Days are passing by and every day she basks in the sun. In the meantime, she can almost draw the contours of the camel hill, as Grandma calls him, yet she discovers every day something new. Unfortunately, she hasn’t heard anything from Wappert and Corn. It seems that these encounters never took place and sometimes she doubts whether it happened.
The only one she sees occasionally running past is the ferret, but she doesn’t like him. And he certainly doesn’t talk to her anymore. Occasionally she sees great tits or a nuthatch sitting against a tree. If it is raining or cold, she is forced to look at nature from behind the window, but luckily that is very rare.
Suddenly she hears a black crow shrieking. ‘Crow…, crow…,’ he cries and jumps from one branch to the other. Spreads its wings and in a dive, glides straight at Fleurtje.
She understands that he has no intention of avoiding her and she puts her hands in front of her eyes. Wait startled, but nothing happens. She does hear something fall as if he is throwing a stone at her. Carefully she opens her eyes and then she discovers an enchanting ring.
The ring contains a beautiful oval blue-purple stone that is set around with small diamonds.
She carefully picks him up and hypnotized, she looks at the beautiful ring that makes his little stones shine in the sun. She doesn’t understand. The crow must have stolen it somewhere. After all, she had read that. Crows love glittering things. The crow itself sits on a tree branch watching her and she expects him to come and get him back any time. She calls her grandmother. Grandma would probably know what to do with the ring. But she gets no answers. She decides to look inside where she is, but she can’t find her anywhere. She holds the ring firmly in her hands because one thing is certain, this ring is very special. Fleurtje decides to wait quietly until grandma is back. She basks in the sun again and still sees the crow sitting on the branch. He lays his beak deep in his feathers as if he will say he has all the time and patience. What she doesn’t know is that he just waits for what she will do. Whether she is ready for the next move, otherwise the plan will not work.
Fleurtje looks at the ring again. She can’t take her eyes off it. He is so beautiful, she thinks, and takes him between her thumb and forefinger and holds it against the sunlight. Her mouth falls open with admiration as she discovers the beautiful colours that her eyes cherish. The crow starts to flutter violently with its wings. Fleurtje pulls the ring towards him and shouts: ‘You have given him and given is given!’
He spreads his wings. Jumps back and forth for a moment, but then he spreads its wings again and flies away.
Carefully she slides the ring on her finger. He sits like a glove. She stretches her arm forward and spreads her fingers to make the ring stand out better. Oh, how beautiful he is.
The splendour of colours continues towards her. She looks proudly at the ring, but suddenly the whole environment starts to revolve around her.
Everything spins faster and faster and for a moment she gets nauseated by the spinning. Then the spinning suddenly stops, and her wheelchair starts moving. Everything around her is getting bigger and bigger. The trees are huge, and the bushes are so dense that it looks like she has landed in a jungle. She doesn’t understand. What happens, she worries. Grandma’s house is ten times larger than before.
She shouts with fear: ‘Grandma, grandma, please help me. I don’t like this,’ and she looks around in terror.
She can’t move in her wheelchair. There is no movement in it. ‘I just close my eyes and when I wake up, it turns out to be a bad dream,’ she whispers to herself.
In her mind, she sees her mommy. She wants to call her, but there is no sound coming out of her throat. Tears flow hopelessly down her cheeks and fall on the tabletop of her wheelchair. What happens to me, she thinks. I should never have come here. Mommy and Grandma just abandoned me. ‘The children at school were right, my grandmother is an ugly fairy. It’s much worse, she’s also a mean witch,’ she shouts in a panic.
‘Are you still angry,’ she hears someone behind her ask.
She turns around and looks into the eyes of a big beast. She automatically grasps the joystick of her wheelchair to make him move and this time she succeeds. The wheelchair shoots ahead and comes to a halt a few meters away. The road is blocked by a huge rabbit and If she hadn’t stopped on time, she would have run over him.
‘Where am I. I want to go to my mommy!’
Wappert consciously takes a step back. He sees that she is shocked and afraid of him.
He quietly lets her know that he has no harm in mind: ‘Don’t be afraid Fleurtje. I am Wappert.’
With astonishment, her mouth falls open and she searches for words: ‘Wap …, Wappert, but how… You are suddenly so big?’
‘I didn’t get bigger, but you got smaller.’
Corn is also nearby and approaches her from behind. He wraps his arms around her neck and shouts: ‘Dream …, dream …, dreams,’ and then he releases her again.
She is gradually calming down, especially now that she is discovering Corn.
‘Stop Corn, you know what I will do with you if you get my annoyed. Then I will eat you, remember.’
It would be the other way around now, she thinks. He is so big. Corn looks at her in a challenging way and makes himself as tall as possible. ‘Oh, yes,’ he replies laughing.
‘Stop this. You are scaring her,’ shouts Wappert at him and slaps with his drooping ear on Corn’s ass.
‘I didn’t want to scare her,’ Corn jokes. ‘She shouldn’t be so moody. It is important that she becomes stronger. Otherwise, everything will be for nothing. She sees that it is me. Come on Fleur, you are a big girl.’
Fleurtje looks from one to the other. ‘So, it’s not a dream, is this all real?’
‘I can assure you that you are not dreaming,’ Wappert replies.
Fleurtje instinctively collapses when a shadow suddenly appears above her head. It’s the shadow of a huge black bird that gracefully flies down with its spread wings.
Corn sees that Fleurtje is scared and reassures her: ‘Don’t be afraid, that’s Bongo. Bongo the crow. He brought you the ring. ‘Hello Bongo,’ Corn greets him and the crow lands next to Wappert. She looks at him and realizes that he is now much bigger than she is.
‘We have to hurry because Fred the ferret is coming,’ Bongo shouts.
Fleurtje knows that she has seen the ferret hanging around on the glade, but still wonders who Fred is.
‘Fred is the beast that haunts on me,’ says Corn. ‘So, I must go now.’
Fleurtje starts chuckling and says: ‘Well, if I don’t eat you, Fred the ferret will do.’
Corn is no longer listens to her, puts two nails from his paw into his mouth and produces a high whistle. The whistle sounds like a way through the forest. Then there is a heavy rumbling from a hidden place. The rumble becomes clearer as it gets closer. It comes from a gaping hole that is now clearly visible. Fleurtje wants to move away from the hole, she is afraid that something will run over her.
Corn takes her hand and places it next to the joystick. ‘You don’t have to be scared,’ he whispers.
Four large dogs come out of the hole. They are running two by two and together they pull a wooden cart behind them. Fleurtje looks with admiration to the dogs. One of them is clearly in charge. He nods at Corn and Wappert, who together lift Fleurtje out of her wheelchair and put her into the wooden cart. The dogs turn around and pull the cart after them. The leader of the dogs calls that they must hurry. Fleurtje shouts that they should take it a bit easier, but no one responds to her wish and the cart pushes forward. Corn, who jumped on the back, encourages the dogs.
‘Run boys, he is right behind us.’
The cart drives winding under a tree stump in the direction of the cave. They run past Wappert, who has run ahead. The dogs pull the cart over the bumps and holes through the corridors. Then the wild ride finally comes to an end and they come to a halt. Corn jumps from the cart and runs with Wappert to the big heavy oak door that they close with a huge bang. Exhausted, they fall on the ground together and put out a sigh of relief.
‘That was close,’ sighs Wappert, and Corn can only nod.
Behind the closed door, they hear a horrible voice calling: ‘I will get you,’ the ferret shouts. ‘I have patience and I am not afraid of that human child. I will get her too.’
Fleurtje looks at them one by one. She finds them very brave. Soon they all feel better.
‘Why does that ferret want to harm us all,’ she asks.
Wappert reassures her and says: ‘Forget it. We ended well. We can’t stay on for too long and must continue.’
Before she can ask another question, she hears Corn’s whistle.
The dogs that are lying princely on the ground react immediately and stand up. Corn jumps on the back of the cart and calls. ‘Do your best Cherry, go, go, go.’
Fleurtje, who gets a strange tingling in her toes due to the bumps, thinks for a moment that she can feel her legs again. She stoops and rubs her legs, but the feeling is gone again. The cart jumps forward, and she must hold on tight again.
Corn urges the dogs to make more speed and Fleurtje now realizes that Cherry is the leader of the pack. During the run the dogs make a kind of wolf howling. The shivers run down her back as the howls resound through the corridors. She never knew that the howling could be such an impressive thing. She doesn’t have much time to think about this, certainly not because Corn keeps reminding them to go on. The dogs obey him smoothly and quickly. As Fleurtje pulls himself up to look over the edge, Corn pushes her down again and tells her to keep her head down. She understands that he is right because in some places the ceiling is extremely low. Sometimes they can barely ride under a tree stump through.
Corn gestures that she can sit up again. Burning torches are hanging on the wall that illuminates the space in a fairytale way. When she looks at Corn in surprise, she sees the sparkle of the light in his eyes. As they progress through the aisle system, the path becomes wider and wider.
‘Cherry stops,’ Corn calls and the cart slowly come to a halt. Corn jumps off the cart and walks to the dogs. One by one he releases them from the rig, and they lie down quietly on the floor. Corn approaches them. He introduces the dogs to Fleurtje.
‘This is Cherry, the leader and next to him is Trip,’ and he strokes Trip quietly between her ears, for which she thanks him by giving him a big lick. The other two Alfie and Bikkel are also introduced to her and Fleurtje she caresses lovingly one by one. For a moment she wonders how it is possible that the dogs have become so small and how it is possible that the dogs are also in this hole. She put the question to Corn, who explained it to her: ‘My father found them in the woods when they were puppies. For days he had walked past a certain place and heard squeaks every time. One day he decided to wait for the parents, but they didn’t come. He understood that the parents are gone. Before he took them with him, he went searching together with others. Maybe they could find the parents, but there was no trace of them. He picked up the cart and then brought it to this cave.
‘But puppies are growing up anyway,’ asks Fleurtje.
Corn looks at her with a smile and answers: ‘Yes, you are right. What about you?’
Of course, she hasn’t forgotten that she too is actual small now, but she cannot be ignored.
‘But Corn, I thought that you were getting bigger?’
‘Yes, that too,’ he answers.’ Don’t give up, you are nice again. Someday you’ll understand’
‘Say Corn, why do you panic when Fred the ferret comes close to you?’
‘Fred is a beast that hunts squirrels, you must know that. Unfortunately, he also doesn’t leave rabbits alone. We called him Fred because he is a ferret. Fred the ferret, you see. At first, he just belonged to our group, but he fights with everyone. If he couldn’t win, he bit them in a mean cowardly way until death ensued. The Council of Wise Animals decided, in good consultation to abandon him. When they tell him that, he immediately escaped, and that is why we when we are outside, we must be careful that he is not lurking. And we must ensure that he doesn’t come in because he knows our aisle system like the back of his hand. We must protect our children against him. You should never underestimate him. He is very smart.’
Fleurtje is impressed with the story and promises Corn that she will stand behind them. ‘If I ever get hold of him …’ and she makes a movement with her hands as if she wants to say: ‘Then I will turn his neck.’
Corn looks at her with a smile and puts his hairy leg around her neck. Then presses his warm body close to her. Fleurtje admits this effortlessly and she also snuggles up comfortably against him and purrs like a cat.
In the meantime, she has been joined by a pair of young animals, who crawl curiously into the cart with her. Little rabbits, squirrels, ferrets, young hares and various birds are staring at her. She quickly pushes Corn away. The animal children ask all kind of questions at her. They want to know why she comes to live in the forest. Wappert comes to free her from the little ones. He sees that Fleurtje is not ready to answer them all and shouts: ‘Children aside, we have to move on, get away now,’ and he sends them away without mercy.
If one of them contradicts, he turns his ear around like a propeller. The children know that sign and understand that it is better now to go. They quickly disappear into corners or holes that Fleurtje hadn’t discovered yet.
‘Come Fleurtje,’ Wappert whispers laughing, ‘You have to transfer here.’
She looks over the edge of the cart and to her own surprise, she sees her wheelchair standing in front of her. Only he looks a little different than she remembers.
‘What have you done with my wheelchair? Surely you could have driven me inside in my own seat?’
‘That is true,’ says Wappert. ‘But we had to replace the wheels of your wheelchair.’
‘Replace, why,’ but if she looks closely, she sees that the front wheels of her seat have been replaced by larger ones with wider tires.
‘We have made your chair so that you can drive it quickly and safely through the corridors.’
Corn suddenly bursts out laughing.
‘Are you laughing at me,’ she asks him angrily?
‘No, I just think about what Wappert said. He didn’t call it driving, but racing.’ Corn jumps out of the cart and stands on the back of the wheelchair. ‘I can be your companion,’ he says proudly and goes to the back of her car.
In the meantime, Wappert has called a few rabbits and squirrels together and asked if they would like to help him lift Fleurtje into her own wheelchair. What they love to do that.
‘Are you okay? I had him adjusted to make you feel more comfortable,’ says Wappert.
‘Nice Wappert, great,” and she turns her ass deep into the seat.
Corn who gets impatient calls that the little ones have to getaway. ‘Shall we Fleurtje?’
‘Of course, let’s go. Show me the way,’ she shouts excitedly and pushes the joystick forward.
The wheelchair starts to move, but soon it speeds up. The new tires run smoothly over the obstacles.
Corn leads her through the corridors and warns her if she needs to pay extra attention of danger.
‘That corridor over there is the most dangerous of all, certainly for our young animals. Fred usually grabs his prey in this area.’
‘Then why don’t you close that corridor,’ she asks and brings her car to a halt.
‘You are right, but there is more to it. It’s too much to explain, but if that were possible, our techies would certainly have done that. Come on, I’m going to show you something funny.’
In silence, she maneuvers her car in the direction that Corn points her to go through a network of corridors. At every angle, she slows down a bit. At every corner, she sees some animals.
‘Why are they here,’ asks Fleurtje.
‘They guard a part of the camel hill,’ says Corn. ‘Stop here.’
Her wheelchair stops next to a rat. She has to swallow for a moment. The rat is so large, and its large sharp teeth look very mean.
‘Hello Corn. Don’t forget about our appointment for tonight,’ the rat asks.
Corn greets the rat animatedly and Fleurtje thinks that they are awfully close friends. They put their fists to each other and claps their hands etc. The ritual goes so fast that she has forgotten the sequence, but it looks very cool.
‘Excuse me, Bas. This is Fleurtje. Fleur this is our Bas, he introduces them to each other. He is guarding the area,’ he explains. ‘If the enemy secretly wants to sneak in, he must first pass Bas and his colleagues.’
Bas sticks out his leg and shakes hands with Fleurtje. ‘Nice to meet you, I’ve heard a few things about you,’ he says.
Fleurtje finds him creepy and quickly she wipes her hand on her dress and the shivers run down her back.
‘Why are you shivering,’ asks Corn.
‘That leg feels so scary. Excuse me, I know it is rude of me.’
Bas is disappointed and she sees that she hurt his feelings.
She looks questioningly at Corn, but he turns his eyes away from her. She realizes what she has done, even if it wasn’t her intention. But that’s no excuse, she thinks. She feels guilty, she also hates it to be hurt, then you should certainly not do that to anyone else.
She looks at Bas in such a shy way. As much as she wants to make it up to him, in her experience, a rat is a scary beast and you certainly won’t shake his paw. Her thoughts go back and forth. But what you are experiencing here is also different. No one really believes this if you tell them. It seems as if there is a little man on her shoulder who is constantly talking to her. And sometimes she thinks he’s right.
Bas is still looking upset. It is important to him that Fleurtje accepts him. After all, Corn is his best friend. He lifts his head and when his gaze crosses Fleurtje’s she says, ‘Come here Bas,’ and she spreads her arms.
Bas who does not understand where this sudden change comes from, stands in front of her.
‘Come a little closer. I want to make it up to you.’
Bas takes a step forward and then Fleurtje puts her arms around him.
‘Here,’ and she gives him a big kiss on his hairy head.
‘What is that,’ says Corn calls. ‘I want that too.’
‘ Are you jealous?’ Bas grins.
Corn is indeed jealous and says disappointedly: ‘We have to go now Bas, because we have no time to waste.’
Fleurtje looks at Bas, puts her lips to one of his ears and whispers. ‘I also think he’s a bit jealous.’
‘If I were him, I would be too,’ he whispers.
Corn decides it’s time to move on and says they should move on.
“Stop,” shouts Bas.
Fleurtje immediately releases the joystick and puts her hands high in the air. Bas steps towards and takes her hands in his paws.
‘Take care of the ring,’ he says in a concerned voice. ‘You have to keep it on your finger or otherwise, something terrible will happen.’
‘Terrible, ‘asks Fleurtje?
‘Didn’t they tell you that?’
She looks from Bas to Corn and waits for an answer.
‘The ring fits like glove Bas. Don’t worry about that. Let’s start,’ he calls to Fleurtje.
She thanks Bas for his warning and then the wheelchair is moving again. Bas shakes his head and continues his work again.
For a moment Fleurtje thinks they are going to get stuck because the corridor becomes very narrow, but then they suddenly drive into a gigantic space. They go too fast to admire the beauty of the space.
‘Brakes,’ Corn screams in a panic!
When they are standing still, Fleurtje sees a few inches away from a deep hole. They could have fallen into that deep hole. Quickly she throws the lever into his reverse and steers the wheelchair away from the abyss.
‘Where where you been with thoughts,’ she asks disturbingly?
Corn sniffles a few times and keeps his thoughts to himself. He jumps off the car and pretends that he hasn’t heard her question.
Fleurtje doesn’t understand him, but what she sees is admirable. She sees al kind off animals walk among the crowd.
‘What does that all mean, Corn?’
‘This is a meeting place where all animals come together and exchange their experiences.’
‘Don’t they attack each other? It is unbelievable. Say I’m dreaming.’
‘Again, you are not dreaming, trust me.’
She glances with interest at all those animals, but despite the presence of so much life around her, she feels very lonely. Her thoughts naturally go to mom and the children at school. Of course, also to grandma, which she cannot understand. She understands that this is unique and that if she ever tells anyone they will laugh at her. She feels a strange feeling in her stomach and she starting to feel a bit sick. She understands what it is. She is just homesick for home and a tear rolls down her cheeks, which she quickly wipes away.
Corn has come to her side unnoticed and takes her hand between his paws and asks what’s wrong. She feels the warmth of his paws flowing through her body and is now aware of how cold her hands have become. She is glad that he is concerned about her and she looks at him shyly. For a moment there is a deep sigh and then she withdraws her hand and starts playing with her joystick.
‘Are you homesick? You look so pale,’ and he takes her chin, so she has to look at him.
‘I want to go to my mother and yes, I’m so homesick. I even miss the children at school. You will find that very strange.’
It becomes quiet for a moment and Corn stares at her helplessly.
‘And this all,’ she says cautiously.
‘What’s wrong with it. Do you not like it?’
‘It is…., it is beautiful. But my mind says, it is nonsense. Corn I want to go back to my grandma.’
He grabs her firmly and strokes her with one of his paws through the hair. ‘Come on Fleurtje, it will be all right.’
The tears now roll down her cheeks, but she wipes them away quickly and sighs well. She nods understandingly at Corn, who gives her a small tug on her hand. She pulls out her hand and screams in pain.
‘What’s the matter,’ he asked in shock.
‘You squeezed me so hard that the ring on my finger pinched.’
She wants to slide the ring off her finger, but then Corn shouts, ‘ No, don’t,’ and grabs her hand again. As long as you’re here with us, you have to keep wearing the ring on your finger.’ Fleurtje becomes rebellious and she still wants to take the ring off her finger.
Corn gets incredibly angry and quickly pushes the ring back on her finger. ‘When I say you should never do that again, I mean it. Knot that in your ears very well.’
The animals look at them in surprise. After all, it is rare for Corn to be irritated or angry. Curious they continue to stare at Fleurtje and Corn. Fleurtje panics and drives away from everyone.
The end of part 3