A New Dimension: Chapter Sixteen

        “Shhh!  They’ll hear us…”  Deloris Squirrel was hiding in the bushes not far from where the two archeologists were looking at the opening into the ancient site they had emerged from just a few minutes before.
        “So what?” said Mr. Rabbit.  “We have valuable information that they could use to potentially help us.”
        “So,” said Deloris Squirrel, “do they look like the kind of people who are overtly helpful?”
        “They kind of do,” said the Gray Squirrel before grunting loudly as he received an elbow to the belly from his mate.
        “Whatever happens,” said Nebraska Rooster, “whatever we do now, we’ll need help.  And I for one think it’s amazing that people who might be helpful have shown up at the exact time we need help.  I’m going for it.”
        “No!” whisper-shouted Deloris Squirrel, but it was too late.  Nebraska hopped out into the clearing.  She turned to the Gray Squirrel and said, “does it bug you when he and Crimson just make choices for all of us sometimes?”  
        The Gray Squirrel nodded and shrugged.  “I understand your point, but I also trust my friends.  And,” he added with a small cough, “I kind of agree with him this time,” which earned him another elbow to the gut.
        At that moment, Maurice and Dr. McCleese were just turning around to head back to camp to find their colleagues.  When they saw a chicken emerge from the bushes they stopped.
        “See!  Dr. McCleese, it’s a chicken!  I told you there were some around here.”  He paused and looked at Nebraska for a moment.  “And that’s not just a chicken it’s a rooster.”
        “Maurice, we don’t have time for chicken gazing.”  Dr. McCleese made a move to walk past Nebraska.  But Nebraska walked purposefully in front of him.  “Well, Maurice, you have yourself a very aggressive rooster here,” the professor said, unhelpfully.
        “I’m not aggressive, I just really need your help,” said Nebraska Rooster.  “My name is Neb -” he was interrupted by the thudding sound of Dr. McCleese crumpling to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  
        “Holy hand grenades!  Y-you talk!”  Maurice was frozen in place as he looked first at Nebraska, then at the unconscious Dr. McCleese, then back at Nebraska, unsure what to do.
        “Hey, kid, help me out with this fellow.”  Nebraska had run over to Dr. McCleese and was checking his vital signs.  “Pupils seem normal, pulse normal.  I don’t think he hit his head.  I think he’ll be alright.”
        “Are – are you performing first aid?”  Maurice seemed stuck in a loop.  “There’s a chicken performing first aid on the professor,” he said to himself incredulously.
        “Yes!  And I could use a hand.”  Nebraska was losing patience.  He fanned the professor with one wing while supporting his head with his other.
        Nebraska’s sharp authoritative tone snapped Maurice out of his stupor, and he came over by the professor’s side.  
        “Here,” Nebraska Rooster said, “hold his head like this and straighten his body out.  He’ll come around in just a minute.”
        Maurice did what he was told and sure enough, a few seconds later, the professor began to stir.
        “Dr. McCleese, are you okay?”  Maurice helped him into a sitting position.  “Easy does it Dr. McCleese, you took quite a fall there.”
        “Maurice,” Dr. McCleese said unsteadily, “I thought for a minute there we had encountered a talking chicken.  But that must have been some kind of illusion related to my fall.”
        “I’m a rooster, to be precise,” Nebraska said.
        Dr. McCleese scurried hastily back a few feet, which was awkward considering he’d just been unconscious a few minutes before.  
        “This here rooster made sure you were alright, Dr. McCleese, he seems like a conscientious fellow,” Maurice said.
        “By God, you are a talking chicken,” Dr. McCleese exclaimed.
        “Rooster.”  Nebraska corrected.
        “Right.  Rooster.  Maurice!  This has been a most extraordinary day!  First the ancient site, open to the air, and now this!  We. . . we must get the others and document this incredible find!”  Dr. McCleese began scrambling to get his camera gear out and functioning.
        Meanwhile, the Gray Squirrel had come up behind the professor.  He reached out and put a paw on the man’s arm, in a quieting gesture.  “Please, sir, we don’t need to be documented, we need your help.”
        “Aaahh!”  The doctor jumped back six inches from a sitting position.  The camera he was fumbling with sprang out of his hands and landed near where Deloris Squirrel had come up beside the Gray Squirrel.  
        “Yup, we definitely don’t need this around right now.”  She picked up the camera and took it off into the bushes.  
        Mr. Rabbit hopped up, and sat near where the professor had backed away to.  “Yes, I’d say that given the reaction of these individuals, folk of our ilk are rare in this version of reality.”
        “Whooa,” Dr. McCleese backed away yet again, only now his back was to a tree.  The group moved in closer to form a semicircle around him and the tree.
        “Wait!” exclaimed Maurice, “I’ve got it.  It’s those tracks isn’t it – they’re yours!  You all came out of that opening!”  He smiled having put the logic all together.  “Where – uh, where did you come from?”
        “Nebraska walked over to Maurice.  “That, friend, is the million dollar question.”  
        “Which we will be happy to answer, but your friend here,” Deloris Squirrel walked up to the professor, “needs to stop freaking out, pull himself together, and get with the program.”
        “Oh, I think he’ll come around,” said Maurice.  “But before you go into any details, I’d like to get the rest of the crew.  Hang on.”  He ran off out of the clearing.
        “Maurice!  Don’t leave me with these – these – these creatures!”  Dr. McCleese had pulled his knees up to his chest protectively and was eyeing the group around him with terror.
        “Hey, buddy,” said Deloris Squirrel as she walked up to him, “you don’t need to be rude, you know.  I’ve got pretty thick fur, but if you keep on being disagreeable, you’re going to meet my bad side.”        
        “And you don’t want to meet her bad side,” chimed in the Gray Squirrel, “trust me on that.”
        A few moments of tense silence later, Maurice and the rest of the crew came running up.
        “What’s all this craziness about talking animals?”  Alise said, pulling up short as she saw the professor huddled under a tree surrounded by a group of very different animals.
        “Here –  here they are,” Maurice said, puffing to catch his breath.
        “And they talk?”  Denise had profound skepticism in her voice.
        “Yup,”  Maurice said.
        “Greetings,” Nebraska turned to face the two newcomers.  “My name is Nebraska Rooster.  These are my colleagues, “The Gray Squirrel, Deloris Squirrel, and Mr. Rabbit.”  Each gave a little wave as their name was called out.  “We need your help.”
        “Well, I’ll be!” exclaimed Alise, “these are for real talking animals!”
        “This is crazy,” Denise said.
        “Crazy, but true.  One of them helped the professor after he passed out.”  Maurice said.
        The two women stifled a giggle.  Dr. McCleese brought himself to a standing position.  Maurice squatted down to be more on Nebraska’s level.  “And you say you need our help,” he said.        
        “That’s right,” Nebraska Rooster said.  “Our friend is missing, we’re new to an unfamiliar dimension, and -”
        “- and I’m hungry,” Mr. Rabbit said with authority and finality.  “Do you perhaps have a snack we could partake of while we regale you with our tale of woe?”

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