Yappy the Happy Squirrel
Warning: contains strong language and some, frankly, quite needless violence.
Thanks to Mystic Morning for the cover.
Jake woke up to be greeted by intense sunlight and apprehensively looked at the clock. It was three in the afternoon making him two hours late for his shelf-stacking job at Tesco. This was the second time he’d missed work this week and, knowing he’d long since ran out of relatives whose funerals he’d conveniently had to attend, he began drafting his letter of resignation,
As you know, I have worked for you been at your service enjoyed your employment GO FUCK YOURSELVES.’
He tore up the sheet in anger and stormed into the living room, collapsing on the sofa in his boxers.
“Oh God, have you finally been sacked?” the less than sympathetic query came from Jake’s slightly chubby, skinhead flatmate Craig- who was also sat in his boxers.
“No,” Jake growled, “I enjoy sitting around in my underwear wasting my time.”
“Well, yeah, I know but were you sacked?”
“I missed work and I’m going to resign. I’ve got a degree in marketing for fuck’s sake. I can do better than Sainsbury’s.”
“Tesco- you worked in Sainsbury’s last month.”
“Huh.” Jake turned the telly on and sat in silence. After two minutes of watching some Scouse family saying why they’d like to relocate to North Wales, Craig was the first to snap.
“Do you want to do something tonight? Forget your money problems?”
“Nah, it’s always the pub,” Craig paused to think, “How about something different? Something new and exciting?”
As Jake shrugged, clouds began to gather and the living room descended into semi-darkness. There was a brief rumble of thunder in the distance, a pause and then an intense flash of lightning which almost blinded the flatmates. Several car alarms went off and dogs began to bark wildly all over the estate. As suddenly as it occurred, the sky became sunny again.
“Jesus Christ, what the fuck was that?” exclaimed Craig.
“I…I dunno,” Jake fumbled unsuccessfully for an explanation and then brought the conversation back to something they could both understand, “TV’s died.”
Craig gave an agreeable grunt and the TV turned on. It was the local news.
“The Happy Squirrel Sanctuary Mansion,” droned the pretty but dead-eyed reporter, “has, recently, become one of the leading attractions of the area and, just yesterday, it received £20 million in lottery funding. If you want to experience this squirrel haven for yourself, tickets are only £20 each and £20 for children and pensioners.”
Craig looked expectedly at Jake who shook his head,
“I just can’t afford it.”
The TV cut to an interview with the janitor; a scared-looking, grey-haired old man whose eyes kept flicking from side to side,
“Well, I am proud of being the only member of staff at the mansion,” his voice trembled as he spoke, “it’s hard looking after two thousand…two thousand…squirrels all by myself.”
“That’s absolutely incredible,” the reporter tried for shrill enthusiasm but her heart just wasn’t in it, “so, what kinds of squirrel do you look after?”
“Well, we have nineteen hundred and eighty six grey squirrels, twelve red squirrels, two Peruvian piranha squirrels, although zoologists are still debating whether that is actually a squirrel or, in fact, a kind of fish and…” his voice trailed off.
“Now, I understand you’ve been having some problems with vandalism?”
“Yes, it’s most distressing. We have people breaking into the mansion at night and spraypainting phrases like ‘Squirrels are nasty’ and ‘Kill the evil squirrels’. It’s most distressing.”
“Are you using the lottery funding to improve security measures?”
“No. In fact it’s quite easy to break in. There’s a hole at the left hand side of the fence and then the mansion has a window at the back which won’t shut properly. You could ride a coach and horses through it. And there’s no cameras or security personnel to stop you, either.”
“Mr Sedgwick, thank you very much.”
Craig again turned to Jake,
“What do you think?”
“We break in?”
“Erm….okay.” the lightning strike had woken Jake up and he began to feel more energetic, “good thing you turned the channel.”
“You’ve got the remote.”
They turned back to the TV to be, once again, greeted by the Scouse family yelling at a Welshman.
“Strange,” pondered Craig, “you inviting that girlfriend of yours tonight?”
“Hmm… may as well,” Jake sighed before getting up and phoning Sue from the kitchen.
“Hello?” he announced
“Is that Sue?”
“Good. Right. We’ve got a plan for the evening. Are you able to meet us in the park at, say, when does it go dark? Ten? Ten. Could you meet us then?”
“Okay, we’ll wait fifteen minutes for you if you want to come. See you later babe. Oh wait, I forgot. We’re going to the Happy Squirrel Sanctuary Mansion. Bye.” As he put the phone down he swore he heard a gasp.
They got to the park at five to ten on the insistence of Jake- in case Sue was here by herself. She wasn’t, however, and the two sat on cold benches wearing heavy coats. They’d both brought torches with them as it was pitch black- plus they could imagine that they were in an Enid Blyton story, although they both kept that thought to themselves. The mansion was across a road some hundred yards away. With its gothic architecture and moonlight reflected from its Victorian windows, it appeared large and intimidating and not at all a sort of place you’d imagine finding cuddly little squirrels. In the distance, the flatmates saw a figure walking and then skipping towards them. Sue was tall and pretty with curly ginger hair and they stood up as she got to the bench- hugging Craig and kissing Jake.
“Hey Sue.” Greeted Craig. She smiled and waved at him.
“Had a good day?” asked Jake. She nodded and kissed him again.
Jake and Sue had been going out for almost three months and she was the latest in a succession of cheerful, child-like girlfriends with, what Jake considered to be fairly deep-rooted emotional problems. His last ex, Fanula, for example, would run a mile to cuddle a random dog and gave names to about fifty birds who flew regularly into her back garden. On the other hand, however, she referred to every member of her family as a ‘cunt’ and was deathly afraid of caravans and rabbits. Sue, for her part, was observing Quiet Thursday. This was part of the religion she’d started four years ago, when she was twenty. She was its only follower but, nevertheless, remained faithful to the God Abulu Shu who, she insisted, manifests itself as a giant watermelon. For four years she’d also kept Quiet Thursdays sacred by not speaking, writing or making any sort of vocal noise whatsoever. The religion didn’t have a name as such but, to her annoyance, her friends had decided on ‘Suzianity’. The religious symbol favoured by ‘Suzians’ was a swastika which Sue always wore as a necklace. This had caused all sorts of problems in the past which aren’t worth getting into. She also wore a large rucksack more suited to cross-continental travel.
“What’s in the bag, Sue?” asked Jake. She put her finger to her lips and immediately walked towards the mansion, motioning for the two to follow her.
They walked across the grass and Jake put his hand in Sue’s, who gave a half-smile in return. They walked the distance in silence and it became apparent to Jake that behind Sue’s cheerful façade, there was a degree of nervousness. When they’d crossed the road and got to the mansion’s fence, Jake turned to his girlfriend,
“According to the news report, there’s a gap to…” he stopped talking as he felt a tug on his arm. Sue walked twelve yards to the left and quickly stooped down and crawled through a difficult to spot opening. The boys followed.
Beyond the fence was a kind of artificial moat; designed to give the mansion a ‘merrie olde England’ feel. Its ink black surface and hushed, interspersed waves, however, gave it an air of hostility. There was a narrow, rickety bridge over the moat which Sue and Jake cautiously crossed. Craig shone a torch on a sandwich board at the entrance of the bridge which had caught his attention. It read,
‘Hear Ye, Hear Ye. Ye Olde Rickety Bridge has hereto been granted ye honour of having met sections three through six of ye European Union bridge safety at amusement parks regulations nineteen eighty seven AD.
ENTER AT THOU’ST OWN RISK…’
Craig ran across to find his friends staring up at the mansion. It was huge and eerie with severe-looking stone gargoyles perched on the roof. None of the lights were on, although when the group looked up at the windows, they all imagined, quietly, that they’d seen a pair of bright yellow eyes and heard a small squeaky noise,
A sign hung above the door,
‘Welcome to the Happy Squirrel Sanctuary Mansion!!!’ It was displayed in yellow neon and it became apparent that the owners (whoever they were), had clearly abandoned the olde England theme. On the door itself, was another sign, this one written on a sheet of paper in barely legible writing,
‘This skwirrel place is closed indefintly du to lak of funding.’ As Jake and Craig pondered, Sue walked around the mansion with the boys following once they noticed she was gone.
The back of the mansion consisted of a small garden with another sign. This one simply read,
‘Squirrel garden’ and three or four wooden posts stood forlornly. Two were linked at the top by a piece of string and one had an empty bird feeder on it. The garden smelt like a pet shop and the grass was covered in nuts and animal droppings. Without pausing to view any of this, Sue climbed in through the window at the top of the basement. Again, with the boys following.
Jake and Craig found themselves plunged into darkness. A darkness that was made even less comfortable when Sue turned on the light and revealed a small, dingy room covered in red graffiti. The room was alive with proclamations such as ‘I don’t like squirrels’ and ‘squirrels smell’. An ominous message in the corner read ‘MR YAPPY MUST DIE’. Below this was a swastika. Jake looked at his girlfriend with an expression of resignation. Sue shrugged while avoiding eye-contact.
“Oh, what the fuck?” Craig chipped in.
“Sue, you- What? Why?” Jake’s incoherent attempt at a sentence came to an end when Sue took off her rucksack and got out a crossbow and a butcher’s knife while smiling pleasantly at the two boys, whose expressions froze as they stared back with dread.
“Oh, God.” Jake managed.
“Sue?” began Craig, in the calm manner of one approaching a small mammal, “Why. Are. You. Holding. A longbow?”
Sue shook her head.
“Huh?” asked Craig
“’S a crossbow.” supplied Jake.
Craig thought for a second before he could rally himself,
“No, really, why have you got a fucking lon- whatever the fuck it is?”
Sue calmly pointed to the ‘MR YAPPY MUST DIE’ sign and nodded with an over the top seriousness which would have made the boys laugh in less crossbow-related circumstances. She motioned for the boys to follow her and pointed at the door. Jake obediently started walking. Craig had other ideas,
“No! Please, just…Jake,” Craig tried to calm down when he realised he’d started squealing, “get your fucking psycho girlfriend and let’s go.”
This approach wasn’t working.
“Look,” he tried again, “let’s go home, put the heating up, watch a film, whatever you want. How about it?”
“Okay, I’ll buy the drinks. You can choose the film. You can have the flat to yourself, I’ll sleep at my friend’s. You can shag in the living room if you want.” Craig was squealing again.
“Craig, calm down,” began Jake, “we’re not going to go home. We’re not going to watch a film. We’re not going to shag in the living room or anywhere else. Okay?”
That, at least, was true. Jake had only slept with Sue once on a Quiet Thursday and it had proven to be a rather emasculating experience.
“Fine.” replied Craig before making a sudden lunge for Sue’s crossbow. Jake managed to get in the way but not before Craig could confiscate the knife. Sue stuck her tongue out at him.
“Are we going then?” asked Jake, uncertainly.
They opened the door to come face-to-face with a steep flight of stairs. To their right was a brick wall and to the left, a door marked ‘janitor’, which Sue immediately opened and then jumped back in terror, accidentally firing off an arrow. Jake and Craig went into the room which contained buckets, mops, various squirrel-tending paraphernalia (use your imagination) and a grey-haired corpse. All three were now in the room, looking at the body.
”The guy off the news report.” gasped Craig.
The guy off the news report wasn’t in a good state- he was facing the floor with deep tears and gouges all over his body. A foot away from his face, an eyeball lay in a pool of blood and, just to top it all off, he had an arrow sticking out of his back. Sue quickly took charge; turning the boys around and pointing them up the stairs. She joined up with them on the ground floor, but not before retrieving her arrow and wiping the guts off with an old sponge.
At the top of the stairs was a gift shop. Once Sue had flicked the light-switch on (the boys never did this- secretly hoping for an excuse to use their torches) they found themselves surrounded in a forest of squirrel merchandise. Posters on the wall showed squirrels in their natural habitat, in a colourful pop art style, replacing the Mona Lisa in a portrait and in a still from the old Carling Black Label ads. T-shirt stands proclaimed ‘I (heart) Squirrels’, ‘HSSM AOK!’ and ‘Why do Squirrels Swim on Their Backs? To Keep Their Nuts Dry!’. In the corner was a wooden table with a till and tea-making equipment which Craig investigated. Jake read the visitor comments book by the door,
‘Jennifer Howells aged 9 The squirrel park is most educashunel and we learnd a lot.
Dave the cool dude aged 8 This place sux
Harry Saunders aged 9 I didnt see any squirels…’
Jake put the book down and turned round, hearing a loud scraping noise.
“Craig, stop that.” Craig was trying to open the till with the knife.
“Sorry just, erm…Who wants a cup of tea?”
“Go on then.”
Sue raised her arm.
“The janitor,” Jake began in disbelief, “Who could have done such a thing?”
Sue tugged Jake’s arm and started to mime. She put her lower lip under her top teeth and nibbled on it. She put the crossbow down and raised her hands, palms down, to a few inches from her face, all the while, hopping on the spot. Now, Sue couldn’t speak but it didn’t matter. Jake knew when she was being serious and what she meant. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end,
“Mr Yappy did it.”
“Craig,” Jake beckoned, feeling numb in his own body, “what do we do? I don’t understand it.”
“Sorry, what’s going on. I missed that.”
“Sue thinks Yappy killed the janitor.”
“Jake,” said Craig in a slow, comforting voice, “Sue can’t speak. She can’t speak because she’s a crackpot. She thinks squirrels are killing people because she’s a crackpot. She’s carrying a crossbow round because…”
“Okay, okay. I notice you’ve still got the knife, though.”
Craig found three cups on the floor. They weren’t clean but he wasn’t bothered. He poured the tea with milk for Jake and milk with three sugars for himself.
“Sue?” he asked without looking up, “I realise that this will take a long time and we might have to create our own form of sign language but would you tell me how you take your tea?”
“She’s gone!” exclaimed Jake.
Jake ran out into a corridor, shouting for Sue. He ran to one end and looked down to another corridor. She had truly disappeared. Jake was hoarse from shouting and almost hyperventilated as he sprinted to the other side of the corridor, still with no luck. Craig appeared behind him, sipping tea from a mug reading ‘Squirrel watchers do it from the crack of dawn’.
“Come on.” Jake grabbed Craig’s arm, who dropped his tea, smashing the mug on the floor. They turned into the new corridor which was lined with doors, sprinted down and then turned into a large hall.
“SUE?” Jake’s voice echoed around the room.
The flatmates, having finally been granted their opportunity, flicked their torches on. The room was vast with a grand staircase leading up to the first floor. They walked along a thick, beige carpet towards the stairs.
“Look.” Jake whispered. His torchlight illuminated a patch on the high ceiling. A huge, red mound of fur clung from a chandelier and rearranged itself so that two piercing yellow circles gazed at the boys. It quickly jumped off the chandelier, revealing it’s sleek, graceful body and bushy tail and touched down on the first floor, landing with a thud. It ran into darkness, leaving behind a squeak which echoed around the hall,
“Oh my God,” began Jake, “What was that?”
“I didn’t know squirrels went ‘neep'” Craig contributed.
As the boys gawped in incomprehension, they heard a distant sound; a click and then a whoosh. Then the sound of broken glass, and a dull thud. As soon as a hidden grandfather clock started to chime midnight, they boys heard a loud, ear-piercing scream, and then silence. Silence, save for an increasingly distant “Neep.”.
Jake and Craig climbed the elaborately carpeted stairs. Jake’s mad panic replaced with a sense of trepidation. They walked along the landing carefully, so as to not make any loud noises. They entered a thick, random door, and gasped.
The first thing they noticed was the noise. A million piercing squeaks seemed to drown them from all directions. Once their other senses were allowed a say, they realised they were walking down another corridor. Though this one had wire mesh to either side of the walkway. Beyond the mesh, hundreds of squirrels regarded them with a cacophony of squeaks and hisses. Dozens of squirrels made a vain attempt to lunge at them but the mesh held. The abominable smell made Jake and Craig wish the other senses hadn’t been allowed a say. They could have turned back now if they wanted but they knew it was too late to quit and they both, wordlessly, walked the gauntlet of squirrelly rage. Thirty yards in, they came to an opening; a square space, in the middle of which, stood a large metal box that went up to the ceiling. From behind the box stepped ten stone of red fur coated doom.
“Greetings,” said the squirrel in a low, suave voice, “I imagine you’re from the SAS or MI5 and you’re here to stop me. Am I right?”
“Sorry?” asked Jake.
“Yes, you’re exactly right.” declared Craig, who shrugged when Jake looked at him.
“Well, I think you’ll find you’ve lost. The believer was the only one who stood in my way and now she’s dead.” Yappy said this almost apologetically. An effect only ruined by the blood dripping from his mouth.
“You killed Sue?!” yelled Jake.
“Hardly relevant anymore,” the squirrel continued, “when my armies take over the world and enslave every other creature on the planet, the grey squirrels will reign supreme!”
“But you’re red.” noted Craig
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are. Besides, the world’s a very big place. You don’t exactly have much of an army and anyway, what are they going to do, nibble us to death.”
“Observe.” Yappy pointed to some writing on the metal box. It read ‘Cloning Machine’. Jake also noticed a price tag hanging from the box with ‘£20m’ written on.
“But,” Jake was panicking, “why did you kill the janitor.”
“Ah, Alan Sedgwick, a good man but…talkative. Anyway, the time for talking is over. You’ve come far but you will go…no further” decided Yappy who revealed himself to be carrying a remote control. He pushed a button and disappeared.
Jake and Craig heard a metallic click sound and turned to see a nearby section of wire mesh open up. Hundreds of squirrels, some armed with flick knives, dashed towards the pair.
“Run!” shouted Jake and they ran back towards the door with malevolent, salivating grey squirrels in pursuit. Their plans were hindered when, to the side of the door (which seemed very far away now their lives depended on reaching it) was a bright red slide panel with the words, ‘DANGER! HEAVY WEAPONS DEPT’ screaming from it. As the two got halfway to the door, it opened to reveal five squirrels propping up an assault rifle with a complicated firing device attached to the trigger. A sixth squirrel, carrying a stick, squeaked out orders. Jake and Craig, against all common sense, ran towards the gun. The gun-wielding squirrels started to panic at the sight of the humans, and with good reason. Before they could fire, they found themselves squashed or kicked by Craig and Jake, who picked up the rifle. A squirrel, armed with a small novelty meat cleaver, jumped up at Jake’s neck, but he didn’t last long. Jake put the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and opened fire. The sound made by the gun was deafening and the rifle’s kickback sent a sharp pain through Jake’s body. Within seconds, blood rained down on the floor and dozens of squirrels lay dead; a hundred sad squeaks their last contribution to the world. Feeling surplus to requirements, Craig found himself trying to look menacing with the knife- bouncing around and doing what he hoped were Bruce Lee style moves. This failed and the overall impression was of a well armed morris dancer. After twenty seconds of squirrel massacring, the rifle ran out of ammunition. Fortunately, the squirrels’ attack had died down, many of the sensible ones deciding to lock themselves back in their cages. This gave the boys enough time to consider the situation and calmly leave the room. As they opened the door (and kicked off a few squirrels who were ferociously nibbling at their socks), Yappy reappeared- a picture of snarling, vengeful rage after he’d viewed the bullet-riddled cloning machine malfunctioning and catching fire. Yappy gave chase.
Again, the flatmates found themselves running for their lives but a simultaneous thought came over them both, as if from nowhere. They knew what they had to do. They both ran across a corridor they’d never seen before in their lives and stopped at the same door, opened it and went inside, turning the key in the lock. They took in their surroundings as they caught back their breath. Jake almost screamed at the sight of more squirrels but the thirty or so squirrels there; eighteen grey, twelve red, looked welcoming enough. The room, itself, was small and windowless and, in the corner were water bottles, bags of nuts and a small watermelon.
“Greetings. You are safe…er,” A cracked, slight voice informed them, “You must still defeat Yappy, however.”
“Who exactly are we talking to?” asked Jake, in a mildy scared but respectful tone.
They looked at the melon in the corner, as did all the squirrels. It was small and looked rotten. It had a small swastika carved on it,
“I would fight Yappy myself but, my powers are weak. I had but one believer for four years. Now she is dead, soon I will be too.”
“What powers?” Craig couldn’t stop himself from asking.
“Mild telepathy. I can also change peoples’ TV channels. I’ve had hours of fun with that one.”
“So you did the lightning thing?” Jake seemed satisfied at a mystery solved.
“No, that was coincidence.”
“Don’t these squirrels believe in you?” asked Jake
“Yes but their belief is, sadly useless.”
“They’re only squirrels. They’d don’t really philosophise.”
“Why are they here?” asked Craig
“They came to me for protection. The red squirrels weren’t part of Yappy’s superior squirrel race and the grey ones questioned his motives. When Yappy’s newspaper referred to them as ‘wishy-washy liberal do-gooders’ in an editorial, they knew their time was running out.”
“Yappy IS a red squirrel. Why does he prefer grey squirrels?” queried Craig.
“Dunno. Probably the same reason Hitler wanted a race of blond musclemen. Deep inferiority complex if you ask me.”
Abulu Shu’s voice seemed to be even weaker than when he’d introduced himself and, before Craig or Jake could think of any further questions, the door burst open revealing a vexed, snarling Yappy flanked by four squirrels with butterfly knives. Craig and Jake looked at Abulu,
“Lock doesn’t work.” he informed them.
“Abulu Shu,” Yappy started, savouring every syllable, “my plans may have been temporarily thwarted but at least I shall have the pleasure of killing the lot of you.”
As Yappy grinned and walked to the centre of the room, Jake kneeled before Abulu Shu,
“I believe in you, Abulu Shu. I believe in you!”
Very slowly, the watermelon grew to the same height as Yappy and squared up to the giant squirrel, who bit into him and pushed him backwards, the red squirrels leaping out of the way as he ricocheted off the wall. It was Craig’s turn to prostrate himself at Abulu Shu,
“I believe in you, Abulu, I always believed in you!”
As Abulu Shu bounced off the wall, he grew in size and gained pace, squashing Yappy into a pancake. One covered in blood rather than maple syrup. The four knife-wielding squirrels fled at the demise of their master.
“This is over,” announced Abulu in a louder, more confident voice, “I will take care of the squirrels. You may now leave, and remember, always wear the symbol and keep Thursdays sacred. Never give up hope my children…”
Jake and Craig had gone out of the front mansion door before they spoke,
“Are you going to do the melon thing? Honour your girlfriend et cetera?” Craig asked.
“No. Are you?”
“Am I, bollocks.”
As they crossed the rickety bridge above the moat, they heard high-pitched growls. They turned to see two strange-looking grey-green squirrels with large fangs. The squirrels pursued them across the bridge. Jake got to the end first and kept running. Once Craig reached the end he used the knife to cut through the bridge’s ropes and, after a few seconds, the bridge and its squirrels fell in to the ink black water. Craig sat by the edge, panting heavily.
“Come on.” said Jake but there was never a reply. The squirrels jumped out of the water onto Craig’s face and dragged him back in with them. Within seconds, a film of blood was dispersing across the surface.
Jake had enough. He wanted to leave this awful and hideous place as fast as his legs could carry him but he was tired so he rung for a taxi while wondering how he would explain all this to the RSPCA.