What was it building? He thought, lifting the shovel off the now dead squirrel. The nest by the toolshed was bowled, like a bird's, but had acorns, bits of glass, routed string, and pebbles placed on each cardinal direction. He knew it was the squirrel because, over the last few days while scrubbing the dishes of his lonely meals, he saw it bound back and forth through the window over his sink. Focused, like a mad scientist.
He didn't know why he brought the shovel and was surprised he killed the bastard with one swift clunk. What could he do? He laughed.
Looking closer at the nest it became clear the squirrel possessed some sense of mathematics, proportion, architecture. This was no mere hobby-nest. Pulling apart the walls he found foil. Underneath the dirt floor, a metal plate. He looked up. In the tree branch directly above the nest, bottlecaps arranged like a flower, a dish.
He stepped back, fully creeped out.
He approached again. The dead squirrel's tongue poked through its smashed face. Spooked, he pieced the nest back together, shoveled the creature, and went to his trashcan. What was it doing, he kept asking himself. Was the thing finished or was there more? Would the nest, had there been no human impediment, taken over the backyard, the house, and the whole neighborhood? Was it a squirrel star-gate? Was the squirrel trying to get back to his own timeline?
I don't know. I want to tell him to forget about it and go to sleep. I'd like to think this squirrel made this structure as a warning, out of some hurried compulsion, that if it could just find the golden wire, the nest would blaze open and give it the ability to speak, so it could tell the man, someone wants to kill you and he's living your toolshed.
But what do I know—I'm just the fucking cat.
Chance Dibben is a writer, photographer, and performer living in Lawrence, Kansas. His writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Split Lip, Blue Earth Review, Unbroken, Squawkback, as well as others.