A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

A murder is announced in a place where such crimes are unknown.


To set the scene we need woodland. And not just a little patch of woodland, too small for even the rooks to bother with searching out on boring Wednesday afternoons. but a gigantic patch of woodland. One that covered half a continent. And not the kind of woodland spoilt by various efforts at forest farming by bipedal intruders but a genuine old piece of woodland.

A gigantic, ancient piece of primeval forest.

Somewhere unexplored by the hairless bipedal creatures on two legs who think their little towns of brick and stone are the ends of the earth, but a myriad creatures who know they aren’t.

Somewhere still secret.

And all its inhabitants, large and small, wanted to keep it that way.

Especially Prickly.

In other places where life is arranged according to genus and type and given taxonomic names, Prickly would be called a hedgehog. But he never called himself that. He was a person. An organism with a brain and an individual identity. As far as he was concerned he didn’t need a taxonomic name and neither did any of his secretive clan.

Prickly had his own rather small corner of the primeval woodland. It consisted of half a dozen ancient trees, a burrow where he lived, (sadly now on his own since Tickly had passed beyond the world to that great big forest in the skies,) and the little stream that wandered here and there, and no-one knew where it started or where it ended.

Prickly missed his life-mate with the kind of sorrow that goes too deep for tears. He was old himself, he knew it, was perfectly aware that if he saw another winter through, and it was now early autumn, he’d be lucky, not that it felt like good luck, not without Tickly.

Is that you, Prickly old chap?” came a voice. He knew who it was at once. It was Spineback and Spineback was hardly the best companion for an old fellow like him to want to search out whilst he was wandering to the blackberry patch.

That blackberry patch was a reserved and protected zone and few were the forest folk who were permitted to go anywhere near it. But Prickly and his family were. It was where Farmer Spiky raised his spiders and moths, and Prickly, like most of his kinsfolk, was very fond of the odd Sunday Roast of Spider, with a few blackberries and some turmeric thrown in for flavour. And today being Saturday he was on the look out for a nice juicy Spider to roast.

He’d invited Maisy Wickles for Sunday lunch, and he had it in his mind that a nice roast dinner might be one way into Maisy’s frozen old heart. Like him, she had been widowed, and like him she was possibly lonely and in need of an old friend to chat to.

And maybe even stay the night! Who could tell?

He jerked himself back to the present. He knew that he tended to wander around almost absent mindedly, and that people were starting to notice … (and by people he meant other forest dwellers rather than the bipedal ugly-folk in their brick houses.)

Is that you, Spineback?” he asked.

You know it is,” came the instant reply.

Only a nuisance would have replied like that. Only someone after trouble would reply in so short and almost offensive a way. It was what the Spinebacks of the forest did, and it was most annoying.

Oh,” mused Prickly, trying to inject some sarcasm into the monosyllable.

I’m off to see the cops,” almost shouted Spineback, “I need to report a murder!”

That wasn’t what Prickly had expected to hear. Spineback knew far too much about just about everyone and was almost always keen to gossip about the frailties and weaknesses of his neighbours. But he wasn’t ever the centre of any news. If, say, Dinkleback had been unfaithful to Matilda Dinkleback once again, then Spineback knew all about it, and much of what he knew was guesswork based on little or no real knowledge. It was opinion, and usually way off the mark.

But murder?

That sort of thing didn’t happen in the old forest. Not ever. Creatures died, all sorts of creatures came to their inevitable ends in the forest and there was a hedgerow graveyard to prove it, but murder? Never! It was a miracle there was even a word for the crime.

Impossible!” ejaculated Prickly, automatically, “you must be mistaken, Spineback!”

I’ve seen it!” screeched an agitated Spineback, “I’ve been there and I’ve seen it! It’s Farmer Spiky and he’s as dead as any dodo I ever heard of, and there’s blood and gore everywhere, and sinews and loads of dislodged spines!

So I’m off to the cops right away!”

Then I’ll come with you,” said Prickly, alarmed that his plans for Sunday roast might have been thrown into disarray by a hideous crime. “Lead on, Spineback!”

© Peter Rogerson 03.10.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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First let me say I can't remember hearing back from you on my last couple reviews . . . not that I want or expect a reply . . . but just want you to know I'm thinking of you & hoping you'll be back at the Cafe in time (((HUGS))) This is quite different from the stories of yours I've read so far. There's a distinct dislike for humans (which I share) in favor of critters. I love your asides where you interject the author into the story, conveying a conversational or oral storytelling effect (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 2 Years Ago

Peter Rogerson

2 Years Ago

Ooops. From the time you posted this all I can say is I was on holiday in Austria with my wife and s.. read more

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Added on October 3, 2018
Last Updated on October 3, 2018
Tags: hedgehogs, forest, prickly, spines, blackberry, Sunday Roast, spiders


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..