A writing assignment gone awry, a slow sinking into squirrel-related madness
| As various assignments compiled themselves on my dorm room desk, the sky seemed to sing an increasingly deeper hue of blue, beckoning me away. Over the last three years at Trinity University, I had explored every inch of its campus, and most of the nearby park and zoo; all in the futile pursuit of procrastination. On this day, I chose to walk to the forested area behind Laurie Auditorium. It was close to the main campus, but just out of the way enough to discourage the majority of students from ever venturing towards it. I had discovered it freshman year, during one of my own self-hosted midnight tours of Trinity. Besides the occasional jogger, Frisbee player, or teacher walking their dog, I was often alone among the trees, unkempt grass, and the evil mutant gofer-squirrels.
I suppose an explanation is expected for the aptly termed mutant gofer-squirrels. They are blackish grey and bigger (and presumably tougher) than your average squirrel. They do not climb trees, but rather burrow into the ground. They emerge on occasion to glare at all who trespass on their domain, their obsidian eyes gleaming with a malice reserved for only the most evil of beings. I first came across one on my second visit to the forested area. As I walked the path, a dark head popped out of the ground nearby and gave me its glare of doom. Where others may have fled (or simply kept walking), I chose to instead stare back with equal - though much more righteous - vigor. Wrenching a brow and bugging one eye, I convinced myself that telekinetic powers were not only real, but that I was also a master of them. Locked in a silent (and likely non-existent) battle of wills, we faced off until finally, overwhelmed by my psychic ability, my opponent retreated back into his hole. I will begrudgingly admit, however, that the battle was a close one.
Like any self-respecting telekinetic warrior, I endeavored to study my enemy. Never before had I stumbled across such a strange and purely evil animal. More intriguing yet, was the fact that they stayed solely on the upper campus’s forested area. Using another brain power at my disposal, the power of logic, I deduced the origin of these monstrosities in such a methodological and flawless fashion that I would have surely drawn a blush of envy from Sherlock Holmes if he had been real and somehow transported to a small Texan college in the fall of 2011.
My theory goes something like this. The young roguish squirrels of Trinity Campus, witnessing the debauchery of our millennial generation of college students, became jealous of all the good times we seemed to be having. Seeking the adrenaline rush that comes from disobedience, they committed the most horrendous taboo within the squirrel community. These bold creatures ventured to the nearby zoo and mated with the exotic types of rodents therein. The offspring of this abominable pairing, obviously shunned by the squirrel community, were forever banished to the forlorn reaches of upper campus, where the trees only produced a marginal amount of small, brown, and pathetically oval acorns. Shamed by their very existence, the mutant gofer-squirrels abandoned the trees and dug deep into the earth in embarrassment. Their embarrassment turned into rage, their rage, into pure evil. Thus they swore a pact to attack all trespassers with their glare of doom. Surely this is the only logical explanation for their existence, and I accept it readily as one of the most irrefutable of facts.
But alas, I digress, and in the time it took for this not-so-brief origin story of the mutant gofer-squirrels, I could have been more devoted to the crux of this story. On this particular day, I walked towards two large sycamores, towering up in their motley garb of tan and tanner bark. Yellow leaves drifted down to the pebbly ground near a miniature bridge. There was no water flowing under the bridge, but it would be easy to imagine a bubbling brook popping up from some artisan spring down the way. The creek-bed’s actual function, however, was to be a drainage ditch during storms. As such, it was littered with trash and a few small bones, likely the animals that hadn’t fully escaped the floods.
It was by this creek that I found my treasure. Molded into the ground, mimicking almost perfectly the color of the surrounding mud was a hammer's head; snapped at the neck of its handle. Rust deformed the contours of its curves, bubbling up a flaky rough exterior. The faded rouge of polished paint and the dark weathered color of its stubbed handle suggested that the item was of a considerable age. Provocative? Most definitely. What tremendous force could have so thoroughly defeated the treated wood of a hammer’s handle, presumably compressed and fortified by glue? Images of heroic feats of strength flitted through my mind, quickly followed by thoughts of a darker sort. I recalled an episode of CSI Miami. Could I have in my hands a murder weapon? Was this rouge really paint, or was it the hue of arterial spray?
In a very uncharacteristic move, I decided to put a halt to the ridiculousness of my imagination. It would later prove to be only a temporary relapse into sanity. I reasoned that this hammer was likely the abandoned tool of one of the orange-neon clad maintenance workers that regularly fill the campus. Over the course of years of faithful service, where it was repeatedly being smashed into things, the hammer’s handle must have developed a hairline crack. Slowly, this crack expanded until the weakened condition of the hammer finally snapped from a strike that was in no way more extraordinary than the thousands that preceded it. It was probably broken while working on the very bridge it lay beside, casually discarded when its use had expired. The simple, honest, dull likelihood of truth rang in this line of thought.
For a moment, I considered just leaving my theories to rest and going back to my room to do some of the very necessary school work that waited for me there. But wait, something in the story didn’t make sense! The bridge was composed of concrete, rebar, and steel tubing. There was no need for a hammer in its construction. As my suspicion mounted, a small, blackish grey figure lifted itself up onto its hind legs, poised like a grisly ready to strike its furry menace. That’s right. It was a mutant gofer-squirrel.
It had tactically positioned itself at a far distant point, out of range of a potential telekinetic staring duel, but nonetheless it harassed my presence with its trademark glare. Yet, was there something different in its countenance? Did I detect a hint of fear in those obsidian pools of evil that thing used as eyes? I imagine I did.
Suddenly it all made sense! The hammer, the small bones, the mutant gofer-squirrel’s fear; this relic in my hand was not the simple construction tool I took it to be, but rather an ancient weapon from a civil war between the mutant gofer-squirrels and the normal squirrels of Trinity Campus. Of course! It was so obvious. The societal pressures from being shunned, in addition to the shortages of food due to the marginal supply of pathetically oval acorns, must have raised tensions and caused the mutant gofer-squirrels to become dissatisfied with their banished state as decreed by the squirrel council.
A great war must have ensued, just here by the bridge between that faded-white cola can and those branches over there. I pictured the rows of squirrels, wearing acorn caps for helmets, bravely standing in tight formation against the horde of mutants, foaming at the mouth and enraged by their pathetically oval acorns, whose caps were far too small to offer anything in the way of cranial protection. From the array of discarded spoons littered on the ground, I justifiably assumed that the squirrel army had fashioned them into makeshift catapults, hurling an arrangement of stones and nuts at their foe. Maybe the nuts’ natural oils were enough to make them flammable. I imagined the fiery acorns arcing through the air, trailing black smoke as they wrought havoc on the mutant horde, and, liking the image very much, decided that this was indeed a probable theory.
But with the mutant-gofer squirrels’ superior size and telekinetic ability, the Squirrel King’s troops were probably at a disadvantage. Luckily, I suspect that the squirrels of Trinity had a powerful champion. I can picture him now, standing before his troops with his legendary weapon, a hammer that was rumored to have been gifted by the orange-neon clad gods of old. Swinging his mighty weapon aloft, this champion, who I will henceforth refer to as Squirlymous Prime, must have stood before his army and given the most rousing and inspirational battle speech. To us, it would have sounded like a variety of clicking and squeaking, but to the brave squirrels that fought on that day, Squirlymous Prime’s voice rang out magnificently, reminding them of the round juicy acorns around McClean Dorm, and depreciating the less bushy tails of the mutants with a mocking tone. Spurred on by his valor, the squirrels must have charged forth. In one fell swoop, Squirlymous Prime struck the head of the leader of the mutant gofer-squirrels, and won the war.
As a reminder to all unwary mutant gofer-squirrels, Squirlymous Prime left the Hammer’s head, which had snapped off after the mighty strike, at the border of the mutant gofer-squirrels’ lands. As such, I suspect that no mutant gofer squirrel has dared to ever cross into the lower campus again.
With the true story of this hammer fully solidified with incontestable presumption in my mind, I set forth to write it out and spread the word of Squirlymous Prime’s brave feats. In doing so, I successfully avoided writing my Chinese paper that is due in the morning. Falling asleep for the first time in days (I had been watching Lord of the Rings in lieu of sleep), I dreamt of the climax of Squirlymous Prime’s speech, where he said, “You can take our lives, but you can never take our Acorns!”