Flash Fiction Contest Winner #17 – “Rise and Eat”

Please note: Flash fiction stories are submitted by members of our Discord server. Many contain adult themes and may be objectionable to some readers.

“Rise and Eat”

A mother taught her son how to live. When the sun glows in the sky, you must rise and eat. He heeded her wise instruction.
     No need to find nuts and grubs. True food is the crunchy, the slimy, the hot and the soft. It lays in dark black cylinders waiting for us. Or sometimes the burblers toss it to us, shiny claws flashing light at us, baring lots of teeth – but no danger, mother said. No run and scold. And if needed, there are always Trees. 
     Trees, mother taught, shield us from the chthonian Cut and Slash, which brings the Run and Scold. This mythical horror hung as a weight over all squirrels did, and made all moves furtive. She didn’t speak of the darkness which would come after.
     But it was peaceful under the Trees. And as squirrels have done for hundreds of years, Pictree grew bigger and smarter. He begged tourists for their funnel cake, scavenged packed-lunch detritus, and explored the downtown square. He found Hallow, and he caught her, and tumbled with her, and made his own kits to nurse and care for. Soon, Hallow also taught them to rise and eat. And it was good.
     But one rise and eat in the summer, when the tall burblers were numerous, all the squirrels were distracted by scavenging things crunchy soft. The burblers gently threw bits of food in front of their noses and took pictures with their phones, so no one saw the flyover; they didn’t hear the blue jay’s klaxon call. 
     It was Pictree’s littermate that finally raised the alarm, but too late! Cut and Slash, plummeting from the sky! DEATH WAS HERE!
     The danger rose in his chest, and Pictree ran to the Trees. When safe he flashed his tail and scolded, as his mother taught him. And he waited, and waited, and waited. From afar he saw the sleek, dark figure of the hawk perched on the tall white dome at the far end of the square. He was gone; sated. They were safe.
     Pictree ventured down to the ground again, and looked for Hallow, but he didn’t find her. And little bits of red and brown at the foot of the Trees drew a sadness from him he couldn’t name.
     The next Rise and Eat, he didn’t. His nose stayed hidden in his tail. He ignored the growling in his stomach, until his memory of Hallow spoke to him in the voice of his mother. 
     No, he thought. 
     Nonsense. Illogicality. How could he rise and eat, without the tumble and the snuggle? Impossible. I cannot rise and eat, for she is no longer here.
     RISE AND EAT, the axiom thundered. It also whispered with the voice of all mothers, stretching backward to the end of memory.
     And, even though it didn’t make sense, he rose, and he ate.