The Crafty Dog Cymru Hallowe’en Story for 2018
Rubbish the Rabbit Hound and The Giant Bat
Is It a Bird? Is it a Plane? Or is it…Nigel?
(Age range 5 – 95)
Bob the father rabbit shook his head. “It’s too bad. These Witches are becoming such a nuisance.”
Bluebell, his wife, agreed, “I know. They are frightening all the kits. They won’t even listen to Finn!”
She was talking about the local coven of witches who, as the weeks drew closer towards Hallowe’en were getting more and more rowdy – screeching and cackling, swooping low over the trees and scaring the baby rabbits, birds and other animals. Finn the deerhound had gone to pay these hags a visit, and he had politely asked them not to be quite so loud but they had just sent him off with a flea in his ear. It was a real flea too and he was not amused.
“I’m not amused,” he growled at Rubbish the rabbit hound. The young hound couldn’t help smiling even though it was not funny. Jeffrey the old marmalade cat grinned gummily as he stared over the top of his round spectacles at the two of them, “Frightful nuisance,” he harrumphed in agreement.
Finn was, after all, the Lord of the Glen and Warden of the Great Forest and so senior animal of the area. From the kitchen the Maid watched the three friends discussing the problem in the woods. She leaned towards the open window and called out, “Bacon roll anyone?”
Three animal heads swivelled as one, and nodded in unison. “That would be marvellous,” Finn replied.
Three chopped up bacon rolls arrived in three bowls. They had continued talking amongst themselves, and still did so even as they munched on their mid-morning snacks. The brindle greyhound could not understand why the witches would not listen to Finn. He shook his head and dropped a small piece of bacon onto the patio, from which it was quickly snapped up by a hungry blackbird that appeared to have just been passing by.
“Bless my soul! That was a bit of bad luck, young sir,” Jeffrey consoled the stunned Rubbish.
“I was just going to finish that,” the pup said.
Finn laughed out loud, “At last! Something that is faster than our speeding greyhound’s ravenous appetite!”
The blackbird had landed on the roof of the outhouse, scoffing his ill-gotten gains and appeared to be listening to the three animals talking.
As the bacon rolls were finally mopped up, there came a sound from the bottom of the garden as a little rabbit pushed through the gap in the garden door and scurried up the red brick path towards them. It was Scutter. He skidded to a halt, scattering chippings as he stopped. He was puffing heavily. “Mr Finn! It was terrible and frightening!” The rabbit’s eyes were wide with excitement as he spoke.
“Really? Take a breath young rabbit,” he patted the rabbit on the shoulder.
“And start at the beginning,” added the ancient cat.
Scutter took a deep breath and began his story. “It was late last night. The witches were dancing and singing in the clearing where they have their parties. You know what they’re like,” the rabbit made a drinking sign with his paw. “They had their brooms and everything, and then….” he paused for dramatic effect, “as the full moon shone over the trees, a huge black bat appeared and flew over them.”
The dogs looked at each other and Jeffrey pushed his glasses back up his nose.
Scutter continued, “They were terrified! They all packed up and went home sharpish. Most of them walked – they were too scared to fly.”
Jeffrey laughed out loud and rolled back onto his rather large bottom. Rubbish smiled too. Finn however, though he was amused by the thought of something disrupting the coven’s antics, was also concerned about what this flying thing could be. “Young Scutter – did anyone else see this?” he asked.
The rabbit nodded, Yes, the squirrel family saw it all. It was a giant bat that made a terrible screeching noise as it flew.”
Jeffrey gave the deerhound a nudge, “Let’s go and see then.”
Finn stretched. “Come on – I sense an adventure.”
Off the three friends went, following Scutter through the woods to the clearing where the squirrels lived, in a tree next to the witches’ party venue.
Finn and Rubbish looked around the clearing; in the centre were the remains of a huge bonfire, still smouldering slightly. There were a couple of abandoned broomsticks, broken glasses that had held witches potions (or more likely gin and tonic). There was even one witch’s shoe (like some sort of evil Cinderella!).
“Something definitely spooked them,” Rubbish said.
Finn had to agree, “And they left in rather a hurry.”
Jeffrey was questioning the two squirrels. He had his notebook and pencil (the ones he kept in a mysterious pocket somewhere in his fur, which so puzzled Rubbish) and was writing down what the squirrels said.
There were no obvious signs of any flying monsters. No signs of anything in the trees; all in all, very strange.
Back at the house over a bowl of kibble and smoked salmon, (Jeffrey just had the smoked salmon) they ran through what they had found.
“What is big enough to scare off a coven of hardened witches?” mused the deerhound.
“Can’t have been an owl or a nightjar as they see them all the time,” Rubbish answered.
Jeffrey stopped chewing to add, “And witches are a bit of an expert on bats.”
“True,” Finn confirmed. “It must have been one heck of a bat!”
Jeffrey suddenly sat up bolt upright and even dropped his bowl into his lap. “Aha! Hang on…” then he shot off, disappearing through the hole in the wall into his garden next door.
The dogs looked at each other. “Eh?”
Back in puffed the old moggie, carrying a huge book, “I know what it is!” The cat put the book on the garden table and opened it, flipping through the pages. It was “The Wonder Book of Dinosaurs.”
He pointed to a colour photo, “Look here! It’s a pterosaur – a flying lizard!”
Rubbish and Finn gazed at the illustration; an enormous bat-like flying lizard with a huge pointy beak.
“Blimey,” Finn said.
“Don’t know about the witches but it would scare the pants off me,” Rubbish gulped.
“Quite so,” Finn concurred.
Jeffrey was feeling quite pleased with himself and you could see his fur puffing up with pride.
“The only problem, my ginger pal, is that they have not been seen on this earth for over 100 million years.”
The cat frowned.
“That’s a really long time,” Rubbish had to admit.
The old cat frowned even more and his puffiness deflated a little. “But the description fits” he answered.
Finn and Rubbish had to agree with the cat; it sounded like this flying dinosaur, but where had it been hiding for the last 100 million years?
“Maybe it’s come through time through some sort of worm-hole in the space-time continuum?” Jeffrey suggested.
“Hmmmm,” said Finn. “Or it might be something less ancient and a bit more likely.”
“We have to see it for ourselves,” Rubbish told them.
“That, my young friend, is a good idea,” the deerhound smiled.
“Capital!” beamed Jeffrey. “I’ll start packing my night gear.”
It was agreed that the three of them would meet again at 5 o’clock – after tea, naturally – and they would go and wait near the Witches’ clearing to see what would transpire.
The moon was rising as the three friends slipped through the undergrowth at the edge of the trees to wait for the witches. There was a pronounced pong from the canvas backpack that the old cat was carrying.
“Cor – what a niff!” commented the greyhound.
Jeffrey hissed, “its garlic.”
“You don’t say?” chided Finn.
“In case it’s a giant vampire bat,” the cat explained. “I also have some stakes.”
Rubbish looked puzzled. “In case you get hungry?”
The cat tutted, “No – not that sort of steak! A wooden pointy one.”
Jeffrey rummaged in the bag and came out with a large head-torch on a wide elastic headband. It was bright orange and matched his (albeit moth-eaten and ancient) fur. He slipped it on and adjusted the straps.
Now it was Finn’s turn to tut, and to shake his head.
A blast of very bright light in Rubbish’s face made him jump. “Oh, sorry. It’s a bit bright,” Jeffrey blushed under his ginger fur as he fumbled and turned the torch off. “I have boosted the light output a bit. Should help us see whatever it is.”
Finn put his head in his paws, sighed and muttered something under his breath. It was going to be a very long night!
As it grew darker, there was noise and movement – the witches arrived, mostly on foot as only a couple were brave enough to fly in. They lit the great bonfire and gathered around it and then started as did all meetings of the Witches Institute by singing the club anthem. As the singing died down the bottles of magic gin (mostly sloe, blackberry and pumpkin flavour) were opened and glasses filled and consumed. The crowd split into smaller groups who chatted and cackled amongst themselves. The atmosphere, Finn thought, was somewhat subdued – maybe they had taken on board his request for a quiet meeting.
However, they could see that each group had a member who was scanning the sky. It was very quiet up in the clouds as only one or two standard-sized bats fluttered past and one or two shooting stars dived through the darkening sky.
Suddenly, a couple of the “spotters” started to chatter excitedly and point upwards. The gathering changed as more and more of the hags looked up nervously towards the heavens. The moon by now was very bright.
Something was definitely coming. In the bushes the three adventurers prepared themselves for whatever was about to appear; Finn could just make out some movement in the clouds. A huge black shape was approaching, which definitely had wings – silent ones – and was coming down towards the clearing at a heck of a rate.
The witches started to worry, then panic! They started to leave, very hastily. As they ran around and scattered into the forest the giant bat came ever closer. It was definitely black, very large, and Finn could make out a head, body and..spindly legs?
It swooped lower. Any witches that were left were now shouting and screaming as they scampered about.
The monster had large ears and blood-red glowing eyes, and it was making a loud screeching a sound and giving off smoke.
As it flew over the bonfire it started to spiral upwards; like a buzzard it was using the warm air of the fire to give it lift and rise into the air. The witches were long gone by now, and there was only the group of stunned animals to witness the arrival of the bat. They stepped out into the clearing to see the monster more clearly. Jeffrey switched on his super-bright head torch and it shone on the flying beast like a searchlight. It picked out the black wings and the body underneath, the huge head with its red eyes and ears.
The monster screamed as the light hit its face. There was another cry as a tiny burning ember that was also rising on the thermals from the fire happened to catch the edge of one of the wings. There was a flash of flame – and the monster began another descent, this time at break-neck speed.
The beast flew across the animals’ heads but above the trees. It had gravity on its side as it sped earthwards. The animals tried to keep up but they lost it in the woods. Finn stopped them, “It’s no good – it’s too dark. Make a note of where it’s going and we’ll have a look in the light tomorrow.”
As they walked home they discussed what they had seen and what they thought the monster could be. Jeffrey was still convinced it was a flying dinosaur, maybe a new undiscovered species that had forgotten to become extinct. Finn suggested that it had not received the memo.. Rubbish was not sure what on Earth it was. Finn always put his faith in believing his own eyes. However, he was not convinced that what he saw was what this thing actually was. And what it was….that still remained to be seen.Howe
The next morning found Finn and his companions picking up their trail and making their way through the woods and out the other side onto the edge of a vast ploughed field of damp mud. The two dogs scented the air – there was no smell of monster, just the usual smell of mud and sheep. Jeffrey had brought along his ghost detector but it failed to emit one pop, crackle or beep. He was pretty disappointed by the lack of any result.
They began to step across the muddy patch. Half way over there was a patch of sheep prints but big ones that also looked like they had slid. Most peculiarly, they started in the middle of the field. Finn called Rubbish and Jeffrey to his side to examine them. As they chatted and pointed, Rubbish heard what he thought was a stifled laugh. A few yards away sat the very same blackbird that had snaffled his piece of bacon the day before.
“How d’you do?” the Blackbird asked.
“Fine, thank you,” Rubbish replied.
The blackbird eyed them curiously. “So what you looking for then?”
Finn answered, “These strange prints, and the flying beast?”
“Oh aye?” the blackbird cocked his head to one side.
“Do you have any ideas as to what these are?” asked Rubbish.
“Oh yes,” the blackbird smiled. “The name’s Morris, by the way. And thanks for the bacon yesterday, it was lovely.” He added.
The animals were stunned. “Well?” Finn looked at the bird.
“It’s Nige,” he replied.
“Nige?” the old moggie enquired.
“A flying monster called Nige?” Rubbish could not believe what he’d heard.
“No, Nigel the sheep,” Morris replied.
“What?” Finn, Rubbish and Jeffrey all asked in unison.
“Oh aye. Crash landed, he did,” the bird told them. “Wing malfunction.”
The dogs were now even more stunned. Jeffrey had to pick his jaw off the floor where it had metaphorically fallen. “A monstrous sheep with wings?”
Morris laughed, “Come with me.” He flew low over the field, the animals trotting close behind.
In the next field stood (and lay) a herd of sheep. Normal looking sheep, not at all monstrous, and not one with a pair of wings. Away from the herd towards the top end of the field one sheep lay on his own, evidently deep in thought. Morris landed next to him and coughed rather loudly (and Jeffrey thought, somewhat dramatically).
“I have some visitors who want a word with you,” he said. “I told you it would only be a matter of time before someone came to see you.”
The young sheep sat up and smiled rather sheepishly (which was very easy for a sheep to do) at the two dogs and the cat. He knew who Finn was (as did most animals in the area) and he bowed politely, “G-good morning, sir.”
Finn smiled back, “Good morning my young lad. I have heard from this little bird that you are the source of these tales of a flying monster?”
Nigel sighed, “Well….sort of.”
Finn sat on his haunches on the grass, and Rubbish and Jeffrey copied him. “You’d better start at the beginning.”
Nigel explained how with the help of Morris and Gilbert the owl he had built a set of wings and learnt to fly. He had had some initial issues with his non-aerodynamic shape and poor overall fitness but he had overcome these difficulties by applied engineering and mathematics and had been quite successful. He was surprised that no-one had seen him flying in daylight. He had become the world’s first flying sheep. Morris and Gilbert had worked hard to build the wings. The next challenge had been to master night flying (as he was less likely to get funny looks or complaints from the farmer or his family).
Gilbert had designed night-vision goggles, which were powered by a system of pulleys, pumps and valves by the sheep’s back legs. The visibility had been good but the valves and pumps made loud screeching noise. The owl had suggested some light engine oil might solve it but they had not had time to sort that out before their test flights. They flew anyway.
The evening before he had lost height and he was trying to get into a thermal of hot air to lift him upwards so he had headed towards the bonfire. It was going well until he was hit in the face by a blast of very bright light which had dazzled him, then a spark set light to his left wing. He had called out to Morris and had made an emergency landing in the ploughed field.
“Fortunately the only thing dented was his pride,” the blackbird grinned.
Finn and Rubbish were amazed (though it took more than a flying sheep to amaze Jeffrey) and they were very keen to see the flying suit. They took them over to the old sheep shelter across the filed. It had been abandoned when the farmer built a new one nearer the big oak tree. Nigel and Morris had fixed the leaky roof with the assistance of two hippie foxes who had helped them acquire the materials required for the flying suit (but that’s another story!). The shed had become ‘Mission Control’.
The suit consisted of two large flapping canvas wings and a tail – a bit like a hang-glider. There were a series of cables, pipes and springs too, which made the flying suit look most extraordinary. Jeffrey in particular (who loved his technology) was really impressed with the design and could not help making sketches and taking notes and measurements. Finn could see the old cat having a go at making his own version; the thought of the old moggie with wings didn’t fill him with confidence!
“I’m hoping to get the suit fixed and be flying again tomorrow night,” the sheep told them.
Morris added, “Aye – should be easily fixable. I’ve got a patch up kit and ‘Hat’ has got me some gaffer tape.” (Hat was one of the foxes).
“I need to do these night flights as I want to see how the goggles work,” the sheep told them.
“Gilbert reckons we could make our fortunes if we copyrighted the design,” Morris grinned.
Finn had an idea. “You know that you have terrified the local coven of witches, don’t you?”
Nigel was amazed. “You’re joking?”
The deerhound shook his head, “I have asked them politely to keep the noise down and stop scaring the animals but they have just ignored me. Hallowe’en is in two night’s time.”
Nigel and Morris looked at each other, and then looked at Finn. Morris could guess where this conversation was heading!
“It’ll be loud and scare the children again,” the great hound continued, “but with your help I think we can give those witches a taste of their own medicine.”
So Finn told them of the plan that he had devised.
As the sun was setting and the light grew warmer but dimmer, the witches began to gather in the clearing around the mound of timber that was growing into their party bonfire. Each witch brought a few branches which they added one by one to the pile. One witch (the one in the bright yellow and very reflective High-visibility hat) was carrying a torch with which she lit the fire. It first began to smoke, then burst into flame. They all cheered and the bottles of Witchy Gin came out. They were soon singing loudly (and out of tune).
There were a couple of spotters watching the sky. As nothing appeared to be happening up above the spotters lost interest and joined in the revelries around the fire.
Suddenly a terrified dog burst into the crowd of hags. He was shivering with fear, and shaking and eve foamed a little at his mouth. “It’s huge, it’s huge,” he babbled, “It has massive teeth…and big wings!”
Some of the witches stopped singing to turn towards the dog to hear what he was saying. A ripple of unease passed through the crowd of hags but they then continued their partying. The dog wandered back into the woods, muttering about the thing he had seen.
Not long after the dog had disappeared into the trees a very round cat staggered into the clearing. He too was shaking with terror, and his eyes were as wide as dinner plates. “It was terrifying!” he announced dramatically. “Vampiric in its beastly ferocity!” A few more witches stopped this time to look at the terrified old cat.
“And its coming THIS WAY!” he added at the top of his voice. A second ripple of unease ran through the crowd, larger than the first. Once again, the party restarted as soon as the cat disappeared back into the undergrowth. The party was a little more hesitant but then picked up.
From the dark of the woods there came a terrifying howl which shook the clearing; it was blood-curdling in its intensity. This time all the witches froze.
Into the light of the bonfire staggered an enormous hairy deerhound – clearly it was Finn, as everyone there knew the Lord of the Glen. He had blood all down his left side, and was dragging one of his back legs. He glared into the faces of the (by now) very worried witches. “I tried to stop it,” he told them. “It was too big and too powerful even for me. Its teeth are like daggers, and eyed like burning iron.” He saw the colour drain from the faces of a number of the witches and one even dropped their bottle of gin. He staggered forward and the sea of hags parted to let him through.
“Who did this?” the Hi-Visibility witch asked.
Finn shook his head, “It was a giant bat.” The hag caught her breath. “Its more vicious than anything I’ve ever seen,” he replied.
By now the witches were talking excitedly amongst themselves and were sounding very concerned.
Finn too staggered and limped towards the edge of the clearing. Just before he passed into the darkness he turned back to the quaking crowd and shouted, “It’s coming this way. And it says it eats witches!”
At this stage the witches were on the verge of hysterical panic. There was a lot of shouting and chattering amongst them and you could feel the tension in the air building itself to a fever pitch. Then “it” appeared.
It screamed out of the heavens though it looked like it had come from the very pit of Hell itself. It had blazing laser eyes, so bright that they lit up the quivering coven as it swooped low over them. Witches who were at fist rooted to the spot in sheer terror soon found their feet (and legs) and began sprinting into the trees. By the time Nigel came around for his third sweep there were only four witches left who were trying hard to kick-start their brooms. Almost as one they threw their brooms onto the bonfire and scrambled, practically on all fours, into the bushes.
The blackbird that sat on the black bat’s shoulder called into its left ear, “OK Nige. Time for a gentle landing on the far side of the clearing.”
“Wilco,” the flying bat-sheep replied.
“Full flaps,” called Morris.
“Full flaps,” Nigel adjusted his wings. The sheep descended slowly, lowered his landing gear (his back legs) and landed on the soft grass amongst the abandoned pointed hats, brooms, clogs and gin bottles.
Out of the trees emerged Rubbish, Jeffrey and Finn. The deerhound had a wet cloth and was wiping tomato ketchup from his side and his face, and then passed the cloth to Rubbish so he could wipe his face too. Jeffery was laughing so much that he thought he would make himself sick.
“Marvellous job!” Finn called.
“It really was,” Rubbish agreed.
“Haven’t had as much fun in ages,” the ancient moggie guffawed; he had tears running down his ginger cheeks and his ribs ached.
Nigel had taken his flying helmet off and said to Jeffrey, “That head-torch of yours was fantastic! It worked a treat!”
“I think it was the icing on the cake,” Morris nodded. “But more importantly, it was an excellent test flight. Night vision goggles worked to a tee!”
“I don’t think it was those witches will bother us for a while,” Finn said.
I know,” Rubbish laughed. “A quiet Hallowe’en tomorrow.”
“What do you think?” Jeffrey asked.
The animal turned to look at the old cat and laughed out loud. There stood the ancient marmalade cat, wearing a bright yellow high-visibility pointy hat. He grinned at them, “Elf and safety, anyone?”
This story and characters are copyright of Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Cymru.Co.UK, except Finn who is copyright Sean & Kate Standing (World of Finn).
If you like this, search out The Largest Rabbit or The Winter Hare, available from the website www.Crafty-Dog-Cymru.Co.Uk/Books