The crunch of leaves under tiny paws was the only sound over creaking branches and the cold wind. A hawk wheeled overhead as Ollivander and Benjamin walked slowly along the trail, the hawk let out its shrill cry and dove which would normally have been a cause for alarm, instead the creatures watched the bird of prey drop like a stone towards them, wings tucked to its sides, streamlined and lethal.
Mere feet from the ground the hawk’s wings came out and talons opened, landing right for them, the gust of wind created sending leaves flying toward the otter and beaver.
“Horatio” the beaver shook his fur “bloody show off” he muttered with a grin and Ollivander tried his best to stifle a giggle.
“Lovely day for a stroll, or a quick loop through the clouds” Horatio replied with a smile and shook his wings as he tucked them to his sides “Say, Benjamin would you mind coming over later? I have a rather tricky part of the nest I need redone and would appreciate your advice on the subject.”
“Sure” Benjamin said with a smile “I’ll come over tomorrow?”
“Lovely, Helen found a gorgeous piece of mahogany the other day, if you and Beverly would join us after your consultation?”
Benjamin’s smile broadened “Sounds great, see you then.”
Horatio returned to the skies while Benjamin and Ollivander continued along the path, crashing through piles of fallen leaves, sending the colorful foliage flying into the air, leaving them scattered in their trail. The crisp day was so clear that they ended up walking much farther than they ever had before, looking out on fields they had never visited and mountains that had once been too distant to view.
They found a small path that broke off from the main trail, through brambles and undergrowth, down off the high trail and out of sight. Benjamin hesitated for a moment before casting another look about and then following Ollivander down the path. It was short, heading nearly straight down and then back up another adjoining hill through thick underbrush that had blocked their view to the hill. Coming out of the ferns and bushes they came to an open area, well groomed with a high iron fence around an old brick building.
Ollivander jumped excitedly at the discovery, a new and unexpected find. At this point Benjamin hesitated again and Ollivander urged for him to follow and look at the building with him, quoting something about architecture and the history of the area. Benjamin followed grudgingly, Ollivander had already slipped underneath the fence and was halfway across the lawn when Benjamin followed, a bit more cautious than his friend.
Three sharp raps on a bell caused both of them to freeze, Ollivander ran to the stone wall, only a dozen meters from him, Benjamin ducked back behind the iron fence, crouched low. The double doors at the side of the building flew open and a mob of men and women wearing identical gray sweat suits came spilling out of the building and onto the lawns herded by large men in white button down shirts and slacks watching them from the perimeter.
The men and women in gray stumbled, shuffled or simply stood in the crisp day, the sun was coming through the clouds and some squinted directly at the sunlight as if transfixed, other lay down in the grass, Benjamin watched a man and woman go through an awkward altercation, shoving and grabbing for something, men in white intervened and separated them, leaving a tattered dandelion on the ground surrounded by torn earth and matted grass.
Benjamin watched Ollivander hiding at the corner of the building a woman teetered back and forth, growing closer to him and stooped down quickly, she tucked him underneath her sweatshirt and held her hands over her clothing, trapping him. The woman went back into the building and Benjamin lost sight of the woman who had taken his friend, he turned and ran back into the forest.
Ollivander struggled against the woman’s tight grip but the sweatshirt kept him from calling out or even taking a full breath, he felt they were moving quickly and heard a door shut and the sweatshirt came away from his snout, he gasped for air and tried to run but she held him up, a fistful of loose skin at the back of his neck, he wriggled trying to get free, looking desperate for an escape. There was a bed, desk and a chair, it was the woman’s personal room and he could not see an easy means of escape. There were bars over the windows too tight to slip through. The door looked sturdy, it was metal and flush with the floor but there was a slim rectangle just below a small window, he looked it over as the woman stared at him with wide unblinking eyes.
She stayed and petted him with heavy, clumsy hands, murmuring numbers to herself, over and over until the sun began to set. This very evening Benjamin our flat tailed friend came breathless to the camper where Anne and I were devouring salami and cheese with evening drinks, minutes later we had fetched flashlights and our coats and with Benjamin under Anne’s arm we set off down the trail and to the iron fence, taking Benjamin inside was decidedly against his wishes and carrying riverine mammals into psychiatric institutions is something you just don’t do, we all learned that in the third grade after all.
I pocketed my flashlight and left Anne to stay with the still distraught Benjamin who requested to stay under her arm and for her flashlight to stay on. I walked the gravel path to the door and knocked, an elderly nurse answered and after informing her that I was there to collect a kidnapped otter looked me over, beckoned me inside and then left to find a doctor, no doubt to have me admitted to the institution. I wasted no time and went to the East wing, I was confronted with another long hallway.
“Ollie!” I yelled “Ollie! Are you in here?” a few scrapes and some muffled words from the occupants I had disturbed were the only evidence that anyone had heard me, I yelled again and I saw a brown head push through one of the rectangular openings used for delivering the patient’s meals.
“Ded! Ded in here!” I ran to the door, heard a loud squeak and he was pulled back inside. The nurse and doctor ran to me, looking concerned, followed by a half dozen orderlies, the wing was growing louder with my disturbance. I demanded the door be opened, there were protests and after some loud words the nurse unlocked the door and I burst in. Ollivander was in the corner under the bolted down bed, running back and forth along the wall as she grabbed for him, taunting her and sticking his tiny pink tongue out as she grasped for him. Orderlies were in soon after me and pulled her away, once he saw her pulled away he scrambled up the leg of my jeans and under my coat, sitting in my jacket hood with his front paws on my shoulder, head next to my ear, watching the woman hauled back to her bed by the orderlies as the nurse and doctor rushed bedside.
I didn’t wait for them to be done or ask any questions, I left immediately. Anne and I walked back to the camper hand in hand and once depositing Ollivander with his mom in the camper I walked Benjamin back to his dam and returned to the camper where Ollivander was sound asleep, surrounded by blankets and cushions. We let him sleep and the next morning we talked about what happened and he was in high spirits, he told us of the strange numbers she would say, the strange phrases and words in a book she showed him and her odd behavior, he just called her ‘the lonely lady’. No physical harm came to the young otter and while he doesn’t fully understand what the woman is afflicted by I think his explanation displays that he has in fact learned something from this stressful experience. In short, and spellchecked thoroughly.
“Sometimes the strange, unexplainable can happen, but sadly, sometimes it is in our own heads.”
Written by Mason Abdalla