This story will appear in Holly’s anthology In Poor Taste, due out in 2018!
It’s Groundhog Day, time to celebrate with some fiction.
Smellton had never been able to emerge from hibernation without a hassle. He knew a few ‘hogs who could open their eyes and start chattering a happy tune, but not Smellton. He had to roll himself out of bed and breathe in some of the spring air up top before he could even think about being awake.
The spring air was uncommonly chilly that morning. Smellton cracked open one eye to survey the scene.
“Holy ground-gods,” he said.
The world was blanketed with white. He knew about snow, of course, because his mother had taught him. Some ‘hogs woke earlier and knew what it looked like first-hand but Smellton was no early-riser. He’d never seen the stuff and he would have been content to continue the tradition.
Had he woken too early?
Smellton crossed the field. He scurried into Chewgrim’s burrow and called her name. He yelled loudly, in case she was still asleep. He didn’t want to be awake early by himself. When an aged groundhog finally came to the entrance, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Chewgrim all right, but she was old.
“Chewgrim! When did you get old?” Smellton said.
“Smellton? Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me, who else would it be?” Smellton said.
“Ground-gods, Smellton, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in three years. Of course I’m old. I’m five already.”
Smellton was shocked. “Are you saying I’ve been in hibernation for three years?” That was half his lifespan.
“That first year when you didn’t come for me, I figured you were dead,” Chewgrim said.
“Why didn’t you check?”
“Are you kidding? I told you I’d never set foot in your stinky burrow and I meant it. You didn’t show up, I found another mate and moved on. That’s the way the world works.”
“I can’t believe I slept for three years,” Smellton said.
“Neither can I. You slept through a lot. The Farmer changed his crops and poisoned Suetooth and Bluebottom. Oh, and the winter apocalypse came.”
“Not sure how you missed that one. There was thunder and the skies boiled and it rained blood for a few days before the snow started. It’s cold pretty much all the time now. Most of the humans are dead, even the Farmer. Serves him right for poisoning Suetooth and Bluebottom,” Chewgrim said.
“This is all a nightmare. I’ll wake up, it’ll be spring, and I’ll be happy,” Smellton said. He squeezed his eyes shut and counted to ten. When he opened them again, he expected to see the ceiling of his cozy burrow.
Alas, he was still at Chewgrim’s.
“Pretty much all we’ve got left to eat are prickly thistle things,” Chewgrim said.
Smellton never stopped screaming.