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JUST FOR KIDS - DREAMSCAPES FICTION FOR CHILDREN


Naima Gany bte
Shaik Dawood
HOOTENKAMUN, THE OWL WITH A DIFFERENCE

The forest of Chrysenthalis was very beautiful and serene and peaceful. Flowers of myriad colours bloomed year round. There were pine and oak trees, which formed canopies in parts of the forest, providing shade and shelter for the creatures living there. Willow fronds streamed the crystal clear ponds, which were full of a variety of fishes, frogs, and yes—crocodiles!
The other animals that lived there were rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, deer, several species of birds and snakes, badgers, and a motley crew of insects and creepy crawlies like worms, caterpillars and many others.

It was indeed a melting pot of life and frenzied activity every day. Each animal had their own business to take care of and there was an understanding between them. They only hunted each other when necessary—that is when hunger called for food. Otherwise they pretty much left one another alone and went about their own affairs of building nests, raising a family and storing food for the dry and cold months.

In this forest lived an ancient white owl named Hootenkamun, the official guardian of Chrysenthalis. He came from a long line of Royal Owls who had been the guardians of this forest for centuries.
Royal Owls had distinct features, which separated them from the other normal owls. Their bodies, which were taller—at least two and a half feet tall—and sturdier than those of normal brown or gray owls, were covered with pure snow-white fur of the softest smoothest kind instead of regular coarse feathers.
Their marble-like chocolate brown eyes had thick black circles around them—like sugarless doughnuts. Their tiny beaks were powerful and as black as the rings around their eyes.
Royal Owls had been known to live for up to two hundred and fifty years.
And they possessed magical powers!
Hootenkamun was such an owl.
As the oldest resident there, he was highly respected by the other creatures, even the mighty and dangerous crocodiles. It wasn’t only because of his age, wisdom and power that they revered him, but because he was also their guardian.
The inhabitants of the forest playfully referred to him as ‘Sheriff Hoot’. He didn’t mind, as he knew that the animals loved him. He had lived in this forest for over a hundred years and knew every animal that had come and gone over time.

Hootenkamun had his nest in a tiny cave, which was strategically located on one of the jutting ledges of a nearby cliff, facing the forest proper. It was deep enough inside to be protected from the sun and rain. But not too far in that he couldn’t see the forest. It was a perfect lookout spot.
He literally had a bird’s eye view of the goings on inside the forest from his vantage-point home. But he spent much of his time perched on a high branch of one of the sturdy oaks beside the entrance to the home of his favourite squirrel couple, Scamp and his wife Scarla.
Hootenkamun loved chatting with them. They were highly entertaining little creatures and usually made him laugh whenever he got bored with the day to day routine of the forest.
Life was ambling along without any major ripples in calm and peaceful Chrysenthalis. Hootenkamun’s job wasn’t taxed much as a guardian because nothing terrible or unusual ever occurred in this forest. Every animal knew its role and no one stepped out of line, making ‘Sheriff Hoot’s’ job very easy indeed.
Until one very hot afternoon when something happened! Something that became a threat to Hootenkamun’s life!

It had started out as any regular day. Morning dawned with the rise of the sun in the horizon and the birds chirped and twittered as they left their nests in search of worms and insects. All the animals went about their respective businesses—either building new homes, or rebuilding old ones, or foraging for food, or hunting their prey, or feeding their young.
There was the usual buzz of activity around the forest and Hootenkamun observed everything with mild disinterest from his perch just outside Scamp’s home inside the trunk of the oak. Scamp was below picking nuts to store for the cold season. His wife Scarla was cleaning their home to clear space for the supply of nuts.
On one side of the path, a long line of black ants paraded by, each one carrying one part of a cricket carcass to their nests. On the other side of the same path, another long line of red ants carried the remains of a horned beetle to their nests. The two lines resembled demarcation points for two different territories.

A tiny rodent busy feasting on a mangled carcass was a perfect target for the sea-green tree snake that slithered silently out of the bushes behind it. The snake’s movement was so graceful and smooth that not even the dead leaves shifted much under its weight.
Soundlessly it glided to within two feet of the rodent, then stopped and waited. Unaware that it was in danger, the rodent continued to eat its fill.
Hootenkamun watched through sleepy eyes as the tree snake pounced without warning and grabbed the rodent in its powerful jaws. Squealing loudly, the animal struggled but to no avail, for the snake coiled its ropelike body around the rodent and subdued it within minutes.
Dropping it on the ground, the snake shifted around to the rodent’s head and the swallowing process began with the head going in first, then the body and finally the tail. Replete with its morning meal, the reptile slithered back to its hideout to hibernate.

Somewhere in the distance water splashed loudly followed by thundering footsteps that vibrated the forest floor and shook the trees. A crocodile was probably on the prowl for a victim.
High above in the sky an eagle shrieked as it found its prey and swooped down to catch it. The unfortunate animal squealed as it was lifted off in the powerfully sharp claws of the eagle. Leaves rustled in the bushes below as rabbits and deer munched on the lush greenery.
Breakfast was at its liveliest in Chrysenthalis each day at this time of the morning.
The ancient owl was so bored with the mundane routine going on below him that he began to feel sleepy. His eyelids drooped. He decided to grab some shut-eye. He thought of flying back to his nest but it was too far away—at least ten minutes flight. And he was too lazy to fly that distance just for a nap.

So forcing his eyes open, he waddled lethargically to a forked branch a few feet away from his regular spot and leaning his big heavy body against it, he promptly fell asleep with his head dropped onto his chest. Very soon his gentle snoring filled the air.
Scamp finished gathering the nuts and brought them up to his home in the tree trunk a few at a time. Scarla received each load and put them away as quickly as he brought them. They worked quietly so as not to disturb Hootenkamun.
The sun shifted from the east upwards to its peak and the morning matured into noon. Sunlight filtered through the leaves in the trees and heated the forest floor. All the animals scampered away to seek shelter from the hot afternoon sun.

The lines of red and black ants had long since disappeared underground to escape the heat. Rabbits went back into their burrows, the deer ran off to their hideouts, the crocodiles went back into the ponds to cool off and the birds sought their nests to shield their nestlings from the blaze.
Scamp and his wife hid in their tree trunk home and waited for the sun to lower to the other side so that he could continue with his nut picking.
And Hootenkamun still snored—completely undisturbed and unaffected by the sun shining directly onto his white head.
Suddenly a piercing shriek filled the air. "AAARRRRKKK!"

The old owl was startled out of his sound sleep and gave an annoyed grunt, waking up a little grumpily. It took him a while to fully come awake.
Scamp and Scarla ran out of their tree-home. Scurrying closer to the edge of the branch, they looked left and right to see what was making that awful sound.
"What was that?" Scamp asked curiously.
Lifting himself leisurely off the forked branch, Hootenkamun moved closer to the squirrels and squinted towards the sky through half-closed eyes.

Again the shriek came—this time louder and closer. "AAARRRRKKK!"
Scarla moved nearer to Scamp and whispered in a frightened voice, "What is that sound, Scamp?"
Scamp shook his little head. "I don’t know." Turning to Hootenkamun, he asked, "Hoot, what do you think that is?"
The owl yawned sleepily and mumbled, "Probably an eagle chasing his prey."
This time the piercing shriek came from right below them. "AARRRKK!"
Startled out of their wits, the three jumped into the air then looked down. They saw a bird flapping on the ground, fluttering its wings frantically and trying to fly. And it was making such loud shrieking noises that the three on the branch had to cover their ears.
"AARRRKK! AARRRKK! AARRRKK!"
"What’s wrong with it?" Scamp shouted at Hootenkamun above the din the bird was making.
"I don’t know but I’ll find out," he replied and promptly flew down.

When it saw the owl, the bird stopped flapping around and shrieking. Its eyes wide with fear, it stared up at him from the ground where it lay. Upon looking closer, the owl saw that it was a female bird and she was no larger than Scamp.
Her body was covered with the loveliest bright red and electric blue feathers Hootenkamun had ever seen. Her eyes were round topaz marbles.
And she looked like she was injured. She hobbled as she tried to move away from him.
"Wh-who are y-you?" the bird whispered in a voice trembling with fear.
Hootenkamun sidled closer and reassured the bird, "Don’t be afraid. I won’t harm you. I am called Hootenkamun, or Hoot for short. I’m the Guardian of this forest."
"G-guardian of t-this f-f-forest?" she asked, continuing to tremble.
Hootenkamun nodded. "Yes."
"D-does that m-mean you g-guard e-everything here?" she asked again.
Again he nodded. "Yes."
By this time, Scamp and Scarla had run down the tree and were standing beside the owl staring at the newcomer.
"Wow! She’s beautiful," Scamp said in a voice filled with wonder.
Thwack! Scarla smacked him hard on the back of his head with a paw.
"Ow!" he yelled and looked at her in surprise, rubbing his sore head. "What did you do that for?"
Scarla folded her arms across her chest and tapped her bushy tail on the ground, staring at him angrily. Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!
Hootenkamun chuckled. "She’s jealous, you little fool."
"I didn’t do anything," Scamp grumbled. "I just said that she was beautiful," he pointed to the injured bird.
Thwack! Scarla smacked him again, harder this time.
"Would you stop doing that?" Scamp shouted and ran behind the ancient owl who was hooting with laughter. Rubbing his throbbing head, he peered around Hootenkamun’s wing at his wife who glared back at him.
The injured bird appeared even more frightened and tried to get up but she fell down each time she was halfway up.
"You’re hurt," Hootenkamun said and went closer to her. "Let me see."
He noticed that both her wings were broken at the middle joints and her left leg was bleeding from the knee. The bone was splintered and exposed through the torn flesh.
"What’s your name?" he asked the bird.
"Willa," she replied hesitantly.
"And what happened to you?" He lifted one wing gently with his beak and set it down at a more comfortable angle.
The bird sighed as her pain was eased a little.
"I was caught in a trap set by some humans and they shot me as I managed to escape. The bullet hit my leg. I lost a lot of blood and became weak and couldn’t fly anymore. Then I fell through the trees and broke my wings," she explained sadly. "I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fly again."
"Don’t worry, little bird," Hootenkamun promised, "we’ll set you right again. Scamp," he turned to the squirrel and instructed, "you and Scarla go find some of the healing leaves I use while I take Willa back to my nest. Tie them all up and leave them here and I’ll be back for them."
Then he picked Willa up gently with his powerful claws and flew off.
Scamp looked at Scarla and found her glaring at him still. He waited for her to say something but she turned her bushy tail on him and went off to

By Naima Gany bte. Shaik Dawood

hsdnaima@pd.jaring.my

If you like this sample, email the authors to find out more as they are looking for a publisher.

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