Three squirrels curled up in a hollow high up in a tree. Breathing slow and deep, with fluffy red tails curled around their noses, any casual glance would think they were asleep.
But their tufted ears stood on alert, twitching with every noise outside their den.
While the voices outside at least tried to be quiet in their hunt, they weren't careful about noose otherwise. Branches snapping, rocks skittering, rustling of their packs, and the clicking of their flashlights were easily heard by the squirrels.
"How are we supposed to find them anyway?" A whispered grumble, passed by the trunk of the tree. "Shape shifters the whole lot of 'em."
A bush rattled and another voice joined the whisper, a little louder. "Is that you Harvey?"
“Of course it is Mark.”
“How do I know? Prove it.”
“Really? Who else would be wandering the woods with you? Wearing the government issued-”
“They had the badge too remember? Stolen or copied or whatever. Prove you’re you.”
The fact the conversation was getting louder, and there hadn’t been any new footsteps worried the cluster of squirrels. But it wasn’t long before the hiding animals had a bigger worry.
The chattering was instant, the moment the squirrel felt… something in their fur. “Get it off. Get it off!” Repeated while the squirrel ran in a tight circle around the tiny hollow.
“If you hold still-” The second largest squirrel started following the first one. Both sets fo tiny paws grasping at fur. Whatever had fallen into the fur kept squirming and wiggling, nestling deeper into the warm fur.
Getting dizzy the largest squirrel jumped out of the tree, running down the trunk, still yelling in squirrel, “Off! Get off!”
His paws hit the ground, and he stood up on his hind legs, rubbing his back against the tree bark. It felt like the little insect or whatever was still in his fur, but the itch was getting better.
“Is.. that squirrel… itching his back?”
“Do squirrels normally do that?”
“I don’t know.”
The two other squirrels came down chasing each other, and then both pouncing on the large one. As they tumbled and wrestled the two men sighed.
“Maybe they have rabies.”
“Whatever. We’ve been searching way too long. Let’s get some beers.”
“As long as it ain’t that small batch fruity stuff you served at your bachelor party.”
As the men walked away one of the squirrel held up the little wriggling mealworm that had bothered the large squirrel.
“Got it Ray!” Lucky stood triumphantly over Ray’s prone squirrel body. “Haha! So here is yet another pest to the squirrel!”
“You mean besides other squirrels that break your ribs?” Raymundo moaned.
“Can we please just go back to bed?” Skylar asked. “Squirrels are not nocturnal.”
After Lucky flung the worm into the darkness the three companions headed back up the tree to their temporary home.
Word count: 483