Thirty years ago, today, … we lost a rising star far too soon. Thirty years ago, today, … a precious angel was taken from our world by an act of pure evil. Thirty years ago, … "The Land Before Time" would suddenly feel so different, even though the movie hadn't even been released yet. Thirty years ago, … today, … on the 25th of July 1988, we lost Judith Barsi, … the original voice of Ducky.
Growing up as a 90's kid, I wasn't even around when the first movie came out, so I knew nothing of the tragic story of Judith Barsi. It wasn't until YEARS later that I found out the truth, and I never looked at Ducky the same way again. Having already had a soft spot for Ducky as a kid, I gained an even softer spot for her once I discovered what happened to her original voice actress.
The challenge I was given for the June prompt was to write a story that takes place under the sea. Now, I wasn't sure if the ENTIRE story had to be under the sea, or a majority of the story had to be under the sea. I, therefore, chose the latter, and had the main premise of the story being something that is done under the sea in this short story.
I had actually finished this story about a week ago, but I decided to post it on July 25; the 30th anniversary of the day Judith Barsi was murdered; to honor her memory. This story will contain an OC in flashback scenes, and her story parallels that of Judith's.
So, I'll stop talking now and let this short story begin.
A SWIM OF SILENCE
A sleepless Ducky walked to the bank of the river running through the Great Valley. The Night Circle was out, dimly lighting the starry skies over the valley, and everything was very peaceful. Somehow, though, so much was on Ducky's mind that night that kept her from falling asleep. Although she swam underwater many times already during her young life, she had never really explored too much of what was underneath the valley. She could remember her adventure to the Big Water with her friends, but she hadn't really seen what was underwater. She wondered why she didn't look in herself after Littlefoot took a glimpse of Mo's underwater home.
Ducky looked around. Nobody was within sight. Her entire family were asleep in their nest, and she was sure that her friends were all asleep, too. Surely, tonight they wouldn't be sneaking off again like she was doing. Surely, for once she'd have the night all to herself.
Everywhere was very quiet. Not a single sound managed to reach her ears, aside from the gentle streaming of the river and the very calm winds blowing gently around her. It felt somewhat eerie to her that it was this quiet in the middle of a vast valley where so many other dinosaurs lived.
Ducky looked up at the sky. The Night Circle was shining brightly over the beyond, dimly lighting the valley. The sky was filled with hundreds of stars, some of which seemed to take on many forms, some she could make out, others she couldn't.
One thing she did notice was that some stars appeared to take on the form of a young Swimmer. Suddenly, a vague memory spiraled into her head …
"Judy," she thought as she visualized in her head a Swimmer who was about her age and looked much like her.
This "Judy" held a special place in Ducky's heart. This Swimmer was the first friend Ducky had ever made, since she held spent the first five cold times of her life being forced to play only with those of her own kind. Not only was Judy her first friend, but also the only friend she had, since other children grew tired of her now-famous, "Yep, yep, yep!" Likewise, Ducky was also one of only a few friends that Judy made. They were somewhat like outcasts in their own way. The two had been best friends, like a pair of matching tree stars. They spent almost every day together, … until their lives descended into chaos.
Ducky gave a faint grin up at the constellation taking the supposed form of Judy, and she took a few steps back and made a dive into the river. She didn't care if the splash woke up another dinosaur or not. She only wanted to do what she was best at, and that was swimming. Ever since … that terrible day, … the one thing that always helped her refresh her mind whenever her friends and family weren't around was spending time underwater and journeying into a deep blue world that flourished underneath the Great Valley. She was often scared when she did this at night, when she could see almost nothing in the dark blue abyss below, but she was a great swimmer for her age, and swimming was what she wanted to do after seeing the stars take on the form of the first friend she had ever made…
One cloudy morning, Ducky was wandering on her own through the forest near her nest. Although her mother had told her not to stray too far, curiosity got the best of her, and she couldn't help but feel like exploring. It was all she really could do, since none of the other Swimmer children wanted to play with her.
Then, she noticed another lonely Swimmer sitting by a creek. The Swimmer was about her age, had the same shades of green and yellow as her, and had eyelashes, indicating that the Swimmer was a girl. In fact, she looked just like her in so many ways. The only difference was the eye color. While Ducky had blue eyes, this Swimmer appeared to have green eyes.
Ducky noticed that the Swimmer looked sad, and it saddened her to see a poor child all sad and lonely. She didn't hesitate to make her move.
"Um, … hello?" she said calmly.
The Swimmer perked up and saw Ducky, and she shivered in fright. Ducky knew immediately that she had startled her.
"Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you. Nope, nope, nope," Ducky reassured.
The Swimmer calmed down a little, but she still looked frightened.
"Are you okay?" asked Ducky.
The Swimmer didn't answer, and this greatly concerned Ducky. Could it be that this kid couldn't talk? Was she so shy that she didn't like talking to other kids?
"W-what are you doing here, all by yourself? Don't you have any friends to play with, or a mommy and daddy to take care of you?" asked Ducky.
The stranger instantly tensed upon hearing the word, 'daddy'. That word seemed to trigger something within her that Ducky couldn't comprehend, although she sensed that she shouldn't have said what she did.
"I am sorry. Maybe I should not have asked-ed that," said Ducky, looking away as she realized her mistake.
"N-no," stuttered the Swimmer, "I-it's okay. It's j-just … n-nobody seems to like me."
Ducky gasped, "Nobody likes you? W-why? I think you are a very nice kid."
The Swimmer sighed sadly.
"Only my mommy would agree with you," she said with a sniffle.
Ducky looked oddly at the Swimmer. Something definitely seemed "off" with her.
"What is your name?" asked Ducky.
"Um, … J-Judy."
"My name is Ducky. Yep, yep, yep," beamed Ducky.
For the first time, Ducky saw a smile creep its way onto Judy's face, and she sat next to her new friend and gently rubbed her back to help her feel comfortable around her. They looked into each other's eyes and smiled, each happy to have a new companion by their side. For the first time in her life, Ducky finally seemed on her way to forming a new friendship they hoped would last a long time.
Ducky smiled at the memory as she swam down the darkened river. She loved the sensations of the water rushing past her in the other direction like wind as she swam. It was always the most soothing sensation for any Swimmer, and she enjoyed it tremendously.
She looked up and saw the Night Circle creating such a beautiful glow over the water. From underneath, it looked so extraordinary, like she was in a different world; a world just as beautiful and peaceful as her beloved Great Valley.
"It is too bad Littlefoot, Cera, Petrie, Spike, Chomper and Ruby cannot swim. It is, it is," thought Ducky sadly. She remembered Petrie feeling the same way about none of his friends being able to fly and join him in the skies above the valley, in the same sense that none of them could join Ducky under the waters below the valley. In that sense, Ducky and Petrie each had their own special freedom that none of their other friends had.
As Ducky stared up at the reflection of the Night Circle shining over the water, another memory of Judy appeared in her head …
A few weeks had passed since Ducky and Judy first met. They played with each other almost every day; swimming and playing in the forest. Judy would even teach Ducky how to be more selfless and how to swim better, although none of the other Swimmer children ever accepted to play with them. What was strange to Ducky was that every day they didn't see each other, Judy would have mysterious bruises and cuts on her the next morning. She even grew more and more scared of the world, as it seemed to Ducky.
One morning, Ducky was eating breakfast with her parents, when she suddenly heard what sounded like a frightened child trembling its way out of the forest. She noticed her parents staring in shock, and when she turned around, a horrifying sight met her eyes …
Judy was covered from head to toe in bloody cuts and dark bruises. Her expression looked as if she was desperate and helpless, like she was begging for someone to help her. She was holding her eyelashes with her hands, as if she was trying to pull them off.
"Judy!?" gasped Ducky, "What happened-ed to you?"
Judy stared at Ducky. Tears fell from her eyes and stung her painful cheeks. She was shaking like she had been in frozen water.
"D-Da-Daddy … h-hurt me," she stuttered, "He said he w-would k-kill me if I ever l-left him again."
Ducky's parents gasped in shock, but Ducky was the most horrified of all. By now, she knew that Judy's father was abusive from time to time, but she couldn't have imagined him being abusive at such a high degree.
"Judy, … maybe you should talk with your mother about this problem. I'm sure she'd be able to help you," said Mama Swimmer kindly.
"Daddy said he'd kill Mommy, too!" cried Judy, "Mommy has tried to get me away from Daddy, but he keeps forcing us to stay with him, and he hurts us both every day! I'm so scared! You've gotta do something, please! You're the only friend I have, Ducky! I beg you!"
Ducky's heart felt ready to explode. She couldn't have anticipated that Judy was in such a desperate situation concerning her family. Of course, being so young, she had no idea what to do. She had gotten a few glimpses of Judy's father, and each time she saw him, he looked like he was ready to kill somebody. The pure sight of him seemed to petrify her.
"Judy, I, … I … wish I knew what to do," said Ducky sadly. It tore her up feeling so helpless to help her one and only friend.
"I'll tell you what, Judy," said Papa Swimmer, "Would you like to stay with us for a while until we think of a way to settle this problem?"
"My dear, are you sure this will be okay?" Mama Swimmer spoke worryingly to her mate, "Her father will probably be out looking for her, and if he finds her with us, then we could all end up in big trouble."
"We'll hide her someplace safe until her father has been dealt with," assured Papa Swimmer, "Ducky can take good care of her, seeing as she cares deeply about her."
"JUDY!" roared a monstrous voice within the nearby forest that nearly stopped all their hearts. They didn't have to make a second guess as to who this voice belonged to…
Ducky and her parents turned their attention to the forest, and there stood a sight that made them all gulp…
There stood Judy's father, Rolf, looking red in the face and glaring at them murderously.
"You were saying?" whispered Papa Swimmer to his mate.
"You get back to the nest right now, you, miserable brat!" yelled Rolf.
Judy was frozen in place next to Ducky, petrified at the sight of her father. She wanted to hide, but it was too late now. She had been found with another Swimmer family, and her and Ducky's cover was blown.
"So, this is how it is, then, huh? My daughter just so happened to be friends with another Swimmer, eh?" huffed Rolf, "I should have known all this time that this overgrown egg was trying to take my child away from me!"
As Ducky flinched at the insult thrown at her, her parents immediately stood up and glared at the Swimmer whom had insulted their daughter.
"DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK OF MY DAUGHTER THAT WAY!" yelled Mama Swimmer.
"Ducky had nothing to do with this!" shouted Papa Swimmer, "She is merely a friend of Judy's, and your paranoia and abuse towards your own child is drawing her away from you! Now you wonder why she tries to run away from you!? How about being more considerate!?"
"Don't tell me how to raise my child, you, Bigmouth!" retorted Rolf, "Judy is MY child, and NO pathetic excuse for a Swimmer is going to tell me how to raise my daughter!"
"HEY!" shouted Ducky, much to the surprise of her parents, "DO NOT CALL MY PARENTS THAT! Judy is my friend, and I will not let you hurt her anymore! NO, NO, NO!"
"YOU SHUT UP AND STAY OUT OF THIS, YOU, DISGUSTING BEAK FACE!" screamed Rolf, and before anyone could respond, he picked up Ducky by the tail and threw her at a nearby rock.
"DUCKY!" gasped her parents in horror as their daughter smashed head-first into the rock and slid down next to the river. Blood smeared the rock she crashed into, and her whole face turned purplish-green.
"YOU COWARD! HOW DARE YOU!? Of all the nerve! You break into our nest, and you attack my daughter! Are you out of your mind!?" yelled Ducky's father as his mate rushed to Ducky's aid and crouched down to make sure she was not seriously hurt.
"I'll make sure you don't get away with this! Mark my words!" she hissed at Rolf.
"I WON'T LET YOU OR YOUR BLASPHEMOUS EXCUSE OF A WORTHLESS DAUGHTER HAVE ANYTHING MORE TO DO WITH MY FAMILY! AS FOR YOU, JUDY, YOU'RE COMING WITH ME THIS INSTANT!" he shouted at his daughter, and was just about to pick her up, when …
"STOP!" came another voice in the forest, and soon Judy's mother, Nitha, emerged from the trees, covered in as many scars and bruises as her daughter was.
Nitha had been on very good terms with Ducky, and she was a loving mother to Judy and a well-respected member of the herd, except for the fact that she seemed to have chosen the wrong mate at some point during her life.
"Please stop this, Rolf! If Judy wants to be with her friend, she has the right to be with her friend!" begged Nitha.
"I will not have you defending our daughter's actions ever again, Nitha!" her mate fired back, "You haven't learned a thing about family since the day Judy hatched!"
Before Nitha could respond, she was hit with a large tree branch that knocked her to the ground. Her screams of pain could be heard for miles.
Ducky opened her eyes. She had heard every word, and she was mortified by how insane Rolf was behaving. Now she knew why nobody had wanted to play with Judy, and why she would constantly receive more scars and bruises. Rolf was an enraged lunatic who appeared to be a soul beyond saving, and all the other Swimmers lived in fear of him.
"Ducky, … are you okay?" her mother whispered to her.
Ducky felt some tears streaming down her cheeks as she felt immense pain in her severely bruised face. She looked up at her mother and shook her head, too shocked to speak.
"It's okay, dear," soothed Mama Swimmer, gently hugging her daughter, "I'm right here. Everything's gonna be fine."
"J-J-Ju-Ju-Judy?" stuttered Ducky in a faint whisper, her whole body shaking as if she was frozen to the bone.
Mama Swimmer gave her a sympathetic frown. She knew that Ducky wanted to save Judy from her horrible father in some way, but it would be easier said than done unless they gathered up other Swimmers and discussed what to do about that unstable lunatic.
"If you either of you ever leave the nest again, I'll kill you both!" she heard Rolf screaming to his family.
Ducky gasped at those words and turned just in time to watch Rolf literally grab his daughter in his hand and drag Nitha away by pulling her by the tail, and she refused to break eye contact until they disappeared into the forest. All the while, Judy screamed and begged for her father to let go, but he refused. Once they were gone, Ducky let her floodgates open and cried hard into her mother's chest.
"Aww, Ducky. I know, dear. I'm so sorry, my little one," said Mama Swimmer, sniffling as a single tear escaped her right eye.
"How is she?" Papa Swimmer said with a mortified expression as he came over to them.
"She's got a large bruise covering just about her whole face. Her nose took a hard hit," his mate replied, "We're gonna have to cover it with herbs to stop the bleeding."
"That no good son of a tar pit!" hissed Papa Swimmer, his fists clenching with anger at that wretched Swimmer who nearly murdered his daughter, "He has no right to treat his own family that way, nor does he have the right to just barge into our nest and try to kill our child! That bastard doesn't deserve to live!"
"I'm afraid Judy might be in a life-threatening situation unless we do something really soon, … for her sake, … and for Ducky's sake," sighed Mama Swimmer.
"We've got to do something," agreed Papa Swimmer, "She is our daughter's only friend, and we can't let them get ripped apart like that."
Ducky, still greatly shocked from being thrown into a rock and watching Rolf's outrage, silently cried herself to sleep once her parents treated her wounded face with herbs, and her mother gently placed her back in the nest, so she could have a more relaxing nap. She desperately hoped that something could be done to save Judy before it was too late…
Ducky flinched at that terrible memory as she looked around her deep blue surroundings. It had been the most traumatizing moment of her life before becoming a bait to lure Sharptooth out of that cave.
The flow of the water was still calm and quiet, but thinking about such a traumatizing experience made Ducky feel so uneasy that she had to swim up to the surface to breathe in some fresh air. Once her head was back over the water, she instantly felt the cold night air breezing at her. She sighed and let the fresh air soothe her for as long as she wanted. It felt somewhat welcoming to her after spending five minutes underwater and thinking about Judy.
The Swimmer looked up at the night sky, and the stars were still taking on the form of her long lost friend. A single tear shed from her right eye as she stared up at the stars, thinking of all the happy and sad memories of her and Judy before destiny led her to new friends and a beautiful Great Valley.
To this day, she held Rolf in contempt, even though it had been over a Cold Time since the last time she saw him, or any member of his family. She wanted to curse at him, but she knew there was no point and that everyone in the valley was asleep, so she said nothing.
Eventually, Ducky relaxed and found the energy to pull herself back underneath the surface of the river, and she slowly swam past some tall seaweeds that seemed to turn this part of the river into an underwater forest. To her, this place was so gorgeous. She had always imagined there being such amazing places underwater, and her imagination was coming true as she saw many different kinds of tiny Swimmers that always stayed beneath the water, and sea plants of all kinds, even in many colors. Some plants even sparkled in the light of the Night Circle, a sight that Ducky found most extraordinary. It was like there was another whole Great Valley underneath the sea where many water-dwelling Swimmers lived and enjoyed their peacefulness just as much as the dinosaurs living right above their heads.
"My friends would love this," she thought to herself, "Now I really wish they could be able to swim and see this amazing place with me. Yep, yep, yep."
She sighed sadly as she remembered how limited her friends were when it came to being underwater. All they could really do was lower their heads down and take brief glimpses before they had to raise their heads back up for air. To her, it didn't seem fair for them.
Quickly placing her negative thoughts aside, Ducky swam on, looking forward to seeing the rest of this underwater forest, as she, unlike her friends, had all the freedom she could hope for to do so. She swung her legs up and down and aimed her head towards bubbles to catch air whenever she needed to, so that she wouldn't have to keep pulling herself back up to the surface. For her, this was the chance of a lifetime, and she was willing to enjoy it for as long as she could. With her family and all her friends asleep, no one was around to stop her enjoying this sleep story come true. She hadn't felt this free in a long time.
Eventually, Ducky made it to the end of the river, and when she went back up to the surface, she was met with the sight of the bottom of the Thundering Falls constantly pouring fresh water into the river of the valley for everyone, land-dweller and water-dweller, to enjoy. She felt some drops splash on her face as the Falls crashed down into the river and splashed in all sorts of directions. The Swimmer welcomed the sensation with a sigh and a broad smile. She felt as if she deserved to enjoy this relaxing sensation after swimming down nearly the entire distance of the valley's river. It was like she had just had the time of her life, although it couldn't compare to all the times she spent with her friends.
However, when she thought of her friends, she also thought of Judy again. When she looked up at the sky, the stars were still taking on the form of Judy, and she couldn't help but think about one of the worst moments of her life; a moment she hoped she would never have to live again…
Ducky was sleeping uneasily in her nest. She couldn't stop having nightmares about Judy. Ever since Rolf barged into her family's home and attacked her right in front of her parents, she had remained traumatized by the frightful experience, but she never stopped worrying about Judy. After the incident, the two friends started seeing each other less frequently, because Judy didn't want to put Ducky's life in danger, but also because Rolf forbade Judy and Nitha from ever leaving their nest again.
Suddenly, the young Swimmer was awoken by a frantic wake-up call…
Ducky woke up with a startle. She screamed as she sat up and panted heavily. Another nightmare had plagued her in her sleep, and she was beginning to worry that they would never end.
"Ducky!" she heard her mother's voice call to her.
The young Swimmer looked up and saw the source standing right above her, panting frantically as if she had just been chased by a Sharptooth.
"What is it, Mama?" asked Ducky worryingly, "Are there Sharpteeth on the way?"
"No, Ducky," panted Mama Swimmer, "It's worse. Much worse."
"What is wrong, Mama? What is going on!?" asked Ducky, now desperate for an answer to her mother's strange behavior.
Mama Swimmer's face appeared to turn pale, and a few tears leaked from her eyes. Ducky's selfless instincts took over as she saw the tears come down.
"W-why are you crying, Mama?"
"Ducky, … I … I have some terrible news."
Ducky gulped nervously. She knew that this meant big trouble.
"There's … been a horrible accident … at Judy's nest!" cried Mama Swimmer.
Ducky gasped loudly and covered her mouth with her hands in big shock, and without thinking twice, she leaped out of the nest and ran off into the forest where Judy's family lived.
"Ducky! DUCKY! COME BACK HERE!" her mother protested, but she refused to listen. She wanted to make sure her best (and only) friend was okay…
It didn't take long for the young Swimmer to find Judy's nest, but when she found her friend's family, she gasped in horror…
Next to the nest, Judy lied on her side, completely still. Next to her was Nitha, also lying on her side and appearing to be in a deep sleep.
"Judy!" called Ducky, and she rushed to her friend and gently shook her to get her to wake up.
She didn't respond. Not even a twitch.
"Judy? Wake up," said Ducky, "Judy? Please, wake up!"
Then, when she patted Judy's side, she felt an extremely cold sensation…
Her body was cold.
Ducky checked to see if Judy might have been hurt, … then, a disturbing sight awaited her…
There was a large hole in Judy's chest. Blood was pouring out of the wound and soaking the ground beneath her in crimson red.
Ducky gasped, and her heart sunk. She felt as if she was ready to faint. Judy had been fatally wounded. Her best friend had been taken away from her. The only friend she had ever made in her life was gone.
"Judy?" she whispered as she felt the tears welling up in her eyes, "Judy? Judy! No. No! No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NOOOOO!"
Finally, the Swimmer collapsed and slumped on top of Judy's lifeless body. She cried loudly in grief and despair as she hugged her best friend's corpse. Her life had suddenly turned upside down, and it all seemed so unfair.
"I'm afraid so, dear," came the voice of Mama Swimmer, choked up as she couldn't contain the sadness within her own voice, "I'm so sorry, my dear Ducky. We had tried so hard to save her, … but … we never anticipated it would end like this."
"Why, why, WHY!?" wailed Ducky, "WHY, JUDY!? WHY!?"
At that moment, Ducky opened her eyes, and as her tears blurred her vision, she noticed many more Swimmers gathering around to see what had happened, and many of them were gasping or in tears.
"Could this have been a Sharptooth attack?" asked one of the males.
"We'll have to make sure it wasn't an attack, so we can ensure that our families will continue to be safe from that dreaded monster," replied another.
Before long, everyone was focused on Ducky as she wept on Judy's body as if she was still trying to get her to wake up, even though she would never wake up again. She would never again share a smile or a laugh with the only Swimmer she could ever call a friend.
"Young lady?" an elderly female, who was one of the Swimmer herd leaders, spoke gently to Ducky as she continued to cry on top of Judy, "You have to let go, dear."
"No!" cried Ducky, "I will not let my friend go! No, no, no! She will wake up! She will, she will!"
"I'm so sorry, young lady, … but … she won't wake up," said the elder with regret, choking back tears, "I'm afraid she's gone."
"NO! SHE CANNOT BE GONE!" wept Ducky, "Judy is my friend! My ONLY friend! The only one who liked-ed me! PLEASE, NO!"
"Ducky?" said her mother, "Please, let go."
Ducky refused to move. She sat there on top of Judy's corpse, crying her heart out as she mourned her only friend.
"Could somebody please get her off?" asked the elder.
"I'll do it," Mama Swimmer instantly answered, and she slowly crouched down towards her daughter with regretful tears in her eyes, "Ducky? Please, … let go, dear."
"No!" wailed Ducky as she refused to accept the horrible truth, "I cannot let my friend leave forever! Please let me save her!"
"Ducky," sniffled Mama Swimmer as she tried her best not to break down. It broke her heart to see her daughter so torn up over the loss of her only friend, "I'm so sorry, dear, … but she cannot be saved. It's too late now."
Mama Swimmer sighed sadly as she gently picked up her daughter. Ducky squirmed as she reached out to Judy's body, but it was no use. She wailed as she realized this moment was the awful truth: she and her friend would be separated forever, never to see each other again. Judy was gone, and there was nothing she could do about it. She had been cruelly taken away from her by some heartless act of evil.
"JUDY!" screamed Ducky as her mother pulled her away and hugged her, "JUDY! NOOOOOOOO!"
"Ssssh," soothed Mama Swimmer, "I'm here, Ducky. There, there, dear. Please calm down."
"Why, Mama!? Why!?" cried Ducky, "Why did this have to happen!?"
"I don't know, my Ducky dear," sniffled Mama Swimmer as she choked back a sob, "But I feel hesitant to say that we might find out soon."
Ducky saw the other Swimmers gathering around Judy and Nitha, who both lied lifelessly by the nest, then she turned and saw an even more horrifying sight…
A few feet away from the nest, Rolf lied motionless on the ground with a large tree branch sliced through his chest. The mere sight of it made Ducky feel so sick inside. A few other Swimmers gathered around Rolf to examine what had happened, but the child couldn't bear to see any more of it. In fact, she felt her stomach lurch. Mama Swimmer immediately picked up the sense that Ducky was about to be sick.
"Please, go back to your nest," insisted one of the female Swimmers, "I don't think your daughter will want to be here right now."
"Inform me if there is any news," Mama Swimmer replied before she walked away, carrying Ducky with her.
She brought her daughter back home just in time, as she was retching just as she set her back on the ground. Ducky quickly ran into some bushes and threw up everything she had eaten the day before. She felt so drowsy that she was on the verge of passing out. Her life had descended into a state of despair and hopelessness. Her family was all she had left in the world. She was more of an outcast than ever before, with no friends to play with and no real reason to spend time away from the nest. She was completely wrecked, her emotions seemingly destroyed beyond repair.
Still nauseous from vomiting, Ducky emerged from the bushes and clumsily crawled back into the nest before she collapsed with exhaustion and everything turned black…
That afternoon, Ducky was once again awakened by her mother. She stirred a little before she woke up and saw several adult Swimmers surrounding the nest, all with sad faces, including her parents and both leaders of their Swimmer herd. Even though Ducky knew hardly any of these Swimmers, she knew why they were here: … to inform her of the terrible news …
"Ducky? Are you alright, dear?" her mother asked her, gently lifting her onto her lap and cuddling her tenderly.
"N-no," said Ducky weakly.
"She's still in a state of shock, isn't she?" sympathized one of the other adults.
"I'm afraid so," answered Mama Swimmer with a sad sigh, "I wish I'd have stopped her from running off like that."
"J-Ju-Judy?" stuttered Ducky as more tears came down and stained her cheeks.
"We found out what had happened, … and I'm afraid it wasn't a Sharptooth attack," said the elderly male Swimmer.
Ducky's eyes were wide with horror. She could already guess what really happened…
"When we examined their wounds, we found out an awful truth," he went on, "Turns out Rolf had gone completely out of his mind, and he murdered his own family in their sleep."
Ducky gasped in disbelief. Judy had been killed by her own father, along with Nitha. She had known him to be a dangerous Swimmer, but she didn't think he could go that far.
"No!" she cried, "He could not have!"
"I'm so sorry, Ducky," said her father, "We tried everything in our power to save that family, but we were too late."
Ducky sobbed quietly as she thought of her friend she would never see again.
"As for the tree branch we found in Rolf's chest…" the male elder continued, "… we're officially calling it a suicide."
Ducky had no idea what that word meant.
"W-what do you m-mean?" she stuttered.
"Rolf took his own life after killing his family," finished the male elder, "In other words, he killed himself."
Ducky suddenly felt her blood boiling with rage at the evil Swimmer whom had taken his own family and himself with them. It was one thing for Rolf to invade Ducky's nest and attack her, but murdering his own family was quite another. This Swimmer was far beyond evil, as far as Ducky could comprehend. Worse still, now that Rolf had committed suicide, there was nothing that could bring justice to Judy or Nitha, which hurt Ducky deeply.
"That … Monster!" she yelled furiously as angry tears poured from her eyes, "He killed-ed his own family! He killed-ed my friend! Judy was my only friend! I was her only friend! We were so happy together, and now … she … is …"
She couldn't finish her sentence, and she buried her face in her mother's chest and wailed again, unable to imagine having to live the rest of her life without a best friend.
"Please try to calm down, dear," said another female, "You did what you thought was best by trying to help save her. You did your part very well by trying to keep her safe, and your parents did their part well, too, by telling us of the abuse she was going through, but I'm afraid we all made mistakes."
"We didn't take account of certain factors," said the female elder, "We didn't realize how insane her father really was … until it was too late."
"We're all very sorry to have to tell you this terrible news, Ducky," said the male elder, "You did your best to protect her, but all we can do now is remember how wonderful of a child she was. She really did have a bright heart, … just like you."
"We all know you are a very special child," said the female elder, "As long as you care deeply for those around you, then maybe you'll make new friends while always remembering what your old friends did for you."
Ducky didn't feel much better after hearing those words, but she was happy that the adults in the herd could see how kind-hearted she was, and she was determined not to let one tragedy affect her forever, even if she was probably going to spend the next couple of weeks mourning the loss of Judy.
"I know you have the strength to move on, my dear Ducky," encouraged Mama Swimmer, "We all lost a good friend today, but she's still with you … in your heart. Don't you ever forget that, my little Ducky."
Ducky placed her left hand against her chest, and all she could think about were the happy times she and Judy had together. They may have reminded her that she was no longer with her, but it also reminded her of how kind and caring she was to her. She knew that as long as she continued to be caring to others with her kindness and selflessness, then perhaps one day, she might be able to make new friends later in life. However, that couldn't change the fact that nobody could replace Judy, the first friend she had ever made in her young life.
Ducky sniffled tearfully as she remembered the worst day of her life. It especially didn't seem fair to her that she only had five days to mourn the loss of Judy before the Great Earth Shake split her from her family. First, she had lost her friend, then she lost her family, all in a matter of five days. She would spend days all alone, trying to find her family, but instead she found Littlefoot. It would lead her to the greatest and most dangerous adventure of her life, as she and her new friends journeyed through barren landscapes and scorching deserts while on the run from Sharptooth, before they eventually defeated the beast and found the Great Valley.
And throughout that adventure, and ever since she was reunited with her beloved family and got a new brother in Spike, … not once did she ever mention Judy to anyone.
Only her parents and her siblings would remember seeing Ducky playing with Judy before the tragedy and the Earth Shake, but whenever Ducky's friends came to the nest, or if they were in their presence, they never spoke Judy's name. In fact, even after Littlefoot told her about what had happened to his mother, she still found it too painful to mention Judy to him. Ducky would only think about Judy when she had nightmares about her about once every few months it seemed. Her mother would gently remind her that it was her special friendship with Judy that helped her to become what she was today: a kind, selfless Swimmer who cared for everyone who was nice to her, particularly her friends. She had managed to move on after Judy's passing, and now she had six special friends who played with her every day. In heart, Judy seemed to teach her how to be so sweet to others, and her eventual reward was a beautiful home shared with many other peaceful dinosaurs, and a group of friends who were all special in their own ways, just like herself.
Ducky looked up at the stars one last time, smiling at Judy's form in the sky.
"This swim was for you, Judy. Yep, yep, yep," she whispered at the stars.
And with those words, Ducky put on a bright smile as she could feel as if her long lost friend in the Great Beyond was smiling down at her, and she happily jumped out of the water and splashed back down before turning around and swimming her way back home. She greatly welcomed the soothing wind-like sensations of the water as she swam through the underwater forest again, smiling at all the remarkable sights that the nature underneath the Great Valley's grounds had to offer. With her memories of Judy fresh out of her mind, she suddenly felt wonderful. She knew that Judy's spirit still lived in her heart in the same way that Littlefoot's mother did with him, and she would never forget her first friend nor be sad forever. She would continue to live her happy life in the Great Valley, playing with her friends every day as long as she remained the young, energetic, playful, selfless Swimmer that many in the valley loved.
Once Ducky swam all the way back to where she started, she jumped out of the river and landed on all fours as she slowly made her way back to her nest, knowing that tomorrow would be another day in the life of a special Swimmer with many wonderful friends just like her first one.
Well, I find it hard to believe it's been thirty years since we lost Judith Barsi, even though I'm only 25. Her sweet Ducky voice set the standard for Heather Hogan and Aria Noelle Curzon, and may we never forget her voice that made Ducky the sweet, innocent, lovable character we all know and love today.
As for the name, Nitha, it comes from the dinosaur subgroup that Ducky's species (Saurolophus) was placed in: Ornithopods, which included all the duck-billed dinosaurs. Rolf was partially named after the species "Saurolophus."
You might also have noticed that I actually decided to take a silent approach by having there be almost no dialogue (not including the flashback scenes). Sometimes, a silent story can feel just as immersive as a story filled with talking characters. When you're down and feeling alone because you're remembering a lost friend from years past, the best you can do is go outside and spend some silent time to yourself at night.
Again, I'm not sure if the entire story was supposed to be underwater or not, but at least I hope I made up for it by inserting powerful feelings and the emotions of a silent night of memory.
Until my next story, see you later.
IN MEMORY OF
Judith Eva Barsi
June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988