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The Christmas Squirrel

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He was just a squirrel. He chewed nervously on the pine nut in his cheek. It wasn't his fault. Whatever it was.

But the world had completely changed. First there were the loud blows, and the tree shuddering, and the fall. He'd scrambled to keep a grip. Then there'd been the galumphing, and jostling, and needles raining down everywhere.

Then the world had changed. The bright winter sunlight had been turned to mellow gold. The clear blue sky gleamed bronze.

He felt the tree quaver and tilt upright. He scrambled to keep his purchase. Loud booming voices argued. The air hummed and thrummed like a live thing.

He hyperventilated. His furry chest rising and falling fast, his heart beating like a ball bearing. He gulped and held onto the bole, eyes flickering.

A vine slithered in through the branches, huge, horizontal, advancing toward him like a sidewinding boa constrictor. He eeped and jumped up to the next branch. The vine stopped and draped over the branch where he'd just been sitting. It had huge, glowing fruit growing off it. But they were all different colors.

He snuffled forward and investigated. He nibbled. He snorted. It was hard, and hurt his teeth. And it didn't taste like anything. It made high pitched little sputtering sounds, like insects complaining. It jerked and he jumped back, his tail bristling.

He scampered to the other side of the tree. but there were more vines here. They seemed to be spreading, smothering the tree like ivy. The lights confused him, throwing strange colors and weird shadows.

He whimpered and scampered for his hole. He tumbled in frantically and twisted around, poking his nose out his knothole. His heart tightened, why was everything so strange? Where was the forest? He couldn't hear any birds. Just lots of clicks and beeps and humming sounds.

Large shapes moved around his tree. Bears! Huge, but skinny. He cowered back in his hole, shoving some of his nest fur and leaves up to block the hole better.

A giant snow-covered fruit descended onto a branch beside him, dangling from it by a web. His nose sniffled and his ears laid back. It didn't smell like snow.

More giant fruit, icicles that radiated no cold, more deep growly noises from the bears as they prowled around his tree.

He snuffled back a tear. He missed his forest. He missed the robin in the next tree. His stomach grumbled. He didn't dare leave his tree to try to find one of his caches.

So he did what he always did when he was hungry but it was too risky to leave. He curled up, snugged his tail over his nose and went to sleep. It wasn't cold, but he shivered. He curled tighter.

When he woke up, it was night, the sky beyond the tree had gone black. And his tree was transformed. He unwound and crept carefully out of his burrow. He stood up and stared around, his tail twitching with surprise.

His tree was as bright as the aurora. Colors blinked and twinkled, making the cave of branches and needles into a dream. A brightly colored icicle hung from a branch nearby, the scent of it drove him mad. He scuttled forward, his eyes still large with all the beauty around him.

He sniffed at the icicle, he licked it. It was warm, but it tasted wonderful. He gnawed at the chalky cane, his nose filled with brightness from the taste. He stopped and licked his lips, he needed water.

He looked down. He'd have to leave the tree to find water. Cautiously, he hopped down from branch to branch, his light weight setting the strange fruits and vines jingling.

He stopped on the lowest branch and looked down. There was no ground. No dirt. No pine needles. Okay, there were some. But not the carpet of needles and moss that should have been there. It was all flat, like rock, but not.

He sniffed, desperately. There had to be water somewhere. His mouth went dry and he puffed out his cheeks.

Ah, there! He scampered down the bole, claws and toes tight in the bark. There was a little pool right around the base of his tree. He didn't stop to think where it came from. He crouched upside down on the bark and drank greedily, filling his cheeks. He could feel the cool water sooth his parched tongue and throat.

Much better. He stared around at the huge, regular shaped boulders that had appeared under the tree. All covered with bright striations and strange tangled flat vines. He turned himself upright on the bole and let the water trickle down his throat as he stared out at the strange forest he found himself in.

It was all dark, but as far as he could see was copper and flat, the ground hard, no other trees, just crags. No plants, no fruit, no leaves to nibble on.

He felt his mouth go dry despite the water in his cheeks.

Nervous, scared. He scampered back up the tree, setting the pine needles shivering. He gnawed some more on the sweet icicle. It was delicious, but didn't fill the gap in his belly. He scouted around, racing to the top of the tree and back down.

He found some strange, puffy white flowers growing on a thin vine all around the tree. They were edible, but bland. But they filled his stomach.

He went back and crouched on the branch outside his hole. He considered his home, looking up through the branches, down past the needles. It was actually very beautiful. Glowing with color. Warm.

The strange humming and throbbing from outside the tree changed, becoming softer, slower, aspirating like a giant gentle beast breathing. It didn't scare him now. It was calming, almost protective. He settled back on his haunches, his fur sleeked down.

He looked up at the stars between the branches. They seemed much bigger now, closer. He breathed out a sigh.

A huge shape moved beyond the branches. He jumped up, fur bristling. It was one of the bears, out there in the dark! He squinted and ducked his head, peering through the branches at the huge dark shape. It was the tallest skinny one.

It was making soft cooing sounds, not rumbling and barking like it had been doing with the others before.

It shoved a huge, longfingered paw into the branches. He scampered back, away, jumped up onto the next branch, wondering where he could run. But the paw didn't swipe at him, the claws remained sheathed.

It held its longfingered paw out flat, palm up. Waiting. The paw was as big as his whole body. There was a small brown square sitting on the end of one of the fingers.

"It's fudge," the voice cooed. "Go on."

He stared suspiciously at the rumbling bear. His nose snuffled. Whatever that was, it smelled wonderful!

He scampered down carefully. He inched forward on the branch, freezing when the paw moved. Then inching forward again when it held still.

He snatched the square and backed off. He sniffled and nibbled. The smell going straight to his brain. His tail trembled and fluffed. It was delicious. He crunched down. "Ooh! And it had nuts!"

He was so caught up in his treat that he didn't see the paw move. A giant finger stroked down his head, he froze, licking chocolate off his lips.

The finger was gentle, smoothing down over his head and back. The heavy weight of it on his back massaged away the tension in his shoulderblades. The finger returned to his head and smoothed down again. He gave a shiver of pleasure.

He bumped the giant hand with his head and heard the gentle happy rumble. He nibbled on his chocolate and felt the gentle finger stroke down his head again.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad here.

The Doctor chuckled and peered through the branches, the Tardis dark with night around him, he stroked the squirrel's soft fur and tiny head.

"Happy Christmas little fellow."

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