by Mary Grace Mauney

It was the sound of sniffing, that much they could tell. Sniffing, and snuffing, and whuffling.

“Something else,” said MiMee in her quietest voice, “is on this island.” “Something,” said Sadie Lynn, “alive.” She kept her voice just as quiet as MiMee’s. Sadie Lynn was the largest dog, and she knew if she showed her fear, the smaller ones would panic.

The sounds got closer and louder, turning into grunts. At first soft grunts, almost gentle, but then they became rapid and loud, an aggressive series of snorts.

“Maybe it’s a wild boar,” Louey whispered. He didn’t like the idea of being near such a beast, but it was the only animal he could think of that would make snorts and grunts like that, and Georgia did have its share of feral hogs. Not cute little piggies, but giant omnivorous monsters with razorback-hides and razor-sharp tusks that would happily gore or gobble up anything in their paths….

“It’s a rodent,” gasped Sadie Lynn, almost forgetting to keep her voice down as the realization hit her right in the nose.

“What?” said the two other dogs together, and they nearly forgot to whisper as well.

“I’m a terrier,” Sadie Lynn reminded them, “I was bred to sniff out rodents. Trust me, I can tell…what I can’t tell is what kind it is. It’s not a rat…it’s not a squirrel…it’s like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. But it is a rodent, I promise you.”

“Whatever it is, it’s circling the boat now,” said MiMee, “Listen.”

They all went quiet, and indeed they could hear the sound of tiny feet padding around the perimeter of the boat.

“Good, it’s small.” Louey sounded less afraid now. He twitched his big bat-like ears to hear better. He could tell now whatever this thing was, it was light, its pawsteps barely making impact on the sand.

“Don’t get any ideas yet,” Sadie Lynn warned. “Terriers are small too…and look at our bite.”

“And shrews have venom!” squeaked MiMee, remembering a nature show. They did indeed, though MiMee must have missed the part that mentioned shrews were not rodents despite their mousey appearance. Her point still stood, however, and Louey remained with them in the boat.

The noises resumed, then went quiet, as did the sound of pawsteps.

“Do you think it’s gone?” said MiMee.

“We would have heard it walking away,” said Sadie Lynn.

Then came the scraping of little nails against the outside of the boat…followed by a light ‘thump!’ as something jumped on to the rail, then into the boat bed.

Whatever had been out there was now inside the boat with them. END OF PART THREE