For a while, I wasn't sure if I was even going to write a story for the July prompt. I thought I'd just give myself a break after winning the June prompt with my "Swim of Silence" story, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the tragic death of Judith Barsi. However, that particular story got so popular that one of my followers, TimeLordMaster108, asked me to write a follow-up to that story, which I initially did not want to do, but I decided that I couldn't leave my followers disappointed. My only hope is that this doesn't become a saga of any sorts. I had originally intended for this to be a one-story-only thing anyway. I do NOT wish for this to become a new series unless popular demand tells me otherwise.
Therefore, I bring you this entry for the July prompt ...
"There comes a time in everyone's life where a choice must be made, one which may irreversibly alter the path ahead."
Since I interpret some prompts in different ways, I thought it didn't just have to concern the future of the characters or the valley, but maybe even their friendships. If one were to keep something a secret for so long, how would it affect his or her friendships when the friends of the one in question finally learn the disturbing truth?
Please be warned that this story is not for the faint of heart, and I hope this changes the way you view the terrible effects of child abuse, not just for a particular child, but how it affects friends, and also that when you are so emotionally distraught over losing someone, don't wait until it's too late. Tell a friend whom you can trust, and that friend can help you recover mentally and emotionally. Our world is well worth living in, and there is always something worth living for, even in the most despairing and hopeless of times, as you will see in this story. This is especially difficult to explain to young children whom have seen or witnessed death for the first time, and children are far more vulnerable to these negative emotions than adults are. Therefore, it all depends on how you teach them how to cope with death.
So, here is my entry for the July prompt.
A SWIMMER'S SAD SECRET
The yawns of many tired children interrupted the peaceful ambience of a cool, breezy night, as a Swimmer family were about to settle down to sleep in their nest; a mother and father tucking several recently hatched babies in the nest, while their older siblings spread throughout the nesting area, a Spiketail being the odd one out among them.
Ducky let out a long yawn as all the playtime she had spent with her friends that day had worn her out to the point where she could barely keep her eyes open, as Spike carried her back home.
"It really has been quite a day, Spike. Yep, yep, yep," she yawned weakly.
"You sound like you really need some sleep," her mother chuckled.
"I am … not that tired," sighed Ducky, although trying to stay awake proved to be much more of a challenge than she anticipated it would be.
"Oh, I think you are, dear," replied Mama Swimmer, "You should go ahead and get yourself some much-needed rest. You look as though you've had quite a trying day."
"Okay, Mama," said a defeated Ducky, and she curled up next to Spike and let his presence warm her own body soothingly.
Before long, all the children were asleep, except for Ducky, who was still trying to keep herself awake for at least another minute or two. Her mother, being the smart and ever-so-caring parent she was, took notice of this in just about no time at all, and her parental instincts immediately kicked in.
Once her mate was asleep, Mama Swimmer walked over to Ducky and Spike and crouched down to their level.
"Okay, Ducky," she whispered, "Why aren't you asleep yet? This doesn't seem like the normal you, staying awake for as long as you possibly can."
"Oh, it is nothing, Mama," insisted Ducky, although her mother was harder to fool than she hoped.
"Hmm. I can tell something's troubling you," said Mama Swimmer, "Would you care to tell me what's wrong?"
In fact, so much was on Ducky's mind at that very moment. She hadn't started thinking about it until very recently, when one night she swore she could see the stars taking the form of a friend she had once had so long ago. However, she felt hesitant to mention it. She didn't want to continuously trouble her family with this issue that had continued to trouble her for all the wrong reasons. Two cold times had passed since that fateful day, and she shuddered to let those thoughts linger inside her much longer.
"Maybe, … I should tell you in the morning," she finally said after a long silence that seemed to last forever.
"Good idea, Ducky. Don't let your thoughts dwell on you whilst the Night Circle is still out. Delve into your happy thoughts. Once the Bright Circle comes up, then you can free yourself from all your thoughts, good or bad, and enjoy the start of a brand new day," said Mama Swimmer.
Ducky couldn't help but smile at such words from her mother. She sounded so wise when she said those words, and she hoped she would remember them for a long time.
"That is such a very good lesson. Yep, yep, yep," giggled Ducky in a whisper.
"Of course, it is, dear," smiled Mama Swimmer, and she gave her daughter a quick kiss on the cheek, "Goodnight, Ducky."
"Goodnight, Mama," yawned Ducky as she stretched her limbs and leaned against Spike.
Soon, the young Swimmer could keep her eyes open no longer, and she slowly let sleep take over her. The last thing she thought of before she went to sleep, … was a Swimmer that looked just like her, except with green eyes …
Ducky opened her eyes and found herself in the middle of a dense forest. Trees were everywhere, but there was little grass on the ground compared to what she had been used to in the Great Valley. A few shallow rivers also ran through the forest.
The Swimmer quickly noticed that this forest looked very familiar to her. She could recall seeing trees, almost bare ground and narrow creeks that all looked just like this.
"Is it me or does this place look like I have been here before?" she asked herself as she stood up and looked around, wondering if anyone was near. There seemed to be no sign of life anywhere. It was just the sound of the rivers gently trickling, not even the slightest hint of the tiniest breeze.
Ducky looked up at the sky, and she saw that it was broad daylight. However, the Bright Circle did not shine. The skies were blanketed in a thick form of grayish-purple, which could only have been sky puffies. Somehow, the young Swimmer felt uneasy by how so little light managed to shine down on the forest, completely blocked by the sky puffies. It was like this forest was such an unhappy place, even though she had quickly summed up why it looked familiar to her …
"Is this where I grew up?" she asked herself, "It sure looks like it was."
Ducky could recognize every tree in this section of forest as she walked to a three-way intersection in the dirt pathway right next to a creek. She knew this place very well, as she had come here very often during the first five cold times of her life. This was the spot she would come to whenever she felt down and needed time to herself. Nobody outside her family had wanted to play with her during those depressing couple of cold times, except for one Swimmer …
"Judy?" she gasped in realization.
Even if it was she herself whom had spoken the name, it would still hit her like a ton of boulders. She had remembered that unforgettable name of the Swimmer whom had tried her best to change her life for the better before destiny chose different paths for them. Two cold times later, she had never forgotten that Swimmer that was as sweet as herself, nor her even sweeter name (as she once put it).
Ducky was about to dip her feet into the creek for a sense of nostalgia, but the instant her left foot touched the surface of the water …
"DUCKY!" a child's voice echoed across the forest from what sounded like miles away.
Ducky recognized that voice immediately. Even though she had not heard that voice in two cold times, she still remembered its innocent, sweet-sounding tone, much like her own.
"Judy!?" she called as she looked in the direction she assumed the voice was coming from, "Is that you!?"
"DUCKY!" the voice screamed again from afar, "HELP!"
The Swimmer didn't need to be told twice. Her selfless instincts immediately took over as she got right back up to her feet and ran as fast as her legs would allow her to. She dashed through the dimly-lit forest, desperately trying to find the source of the voice. She didn't know if it could be Judy or another child calling for her help, but as the voice had spoken her name, she was sure it was someone who knew her. For all she knew, it could have been any of her friends, although it sure sounded like Judy, and even if it wasn't, she knew she had to help her by any means necessary. She would not sit back and let a poor, innocent child suffer the same fate that Judy had.
"I am coming!" she called in an effort to reassure whomever the child in distress might have been that she was on the way and help would come in just a short bit of time.
The further she ran through the forest, the darker it seemed to become, and before long, the skies turned grayish-black, and Ducky was nearly blinded by the darkness. She could see practically nothing but black, just a few dark blue-shaded trees indicating where she was.
"Hello!?" she called as she started breathing faster, "Anybody!? Does somebody need help!? Where are you!?"
The Swimmer began to panic, as the voice had stopped calling for her, and the forest was practically as dark as a cave. She seemed to have stumbled into the middle of nowhere. Perhaps she had gone in the wrong direction, or she may have been too late. Maybe the voice might have been a trap set up to frighten her.
"Hello!?" she called again.
"Where are you!? Where am I!?" she yelled in fright as the situation began to scare her tremendously. Now she began to fear that her own life was at risk. A Sharptooth could be lurking at any corner or hiding behind any tree, and, given their strong sense of sight when it came to roaming in the Mysterious Beyond in the middle of the night, the poor Swimmer was completely helpless. She was all alone in a dark forest with nowhere to run and nobody to turn to.
"M-maybe I should … g-get out of here," she stuttered, "I do not like this place at all. No, no, no."
However, when she turned around, a nest with three Swimmers had suddenly appeared, apparently from out of nowhere. Ducky gasped at how so suddenly they had appeared, but when she got a good look at who the Swimmers were, she gasped loudly in horror …
The two Swimmers who were sleeping peacefully just so happened to be none other than her long-lost friend Judy and her mother, Nitha. Beside them, Judy's father, Rolf, was roaming around the nest, looking as if he was planning to do something.
Ducky realized immediately what this was: she had stumbled into Judy's nest, and she was probably about to relive the worst moment of her life. She never wanted to visit this memory again, even though she had not actually been at the nest to see it happen that night, and when she saw that Judy and Nitha were sleep rumbling, she sensed that she probably had an opportunity to prevent this terrible event from ever happening. She would do anything to see Judy again, even just for a moment.
"Judy!" she whispered as she ran to her friend, "Wake up!"
Judy only stirred a little, prompting Ducky to shake her gently.
"Please! Wake up!"
Judy turned and groaned before she opened her eyes and yawned, and when she turned to Ducky, she gasped in surprise. Ducky looked up to make sure Rolf was still looking away, and she frantically gestured to Judy to come with her.
"Ducky? It's the middle of the night," whispered Judy weakly, "What's bothering you?"
"Judy!" whispered Ducky frantically, "We have to get out of here now! Your daddy is about to do something horrible!"
"What are you talking about, Ducky? My daddy always does something horrible to me," replied an oblivious Judy, "It's not like he's ever going to change his ways."
Ducky looked behind Judy and noticed Rolf breaking a stick off a tree. Her eyes turned wide with horror as she realized exactly what that stick was: … the same one that had taken Judy's life. Her mouth was wide open with terror, and she began to hyperventilate. She had to get Judy out of here right now, or she'd be gone forever.
"Judy! Please! Come with me! I beg you!" panicked Ducky.
"Ducky, I know how much you care about me, and I care about you, too, but I don't want to put you in danger just for my own well-being," assured Judy, but Ducky was still eyeing Rolf as he was about to turn around.
"Judy! Your daddy is about to kill you!" she screamed, although she quickly covered her mouth with her hands as she realized her mistake…
Rolf had turned around and noticed Ducky standing in front of Judy, and Nitha was groaning as she slowly woke up.
Judy looked back and saw the stick in her father's hand, and she seemed frozen in place for a moment, but even that was more than enough time for Ducky to act quickly and grab her friend by the arm.
"Come on! Now!" she yelled, "We have got to get out of here!"
Judy didn't argue with Ducky, and the two children ran away from the nest, but when Ducky looked back, she saw Rolf chasing after them with a murderous look on her face, the stick still in his hand.
"Get back here, you, miserable little overgrown egg!" he raged, "I told you I'd kill you if you ever left the nest again!"
"Where are we going!?" asked Judy.
"Anywhere away from here!" answered Ducky, "Do not ask me again until we are safe! Trust me!"
Judy hesitantly nodded her head, and the two kept running, hoping to soon get away from her horrible father.
Soon, the two young Swimmers found a large log ahead of them. The log just so happened to have a hole that was small enough for them to fit through. Wasting no time, the duo jumped on top of the log and waited for the right moment to jump into the hole. Ducky timed Rolf's movements precisely, and the moment he was about to strike them with the stick, she yelled, "NOW!"
Judy responded instantly and jumped into the hole, and Ducky followed suit, Rolf missing her by mere inches before he toppled over the log and fell on his side with a big thud.
Ducky and Judy panted as they listened to Rolf crashing to the ground, and they tried their best to settle themselves down with the possibility that they were safe, at least for the moment.
"What do we do now?" whispered Judy.
"We stay completely silent," replied Ducky in a very faint whisper that her friend could barely hear, "He will think we are running out of the log and going back to my nest."
"But what if he doesn't?" said Judy worryingly.
"He will. He will. Yes, yes, yes," panted Ducky quietly.
However, her assumption was proven wrong, as they felt the log being picked up. Ducky knew it could only have been Rolf, and the two kids pressed their hands and feet against the insides of the log to keep from falling out. They didn't dare make a sound or move a muscle so that hopefully Rolf could be fooled into thinking that they had already escaped and were long gone.
Ducky dared herself to look up, and she was met with the sight of Rolf's eye peeking inside their hiding place. Her blood turned cold as she realized their cover was blown, and she closed her eyes as Rolf shook the log violently, throwing the two kids inside around like tiny rocks. It didn't take long before the two fell out of the log and landed on the ground.
"You thought you were clever enough to hide from me just like you always have? Well, I've had enough of this! It all ends now!" said Rolf with a murderous-looking stare, enough to make Ducky flinch with fright as if looks alone could kill.
"STOP!" roared a female adult voice, and Ducky knew it could only have been Nitha.
Sure enough, when Ducky looked to her right, she saw Nitha charging directly at Rolf as if she was preparing to ram him.
"LEAVE … JUDY … ALONE!" she screamed, and she bashed into Rolf's side and knocked him down with a painful thud.
"Mommy!" cried Judy with relief, although Ducky felt little to no relief. She could still sense danger. She knew Rolf could still get right back up again and strike at any moment, surprise or not.
"Judy!" Nitha panted, "Thank goodness you're alright!"
She turned to Ducky and smiled at her.
"Thanks so much for warning us, Ducky. If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what could have happened," said Nitha.
Ducky noticed Rolf about to get back up, and she panted heavily with sweat running down her face.
"We … need to get out of here!" she cried.
Nitha saw that her mate was getting back up, and she scooped up Judy in her arms.
"Lead the way, Ducky!" she ordered.
Ducky turned and started running with what little energy she still had. Nitha followed right behind her with Judy in her arms, but behind her, Rolf was gaining on them quickly.
"Where are you leading us to?" Nitha asked Ducky.
"My … nest," panted Ducky, "I … hope."
"GET BACK HERE!" Rolf's voice echoed behind them.
"Hurry!" shouted Ducky, trying desperately to figure out where she was even going with next to no night vision.
Suddenly, she heard a scream from the Swimmers behind her, and she turned around to see Nitha get pummeled to the ground by her mate. Judy slipped out of her mother's arms and ran towards Ducky.
"Nitha!" yelled Ducky in horror, "NO!"
"MOMMY!" shrieked Judy.
"Get off me, Rolf!" hissed Nitha as Rolf kept her pinned to the ground with his foot.
"I told you I'd never be warning you again!" retorted Rolf, and he picked up a large stick from the ground, "I never wanted to lose you, but you just kept insisting on trying to take your family life elsewhere until you found this little beak face!"
Ducky flinched at Rolf's insult as he spat right in her face. A few tears began to form in her eyes.
"I will not let that happen! Nobody leaves me! You are mine! You've been mine since the day you mated with me! Judy has been mine since the day she hatched! I'm going to make sure it stays that way!" finished Rolf, before he charged up his arms and prepared to swing it back down towards his mate.
"NO! STOP!" Ducky screamed, but it was too late …
"SCHLUCK!" the stick sliced its way right through Nitha's chest, and she let out a painful moan. Blood began squirting from the gigantic hole in her chest, and even more blood poured out of her mouth as she screamed with what little breath she had left.
"MOMMY!" whimpered Judy in despair.
"NITHA! NAAAOOOOOO!" wailed Ducky.
Rolf then forcefully pulled the branch back out of Nitha's chest, and she could only let out a few more mumbling, choking moans of pain before her head slumped to the ground and she fell completely silent and motionless.
"I HATE YOU, DADDY!" screamed Judy in a sudden fit of rage, "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!"
Judy began to charge at her father. Ducky grabbed her tail in an effort to hold her back, but her friend resisted and continued her charge towards the Swimmer whom had just murdered her mother.
Rolf easily picked up his daughter and grinned evilly at her, then he turned to Ducky.
"You want to know what happens when anyone in my family tries to defy me? Want to know what happens when anyone in my family tries to get away from me? Well, you're about to regret the day you ever hatched!" he chuckled sinisterly.
"Let her go, Rolf!" shouted Ducky tearfully, "I will not let you hurt Judy again! She is my friend, and she does not deserve a daddy like you! No, no, no!"
"Be quiet, you, disgusting beak face! You have no say in what I can and cannot do! Judy is MINE, and YOU will never again have anything to do with MY child!" hissed Rolf, "You crossed the line in trying to take her away from me, this so-called 'friend' of yours! Who would want to be friends with you, anyway, Ducky!? You and your 'yep, yep, yep' always drove the whole herd crazy, and yet you wondered why nobody ever wanted to play with you!? You are an ill-made spiteful little creature, filled with envy, lust and low cunning! Your mother and father never did a good job teaching you to shut your big mouth! What makes you think Judy could be your friend!? She is just using you as an excuse to get herself away from me just like her mother used your mother!"
Ducky felt tears welling up in her eyes as Rolf's berating words tore her poor, innocent heart to pieces. She looked at Judy, and she was frantically shaking her head to gesture to Ducky that Rolf was lying, but the poor Swimmer couldn't decide what to believe. She had been an annoyance to the other Swimmer children in the herd her whole life, and nobody had ever wanted to play with her until Judy came into her life. What was the point in life if nobody wanted to be her friend except for another Swimmer whose father was a murderous lunatic?
"You'll never be that all-so-friendly Swimmer that you've always wanted to be! You were born a worthless beak face! You'll die a worthless beak face and having always been a blasphemous disgrace to our entire herd! And now, you'll regret the day you ever hatched!" continued Rolf.
What Ducky saw next was something she would deeply regret …
Rolf charged a small stick directly into Judy's chest. Ducky's heart stopped as she watched the stabbing before her very eyes. Judy screamed in agony, blood squirted from her wound, more blood poured out of her mouth, and her eyes rolled back into her head.
"Duck-key?" she sputtered before her father dropped her to the ground. The stick popped out of her chest as she hit the ground, and she lay in a pool of her own blood and that of her mother's.
"NAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOO!" Ducky wept loudly as she fell to her knees and her eyes exploded with tears. She had once again seen her best friend die in the hands of her father, and all she could feel now was nothing but contempt for the Swimmer whom had taken his own family in cold blood, "You monster! You m-murderer! You … YOU … BASTARD! I HATE YOU, ROLF! You are the worst Swimmer I have ever meet-ed! You are! You are! Yes, yes, yes!"
"You really do have a big mouth," remarked an unimpressed Rolf, "Your mother and father never did teach you anything, just like I never got to teach Judy, because YOU took her away from me, and I'm going to make you pay for what you've done to my family."
Ducky looked up and saw the hideous Swimmer towering right above her with a small stick in his hand, the same one that had taken Judy's life. She knew that his words just now had been completely senseless, but she didn't have the strength to argue any further. She felt as if she had just lost the will to live after watching her beloved friend die a gruesome death.
"I'm going to kill you, Ducky. I'm going to destroy you," said Rolf with an evil-looking smile that just about scared the poor child, "After tonight, no one will ever again question my authority. I'll be sure to enjoy it all as I look into your face when I kill you."
Ducky glared hatefully at Rolf with the tears still soaking her face, and she managed to come up with one last brave statement …
"You know what, then? I h-hope the herd banishes you or kills you for what you have done to Judy! Yes, yes, yes!" she shouted with her last ounce of bravery.
"Don't talk back to me, you, blasphemous beak face!" retorted Rolf aggressively, "I'll be giving you a silent, painful death before that happens, so none of it will matter to you! Now shut your filthy big mouth while I see the light leave your eyes!"
Ducky had no time to register the next thought before she felt burning pain in her left leg.
"OOOOOOWWWWWWW!" she screamed in agonizing pain, and she fell on her back and saw a gaping hole in her left leg, but before she could even comprehend what had happened, Rolf suddenly brought the stick down and sliced into her right leg in the same fashion, "AAACCKK!"
Ducky curled herself as her last line of defense. She buried her face with her knees as she cried in agony and despair. She wished it would end soon or that someone would rescue her, but when she looked up one more time, Rolf had the stick pointed directly at her.
"MOMMY!" she screamed out of desperation that her mother would answer to her call and come to her rescue, but nobody came, and she closed her eyes and prepared for the end, awaiting the final blow that would end her short life.
Finally, Ducky felt the stick touch her forehead, and everything turned black and silent …
The entire Swimmer family was awoken by the sound of a loud, ear-piercing scream that echoed for miles. The children all panicked and looked around their nest, until they found who it was that had screamed. Mama Swimmer had immediately stood up from her sleeping spot next to her mate and rushed over to Ducky. Spike backed away from his sister as he had been startled by her scream.
Ducky panted heavily and hyperventilated as she tried to get those horrific images out of her mind, but as soon as she had come back to reality, she felt a warm and pleasant sensation on her tail and legs. Her eyes widened as she figured out why she felt so warm, and when she looked down, the grass underneath her looked as though someone had stepped on it after jumping out of some water. Her cheeks turned deep red in shame and embarrassment. She knew immediately what had happened.
The stench from Ducky's urine quickly spread throughout the nest, and everyone held their noses while the babies in the nest ducked their heads down to avoid the nasty smell. Spike covered his head with his forepaws.
"Ducky?" came Mama Swimmer's gentle voice as she approached Ducky, and the smell soon hit her sniffer, which she promptly covered with her hand, "My goodness, Ducky! Did you really have that bad of a sleep story?"
Ducky refused to answer. She felt humiliated and ashamed of wetting herself in her sleep for the first time in what seemed like a long time. She thought she had outgrown it by now, and so did the rest of her family and friends, but her worst nightmares continued to plague her every now and then and trigger these nasty accidents. Ever since Judy's untimely death, she would occasionally have terrible sleep stories about her that sometimes made her wet herself, but over time she started having these sleep stories less frequently. Tonight, however, was perhaps the worst she had ever endured.
"Are you okay, Ducky?" asked Mama Swimmer gently.
Ducky shook her head and refused to make eye contact with her mother.
"What in the world happened, Ducky?" said Papa Swimmer, "Are you feeling alright?"
The young Swimmer turned her head away and let the inevitable tears fall from her eyes. She didn't want to say anything to anyone. Mama Swimmer, however, was not giving up just yet, as she gently stroked her daughter's face and got her to make eye contact with her.
"Ducky, what happened?" she asked once more.
Taking a few deep breaths, Ducky finally gave in and mouthed with her lips, "Judy."
"Oh," gasped Mama Swimmer with wide eyes, knowing exactly what had happened, "I see. I'm … I'm so sorry, dear."
Ducky shut her eyes as she felt more tears welling in them, and her mother slowly picked her up and held her in her arms.
"Let's go and get you washed up, dear," whispered Mama Swimmer.
Ducky simply nodded in agreement, and the rest of the family could only watch cluelessly as Mama Swimmer carried her eldest daughter away. Spike was keen on following them, but Papa Swimmer held him back, shaking his head. The Spiketail frowned and stayed put where he was.
Mama Swimmer brought Ducky to the valley's river, and she carefully placed her daughter into the shallow riverbank. The young Swimmer felt extremely cold sensations in her feet from the river's water, but she welcomed whatever pain she'd face. It reminded her that she was still alive, unlike her very first friend. She sighed and relaxed as her mother rubbed her with some water to wash the urine off her tail and legs, and soon Ducky was all clean again. However, she felt no better than she did a moment ago.
"Would you care to tell me what happened, Ducky?" asked Mama Swimmer.
"I … I do not know. No, no, no," replied Ducky, shaking her head.
"My dear Ducky, … you can tell me anything. I'm your mother, and you know I can help you with anything," assured Mama Swimmer kindly.
Ducky's shiny wet eyes met the caring, loving eyes of her mother, along with a gentle grin of reassurance. The child gulped and took a deep breath, and she explained the entire sleep story to her mother. She did not leave out a single detail, even going as far as to admit that she had cursed at Rolf. When she was done, Mama Swimmer looked speechless. She knew Ducky had gone through plenty of bad sleep stories about Judy ever since the murder, but never had they been this frightening for her, … until tonight.
"I know you haven't been able to get over such a terrible tragedy, Ducky, but you know that Judy wouldn't want you to stay sad forever just because she is gone," said Mama Swimmer, "You know that Judy will always be in your heart."
"I am still scared-ed of Rolf," cried Ducky, "Even though he is dead, he still scares me in my sleep stories, … just like … You-Know-Who."
Mama Swimmer knew whom Ducky was referring to. Ever since their arrival in the Great Valley, the young Swimmer had refused to speak of the deadly Sharptooth whom had terrorized their old herd.
As Ducky cried over her long-lost friend, another thought suddenly slipped into her head; something she had wanted to ask her mother ever since that fateful night …
"Why couldn't we save Judy, Mama!?" wailed Ducky, "I mean, … you said-ed you and Daddy would try to save Judy before it was too late, but you never did anything! Why didn't you and Daddy fight back!? He attacked-ed me in our old nest, and you did nothing! Why couldn't you have fought-ed back and tried-ed to get him thrown out of the herd!? Why, why, why!?"
Mama Swimmer let out a deep sigh as Ducky's accusations hit her like a ton of boulders. She felt guilty for not helping Judy when she had a very good chance to do so. However, being the mature, good-natured Swimmer she was, she had refused to fight Rolf, even after he had barged into her family's nest, uninvited, while Judy was begging for help, and went as far as to throw Ducky into a rock that left her face bruised for a week.
"You probably may not agree with me on this, dear, but I'm afraid that fighting Rolf would not have been the solution. If anything, fighting would have only made things a lot worse, and our whole family would have ended up in danger, particularly you, me and your father. Rolf would have sworn revenge on our family, and we probably would have had to leave the herd for our own safety. Fighting is never the answer, Ducky, … even when you think it is the only solution," she explained with as much as sincerity as possible.
"B-but!? W-why would that not keep Judy and Nitha away from him!?" retorted Ducky harshly, unable to believe what she had just heard.
"Ducky, … Judy and Nitha would have still been in danger if we decided to fight Rolf. The only thing we could do was inform our herd leaders what was wrong, and it would be up to them to deal with Rolf and end this child abuse that Judy was enduring. However, we didn't have enough time to act, and we unfortunately lost two innocent lives because we spent too much time contemplating on what to do with him. We simply never anticipated that he would commit such an act in the middle of the night while we were all asleep. He did it when we were least expecting it. There really was nothing we could do to keep them protected at all times. As much as I hate to say it, dear, I'm not really sure if anything we could have done might have been enough to save their lives."
"We could have saved them, Mommy! We could have saved-ed Judy before it was … before it was-," Ducky couldn't bring herself to finish her sentence, and she buried her head within her hands and felt the tears ready to come pouring out of her eyes. It was just unacceptable to her that nothing could have been done to save Judy and Nitha from that evil Swimmer, regardless of what they tried. Even if Judy and Nitha got the best help they could get, Rolf would have still tracked them down and killed them for abandoning him. It seemed as if Judy had been destined to a cruel fate from the day she hatched, and Ducky had befriended a Swimmer whom had already had her fate sealed before anyone knew it. All she really did was to help make Judy's short life as happy as she could make it while she tried to avoid her lunatic father.
"There, there, Ducky. Come here," said Mama Swimmer in her sweet, motherly voice, and she lied down and hugged her distraught daughter, "Shh. It's okay, my little Ducky. Mommy's here. It's alright. Calm down, my little baby."
Ducky tensed a little at that last word, blushing in embarrassment.
"Mama, I am not a baby anymore," she sniffled as the tears continued to come down.
"I know, Ducky. I'm just trying to help you feel comfortable, because it's my job to keep you safe, protected … and happy," said Mama Swimmer, "You're my daughter, and I want you to be able to enjoy the happiness that the Great Valley has brought you."
Ducky tried to give her mother the faintest grin, but instead she could only give her a tearful frown of despair that was filled with the remorse she still felt about not being able to save Judy's life.
"You also have six wonderful friends who care very much for you. I'm sure they'd be happy to help you. After all, they've each suffered similar tragedies, and they can relate to yours, so they'd be willing to sympathize with you," added Mama Swimmer.
Ducky looked into her mother's warm, kind eyes, then she sighed sadly and looked away.
"What is it, dear?" asked her mother.
Ducky gulped and looked at her mother in the eyes again, and what she said was something she would soon regret saying …
"I have not told-ed my friends about Judy."
Mama Swimmer stared at her daughter as if she had just been smacked in the face. The fact that Ducky had concealed Judy from her friends for two cold times had come as a big surprise to her.
"Do you mean to tell me that after two cold times you have never told any of your friends about Judy?" she said in shock.
"N-no," moaned Ducky shamefully.
"Ducky, hiding your story about her from your friends for so long is a terrible thing to do! I can't believe that after all this time you've not spoken a word about Judy to those who would sympathize with you! The rest of us had kept it secret from them for your sake, but we trusted that you would eventually tell them. Why haven't you told them?" spoke Mama Swimmer in a serious tone.
Ducky looked down as her mother scolded her, and she shamefully shielded her face with her hands and lied down, facing the ground.
"Ducky? Please look at me," said Mama Swimmer.
The child uncovered her eyes and looked into her mother's eyes.
"Why haven't you told your friends about Judy?" asked her mother.
Ducky waited until her sobs turned into hiccups, and she gulped nervously before she gave her response …
"Be-because … I … did not want to remind myself … of … how sad I felt-ed when Judy died," she cried, "It still hurts me, … and I do not want to revisit the past. No, no, no. I have never been able to get over it, … and … I miss Judy so much!"
With those last few words, she broke down in tears again and wailed in sorrow as she was continuously picturing her memory of that terrible morning when she found Judy's dead body and cried over her corpse until her mother was forced to pull her away. Although she had happy memories of Judy, they all reminded her that she was no longer around to play with her or share an adorable smile with her. Those memories were cruel reminders of the fact that she was gone, never to be seen again. Thinking about this hurt Ducky worse than anything. Now she was feeling guilty for hiding her true emotions from her friends for so long. She had foolishly not wanted them to look at her in any way differently than they had over the last two cold times.
"Ducky, listen to me," said Mama Swimmer in a gentle yet stern voice that instantly gained her daughter's attention, "I know you don't want to revisit your worst memories, and you don't want your friends to see you as someone who lost a best friend so long ago, … but talking about it with others might be a big help. You don't have to remind yourself of the bad memories. Think about the good things, just like Littlefoot and the others do, … and I think you'll find that they each have their own stories of friends they once had … that didn't get to live in the valley with us, … just like Judy. Littlefoot lost his mother in the worst way possible, Cera lost almost her whole family when that … Pterano … decided he'd be that leader he wasn't capable of being, Petrie lost his father very tragically, and Spike, as we all know, was abandoned when he was still an egg. Even Chomper and Ruby got separated from their families from that dreaded Red Claw, and yet they're living happily among us. I'm sure that if you gathered up the courage to tell your friends about Judy, they'd all be able to understand the pain you feel, because they've all felt the same kind of pain from losing a friend or someone in their family. We are all one big family at heart, Ducky, and families never keep such dark secrets away. Always remember that."
She finished with a kind, knowing smile, and Ducky, having listened intently to every single word, finally managed a faint smile in return. She understood that her mother was right. Keeping such a dark secret from her friends for so long would not help in any way. Her friends would have to know sooner or later. Maybe one or more of them might also have a dark secret of their own about a lost one.
"I understand that you miss Judy, my sweet Ducky, and I miss her, too, … and her mother, Nitha, … but when someone close to us passes on, we all have to come to terms with such a terrible loss, even if it seems we may never be able to. It took a while for your father and I to get over their passing, but we've been able to move on and raise you, your brothers and your sisters to be very good children. You have to be able to move on in life after you lose a loved one. They would not want you to be trapped in a dark state of misery and despair within yourself for the rest of your life. You've got to find the bright side within your emotions, Ducky. Let your heart guide your feelings and let those feelings out when you really need to. Somebody dies every day, Ducky. I know that sounds hard for someone your age to believe, but I'm afraid it's true. However, we don't spend the rest of our lives despairing over the losses of loved ones. We remember the good things about them, and we can spread what they taught us to future generations and so forth."
Ducky was speechless. She had never been able to truly understand death, being as young as she was, even though she had been devastated when Judy died. This was all completely new to her, and she started picturing the world so differently. Dinosaurs may have been dying every day in some part of the world, but their peers never forgot what they had done in life nor what they taught their friends and loved ones, so their wisdom could be passed on to the next generation. Suddenly, it began to make sense to Ducky; death should not be despaired upon for the rest of all time, but it should be accepted as a part of life, … the great circle of life. Even though Judy had been taken from her by an act of pure evil rather than a natural cause, she still taught Ducky so much about friendship and selflessness during her short time on Earth, and it turned Ducky into the sweet-natured, selfless, lovable Swimmer that everyone in the valley admired today. If it hadn't been for Judy, Ducky couldn't imagine what could have become of her life.
"M-Mommy?" she stuttered with tears still sliding down her cheeks.
"Yes, Ducky?" Mama Swimmer gently responded, and tenderly stroked her daughter's back and patiently waited for her to say what she was about to say.
"Tha-thank you s-so much for that … le-lesson, … M-Mama," sniffled Ducky, "I … never really … gave any thought about … the circle of life. Littlefoot once mentioned-ed it, … but I thought nothing of it … until now."
"Did Littlefoot tell you about the circle of life?" asked Mama Swimmer curiously.
"N-no. I overheard-ed him talking about it with his grandma and grandpa while I was relaxing in the river one day. They didn't even know I was there," explained Ducky.
"Oh. I understand, Ducky. Littlefoot's grandparents are possibly the wisest dinosaurs I've ever met, maybe even wiser than our old herd leaders," said Mama Swimmer, "Just don't tell anyone I said that."
"I will not, Mama," said Ducky, "And … I am … s-sorry that I never told-ed my friends about … J-Ju-Judy."
"It's okay, Ducky. I know how hard it can be. You've been struggling to cope with this loss for two cold times, and you haven't been able to get over it yet, but you will have to try the best you can to come with the terms of such a loss. You know what I think you should do? When the Bright Circle comes up, you should meet up with your friends and tell them your story of Judy. Tell them what she was like, particularly the good things, the best things you remember about her, and how she helped you to become the 'you' that you are now."
Ducky gulped as a few more tears escaped from her eyes, and she brushed her eyes with her fingers and blinked a few times. She still didn't feel sure about revealing her tragic story to her friends, but if her mother was right in saying that they each might have had their own tragic stories in some form or another, then hers mustn't be kept secret forever.
"Um, … I will try, … I guess," said Ducky nervously.
"Promise me you'll do it, dear," said Mama Swimmer, and she held her hand out in front of her daughter.
Ducky hesitated for a moment, feeling unsure if she'd be able to do it, but she didn't want to upset her mother, nor did she want to keep her friends clueless about her darkest secret, so she slowly placed her hand into her mother's, and Mama Swimmer gently shook her daughter's hand up and down.
"I promise, Mama," the young Swimmer finally answered.
"That's a good girl, Ducky," smiled Mama Swimmer, "I know it won't be easy for you, but your friends deserve to know."
Ducky silently nodded in agreement.
"I love you, dear," whispered Mama Swimmer with a loving smile, and she nuzzled her daughter with her bill, earning a faint chuckle from her.
"I love you, too, Mama. Yep, yep, yep," Ducky replied.
"Now, let's go back to the nest and get some more shuteye," said Mama Swimmer.
Ducky tensed and backed away a step. She didn't want to close her eyes again after that dreadful sleep story she had just experienced.
"Um, Ducky, are you alright?" asked her mother worryingly.
"I am not sure I can go back to sleep, Mama. No, no, no," said Ducky as sweat ran down her face, hinting clear signs of sleep anxiety.
Mama Swimmer sighed as she saw the state her daughter was in, and she sympathetically picked her up and hugged her tightly.
"It was such a scary sleep story. I do not want to see that monster again. No, no, no," sniffled Ducky fearfully.
"Would you like me to cuddle you for a while? Actually, even better, would you care to sleep with me for the rest of the night? I'll make sure you are still comfortable for the rest of the night so that you hopefully don't have any more scary sleep stories," offered Mama Swimmer.
Ducky perked up at this offer, and she was willing to accept anything that could stop her horrible sleep stories so that she could have a good night's sleep, even if she had to have someone hug her while she slept.
"I think I would like that, Mama. Yep, yep, yep."
"Okay, Ducky," smiled Mama Swimmer, "Let's go back to the nest."
Ducky sighed and nodded her head, and her mother carried her back home.
Papa Swimmer was pacing nervously around the family's nesting area. He had disposed of the grass that Ducky had accidentally urinated on in her sleep, and the children had all fallen back asleep once the nasty smell was gone. Now, he was waiting anxiously for his mate to bring Ducky back, so he could check on how his daughter was doing. He knew Ducky could only have had such a horrifying nightmare judging by how loudly she had screamed, and by the terrible condition of the grass she had slept on. Few things ever managed to scare Ducky in her sleep that badly, and it could only mean that she must have suffered a lot of sleep story trauma afterward.
A sigh of relief escaped his mouth when he saw his mate returning to the nest with Ducky in her hands.
"Are you feeling alright, Ducky?" he whispered, "I was so worried about you."
Ducky sighed as she looked at her father, and she couldn't think of anything to say. Mama Swimmer brought her bill against one of her mate's ears and whispered, "Judy."
Papa Swimmer tensed as he heard that name. He knew all so well about how Judy's death had greatly affected Ducky to the point of her almost losing the will to live before that Earth Shake suddenly changed everything.
"Two cold times, … and she's still emotionally distraught over her?" he said in a clear state of dismay.
"Ducky is still emotionally scarred by what happened to Judy. On the inside, I fear that she may never get over what happened to her, though I am encouraging her to try," replied Mama Swimmer, looking down sympathetically at her daughter.
"The least we can do is encourage her and help her remember the good things. Her friends could be doing the same thing," said Papa Swimmer.
"Um, … do you think we can talk about this some other time?" asked Ducky nervously.
"Of course, Ducky," her father responded kindly, "It's only right that you got some sleep first."
"She'll be sleeping with me for the rest of the night," informed Mama Swimmer, "It should help her get at least some sleep without those sleep stories plaguing her."
"Good idea, dear," agreed Papa Swimmer.
The two parents briefly kissed each other and said their goodnights, and Mama Swimmer lied down on her side and held Ducky tenderly in her arms while wrapping her tail around her.
"Ready to go back to sleep, Ducky?" she asked her daughter in a whisper.
"I … I guess," gulped Ducky before she received a tender nuzzle on her forehead from her mother's bill.
"I love you, Ducky," Mama Swimmer whispered lovingly.
"I love you, too, Mama," Ducky responded with a small smile as the sensations from her mother's nuzzle finally managed to get her to close her eyes.
"Goodnight, my dear Ducky," whispered Mama Swimmer, kissing her daughter on the forehead.
"Goodnight, Mama," yawned Ducky before sleep finally overcame her, and she fell into a comfortable slumber within her mother's tender hold.
Mama Swimmer watched for a few minutes as Ducky slowly fell asleep, then she closed her own eyes and fell asleep herself, her arms and tail never letting go of her precious daughter for even one moment.
When the Bright Circle rose the next morning, Ducky was very slow waking up, and her mother fed her a tree sweet for breakfast before she finally managed to get on her feet and take a slow walk towards the river for a drink.
A short while later, the young Swimmer thought it would be a good idea to take a walk to the Thundering Falls. She often liked to listen to the sound of the waterfalls crashing into the river. It provided her with constant relaxing sensations whenever she was close enough. Whenever she was feeling down or just wanted to be alone when not at home, this was one of her favorite places to relax and chill. Today just so happened to be an occasion where all she wanted was a good sense of relaxation.
However, her peacefulness was not to last …
The Swimmer sighed and looked to her right, only to find Littlefoot, Cera, Petrie, Spike, Chomper and Ruby all joining her. She knew that Spike had undoubtedly taken a guess where she was and had brought the rest of their friends here.
"Why you no join us, Ducky?" asked Petrie.
"We were going to play 'Stop the Seed,' Ducky. Do you want to join us?" asked Littlefoot.
Ducky turned away and stared off at the Thundering Falls, saying absolutely nothing.
"Ducky?" said Chomper, "Are you alright?"
"My dad said he could swear he heard someone screaming last night," said Cera gruffly, "He was going to go give that someone a piece of his mind before Tria told him otherwise."
"I heard it, too," replied Ruby, "I was awake in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep, and then I heard someone screaming."
"That was me," said Ducky, and everyone looked at her and gasped in surprise. It didn't take long to guess what had happened …
"You have bad sleep story, Ducky?" asked Petrie, "Me know no other reason for screaming at nighttime in Great Valley, … unless there be Sharptooth."
Ducky sighed sadly and looked down at her reflection in the river. She knew she had just gotten herself into quite an awkward situation with her friends, and she couldn't hide it any longer. She had to tell her friends now … about the darkest days of her life. It was now or never. It was keep her promise to her mother or never be forgiven.
"I had a very bad sleep story last night. I did, I did," she said nervously.
"We all have bad sleep stories sometimes, Ducky," sympathized Littlefoot.
"Hmph! Except for Threehorns!" hissed Cera.
"Say one who get scared of Hidden Runner," teased Petrie, prompting Cera to charge at him. The Flyer instantly took to the skies above to avoid the attack and came back down when it was safe again, grinning mischievously at the Threehorn.
"Oh, how about you, Petrie!? You're scared of … everything!" Cera retorted.
"Me no scared of everything!" Petrie fired back.
"Stop it right now!" yelled Ducky, "I am not in the mood today! No, no, no!"
Cera and Petrie stopped arguing and gazed at Ducky with shock. It was never like her to act this way around them.
"Ducky, … are you sure you're alright?" asked Chomper.
Taking a few deep breaths to prepare herself mentally, Ducky turned to her friends.
"I do not know how to tell you, guys, … but … did any of you ever have a friend before we all joined-ed together and found-ed the Great Valley?" she asked shyly.
"I had a friend or two before I met Chomper, … but their families had to go on the run from Red Claw," answered Ruby.
"You'd have no idea how the rest of us were living," Cera responded to the Fast Runner, "It was hard just to make friends where we were living."
"Me no have any friends before me meet all of you," said Petrie sadly, "Me no could fly then, so everyone make fun of me."
"Neither did I," sighed Littlefoot.
Ducky was somewhat shocked by this revelation. She knew it had been hard for them to make friends in that dreaded area they were living in at the time, separated because they were only allowed to play with their own kind, but she couldn't have imagined that of all the friends she made on her journey to find the Great Valley, none of them had any previous friends at all, … except for herself.
The Swimmer turned away and closed her eyes, feeling her emotions beginning to well up again.
"What's wrong, Ducky?" asked Littlefoot.
Ducky opened her eyes again and looked at the waterfalls crashing into the river.
"One time, … I had a friend," she began, "I had a friend, … that I was so thankful to have. She was a Swimmer just like me, and she looked-ed just like me, … except that she had gorgeous green eyes. Without her, … I do not know where I would have ended-ed up."
The gang listened with interest as they found this to be very intriguing.
"Her name … was … Judy."
"Judy?" said Petrie, "That … sound like … wonderful name for friend."
"Judy was the first friend I had ever made-ed. I was the first friend she ever made-ed. Nobody in our herd liked-ed my 'yep, yep, yep,' and nobody wanted-ed to be anywhere near Judy."
"What?" gasped Littlefoot, "Why?"
"Judy taught-ed me so much about being friendly and caring to others, and before long the grownups started to like me very much, but their kids still would not play with me or Judy. We were outcasts, so we spent-ed time alone as much as we could."
"Why no one play with Judy?" asked Petrie curiously, "Nobody like her, either?"
Ducky sighed as she dreaded bringing up the next detail …
"Judy had a lovable mommy named Nitha, … but her daddy, … Rolf … was … such a horrible Swimmer."
Nobody knew what to say. They couldn't even make any guess as to what made Rolf such a terrible Swimmer.
"Rolf was a dangerous Swimmer who would hurt her family every day," explained Ducky, "He never wanted-ed Nitha or Judy to ever leave their nest for any reason at all. Any day I did not see Judy, the very next day she would have these scars and bruises on her."
Everyone gasped in sheer disbelief at the idea that an innocent child and her mother would get constantly harassed and tortured by her own father, someone she should have been able to love and trust but seemed far from the case.
"Rolf was feared-ed among the Swimmers. Nobody dared-ed to fight him lest they get beaten up. He was why nobody wanted to play with Judy. They were scared-ed of her daddy."
"Did anyone ever try to fight him and scare him out of the herd?" asked Cera, "My dad certainly would have."
"Once I found-ed out about Rolf, I tried-ed to get my Mommy and Daddy to help Judy and Nitha, but they were not sure what to do. Then, one morning, Judy came to my nest and begged-ed me to help her, but I did not know what to do. Mommy and Daddy were about to help, when … Rolf suddenly broke into our nest, … insulted-ed me and accused-ed me of taking Judy away from him, … then he insulted-ed Mommy and Daddy, and I tried-ed to stand up to him."
She paused as she knew the next detail would be very dreadful.
"What happened next?" asked Ruby.
Ducky felt a single tear escape from her left eye, and she responded, "Rolf yelled-ed at me and threw me into a rock face-first."
There were collective gasps among the gang as they listened tensely.
"My face was bruised-ed and bleeding, and it took me two whole days to recover, … but I became so scared-ed of Rolf after that," sniffled Ducky, "After that, … Judy and I saw each other less often, … because … Rolf threaten-ed to kill Judy and Nitha if either of them ever left the nest ever again."
"Oh, my!" gasped Littlefoot.
"That no good Swimmer!" hissed Chomper.
"Did Judy still come to see you in secret?" asked Ruby.
"Sometimes," replied Ducky, "Although, every time I saw her, she looked-ed even worse than ever. She and Nitha would still get beaten up by Rolf, and Mommy and Daddy told-ed our herd leaders to help them before it was too late."
She paused and took several deep breaths, feeling as if she would never be able to mentally prepare herself for bringing up the worst part of her entire story; the worst day of her entire life.
"Then, … one day, … everything changed for all the wrong reasons," she continued as the tears openly began to stream down her face, "Mama woke me up one morning … and told-ed me there had been … a horrible accident … at Judy's nest. I jumped-ed out of the nest and ran as fast as I could to Judy's. I wanted-ed to make sure she was okay, … but … w-when I got there, … she … sh-she was …"
Nobody had the heart to say a word as Ducky broke down completely and let her emotions loose.
"JUDY WAS DEAD!" she screamed, "I found-ed a big hole in her chest, … and Nitha had a huge hole in her chest, too! When Mama pulled me away from Judy, I saw Rolf with a large tree branch stabbed right through his chest! Blood was everywhere, all over the bodies and the nest!"
Everyone groaned with disgust, particularly after hearing Rolf's description from when Ducky found his family's dead bodies. Petrie looked as if he was about to vomit.
"I was told-ed later that Rolf had murdered-ed Judy and Nitha in their sleep during the night then killed-ed himself! We could not save their family! I could not save my friend! I could not save Judy! The only friend I ever made! JUDY IS GONE BECAUSE OF ME! I MAY AS WELL KILLED-ED HER! IT WAS ALL MY FAULT! I MISS YOU, JUDY! WHY!? WHY!? WHY!?"
With that, Ducky finally collapsed, and her emotions exploded. She wailed loudly like a baby as a puddle of tears formed beneath her. She buried her face with her arms and curled herself into a ball.
Littlefoot and the others all stood there, speechless. They could not have imagined that Ducky had been keeping such a horrible tragedy a secret from them for two cold times. They could not have imagined that she once had a good friend who was taken far too soon because of some evil father. They couldn't even comprehend that a father could do such a thing to his own family.
"I thought the bad sleep stories would have been over by now, … b-but they are not!" cried Ducky, "Oh, Judy! Why did you have to leave me like that!? Why did your daddy have to be such a cold-hearted bastard!? WHY, JUDY!? WHY!?"
The others stepped back in shock. They had once seen Ducky get mad before, but never had she gotten this mad. What further shocked them was that she was mad over something that happened two cold times ago. This "Judy" apparently meant so much to Ducky that when she lost her, she was left so heartbroken that even now she hadn't gotten over it. A part of Ducky seemed to have died with Judy, and it left her emotionally broken for a long time, although she had been hiding it to keep her friends from potentially reminding her of the friend she had so cruelly lost.
"D-Ducky? Are you alright?" asked Littlefoot softly.
"Am I alright!?" retorted Ducky, "You would have no idea what it was like! None of you were there to see Judy die! You do not know how it feels! No, no, no!"
"We!? Having no idea how it feels!?" shouted Cera, "I lost my mother, my brothers and my sisters! Littlefoot lost his mother! Petrie lost his father! And yet you say that we don't know how it feels!? We all know how it feels to lose somebody so close to us!"
"But the first friend you ever made!? Someone who was once your best friend before she was murdered-ed in cold blood!?" Ducky fired back.
"Hey! Stop this!" Littlefoot protested, but he fell on deaf ears.
"A best friend that you lost two cold times ago! I cannot believe you kept that a secret for so long! You could have told us much earlier, and we would have been able to understand better, but you're only telling us now!?" roared Cera, "What's more: you say that this … friend … was murdered by her own father!?"
"Didn't I just tell you that!?" hissed Ducky, "She and her mother were BOTH murdered by her father … IN THEIR SLEEP!"
At that moment, strange thoughts were spiraling in Cera's head. She had never heard anything about a father killing his own family in such a matter, and when she thought of that, she thought of her own father. He had always been a cold-hearted, unhappy dinosaur for as long as she could remember, at least until Tria came along, and after hearing how Ducky described Rolf, she began to wonder if her own father might one day become just as horrible as Rolf.
"Wait!" she said, and she paused for a moment, contemplating her thoughts that seemed to frighten her, "Does this mean that … maybe one day my dad will become just as ruthless as Rolf and kill me, Tria and Tricia in our sleep in the middle of the night? Maybe he's been mad at me for so long and has had enough of me!"
Those words built up a huge rage within Ducky. She slowly turned to look at Cera, an expression filled with sheer hatred all over her face. She gritted her teeth and tried to let out a fearsome growl. Chomper and Ruby hid themselves behind a bush, while Petrie ducked behind Littlefoot's neck. Spike crouched and covered his face with his forelimbs.
"Me no can look!" Petrie whimpered in fear.
Ducky stomped toward Cera and stopped right in front of the Threehorn with a scornful look on her face.
"ROLF WAS A COLD-HEARTED-ED BASTARD RIGHT FROM THE START! NOBODY ELSE'S DADDIES WOULD EVER MURDER THEIR OWN FAMILIES IN THEIR SLEEP! YOU SHOULD BE LUCKY YOUR DADDY LOVES YOU AND DOES NOT ABUSE YOU, TRIA OR TRICIA! IF HE EVER DID WANT TO MURDER YOU, YOU WOULD PROBABLY HAVE BEEN DEAD A LONG TIME AGO, CERA! YOU WOULD! YOU WOULD!"
Everyone gasped with horror. Tears were streaming down Spike and Petrie's eyes out of fear. Chomper and Ruby refused to leave their bush. Even Littlefoot was at a loss for words. Cera had finally gone too far, and she had driven Ducky beyond her breaking point.
"D-Ducky?" whispered Littlefoot in shock.
Nobody could say a word as Ducky panted heavily and stared at Cera with a death glare as if she wanted to seriously injure her for insulting Judy's memory.
Slowly, however, Ducky's angry expression began to turn sad, and tears started pouring from her eyes again. She knew she had over-reacted so unnecessarily when Cera and the others couldn't completely understand how deeply she had been affected by Judy's death, nor could they understand what it was like to live with a horrible father. Cera's father may have been harsh at times, but, unlike Rolf, he had a good heart inside him, and he loved his family deeply. Nobody Ducky knew in this valley had a clear understanding of being abused by their own relatives.
Soon, all of Ducky's anger had been replaced with guilt and sadness, and she broke down once more, falling to her knees and sobbing uncontrollably.
"I am sorry!" she cried, "I am so sorry, Cera! I am sorry, all of you! I do not know why I just … got so angry! I AM SO SORRY! I just … I JUST MISS JUDY SO MUCH! I could do anything to bring her back just for one day!"
Nobody knew how to respond to this. They had never seen Ducky act this way before. They all began to understand that Judy meant a great deal to Ducky, and her death almost destroyed her emotionally and mentally. They had each lost someone close to them at some point during their lives, and for the longest time they thought that Ducky had never lost someone so close to her. However, this was quite the contrary. She had lost someone so close before she had even met them, just like the rest of them did. Now, they could all relate in some way with the losses each of them had suffered.
"I am so sorry," Ducky whispered once she had settled down, "I … I keep having bad sleep stories about that night when I lost my first friend … forever. I did not want to tell you all because I did not want to reopen old wounds from my past. No, no, no."
"Ducky, … I know how hard it can be," sympathized Littlefoot, "When I lost my mother, I didn't want to tell you at first because I knew it would remind me of someone I didn't have with me anymore. Even now, I still see her in my sleep stories from time to time."
"M-me miss me Daddy very much," stuttered Petrie nervously, regaining his composure, "After me Mama tell me how me Daddy get … killed … by some Sharptooth, … me have scary sleep stories every night for whole week before me decide to tell you about him."
"When exactly did this happen, Ducky?" asked Littlefoot, "The night when, … well, … you-know-what happened?"
"It was only five days before the Big Earth Shake," answered Ducky solemnly, "After my herd was killed by the Earth Shake, I spent-ed many days trying to find my family, … but Judy's passing was still fresh on my mind that I could not figure out which way to go, and I cried-ed every single night. I did. I did. And then I found-ed you. I had no one else to turn to, and I was so lost that I wanted-ed someone to help me find my family, … and in the end, … we did."
Littlefoot softened and smiled at his longtime Swimmer friend.
"I knew that with new friends, I could keep Judy out of my mind until we came to the Great Valley. Sometimes, when I look at the stars at night, … I think I can see her up in the sky, … smiling at me, … because she taught-ed me how to be so friendly and caring to others, … and she is probably happy that I found-ed my family and have a wonderful home in the valley, … and many good friends."
Chomper and Ruby emerged from their hiding spot and hesitantly approached Ducky.
"I didn't know you had such a special friend, Ducky," said Chomper, "I … I wonder how it would have been like if she got to see the Great Valley."
"Maybe she would have loved the valley, as the valley is a place for everyone to love," said Ruby.
Ducky faintly grinned and looked up at the sky. At that very moment, she could swear she could possibly see the sky puffies taking the form of a young Swimmer that looked just like her, … smiling proudly at her friend for never giving up and not staying sad forever. She could only guess … that it was Judy.
"I think Judy would have loved-ed this valley," whispered Ducky to no one in particular, "And I think she would be very proud of me. Yep, yep, yep."
The others saw that Ducky was staring intently at the sky, and they promptly looked up and were astonished to find what might possibly look like a young Swimmer among the sky puffy forms in the blue sky above them.
As Judy's supposed form dissolved into simple sky puffies again, Ducky looked down at the Thundering Falls and wiped the last few tears from her eyes. She knew Judy would have been proud of her for managing to take her lessons at heart and make new friends just like she said she would one day.
"I am so sorry I yelled-ed at you all," sighed Ducky sadly, "I … was just … upset, … after having another scary sleep story last night … about that terrible night when Judy died. I do not like being angry at my friends. No, no, no."
"It's okay, Ducky. Now we know we've all lost someone so close to us that we felt like we couldn't move on without them. Thanks for finally telling us, Ducky. You did the right thing," said Littlefoot.
"I hope so," said Ducky somewhat doubtfully, staring at the Thundering Falls.
Littlefoot then turned and noticed that Cera still looked traumatized by having Ducky yell at her. He couldn't tell if she was thinking that her father might be what she feared he would become, or if her argument with Ducky had left her speechless.
"Cera?" said Littlefoot, "Are you alright? You look as if you've seen a monster."
"I … I think I need to be by myself for a little while," Cera responded, and she quickly turned her back on them and ran off as fast as she could.
Ducky felt worried that she might have startled Cera so badly that she may have suddenly become scared of her, but she was sure her Threehorn friend would come to her senses in good time.
"Uh, … would you like to play 'Stop the Seed' with us, Ducky?" asked Chomper.
"I think I will stay here by myself for a little while. Thanks for the offer, though," answered Ducky.
"Okay, Ducky. We'll be near the Watering Hole if you want to join later," informed Littlefoot, "See you later!"
"See you later, everyone," sighed Ducky.
"Bye, Ducky," called Petrie.
Spike gave Ducky a playful nuzzle, earning a small giggle from the young Swimmer, and before long, the others left Ducky to once again contemplate her thoughts in peace.
Unbeknownst to her, however, her friends were not really on their way to play their planned game of "Stop the Seed" …
Word of Judy and Ducky's past soon spread to the other families of the gang. Littlefoot's grandparents were staring at their grandson in disbelief by the time he finished telling them what had happened to Ducky's long-lost friend. They couldn't believe that the young Swimmer once had such a caring friend who just so happened to have an abusive father who constantly tortured and eventually killed her and her mother. Petrie's mother was just about rendered speechless after she was told by her son about Judy. She felt so bad for Ducky that she promised to share her sympathies the next time they met.
Topps and Tria, however, were not told the story by Cera, but rather by Littlefoot's grandparents. Topps was quite baffled by the idea that someone had such a cold heart and would become the worst kind of father imaginable. Tria couldn't imagine looking at Ducky in the same light again after hearing Judy's tragic story.
Cera was still traumatized by being yelled at by Ducky, and by her paranoid beliefs that her father would one day turn just like Rolf despite Ducky's forceful reassurance. She avoided her father and Ducky for the rest of that day, and she found it hard to sleep that evening when the Bright Circle went down. The two girls didn't speak to each other for several weeks afterward, and Cera began to grow wary of her father and spend less time with him, although she still kept up her appearances so as not to make her family suspicious of anything.
Mama Swimmer was disappointed that Ducky was being avoided by one of her friends after being told the story of what happened to Judy, but there was little she could do about it. However, she was very grateful to Littlefoot and Petrie for sharing the story with their families, and she was very proud of her daughter for finally opening up to her friends and sharing with them the secret that she had kept to herself for two cold times. She hoped that with support from other adults in the valley, they could put an end to child abuse toward any children living within the Great Valley or visitors from the Mysterious Beyond, particularly to those who were close to their own children.
Grandma and Grandpa Longneck, and Mama Flyer, came to see Ducky by the river near her nest one day, and they gave her their condolences and deepest sympathies. The young Swimmer couldn't have been happier to receive such support from her friends' families, and she burst into happy tears, believing that Judy had finally received the send-off she had rightfully deserved for so long.
Eventually, Cera came to her senses and had to accept the fact that her father was nothing like Rolf, and she grew to love him again. However, it seemed that her friendship with Ducky had taken a bad turn and would never be the same again. As a way to make up for her lousy paranoia, Cera invited Ducky to watch the stars with her and the others on nights when they would stargaze, and she willingly accepted. While Littlefoot would see his mother amongst the stars, Cera would see her mother and siblings, and Petrie would see his father, Ducky would see the friend whom had turned her into the Swimmer she was now …
"I will always miss you, Judy, but you are always with me in my heart. Yep, yep, yep."
Well, that will wrap up another story of Ducky and her tragic friendship with Judy. I know that my message with this story was to always know that friends will be around to ensure that the world is a place worth living in. You probably might have been thinking that I'd have Ducky get so torn up over Judy's death that she would contemplate suicide just so as to join her friend in the Great Beyond. However, I could never have the heart to put that in a Land Before Time story, as I personally find the idea to be too morbid.
I personally wish to thank TimeLordMaster108 for sharing his story ideas with me, and for my fellow story writers on this forum that give me the motivation to keep going with my emotion-flavored stories.
So, I hoped you liked this story, I hope this gave you a better view of the emotions children deal with when coping with death, and I'll see you next time.