Somewhere in Germany, in a thick, wooded forest, there lived a banded-eyed creature named Ramone. Ramone was of course a raccoon, and had lived in the forest since birth, however he had no family to speak of and very little friends of his own kind.
He spent most of his time conversing with the birds, and also a few stags when they crossed paths, but even they had started to disappear so he often walked alone.
Ramone was young, but by no means naive, and he knew that his family and friends had been hunted in the forest. He did not know why they had been hunted, but he knew that this rapid decline of companions and the loud BANGS! that would echo through the land, were the doings of men that would enter the woods.
After days of pensive wandering through the trees, with no one to talk to, Ramone decided he would find a new place to live, and hopefully find some new friends to live with.
He finally reached the edge of the forest, where he stood to look out at the horizon. In the distance, over a couple of green fields, he could see the road. He stood there for a moment, unsure whether or not he should go any further, until….BANG!
Without further hesitation he continued on his way, without even glancing back. When Ramone had scaled one field and was ready to cross the next, he noted a tall figure in the centre, covered in small birds. The birds would fly down and grasp great clumps from it’s head or body.
Ramone had never seen a man quite like it before, it was the body of a mangled, perhaps sickened man. He had also never witnessed such a rebellious attack on a man, performed by the frenzy of birds overhead. He found the scene of revolt far too exciting not to venture in and take a closer look.
As he got closer, he could see that the weird, twisted figure was not moving. He just let the birds attack him with no fight whatsoever! One of the bird’s, a rather handsome wood pigeon, glanced at Ramone as he swooped down at the man's head. It had been a long time since the pigeon had seen a raccoon, so he flew down and landed on Ramone’s shoulder.
“Hello young fellow.. What brings you to our field? Your kind usually dwells in the woodland over there…”
“We used to. But I am the only raccoon left…I haven’t seen my friends for weeks now and even my stag friends are disappearing, so I have left the forest to find a new home”.
“I see. And where will you go?” the pigeon asked.
Ramone thought for a moment and then answered, “I don’t know yet? But somewhere where humans and creatures live together, without men hunting my friends!”
“Somewhere civilised you mean?” the pigeon asked.
“Exactly! Somewhere civilised” Ramone replied.
“Well! Why don’t you go to London..? I have been there many times you know, my cousin lives there, he is a city pigeon”.
London?….… Ramone thought to himself what London might be like, he had an idea what cities were like from talking to his bird friends that often travelled…they always described cities as very large spaces, buildings everywhere, and more people and animals living together than anywhere else. Ramone thought about how he could make so many friends in such a big place. He had decided, to London he would go!
“Yes! I shall go to live in London!” declared Ramone.
“Good for you young coon! Go amongst the civilised men…in London!” the wood pigeon cooed gleefully, and lifted off from Ramone’s shoulder, ready to fly away.
Ramone quickly called out to the pigeon “Wait! I don’t know how to get to London, could you help me please?”
“Well of course! the pigeon replied as he circled above Ramone's head.
"You need to make it to the road, and then follow the road to the coast. You must then cross the border that is guarded by humans, it is quite far my friend, but you can do it!” The pigeon pointed in the direction of the road, and then pointed to the east.
“Oh thank you! Soon I will have a place to be safe, and be with others like me!” Ramone rejoiced. “I just have one more question…”
“What is it young fellow?” asked the pigeon.
“What’s wrong with that man over there? Why are you all attacking him?.. Is he a hunter?”
The pigeon chuckled to himself and replied, “That isn’t a real man, it’s a scarecrow! He’s a pretend man you see, put there to scare us away. But we know the truth and are taking his straw for our nests, for a pretend man doesn’t need it like we do”.
“How did he get here? And why must he scare you away?” Ramone asked.
The pigeon chuckled again “My my! You are a curious little fellow, keep that curiosity! It will serve you well on your journey. This scarecrow is to frighten us away from eating the crops, the humans put him here to keep the food for themselves”.
“And you're taking it anyway?! and straw for your homes!” Ramone exclaimed.
“Yes! We cannot be fooled by men! They cannot keep it all for themselves, we won’t let them!” the pigeon replied defiantly. Ramone looked up to the pigeon and smiled. He had never met such bold creatures before. The pigeon called down to Ramone “Good luck young coon! I hope to see more of your kind one day!” the pigeon then flew back to the mass of dive-bombing birds.
Ramone looked out into the distance and could see the road ahead. He only had one more field to cross so he took a deep breathe and walked on.
It took the rest of the afternoon to cross the great field, and now that he had finally reached the edge of the road, darkness had fallen over the land.
He looked out at the long stretch of road that lay before him and listened to the roaring cars that passed. He felt anxious that he wouldn't make it all the way to London, but then he thought about his lonely life in the forest, and his friends that he missed.
He had nothing left to go back to, so London was his only choice, to live how he used to, and how others still do. Ramone climbed over the road barrier and kept himself low to the ground as he walked. The road was much quieter than it had been earlier in the day, so he could see the way more clearly now. To his surprise, he passed many a squashed raccoon on the road. Ramone was overcome with sadness, and wept as he walked. He realised that these other raccoons must of fled the forests around his own, and that he didn’t even know that they were there, fleeing the very same hunters!
Maybe they were on their way to London?! Ramone thought to himself and decided that he would make it! He would not get squashed!
He journeyed on, staying close to the edge for safety. After a long and tiring night, Ramone had reached the border that was guarded by what looked like the men from the forest. They carried weapons over their shoulders and dressed in camouflaged clothes. He could now see that over the road barrier, and down the hill, there was a river. He knew that the only way he could cross the border and go unseen by the humans was to cross the river somehow, so he scurried down the hill, slipping on the grass as the morning dew glazed the landscape. He reached the edge of the river bank and looked across, it didn’t look too far, but it was far enough for a raccoon that couldn't swim…
Ramone looked around for anything he could make a raft from, but there wasn’t much he could use. He sighed heavily and sat down on a rock, only for the rock to suddenly move beneath him. Ramone stood up quickly and looked down at the moving rock, which of course was not a rock, but a turtle. The turtle looked up at the raccoon with a puzzled expression, which Ramone returned. “I’m sorry, I thought you were a rock” he said.
“I know. What are you doing on my riverbank?” replied the turtle.
“I’m trying to get across, but there isn’t anything I can make a raft from…”
“I know. I keep a very tidy riverbank. Why are you trying to cross the river?”
“To find a new home and stay away from hunters. I’m going to London, have you heard of it?”
“Of course I’ve heard of it, I’m nearly a hundred years old! So how do you intend to cross the river? You can’t swim, can you raccoon…” said the turtle with a small smile.
“No I can’t, I don’t know how I can cross... Do you know a way?”
“I do know a way..” said the turtle still smiling.
“Which way?” Ramone asked, still puzzled.
“I was hunted once, of course I got away, but many of my friends vanished. I’m lucky that I’m not so fashionable now, I have been left alone with my few friends that remain, but you young raccoon, you must go. I will show you the only way to cross this river…with me.”
“You…?” Ramone replied.
“Yes, on my back”. The turtle smiled and added “Hop on and stay still won’t you! I will take you across”.
Ramone's face lit up at the turtle’s kind gesture, and so he carefully stepped onto the turtle’s back. Once he was on, the turtle slowly and steadily swam across the river, seemingly without any struggle at all! When they got close to the other side, Ramone hopped off the turtle’s shell and back on to dry land. He thanked the turtle and then climbed back up to the road.
He continued to walk along the roadside, taking care of the speeding cars as he went. He walked, and he ran, and then he walked some more, until he reached the coast by dusk. As the sun began to set, Ramone had finally reached the harbour.
He looked out to sea and wondered how far it stretched out, and how on earth he was going to cross it! He then realised that with the lack of turtles around, and the endless boats docking in and out, he would have to find a boat and sneak aboard.
He darted amongst the evening shadows, looking for a boat that was destined for England, and finally found one that had been loaded up with crates of tea. Ramone sneakily snuck himself on to the boat and wheedled himself into a little corner behind some highly stacked crates.
He waited throughout the night until he must of fallen asleep, as he awoke in a way that was like a bad dream. The boat rocked up and down, and jolted him around as he knocked into the crates. He could hear the sailors shouting to one another over the roars of the howling wind. The wild storm toyed with the boat as if it were a marionette, bouncing it up and down on the tips of crashing waves, and all Ramone could do was try to cling on for dear life, and bear the harsh beating of the sea.
After a long and frightening hour the storm had passed, so Ramone tucked himself back into his corner to keep himself hidden from the sailors. After a long, damp night, the boat had finally reached land. The sailors started to unload the cargo and Ramone could hear them getting closer to his stack of crates.
He started to panic, and was just about to make a dash for it when he heard one of the men shout,
“Oi! This lot's going to London! Move ‘em out!!”
London! Ramone stayed where he was whilst he quickly thought of a plan. He decided to prize open one of the crates with his small nimble hands, and climbed inside it, pulling the lid back on. He stayed perfectly still in the dark, dusty crate, and ate some dry tea as he patiently waited to be loaded onto the lorry. Ramone must of fallen asleep again, as this time he abruptly awoke by someone poking him with a stick.
“How the bleeding ‘ell did he get in there!?”
Ramone opened his eyes, and looked up at the two men dressed in overalls.
“He’s only gone and eaten all the tea! Look!” the other man said.
Ramone quickly stood up, and so the two men quickly stood back, unsure of the peculiar creature in front of them. Within seconds, Ramone had leapt over the side of the crate and ran off into the bustling streets.
He ran and he ran, darting through the crowds of people as he went and then he swerved into a dark alley way, knocking over a few dustbins. He slowed his pace and then sidled up against a wall while he caught his breath. After a few deep breathes, Ramone peered around the corner to take in the view of his new surroundings. So this was it, London!
He smiled to himself as he looked out at the people rushing past. There was all sorts of people, young and old, some with animals and some without. Ramone spotted a few people with dogs, and even more people with animals over their shoulders or wrapped around their necks. He then spotted the familiar striped tail that only a raccoon could proudly own. “More coons!” Ramone exclaimed, as the excitement built up inside his tummy.
The woman carrying the raccoon continued walking down the street, so Ramone emerged from his ally way and followed her. The woman joined a large crowd at the end of the street, but luckily Ramone had been fast enough to catch up with her and stood behind her in the crowd. As he stood there, he jumped up to touch the tail of the fellow raccoon, which didn’t seem to stir any reaction. Ramone then called out, “Excuse me! Hey there, young coon!”. There was still no response.
Unfazed and far too excited, Ramone jumped up and pulled on the striped tail harder this time, only for it to fall away from the woman like an empty sack. Ramone gasped in horror at the headless body that was strewn on the ground. He quickly stepped away and went further into the crowd, wildly looking around him at the other animals that were draped over bodies, only to see that they were all limp, headless adornments.
Ramone felt sick. ‘These are NOT civilised people’ he thought to himself. ’But what am I to do now?!’
Ramone continued walking through the crowd as he now knew that he was not amongst friends, and had to get out before he was spotted. But the crowd seemed to be growing thicker, with more and more people starting to close in. Luckily, he was small enough that he seemed to go unnoticed, until he knocked into a human the same size as himself.
The young girl gasped and then blurted out “You’re…Why you’re a raccoon!”.
“I am not!” Ramone replied defensively, and side stepped away from the girl, only for her to side step with him.
The crowd closed in a little more and Ramone noted that there was no room for a quick escape. The young girl wouldn’t remove her gaze from the raccoon, and continued to stare at him. Ramone caught her gaze from the corner of his eye, he turned to face her to give her an annoyed tut and then turned his head away again. The hostile gesture didn't seem to faze her one bit as she leant down and whispered into Ramone's ear, “You ARE a raccoon!”.
“YOU’RE a raccoon!” he replied defiantly.
“Well that’s just silly isn’t it! What are you then? If you’re not a raccoon….” the young girl narrowed her eyes at the creature, waiting for another preposterous response.
“I’m…well isn’t it obvious! Ramone crossed his arms and turned his head away.
“No, it isn’t! Not if you’re something other than a raccoon” the girl replied stubbornly.
“I’m…” he paused for a second… “I’m a fox! I just like wearing this eye mask that’s all”.
“A fox?! Oh really….” the girl replied in a mocking tone. “Fox’s are red though, aren’t they.” she added matter-of-factly.
Ramone cleared his throat, “Yes, we are. I’m just dusty from all the travelling that’s all”.
Ramone continued to side step his way towards the edge of the crowd, only for the girl to follow him and call out, “Excuse us please, we’re coming through!..”
Ramone stopped in his tracks and turned back to face the girl “WE are not coming through, I am! So please excuse me! he said sternly as he turned around and finally inched out of the crowd and back onto the pavement.
The young girl emerged after him and gave a sigh of relief. “Well that was tricky! All those people just to see the silly old queen! And you can’t even see her from here!” She adjusted her pale pink beret over her yellow hair and straightened her matching dress coat.
“So…where have you travelled from? And where are you going now?”
Ramone looked at the girl with a scowl and then looked around at his surroundings. The bells of St. Paul’s cathedral were bellowing, and the streets were jam packed with people in their Sunday best. People were merry and celebrating, but not alongside animals like Ramone had once thought.
“What’s a raccoon, I mean, a fox, doing in London town anyway?” the young girl asked.
Ramone knew that he wouldn’t be able to get rid of this small human that easily, so he answered her question.
“I came here to make some friends, and live somewhere in peace” he replied.
“If you want to live in peace, why on earth did you come to London?!” the girl scoffed.
“Because I thought people were civilised here, and they would leave me be...” Ramone replied despairingly.
“I suppose the people are civilised here...I think so anyway..” the girl looked confused.
“How can they possibly be civilised and leave me in peace, when people are wearing me!? I mean, not me, as I am a fox, but raccoons! How very uncivilised!” Ramone felt too upset to hide his distaste to the girl.
“You know they wear foxes too sometimes...”, the girl replied innocently.
Ramone put his face in his hands as he discovered that more headless creatures were roaming the streets.
“But I could be your friend…?” the girl added sweetly.
“Why? So you can throw me over your shoulder and take off my head! Ramone replied sharply.
“We are not all uncivilised! Sometimes humans and animals are friends you know. I would never wear you!” the girl protested.
“Oh really!” Ramone huffed.
“Really!” the girl insisted.
“Really?” Ramone asked surprised.
The girl smiled at Ramone and said “I could help you find a safe home if you like?”
Ramone looked at the girl as his eyes filled with tears. “Will there be other Raccoons there?” he asked.
The girl looked into Ramone’s sad eyes and replied “I’m sorry but there are no raccoons here..not usually anyway, but there are foxes, and squirrels, and birds! And I will still be your friend…”
Ramone put his head down and wiped his tears away, he then looked up and asked, “Will there be stags?”
“Sometimes...” the girl replied cheerfully.
Ramone thought about his stag friends, and finally said “Okay, I will live there. Which way do I go now?”
“Why don’t you hop on to my shoulder, and pretend that you're a scarf, that way you’ll be safe and I’ll take you to your new home…?”
“Really..?” he asked trepidatiously.
“Really” the girl insisted with a nod.
Ramone jumped up onto the girl’s shoulder, and gingerly wrapped himself around her neck, keeping his head tucked in, just in case!
The girl walked through the streets, and around the cheering crowds, and then reached a quieter back street. Ramone popped his head up and asked the girl “Maybe we should go back and I should ask the queen for help?!”
“The queen?! Don’t be silly! She wears more raccoons than all the people of London! You will be safer with me” the girl replied. Ramone put his head back down and sighed.
The girl continued walking for a little while, until they reached a large park that backed onto a forest. “Here we are! You could live over there” she said, as Ramone lifted his head up to take a look. The park was at the top of a hill, so the view of London was breathtaking! Ramone could see for miles around, as the sprawling city dominated the horizon. He looked behind him at the forest that stood at the edge of the park.
Ramone looked out at the city as he spoke, “You humans get all that space, and I have to live up here!?” he said surprised.
The girl didn’t know how to respond to the young creature, so she simply replied “Yes. This is all there is for you…”
Ramone unravelled himself from the girls neck and shoulders, and hopped down to stand next to her. He stared into the forest, and then looked back at the city.
“Then I will live here, for now.. and I will make some new friends” he said.
“Will you ever come back to the city? To find me… your new friend?” the girl asked hopefully.
“Only, when you have all learnt to be civilised!” Ramone replied and ran off into the forest, until he was out of sight.
The girl wiped a tear from her eye as she lost her new found friend, and turned back to walk alone.