Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 22

After escaping from the Great White Seal, the two friends find new unexpected  dangers as they seek to get out of his territory.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 22

Monsters and Other Terrors

Finding himself overwhelmed with gratitude for his freedom, Quack stuck his head back in the cave and called down, “And next time pick on someone your own shape!” He and Hopper rolled on the ground laughing hysterically. Below them they could hear the Great White Seal ranting madly.
Then they heard him say, “Get the gulls, you fools! Offer them each 10 clams a day for the next week!”
Hopper and Quack realized now that the battle wasn’t over. The ocean would still be filled with seals looking for them, and the skies would be full of spies. They must therefore conceal themselves from view. Inland they saw woods with extremely tall trees. Knowing they must get under the cover of the trees before the gulls got their orders, they quickly headed away from the ocean.
Quack couldn’t waddle as fast as Hopper could hop so he took to the air. Then he decided to fly back to the edge of the cliff to see if he could observe what developed below. Across from him was the rock island with Hopper’s little cave. Below him was the channel of water where seals constantly patrolled.
Suddenly a dozen seal heads popped out of the water, arfing loudly. A big seagull flew down from a perch on the island and landed by them in the water. The seals excitedly presented their offer. The gull shook his head. The seals arfed some more, and the gull shook his head. More arfing. The gull prepared to return to his perch. Excited arfing. Up went the gull. Even more excited arf-talk. The gull flew around as if in thought. The seals made one more arfer. The gull nodded in a way that showed reluctance, and returning to his perch, he let out a great cry. The seals disappeared into the depths.
Quack could tell it was time to get under cover. As he passed the entrance to the cave he could hear Big White yelling, “Fifteen clams! I told you lummoxes to offer him ten! Fifteen! Well, those greedy gulls better deliver me a penguin and a duck or they’ll be doing what I want every day for nothing!”
Hopper was getting close to the trees when Quack got back to him. “The gulls will be out looking for us soon,” said Quack. “We’ve got to make it to the trees. Hey, look at this hard, black ground here. What do you think it is?”
Indeed, the grass suddenly ended, and they were now crossing a strip of ground that was very hard. To the right and to the left it seemed to go on forever, but straight ahead it was only about 20 feet. Hopper felt uneasy as he crossed this strange ground, but on he went. He was almost to the trees. Not long and the gulls might be above them.
Soon they were back on the grass and then under the trees. As they passed a few of these huge trees, they heard from behind them a sound which they’d never heard before. It was something very big and very fast and went, “Whoooooooooosh!”
“Aaaaa! What was that?” they said as they cowered in the bushes. “Does the Big White have some new creature on his side up here?”
“Whoooooooooosh!” came the sound again.
“Aaaaaaaaaa! Let’s get out of here!” They took off farther into the woods. The fear that gripped them now was stronger than any they had yet felt on their travels. Here was a creature obviously much bigger and faster than they were, and it was loud. They hadn’t seen it yet, but they knew it was horrible, something to strike fear into the heart of the bravest bird, whether he be penguin, duck, or chicken.
Quack half flew and half waddled as fast as he could through the trees. Hopper hopped and hopped and never stopped until, out of breath, they both plopped themselves down beside a huge tree that had been chopped down many years earlier and left to rot. Actually, it had been sawn.
Their hearts were racing. They could face Hank and Hawrk the hungry hawks. They could face the peccaries and any seal or sea lion, even the Big White himself, but this beast was something they were sure they never wanted to see. But they tried to pull themselves together and think it through. What could it have been? It couldn’t have been a creature serving the Big White. This thing would frighten even him. They could think of no animal they’d ever heard of that was that big and that fast and that hideously ugly. They were sure it was hideously ugly even though they hadn’t seen it. It must have huge claws on each of its feet, eyes that glared at anything that moved, a mouth that gaped with big sharp teeth, and a long tail that could knock you down and grab you if you were 50 feet away. It probably even had wings and could fly faster than the fastest duck.
Hopper began pacing back and forth by the log, as they were fretting about this new danger. Then he noticed the end of the log and the stump by it. “Hey, look at how straight this tree has been cut,” he said. “I don’t know of any animal with teeth that could cut a tree like this. Arrr, this place is getting scarier all the time. We better keep moving.”
They continued their flight into the woods, not knowing where they were going, but heading in a more northerly direction.
Eventually they came to a great clearing with short grass, rolling hills, and fewer trees. They were somewhat reluctant to leave the shelter of the trees, but they were curious about this new place. They crept cautiously out into the open. This grass was strange to them, so short and green. They came to a little hill, which they climbed. At the top was even greener and smoother grass. In the middle of the hill was a little hole with a very skinny and funny-looking tree growing out of it. Quack inspected it and said, “Hey, Hop, look at this nest! It has a little egg in it.”
“Wow,” said Hopper. “I wonder what kind of bird lives here. A little round egg. Look at all those dents in the shell.”
Suddenly they heard a voice shouting, “Fore!”
“Four?” said Hopper.
“For what?” said Quack.
“That’s a strange accent,” said Hopper. “I wonder what kind of creature…” He was interrupted by the plop of another egg right by them on the green grass.
“Whoa!” said Quack, looking up. “That’s a strange way to lay an egg. I don’t see the crazy bird.”
“Neither do I.”
Now voices sounded not far away:
“Ah, look at the pretty duck!”
“And that other thing there, what do you suppose that is?”
“It almost looks like a penguin, but it couldn’t be a penguin could it?”
“Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”
All this time the two friends were frozen with fright, afraid to look in the direction of the voices. Somehow they knew instinctively, but were afraid to admit it, that this was their first encounter with people!
Finally, once again, curiosity won and they glanced behind them, and there they were, those creatures they’d been taught to fear all their lives. There were four of them, four humans, four lady people.
The birds panicked. Quack flew up and away, over the trees. Hopper headed for the trees as fast as he could, both of them yelling, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…”
Hopper found himself crashing through underbrush, certain the ladies were right behind him. On he went without thinking, knowing he mustn’t let them catch him. They might make him talk, and that was forbidden. Or he might not be able to resist the temptation to talk if they said something stupid.
“Where’s Quack?” he wondered. He hoped the great fright hadn’t caused him to do something like fly away. Hopper didn’t like crashing through the forest underbrush by himself.
A while later, Quack found him and said, “Hey Hop, I could hear you crashing through the bushes from way up above the trees. You’d better take it easy.”
“Those ladies are after me. Can’t stop now.”
“No, I saw them back on that grass. They didn’t come after us, but I think we’d better head back to the ocean. I don’t feel right here. This isn’t where we belong.”
“That’s for sure. I think I’d rather be in Big White’s throne room than here.”
After a short rest, they continued through the woods. Darkness was setting in, but they could smell the ocean in front of them in the direction of the setting sun.
When it was completely dark, they could hear the ocean waves in the distance, but getting closer. They could also hear many different sounds in the woods. This added to their uneasiness, so they moved on, wanting to get to the water before daylight when gulls or seals could see them.
Around midnight they came to the edge of the forest, to that place where they had to cross that hard, black ground. They were a long way north of the place where they entered the woods and were amazed to see that it stretched this far.
They were about to leave the shelter of the forest and cross over when they heard a noise that caused them to fall to the ground, trying to conceal themselves in the grass at the edge of the woods. From the north it came: “Errrrrrrrrrrow….rrrrrrrrrrrr.”
The beast passed the two cowering birds at a speed beyond their ability to comprehend. It didn’t seem to notice them and continued on to the south.
It was a while before either dared to move. Finally Quack spoke, “Did you see that?”
“Arg, what about those eyes!”
“I’ve seen eyes glow in the dark, but those light up the night.”
“I sure don’t want to be caught by that thing! We’ve got to get out of here before it turns those eyes on us!”
“Well, it sounded like it went a long way to the south. Let’s make a dash for the ocean.”
Quack flew and Hopper hopped. Soon he was to the hard, dark ground, and he started to cross. From the south came the sound, “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…” Then he saw those eyes. He was half way across the ground. All he could do was stand there in terror, waiting to be eaten alive as the thing sped toward him. “Errrrrrow…”
Hopper said, “Aaaaaaaa… Hellllllp!”
It was upon him now, and then it passed him. “Owrrrrrrrrrrrr…”
Then the sound came from the north, “Errrrrowwww…” Again there was blinding light and wind almost knocking him over as the second beast passed him, heading south. Then it made a loud screeching noise, and slowed down. He heard a voice, which he now recognized as a human voice, saying, “Hey, that looks like a penguin!”
He noticed the beast glowed red in back as it came to a stop. White lights came on, and it backed toward him. Hopper found the strength to hop toward the ocean, all the while saying, “Aaaaaaaaa…”
Quack flew above him saying, “Aaaaaaaaa…”
Behind them they heard human voices saying things like, “A penguin? What’s a penguin doing in California? He must have escaped from the zoo. We better get him. Maybe there’ll be a reward.”
They heard footsteps rapidly closing in on them and the voices chattering continuously.
Hopper came to the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. He could hear the waves crashing on the rocks below him. The people were very close now and saying, “We’d better be careful now. We don’t want to scare him.”
“Don’t want to scare me?” thought Hopper, and then he said, “Aaaaaaa…,” and hopped over the edge of the cliff.
“Now look what you’ve done! You scared him over the edge…”
Hopper landed on a ledge a few feet below, and from there was able to find his way down to the beach with his great cliff-climbing abilities. He dove into the water, and Quack joined him.
It felt so good to be back in the ocean where they belonged. They wanted to laugh, but knew they mustn’t make any noise that would alert the seals to their presence. They had to get out to deep water before the sun came up.
When day broke they were a good distance out to sea. They saw no seals and no gulls. They listened for the mysterious sound, and it wasn’t there.
Finally, they were able to laugh out loud. They looked up and said. “Thank you. Thank you.” They broke into their song and added a new verse:

You may think we’ve had it rough
Some may say we’ve had enough
But we know that we’re not through
Until there’s nothing left to do!

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