes had magical properties and could cure others from even the deadliest diseases.
From that day on Squonks became prized above all others and were forcibly taken and imprisoned. Our people ran away from life, living in every increasing remote area away from the humans who sought to exploit the powers of a Squonk. Squonks were hunted and forced to live in captivity. They’d be ill-treated to make the tears appear, kept sad for their entire lives. A Squonk only has a finite amount of tears and when they’re spent they will die. Endless generations dried up and died replaced by the hunters who sought them from the wastelands they inhabited.
It was a chance meeting from a magical princess that changed Squonks lives. She took pity on the ugly creatures after they healed her mother. Changing them to human form we were able to hide in plain sight, although there was always some who could sense who we were. The hunters slowly dropped off and Squonks once again lived a peaceful life. There was still the dreaded Wreek family who could see and sense a Squonk though, but for the most Squonks kept to themselves and our population started to flourish. Most became involved in the medical profession where their unique skills were used sparingly.
Occasionally a Squonk would be caught and kept to keep the rich alive. Mass communication in the twentieth century brought its own trauma. Squonks learnt to keep away from sad news, the discovery of the holocaust caused masses of Squonks to die in uncontrollable tears, the sadness at life so thoughtlessly wasted. Just pools of tears were left where they had died. Wars and famine brought more mass extinction events and now the Squonk population moved to places where the sorrow of life was at its least.
When my father had disappeared abruptly one night, my mum had moved us to another small village isolated in the very north of Scotland. The dank weather and cold winds were a contrast from the pleasant climes we’d faced before. We hid away once again trying to eke out our lives. My mother worked as a nurse and helped those she could in our small community. Life was peaceful until that fateful day.