“Ready to go, Chip?”
“Sure thing, Pop.” This was going to be a special “just us” trip outside, just me and my Pop. I felt all grown up, even though I was still a ‘tween. I’d lived a sheltered life, here at the house with Mother and my brothers and sisters; I’d never even been outside to play yet. I was ready for an adventure!
“Well, don’t just stand there dawdling. Lunch isn’t going to eat itself, you know!”
I followed Pop out of our small, but comfortable, house into the sunshine of an already warm June day. Mother stayed behind, curled up on her bed, surrounded by my siblings. “Be safe, my darlings!” she called after us.
Pop stopped, a horrified look on his face. “What’s wrong, Pop?” I asked.
“The neighbors house. My goodness, I just saw them yesterday! There’s nothing left!” He hung his head.
I looked past him. All I could see was a pile of dirt and bricks; it certainly didn’t look like my house.
“Are you sure this is where they lived? What happened to them?”
“Yes, I’m sure, Chip. I don’t know what happened.”
“Should we go tell Mother?”
“What’s wrong with Mother? Is she gonna die?”
“What? No, of course not, nothing like that.” He patted my head. “Your mother is going to have more brothers and sisters for you to play with soon, that’s all.”
“Yes, cool. And that’s why we have to go get her and the other kids some lunch. And why I need you to help me.” He stepped out a little further into the sun and looked around, nervously. “Ok, there’s no time like the present. Are you ready?”
“Am I? Let’s go!” I started to march.
“Hold up. Hold up. I need you to do exactly what I tell you to do, go where I tell you to go, and most important of all, pay attention to everything! Someday, you might have to do this yourself. Ok?”
“Then follow me.”
We carefully climbed past what was left of the neighbors’ house and out onto the stone walk. I tried to be calm, but my heart felt like it was beating right out of my chest! Pop walked as close to the cement wall of the building as he could, and I followed right on his heels, stopping every time he did.
A loud scream from high overhead made Pop jump so high I thought he was going into the window of the house. We froze like stone statues. When the next scream sounded further away, Pop relaxed.
“Was that a monster?”
“Not exactly. When you hear it though, you need to freeze, or better yet, hide under something until it goes away. If it can’t see you, it can’t hurt you. Come on, we’re almost there.”
I made sure to memorize the whole way to the food. While we were eating, Pop had me explain it to him, just to make sure. When we were done, we made sure to stuff our pouches with some for Mother and the rest of the little ones. I was now a “big one” because I had been outside and they hadn’t. I proudly led the way back. We were nearly there when I heard this strange rumbling sound, sort of like “RRRR RRRR.”
I froze. The rumbling sound got louder, more distinct, like when I was wrestling with my brothers and things got out of hand and Mother got angry, only much, much deeper. It made my hairs stand up on end, every single one of them. I had to look. I just had to turn my head and…
“Don’t move,” Pop whispered, stock still.
I just had to. I turned my head the smallest bit and…
I panicked. Instead of running for home, sweet so close home, I dashed into the ruins of some ancient civilization and hid under a pile of wood. I could feel the monster’s hot breath on me, his long tongue inches away from me. I tried not to make a sound but I was terrified. Sharp claws scratched at the sides of my hiding place. I tried to hide deeper in the ruins. The monster circled around and snorted at me, trying to drive me out.
I caught a glimpse of its mouth. Filled with enormous teeth that would snap me in two in one bite, it was too close for comfort. No matter how I tried to hide myself, the monster would figure out where I was. Around it would come, making all that deafening noise, to dig at me with those massive claws!
And suddenly, it was on top of the ruins. On top of me! There was nothing between me and certain doom but a thin piece of ancient wood.
“Run! Chip! Run for home!”
I’d promised I would do what Pop told me to do. I didn’t the first time, but I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I took a deep breath and I sprinted out of the ruins straight for home. The monster never had a chance to catch me. Mother called me her brave little man. Pop ruffled my hair and said he was proud of me. My brothers and sisters sat in rapt attention as I told the story over and over.
As for the monster, Pop said an even bigger monster came out and dragged it away. The next day there were fruits and veggies right outside our door. They were good, too.