Hi everyone! I'm back with an update to this new story. I hope you all enjoy!

Chapter two: Hoodwink

It's funny how much things can change in an instant. I went from starving in the street to starving in a forest, but it's not what one would think. No, no…THEY HAD TO PUT ME IN ANOTHER WORLD to really get me! I would have never expected to find myself face to face with an anthropomorphic squirrel with a strange accent (who went from robbing me and knocking me unconscious to saving my LIFE from a pack of bizarre creatures!)

So that's where we are…she had just used her bolas to ensnare the three beasts against a tree she had made and now she looks to me with a beckoning face

"Come on then!"

I broke free from my shock and quickly followed. I am led by the anthropomorphic animal to a place hidden from predators. After a few minutes, we arrived: there was a den with a small wooden door. I look down and examine the strange entrance…amazed by how it's cut into the mound.

She opened the door and gestured for me to enter. Upon making it inside, I am met with a large primitive living room underground (with furniture and utilities that are the size of the creature. There's a cooking pot in the middle of the dwelling. Also, there is a bed and a couch opposite each other. It's a cramped place for me…my head almost hitting the ceiling.

The beast looks up to examine my gaped expression, "mind yer head! Heh, I take it 'ya never seen one of these before?"

Sure enough, I composed myself and moved away. I took a deep breath and turned around to face them again, "I NEED an explanation, where the HELL am I?"

"Told 'ya already, you're in Tomo'kan…"

"Look…" I sighed, "I'm NOT from this world…I know NOTHING about it."

She placed a claw on her muzzle chin, thinking about what I said. Another world? I guess that makes sense, she thought to herself. There are few individuals in the realm capable of interdimensional travel, whether intentional or accidental. Who's not to say this human was brought here against his own will?

"…wicked" she muttered, "well if you got'ta know…you're in a dangerous place…"

"I couldn't tell" I scoffed sarcastically. She ignored me, continuing, "few dare to enter these woods…you just might be one of the few humans who managed to live through their first night…"

"Because you helped me…and I have to thank you for that…even if you had no reason to…" I stopped myself, though inside I am still sour at her for stealing my stuff and knocking me out…she DID save my life, however, but why?

"Yes, well…you picked up something, mate…gave you powers…" she retorted. I did notice that during my "escape." I noticed now that the injuries that I had gotten after tumbling downhill were pretty much gone; however, some parts of my clothes were still a tattered mess from being clawed at.

"Is that what that was…wait…were you WATCHING me!?" I threw my arms out in response.

"You're probably the most fun I've had all week, so of course!" She smiled, not the least bit intimidated by my reaction.

"Pfft…" I walked away, pacing back and forth as she eyes me carefully, "you fended off the man-eaters pretty well back there unlike most people, I reckon you ought to know that…seeing as you don't seem to be the…uh…fighting type…" she complimented/insulted me.

"I've fought plenty of people before…just not savage monsters…" I rolled my eyes.

"The Durana?" She raised an eyebrow.

"I guess?" I just shrugged.

"Nasty buggers" she retorted in return, "been fighting 'em my whole life."

I say nothing, I folded my arms and looked away, "should have taken a photo of them…no one back home would believe it otherwise…" I scoffed. She tilted her head in confusion at the word, "photo…"

I ought to show them…right…hopefully, they won't try and steal my phone again…

And so, I pulled out my phone (which has a cracked screen…quite old compared to newer models…can't really afford newer ones) and she stepped back suddenly. The creature almost pulled out an acorn to throw at me, but I displayed my arms in a non-threatening manner. She glanced over at the phone, having seen it before…having taken it previously from me.

"What is that thing used for anyway?" She folded her furry arms.

"It's a phone, we use it to communicate with people…"

"What…how?" She tilts her head, ears falling to her side.

I unlocked the screen on the flip phone and her curiosity suddenly blossomed. Quickly, she hops on some furniture behind me to get a better look. The strange creature investigated the bright screen as I scrolled through pictures showing my life and my world. The screen is pretty small, seeing as it's a basic phone (and not one of those fancy ones that people with more money often have.)

"It's like paintings…but they're all in here?"

"Pretty much" I nodded after a brief pause.

I click the small plastic keyboard and I show a slightly blurry picture of autumn hills. Her blue eyes light up more with each new photo, "where were those taken?"

"Not far from where I live." I got out of my small photo album to check my service…it's still down…no reception…

"What are you trying to find?"

"I'm trying to call somebody, but the internet is down…"

"Inter…what?"

"Ah, long story…too much to explain…" I scoffed.

"Mate, that sounded so strange, 'ya know…" She crossed her arms.

"Strange!? Let's talk about strange…you're a walking…talking-" I stopped myself, breathing in. I'm glad I did because had I continued, she would have not tolerated any more insult. My hesitation amused her as if she KNOWS I know she could end me if she wanted to.

After a bit of that awkward silence, I paced back and forth as she eyed me with both caution and interest. For some reason, I had to ask.

"So like…are you a God or something…" I asked sincerely.

Funny enough, she darted her eyes back and forth in return, "ah, yeh…sure mate."

"No disrespect, I don't wanna get tied up or get hit on my head again, but…what are you?"

She scoffed silently as if it should have been obvious to me, "I'm a squirrel, bro…"

"So I was right" I muttered, looking away.

"And you're human, of course…ya smell like one."

"Obviously" I returned.

"From…where again?" She asked further.

"A place called Acashire." (A/N: It's a fictional city in the Northeastern United States I made up for the story, lol)

"Uh…" she raised an eyebrow at this.

"It's a city…a BIG city. It's the one you saw on my phone…but it's a lot bigger now…been a while since I've taken a photo of it." I showed her pictures of the skyline again and she nodded, "eh…I figured you were one of them civilized muppets."

"You make that sound like it's a bad thing…it's great" I crossed my arms as she laughed, "yea nah. I guess no one in your world is right in their head either…"

"Pfft…" I look away in response…

She walks closer, tail flicking behind her, "so, what is it you do?"

"Ah…" I took off my cap and rubbed the top of my head in response, "I'm usually hustling…I live my days in the streets and I…stole a bike before I came here…let's not get into that."

"Bike?" Her ears perked up as she gave a confused face. I nodded, "the thing I used to ride."

"That mechanical machine?"

"Yeah…it's…not mine."

I had to explain to the anthropomorphic squirrel how I got here…or how I thought I got here that is…

"Had to be magic, bro" she tried to explain.

"Don't be ridiculous…" I rolled my eyes back in return, "magic doesn't exist."

"Uh, yeah…it does! Why wouldn't it?" It's like she took it personally somehow too, "then what's that thing you're holding? Is that not magic?" The squirrel gestured to my phone and I brandished it, "it's NOT magic!"

"Oh…mate…" she rubbed her temples in frustration.

"Okay…maybe magic IS real…maybe YOU sent me here!?"

"Me? No!" She clapped back.

Before things could escalate, I look away…placing a finger to my chin, "then…who did?"

She simply shrugged in my direction as a result, "I don't know…"

"Well…what will I do…maybe I AM stuck here…" my face darkens as I sighed.

For a brief moment, one that I, myself, do not notice…she gave a look of concern. We both said nothing. In her mind, she knew that the human across from her probably wouldn't last very long without her. Yet, in the back of her mind, the squirrel could feel a tinge of pity for the human. She wasn't utterly heartless or evil, the girl just didn't believe this person could survive for long in Tomo'kan…or anywhere else for that matter. The world is a dangerous place, and if what this human says is true…then he has NO IDEA what is out there beyond these woods.

I won't survive if I stay, I thought inwardly.

"I saw how fast 'ya went, how 'ya stayed on 'ya feet…humans I see enter these woods don't usually last more than a few hours…"

"Oh…" I raised an eyebrow…folding my arms.

"In a way, it kind of reminded me of when I was 'bit younger…those years were tough" she boasted as I chuckled back, "I guess I should feel flattered…is that why you decided to SAVE me back there?"

"Like I said earlier, bro…you're the most fun I've had all week. Plus…you did pretty well against the Durana…everyone else…well…them fellas are munted most of the time!"

"Pfft…your phrases make no sense to me…" I said, noting her strong accent, which again…I am unsure exactly where it's from…Australia or New Zealand. If this is another world, why does she even HAVE that accent anyway…does it even matter…

"Ah ye?"

"Not a lot of us have your accent where I'm from…at least in my region…."

She decides to sit down on her small couch to rest her legs. I, meanwhile, continue, "not trying to compare myself to you…but life is rough where I'm from too…"

She raised an eyebrow…often city folk who spoke of their "problems" seemed minuscule compared to what survivors go through in these haunted woods. Still, I saw this reaction from her and added more to my claim, "living in the city…sometimes I'd have to make ends meet…survive…it's not easy" I sighed.

"Can't be as bad as being chased by Wyrmlings" the squirrel chittered, pulling out a wooden pipe to smoke.

"I guess…whatever they are…"

"Fast and dangerous dragons" she said as she lit up her pipe.

I put my hands on my hips in response, "dragons? Oh wow…this just keeps getting better, huh?"

She smiled back, amused by my sarcasm before inhaling the fumes from the pipe. The smell that comes from it is reminiscent of tobacco…it probably IS tobacco. It was not long before she offered me a chance to smoke, and I sat down on a chair she had across from her. It's robust enough to support my size and weight. I take a deep breath in, taking its contents…making sure it swirls in my lungs, but it's more potent than I thought, and I ended up coughing violently afterward. The squirrel broke out in laughter in response, slamming her furry fist against the arm of her small couch.

"Yeah, yeah…let it all out, won't 'cha…" I retorted, still coughing between my words.

I give the wooden device back to her and she gladly takes it. Unlike me and just like before, she smokes it without much trouble, "you're a funny human, I like 'ya!"

"T-thanks…I guess…"

She crossed her legs, despite her uniform being quite baggy, and afterward the furry beast rose a curious brow to me, "so ah…what's 'ya name?"

"Caleb…"

"Strange name…" she quipped.

"And yours would be?" I snapped back.

"Hoodwink."

I scoffed back, "and my name is strange?"

She huffed in anger as I put my arms out to her, "sorry, it's just that we don't have names like that where I'm from!" 'Hood' decided to drop it and continue relaxing on her soft couch whilst smoking her pipe.

Silence overtook us for a moment before suddenly my phone made a jingle. My alarm is going off! The noise startled the creature across from me. The squirrel jumped in response, "what the!?" She had pointed her weapon at me, and I panicked…she's so trigger-happy…jeez!

"No, wait! It's just to help me wake up 'n stuff! Look…it's just music…"

"M-music?" She looked surprised, lowering her weapon to inspect the strange sound.

"Yeah…listen…" I went to my settings and looked for other ringtones I had for my flip phone and played an example for her…just a typical pop song, you know. She reacted the way I expected her to…

"W-what is…" then suddenly her cone-shaped ear twitched, "you nut head…that doesn't sound anything like music!"

"It is where I come from!" I clapped back.

"Yea nah!" She retorted still.

"Whatever…listen…you mind stop pointing that thing at me, please?" I placed a finger on the end of the crossbow and Hoodwink jumped back, narrowing her eyes, "no touching!"

"Fine!"

I finally sat back down, huffing loudly as if to let her know I'd had enough. She finally pacifies and sits down too: setting her stuff down to resume smoking. I, meanwhile, scroll through my ringtones…coming across an instrumental version of "Bittersweet Symphony" by the Verve. Her curiosity gets the better of her and she begins listening to the violins and guitars (instruments she's familiar with, unlike the electronic music that was playing earlier.)

"What's…that?" She tilted her head. I looked up at her to meet her blue gaze, "uh…it's called Bittersweet Symphony, I used to play it on guitar."

"W-wait…you're a musician!?" Her entire mood changed as if strangely drawn by that trait. It appears guitars exist in this world since she didn't bother asking what it is.

"A little bit, yea" I shrugged.

"Play me it!" She requested. I shook my head in return, "I…uh…no thank you…"

You gotta, mate!" Hoodwink begged, soon scurrying over to a corner of the room. Inside a cabinet that she opens is a small guitar-like instrument, roughly larger than a ukulele…one for her size. To Hoodwink, she usually didn't let people touch her stuff, but she would never pass off the opportunity to share them if she deemed it appropriate. She hasn't seen another musician in a good while, so…she couldn't resist. Thus, she scampers back to me with the item in hand (or paw, is it?) and offers it to me, "come on, then!"

I rolled my eyes, taking it, "I…I dunno…"

"Come on, you bloody drongo!" She insisted again, this time with frustration in her voice.

"…fine." I finally decided to yield to her wishes.

I sat down and inspected the instrument. From what I can see: she had to have done this herself. The strings appear to be metallic, and the body is mahogany-like. I test out the strings, making sure the 'medieval' guitar is tuned correctly. I started in E, which progressed into Bminor7 and Dsus…and so on…

Either way, I captivated her the moment I started playing, but even more so when I started singing the lyrics:

Cause it's a bittersweet, symphony, that's life…

Try to make ends meet

You're a slave to money, then you die

As I played, she listened to the words. Hoodwink was never really the material type, she was just about as "humble" as one could be. She made do with what she had…she always has. The acoustic sound…coupled with my voice seemed to resonate with her on a certain level.

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet

Yeah…

She laid her pipe against her lap, feeling drawn by the song she'd never heard of before. Before this, Hoodwink had listened to music from humans within their villages and dwellings…most often in a tavern where she would sell anything she found for essentials. Most of the music was rubbish, not on the same level as this human who is playing for her right now…

Wherever he's from, they must have great composers, she thought to herself.

I continued, and she just stared at me…stared into my green eyes to see just how emotional I had gotten during the middle of the song. I couldn't tell but she could…the squirrel could SMELL my angst, its scent.

No change, I can't change, I can't change

I can't change…

But, I'm here in my mold

I am here in my mold

But I'm a million different people from one day to the next

I can't change my mold

No, no, no, no, no…

Once I continue the next stanza and eventually finished, she is quiet. Hoodwink stared at me, almost blankly, but eventually, she smiled a bit, "sweet as, that was something else!"

"Thanks" I smiled back (though mine was faint and barely noticeable.) I decided to give the instrument back to her, standing up as I do. After a moment, I slap my hands against my sides and sigh softly, "well…I appreciate the hospitality, but I ought to find answers as to why I'm here."

Back out there…in the cold and dark…back to those monsters that lurk in the wooden shadows? What am I thinking? Then again, I don't suppose I should continue being a burden to this squirrel…

Hoodwink, unbeknownst to me, didn't want me to go…not after all that. Even if she didn't want to admit it out loud, I started to grow on her.

Before I could even reach the wooden doorknob, Hoodwink quickly rushed for the door and gets in my way! Damn, she's fast!

"Hold it mate, 'ya know it's not safe out there, with them things prowling about, yeh?"

"I guess I'll have to take my chances…"

"Stubborn lot, aren't ya?" She put her paws on her hips in defiance. I rolled my eyes back in retaliation, "what do you suggest I do, then?"

"Stay here, unless you want to end up like all the other humans who've ever stepped into these woods" suddenly…she put on a smug grin, eyes half-lidded, "believe me: without my help, mate…you won't find a better place than mine or a way out of Tomo'kan. And don't take this the wrong way, yeh…but you're going to need all the help 'ya can get!"

I thought about it…man…she REALLY wants me to stay, but maybe she's right? With how dark it is…and with how easy it was for me to get lost…I probably won't make it far on my own. It's even a miracle I managed to survive the first day. Had Hoodwink NOT rescued me when I was attacked by the Durana, I would have died…period…powers or not!

And so, with a sigh and a slightly hesitant nod, she jumped in glee, "ta!" She thanked me her slang. Then, the squirrel grinned widely, more than before. The anthro threw an acorn at me and I caught it. I soon looked back at her with a confused face, then I understood why she gave it, "you know…if I wanted this, I would eat the ones I had…" I retorted, but I stopped myself. I should honestly let that go, "how should I eat this, anyway? I can't eat it like this…"

"Oh, right…here let me get a different kind for 'ya." She went off to search for some in a cabinet. Before she did, she turned around and said softly, "no hard feelings about taking the stuff from 'ya earlier?"

"Not anymore" I shrugged.

"I can't help myself, I'm crazy for 'em" she finished before searching for food fit for human consumption.

"I couldn't tell before" I quipped sarcastically.

"She tilts her head, pausing her search to look to me, "how's your noggin?"

"I dunno…I think I see things more clearly now" I also said sarcastically before the squirrel rolled her eyes in response. Soon enough, she found some apples she picked from a tree not too long ago and gave one to me. I gave a nod of approval before passing her the acorn back and I took a bite out of the fruit.

"Sorry if it's not much, mate" she apologized but I shook my head.

"It's fine. I go some days without eating, it's good to have something I can bite into."

Hoodwink lowered her head, her expression suddenly sinks at the prospect of anyone going without food. She's used to humans having access to necessities but having no access to food…damn…this person must have it rough where he's from like he said.

"Sorry to hear…uh…Caleb?"

I nodded. We both ate in silence for a minute. It didn't take long for us to finish our meals and soon the creature gave a loud yawn in my direction, "I'm just about knackered. We better get some rest, ye?"

I shrugged…rest would be nice…I could use it for whatever we'll have to do tomorrow. That is if I'm still in this world the next time I wake up. Heck, maybe I WILL wake up, maybe this is a dream after all, who knows…

Either way, I guess this couch will do…it's better than sleeping on pavement…that's for sure. Unfortunately, it's WAY too small for me, but I guess I'll have to make it work for now.

"If 'ya need anything, lemme know, mate" she said, "g'nigh" Hoodwink turned off the lantern as darkness envelops me and I'm left to dwell on my thoughts.

I can't believe all that's happened recently…I went from being homeless…stealing a bike…to ending up in a strange world and meeting this creature. And what happens: they give me food and a place to sleep…hospitality. It's something I've longed for a while now ever since my life went down the drain. I would have never imagined I would be sleeping on something again…even if it is a couch. Despite the fact it's primitive and too small for a human…it's better than nothing…and that alone made me smile. The fact that I was given so much today made me reevaluate how I've treated Hoodwink…like I should apologize to her…

Maybe I'll do it in the morning…I should get some sleep…

...

I hope you all enjoyed this latest addition. Please let me know what you think if you like! I'll see you all next time!