By a sparkling and cool river, a porcupine dreamt of more. Hystricidae had reached middle age without settling down with a mister porcupine and raising a little porcupine family. She was okay with this. She’d always known that she wasn’t meant for that sort of domestic life.
She was an entrepreneur – at least, would have been, had she known there was a word for her ambition, or a way to carry it out.
Hystricidae wasn’t keen on foraging for food, but she was really good at building dens. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t build dens all day while other porcupines who didn’t like building dens but who did like foraging, could do that. Then there could be a system of trade, and everyone would be happy.
In her dream, Hystricidae dreamt of a world like this. She awoke at nightfall. She didn’t remember the dream but she meandered over to her neighber’s den, feeling vaguely dissatisfied with her life.
Natalie was just poking her head out into the night air, her little nose twitching with anticipation of the night’s adventures. “Good morning, Hystricidae,” Natalie said.
“What’s the matter? You seem down.”
Hystricidae sighed. “I don’t know. I think I must have had a bad dream because I woke up in a foul mood. I just can’t face foraging tonight but if I don’t forage, I’ll go hungry and if I grow hungry enough, I’ll die.”
Natalie felt bad for her friend. “How about this? I’ll go out and forage and bring back enough food for the both of us.”
Hystricidae shook her head. “That wouldn’t be fair for you to do all of the work and for me to do nothing. Especially because foraging is so tedious.”
“Tedious!” Natalie exclaimed. “I love foraging! Stay here and I’ll go out and bring us back some food.” It took a little more convincing on Natalie’s part but in the end, Hystricidae felt so tired just at the idea of going out to forage, that she allowed herself to be convinced. “Just guard my little den, and I’ll be back in a few hours,” Natalie said, and scurried off.
Hystricidae didn’t really like visiting Natalie’s den because unlike her own spacious den, Natalie’s was just as described – little. Natalie was a larger porcupine than Hystricidae but her den was about half the size.
Hystricidae tried to settle in but a large rock dug into her butt, so she used her claws to dig the rock out and to knock it away from the mouth of the den. Then when she walked back into the den, the rock had left a noticeable dent in the wall, so Hystricidae scratched away dirt and soft stone until the wall was smooth. She carried out the bigger pieces of debris and then stamped the new dirt down, evening out the floor.
This made the den a bit bigger. Hystricidae hoped that Natalie wouldn’t notice the changes, as Hystricidae didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings. She even raised up her quills slightly, to take up more space, but it was to no avail.
“My den is so much bigger than when I left!” Natalie exclaimed as soon as she got back, dragging a large piece of bark full of twigs and berries. “It’s almost big enough for the both of us!”
“I’m sorry –”
“Sorry!” Natalie jumped up and down in excitement. “I love it! Oh, and the floor is so smooth!” she added, as Hystricidae moved away from the den. “How did you get it like that?”
Hystricidae flushed with pride and embarrassment. “With my feet,” she said. She looked at the pile of berries that Natalie had dragged back. “Goodness, look at those berries, they’re so juicy! The only ones I can ever find are always so dried up and gross. Are you sure you don’t mind sharing?”
“Mind!” Natalie bumped her friend’s nose affectionately. “I have half a mind to give you all of them as thanks for making my den so homey! You know, I want a family someday but I just can’t be bothered to make a nicer den. If you’ll help me make my den suitable for some pups and a mister, I’ll keep foraging for your food.”
Hystricidae felt lightheaded. She was so overcome with joy that all she could manage to squeak out was, “Yes!”
As she and her friend feasted on ripe and juicy berries, Hystricidae looked up at the night sky. This wasn’t exactly the dream that she couldn’t quite remember, but it was more than she’d ever hoped for in her waking hours.
Opening Line Prompt taken from here: https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/opening-line/