“Well, that settles it,” said Louey. “I think we’re lost.” They had now been walking for hours trying to find their way back to the trail entrance, but they’d had no luck. In fact, they seemed to be deeper into the woods than ever. The reason for going there was to give Sam a real adventure by picking the biggest trail in the biggest woods they could find, but now that plan had backfired on them. These deep trails were seldom used anymore, and thus all the maps for them were out of date. Their phones weren’t working either due to interference from the thick blanket of trees above them, and none of them have nose for tracking their way back.
As a terrier, Sadie Lynn was bred to sniff out small animals, while as a rat Sam specialized in finding food and detecting predators, and as for Louey... Well, Chihuahuas were strictly companion dogs, and while that still left him with a nose that was 100,000 times keener than that of a human, it still wasn’t the bloodhound quality they needed right now.
Sadie Lynn was fretting terribly, worried not only about Sam and how scared the young rat must be, but also about how worried Miss Blatz would be if they came back late... Or not at all. Of course, if Sam was scared, she wasn’t showing it. In fact, she seemed downright excited by the prospect of being lost in the woods, and was skipping around the dogs, rambling on about how they were going to be like Robinson Crusoe or Tarzan and live out here on their own, surviving off the land with their wits, awakening their wild instincts, and all that sort of thing. Louey, meanwhile, was standing very, very still, his ears pricked up at full alert. He could have sworn he heard something...
Ping! Something whizzed by them, grazing Sadie Lynn’s long coat, and landing by her hind paw. “It’s an acorn!” she exclaimed upon examining it. “But it didn’t just fall from a tree. At that speed, someone would have to have..."
Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! A whole flurry of acorns rained down from above, landing in a circle around the three of them.
“We have you surrounded!” squeaked a voice from high in the trees, and the trio looked up, squinting to see through the shadowy leaves.
Squirrels. Dozens and dozens of squirrels, maybe hundreds, were clustered in the branches all around them, and each one held a tiny bow, but instead of arrows, they held acorns, ready to shoot again like stones from a slingshot. A small troupe of about six scampered down from one tree and ran towards them, then stopped when they were a few paces away. One squirrel stepped forward. Normally, Louey and Sadie Lynn loved to chase squirrels, but they both thought it wiser not to make a move on this one.
“I am Scurrius,” he squeaked. “Why have you come to Squirrel City, strangers?”
“Squirrel City?!” Sam and Louey gasped together.
“We’re lost, I’m afraid, Mr. Scurrius,” said Sadie Lynn, then turned to her companions. “You sound as if you’ve heard of this place.”
“Heard of it? Ha! They’re enemy outsiders, seeking it like so many others before them!” said another one of the squirrels, shaking his bow. “Well, we’ll make them sorry they found it!”
“Squirrel City,” said Louey, “is supposed to be a myth. A fairy tale. Sort of a ‘Lost City of Atlantis’ thing.”
“I read about it in an adventure book! It’s said to exist somewhere in the Southeast, so I thought I’d find it one day, “ said Sam. “But right here on a Georgia nature trail?!”
“We keep ourselves well-hidden,” said Scurrius. “Not well enough though, if the outside lands still speak of us. I believe your story, strangers. Come. I shall show you the glory of Squirrel City!”
(End of Part 2)
Story and illustration by Mary Grace Mauney