Author : Robert Lafosse

She was on her way to the Kyiv National University of Construction. It was a glorious May morning, the sun beating down from a crystal blue sky. A light breeze ruffled her skirt a bit as she walked.

Olga hummed along to a tune on her iPod. Something by U2.

In the field off the path she noticed a group of squirrels milling about under a hornbeam tree. It was a fairly large pack, about 10 or 12, and they were hopping around and chasing each other.

They were red squirrels, of the genus Sciurus. Cute because of their tufted ears.

As Olga came closer, they stopped as a group and turned towards her. People didn’t bother them. They didn’t flee or poise themselves for flight. They just watched her.

She noticed that one of the squirrels was larger than the rest. Not much, maybe a few centimeters, but enough to make it stand out. As she watched, the larger squirrel started coming towards her, in that half hopping, half running way that squirrels have. This is odd, Olga thought, and slowed down to watch. The squirrel was coming directly towards her, seemingly immune to fear.

When it was about 5 meters away, it stopped and sat on its haunches. When it was closer Olga noticed that its eyes were abnormally large for a squirrel. They looked like lemurs eyes, big, round like marbles. And they were staring at her.

This made her feel uncomfortable. The pack of squirrels that the big one had abandoned had edged closer to the path as Olga was watching the larger one.

Turning on her heel, she started walking again towards the University. Only after a few dozen steps did she glance over her shoulder and notice that the larger squirrel was following her down the path. When she stopped to look at it, the squirrel stopped as well.

She started walking again, this time faster. A few quick peeks confirmed that the large red squirrel was following, and the pack of ‘normal’ squirrels were a few meters behind it.

Something akin to panic set in. The path was deserted, the park was dead quiet and she was being tailed by a scurry of squirrels.

Awash in fear, she bounded up the tree. The branches and leaves scratching at her face as she scampered up as fast as she could. The notion that squirrels were designed for climbing trees seemed to have escaped her.

The dray of squirrels rummaged about at the bottom of the tree. The big one was climbing.

It slowly pulled itself up, all the while staring at Olga as she was perched dangerously on the uppermost branch she could reach. But her path was not blocked. She could not go any higher, she could not descend without passing the big squirrel.

Unlike the scampering that squirrels usually do when climbing, its movements were slow and deliberate. All the while its large eyes fixed on Olga.

About 1 meter from Olga, it sat down. Her breath came in great gasps and she could hear her heart thundering in her chest.

After a few minutes, with the squirrel sitting still, Olga started to calm down.

“Have you calmed down young lady”, the voice was high pitched and had a slight Moscow accent. “My friends and I”, and it gestured down to the group at the bottom of the tree, “could not help but notice you have some peanut butter sandwiches. Would it be an imposition for you to share them with us?”

She could have sworn it smiled.