Chapter 6: In the Reeds
"Are you kidding me?"
Thunder roared and rain gushed from the clouds as a small red balloon floated in the sky. Two frogs were hanging on the string of the balloon, while the smaller of the two hanging on the bottom spoke, irritation laced in her voice.
"You mean to tell me that this all happened because you were messing with the small emporium owner?"
From the top of the string, Nicholas shrugged. "To be fair, she was messing with me...and Duke. But how should I have known she'd turn out to be a maniac pred-hater?"
Judy groaned and smacked her forehead. "Serves me right for wishing on stars! The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work."
Nicholas tilted his head and laughed nervously. "Hard work? Why would a princess need to work hard?"
"Huh?" Judy looked up at Nicholas. "Oh, I'm not a princess, I'm a waitress."
Nicholas' mouth dropped open. "A waitress? Well, no wonder the kiss didn't work! You lied to me!"
"Hold on, I never said I was a princess!"
"You never said that you were a...a waitress! You-you were wearing a crown!"
Judy scowled and narrowed her eyes at him. She did not appreciate the thinly veiled disgust in his voice as he said waitress. The anger and annoyance in her voice were made evident as she defensively replied, "It was a costume party, you spoiled little rich boy!"
Nicholas laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah? Well, the egg is on your face, alright? Because I don't have any riches! I am completely broke! Haha...ha. Uh oh."
The calmly floating balloon was suddenly swept up in a gust of wind and flung to the trees. The balloon caught on a branch and popped, exploding into tiny pieces as Nicholas and Judy fell, screaming. Judy landed first and was caught miraculously by a spiderweb. She sighed in relief, for the first time thankful that she was currently in the form of a tiny frog.
The sense of relief dissipated quickly, as she heard Nicholas' screams coming closer. Unable to move, she braced herself for the approaching impact.
Nicholas flailed his arms wildly in panic as he fell. As soon as he caught sight of Judy tensely awaiting the impact on the spiderweb, he too braced himself for the collision, which came quickly. Nicholas shot down rapidly like a bullet, knocking Judy off the spiderweb and sending both plunging into the cold, slimy waters of the wild bayou.
Nicholas jumped out of the water with a splash as he spewed out water, slightly relieved that the waters were not as deep as he had feared. It was, however, extremely cold and slimy. Not at all like the sparkling clean pools he was used to swimming in his palace. Nicholas squirmed in disgust as he felt something soft and squishy under his feet. He started to move but stopped abruptly as he felt it starting to move. The soft and squishy sensation underneath his feet lifted him in the air and sent him plopping back in the water.
After rushing back out of the water, he found Judy coughing and sputtering as she looked around wildly at her surroundings.
He looked at her in confusion. "How did you get...here...oh." He quickly put two and two together and realized that the soft and squishy creature he had been stepping on was Judy, and judging by the way her eyes were blazing at him, she knew it too.
Nicholas grinned sheepishly. "Heh...sorry."
Judy glared at him. "You said you were fabulously wealthy!"
Nicholas' eyes widened as he nodded slowly in realization. "Ahh...no, no. What I said was, my parents are fabulously wealthy, but they cut me off for being a—LEECH! There's a leech on me!"
Judy rolled her eyes and pulled the leech off Nicholas' arm. She smirked as she flung the leech into the water and started walking toward a small hill. "Leech, huh?"
Nicholas huffed and glared at her from behind as he followed her steps.
Judy's sly expression turned into one of annoyance as she continued. "You're broke, and you had the gall to call me a liar?"
Nicholas shook his head. "It wasn't a lie. I fully—AH!" He slipped on the hill of mud they were standing on and created a small mudslide. Judy tried to grab his arms to pull him up to safety, but it was all for naught, as she too tumbled down with him.
They fell roughly on solid ground and stood up slowly, both panting from exhaustion.
Nicholas gasped for air as he continued his previously interrupted sentence. "I...fully intend...to become rich again. Once...I marry...Miss Fru-Fru Big. If she will have me."
Judy breathed in and out heavily as she spoke. "You're... a prince?"
She snorted. "She'll have you."
Judy looked around at her surroundings. She looked up at the trees towering over them, and fully realized how small they were. She was no stranger to being one of the smallest mammals in any room, but this was a new experience for her. An experience that she was not particularly enjoying at the moment.
She started to speak. "Once you two are married, you will keep your promise and get me my restaurant, right?"
Nicholas scoffed. "Not so fast, I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky waitress."
Judy scowled. "I am not cranky. And I kissed you! You know how hard that was?"
After dragging me into this craziness, he now refuses to give me the restaurant? The nerve of him!
Just the same, a small, very minuscule part of her was slightly excited that he found her beautiful. She had never been called beautiful by anyone other than her family or Fru. She quickly shook her head to clear her mind and rid herself of these thoughts, annoyed and slightly disgusted at herself for even entertaining them.
He's an insufferable, lazy prince. I won't have anything to do with him. After this is all over, I never want to see him again.
Nicholas raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Shouldn't have been too hard to kiss me."
Judy stared at him impassively.
He continued. "And you are cranky."
She ignored him and looked straight ahead and sighed, putting one foot in front of the other...and finding no ground to step on.
She swung her arms in circles wildly, but it did nothing to stop her from falling. She slid down and fell face-first on a patch of reeds, Nicholas following suit.
Nicholas rolled over and looked up to the sky. He panted. "How...long...will this continue...to happen?"
Judy stood up wearily, grunting as she rose, nearly at her wit's end. She walked tensely, just waiting for something to go wrong.
Nicholas stood up and looked around at the tall reeds, shivering slightly. A strange feeling trailed up his spine. He shuddered and moved slightly closer to Judy. The reeds suddenly swayed as a rustling sounded from inside. The strange rustling that disturbed the eerie quietness, sent a shiver up both Judy and Nicholas' spine.
Nicholas looked around nervously as he tapped Judy's shoulder. "Do you...feel—"
Nicholas nodded. "Okay, okay. Good. Well, not good, but good t—"
"Shh." Judy glanced around with a pensive and apprehensive expression. She felt the unease that she knew Nicholas was feeling, and she did not like it at all. As they walked, every little noise was brought to their attention, and every movement of the reeds made them jump. Judy and Nicholas were both on edge, somehow knowing something was about to go wrong. They just didn't know what.
Judy whirled around. She could have sworn she saw something. Suddenly, a scuttling sound arose from the reeds. Nicholas and Judy froze.
A long, thin, black leg poked out from the reeds. The rest of the body slowly clambered out of the reeds. A large, hairy tarantula stared straight at Judy and Nicholas.
Nicholas gulped as Judy bit her lip, staring with wide eyes at the tarantula.
She breathed in and out, attempting to calm herself down. "This is okay, this is fine. It's fine! It'll probably just ignore us and continue on its way."
She smiled nervously. "Well, when you think about it, it's really not. We're just very tiny right now. If we were normal-sized, we could probably get rid of it."
The tarantula hissed at that. Apparently, it didn't like that. Nicholas paled. "It can understand us?"
The tarantula began creeping slowly towards them. Nicholas and Judy walked backward slowly. The tarantula hissed threateningly at them. Its shining fangs snapped at them as the large spider jerked back and forth, almost teasing them as it pretended to lunge.
Nicholas began to hyperventilate.
Judy turned to him. "Hey, don't go nuts on me! The last thing we need to do is panic. Don't preds eat spiders anyway?"
"Not this pred."
Judy arched an eyebrow. "Why not?"
Nicholas tried to relax as he thought about how to reply. "Well...er...let's just say me and spiders aren't exactly the best of friends. Anyway, this spider isn't a normal spider. It's a tarantula, huge, with venom..."
He started to hyperventilate once more, as he thought of what a tarantula entailed.
Judy tried to remain optimistic. "Well, at least it's only one, right?"
Nicholas looked at her and nodded slowly, then paled and shook his head. Judy furrowed her brows. "No? What do you mean?"
Nicholas opened his mouth and found himself unable to speak. He pointed wordlessly toward the back of Judy.
Hordes of tarantulas started creeping out of the reeds, some crawling down the trees from the forest Nicholas and Judy had come from, but most from the tall reeds surrounding them. Some tarantulas were smaller and climbed atop the larger ones.
The sound of all the spider legs scattering around on the ground made Nicholas sick, as he gazed around in despair. This was not how he envisioned his little vacation in the bayou to go. He was supposed to be playing his ukelele without a care in the world, gorgeous mammals hanging onto his arm. Instead, he found himself in the middle of what was quickly becoming the most torturous thing to ever happen to him.
Spiders continued to spring down on them, jumping down from the trees with their sticky web, emerging from the reeds, until they were well surrounded by a multitude of tarantulas.
At this point, Judy was biting her lip so hard that it began to bleed. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe in and out deeply, licking her lips. She blew out a gust of air as she looked around nervously. The first tarantula that had appeared to them stood in front of them, with the rest of the tarantulas circled around them.
Judy cleared her throat. "Well. We...ah...certainly mean no harm to you all! We...hope you mean no harm to us, heh. So, thank you for gracing us with your...presence. We'll just go now." She grinned nervously as she took a step back, gesturing for Nicholas to do the same.
As they took a step back, the tarantula that stood in front of them let out a hiss, which was followed by the clacking of its fangs. The rest of the tarantulas followed suit. Slowly, they began coming closer to Nicholas and Judy, making their respective personal bubbles smaller and smaller until it hardly existed.
Nicholas whimpered. "Can we panic now?"
Judy's eyes jumped from one spider to the next, her brain working overtime to decide what to do in their current situation. She took in the surroundings and noticed most of the tarantulas had come out of the reeds. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered that tarantulas liked long grass to hide in. If they could just get out of the reeds and back into the forest, they would be home free. At least for now.
She turned to Nicholas. "Alright, follow my lead."
She breathed out and jumped up, quickly hopping on top of the spiders' backs the best she could. Nicholas followed her example while the tarantulas attempted to jump up and grab their legs.
Nicholas and Judy jumped on the tarantulas, each of them hissing as they bounced off their back. They quickly hopped, gaining on the forest with speed. Judy started to relax as she noticed them getting closer to the forest.
Just before they would have made it into the forest, a tarantula grabbed onto Nicholas' leg and pulled him into the reeds.
"AHHH! NO! HELP!"
Judy turned back to Nicholas, biting her lip once again as she saw the rest of the tarantulas crawling towards Nicholas, having successfully trapped their own prey.
A small voice in the back of her head that she was not proud of whispered, Let him be. He already caused enough trouble for us.
Judy shook her head. No! That's awful, beneath me!
Nicholas shouted from under the tarantulas.
"Please! Help! I'll get you your restaurant, just help me!"
Judy was launched out of her internal thoughts by Nicholas' voice, almost forgetting that she was short on time. She grabbed a random stick near her and hopped as fast as she could, angering the tarantulas underneath her. As soon as she got to Nicholas, she began whacking the tarantulas with the stick.
Judy yelled, "Nicholas! Say something!"
As soon as she got the last tarantula out of the way, she grabbed Nicholas' hand forcefully and jumped out of the tarantulas' reach. The tarantulas grabbed their legs, but Judy pulled away and kept hopping until they made it into the forest.
Nicholas and Judy threw themselves into the forest with force, landing on their stomachs in the safety of the forest. The tarantulas crawled closer to them, hissing and clacking their fangs. For a second, Judy began to think that her plan had fallen flat, but as soon as the tarantulas stepped into the forest, they froze all at once. One by one they stepped back and began to crawl backward until there were none left.
Nicholas and Judy panted, the sound quite loud in the now still forest. They looked at each other and began to laugh wildly in relief.
As soon as their laughter died down, Judy began to think about where to spend the night. Somewhere deep in the forest, away from the spiders. She sighed. If they wanted to, they could get anywhere, given that they could crawl. She looked up at the towering trees.
If we slept there, they could still get us. It'd just take longer.
She snapped her fingers and stood up. "That's it! We'll sleep in the trees!"
Nicholas did a double-take at her. "Where?"
She nodded. "You heard me. Trees. Come on, let's start climbing."
Nicholas sighed. We just can't get a break, can we?
As soon as they walked deeper into the forest, they found a large tree with a deep hole inside it and began climbing. With some difficulty, they finally made it, puffing and heaving the whole way. They jumped into the hole and looked around, amazed at the large size. They picked their own sides to sleep in and tried to relax.
The eerie quietness did not sit well with Nicholas, so he decided to speak up to break the quietness, as he moved over to Judy.
"Well. We're going to be here for a long time, we might as well get...comfortable."
Judy whacked him. Hard.
"Keep your slimy self away from me! Stay on your own side!"
"I told you, it isn't slime! It's mucus!"
Nicholas winced as he rolled to his side, keeping a good distance between the two.
Quiet was fine. Quiet was good.