Wubin thought he knew everything. He could climb, glide, hunt and find food. He knew every branch, leaf and hollow of his tree and the surrounding forest. He knew which animals were harmless and which were enemies to be avoided. He thought he knew it all...
...but he was wrong.
Wubin was racing across a tiny branch high in his gum tree. He saw a tasty looking grasshopper clinging to a leaf in a nearby tree. Wubin leaped for it, spreading his furry flaps to catch the breeze. Suddenly he was caught by a Willy Willy. It spun him around, carrying him away from the ground far below.
Wubin lay stunned and confused. He had never been on the ground before. He staggered up and began crawling towards the nearest tree, intent on climbing back to the world he knew. A dark shape appeared beside him. An evil eye glared at him and a powerful beak lunged. Wubin jumped and ran. Once, twice, the beak pecked at him and missed. Wubin scampered faster but on the third strike his luck ran out. He felt the beak sink into his loose fur on his neck and hoist him up. He struggled but it held tight.
An even larger shape, a monster, loomed before him. Unfamiliar sounds thundered in Wubin's ear. "Drop it you stupid chook! Drop it!"
Something struck the beaked one. Wubin fell to the ground. A large hand scooped him up. Wubin curled into a ball and shut his eyes. The word had suddenly became an unpredictable and unknown place.
Kim opened her hand to look at the mouse. It had a funny feather-like tail and strange flaps of fur between its tiny paws.
"I don't think you are a mouse at all. She said. But what are you? And what should I do with you? Poor baby!"
Kim carried Wubin into her house and put him in a shoebox with an old sock. Then she called the local wildlife rescuer, M'Gee. Wubin opened his eyes. It was dark in the shoebox, which was a comfort. Wubin crawled around till he found the sock. He clung to it as he had once clung to his mother - It felt softly reassuring, as she had been. Exhausted by his trials, he fell asleep.
M'Gee hung up the phone and sighed. It sounded like Kim was bringing her a Feather-tailed Glider. They were such slippery little characters. She had been given a female to look after only a week ago and it had escaped in her bedroom. M'Gee searched for hours but could not find her in the mess. Finally in desperation M'Gee had opened her balcony doors and left them open for three nights in order to give the glider a chance to get out.
This time M'Gee was determined to be more careful.
Kim opened up the door and handed M'Gee the shoebox. "I saw one of my chickens attacking something. I thought it was a baby mouse so I rescued it, but it's not a mouse." M'Gee peeked in the box. "It's a Feather Glider, but I don't think it's a baby."
Kim was amazed, "But its only as big as my thumb!" she said.
"That's true, but they are very small. I'll keep him a few days to make sure he's all right. Then I'll bring him back to your place. That way he can rejoin his friends and relatives." Said M'Gee.
Kim was relieved. She hadn't known what to do with the little animal, so she was happy to leave it in M'Gee's care.
After Kim drove off, M'Gee took the box to her bathroom. She shut the door tight before she opened the box. "At least if you escape in here, I can find you again!"
She picked Wubin up and gently examined him, confirmed that he was a male and that he had no obvious wounds or broken bones. Wubin uncurled in M'Gee's hand and looked at her curiously. He sniffed her hand. It smelled strange to him. She was very big but she spoke softly and didn't hurt him.
M'Gee offered Wubin a drink of special animal milk in an eyedropper. He sniffed at it, then curled up in a ball, hiding his face in his fur. "I guess that means you don't want it. If you were a baby, then you would. Wait a minute and I'll get you something else." M'Gee slipped Wubin back in the box and went to the kitchen to get some honey water.
'It will do,' she thought, 'I shall call him Wubin!' M'Gee offered Wubin the honey water and he lapped it up. It had been hours since his ordeal began and he was very thirsty. After she fed him, M'Gee slipped him into a cotton bag she used when banding birds. It had a drawstring at the top that she pulled tight and then knotted back against itself to prevent Wubin from escaping. In the bottom of the bag she put the sock that the female glider had been in before her escape.
Wubin smelled the smell of the female glider it reassured him that another glider had been here before him. Wubin rested for several hours in the safety of the bag and began to explore. After a few minutes he knew the extent of the bag and where the entrance was. He pushed his nose through the knotted string and slowly stretched the opening until it was wide enough that he could wriggle through. All that night Wubin explored his prison, looking for a way out so he could find a way back to his family and friends. He ran up and down the shower curtain. He jumped to the sink and ran around the taps. He inspected the drain but the holes on the strainer were too small. (No way out there. He climbed up the wall to the window. Outside he could smell the gum trees but the holes in the screen were too small. He could not escape.) As the sun began to rise, he gave up. He found a box full of odds and ends. He crawled in and fell asleep.
When M'Gee came in the morning, she knew the instant she picked up the bag that it was empty. She looked everywhere but could not find Wubin. She started over, covering every millimetre of the bathroom. (She looked in the folds of the shower curtain and under the sink. She unfolded every towel and wash cloth.) At last she found him in the box, curled up between the eyeliner and the face cream.
"I should have called you Houdini, I think." She gathered him up and returned him to his bag. "This will never do, I'll have to find some way to keep you safe until I can take you back to Kim's place."
M'Gee went outside to her walk-in aviary. It was empty at the moment because she only used it for housing injured or orphaned animals. She inspected it carefully, some of the wire needed replacing but she thought she could make it escape-proof.
M'Gee worked all day. She mucked out the old straw bedding, replaced the wire mesh and put up shade cloth. She nailed up a shelf and put a small hollow log on it. She cut two saplings and wired them on either side of the shelf. She caught grasshoppers and released them into the cage. She filled a bird feeder with honey water and strapped it to the side of the log. Finally she prepared a glider-sized dinner on a plate, half a grape, slivers of pawpaw and banana plus a small cicada that had drowned in the dog dish.
At last she stood back, hot and sweaty, and surveyed the cage. "This will hold you, Wubin, Houdini or not!" she thought with a sense of satisfaction.
In the cool of the evening, she brought Wubin to his new home. She opened the bag and placed it in the log. Sometime after dark, Wubin came out. He stretched, yawned and preened his silken fur. Then he began to explore. He sniffed the scent of the honey water, followed it and had a long drink. He inspected the food on the plate but none of it appealed to him. He scampered up a sapling and explored it. When he found a grasshopper, he pounced, killed it and then devoured it. Then he started looking for a way back home.
He ran up one tree and down the other. He ran in one end of the log and out the other. He ran all around the wire walls of the cage, looking for holes. He races across the floor, up the brace and onto the shelf. He climbed back down and finally, at the very back of the cage, he found it. A small hole, a rust hold in the solid wall; a hole no bigger than a human thumb.
Wubin wriggled and wriggled and squeezed through the hole. At last he was free. He ran across the grass to the nearest tree. He scampered up the trunk till he found a clump of leaves in which to hide. Then he looked around. The tree was not familiar to him. He sniffed the air and chittered softly in the language of gliders but there was no hint of glider smell in the air and none of his family answered him. Wubin was alone.
For the rest of the night Wubin searched for family, friends or just a familiar tree, but all was strange to him. Finally he found a tiny glider-sized hidey-hole. He checked for predators then he crawled in and fell asleep for the day.
For the next three nights Wubin wandered through the unfamiliar forest. There was plenty of food but danger abounded. He was chased by a very big goanna. A kookaburra swooped over him and almost caught him. He heard the sound of a hungry cat growling in the night. But worst of all was the loneliness. Wubin could cope with predators if only he had a friend. Each morning as he curled up alone in a new hole, he yearned for the company of his own kind. He missed his family desperately.
Still he kept searching. He never gave up. His brain was too small for existential despair. His courage too great to give in.
A week passed. Wubin moved further and further away from the cage, up the hill, deeper into the forest. Each night he explored another tree and another, finding new hiding places, new escape routes, new food sources. Then one night he came across a smell that caused his heart to race. It was the smell of the female glider that had been on the sock in the bird bag. The smell was a few days old. Wubin had a goal now though. He followed the smell. Each time he leaped to a new tree he checked for the smell of the female glider. When he found it he continued, when he did not he back tracked.
Night after night he tracked her. By the third night he knew he was getting close. Her trails were everywhere. She had to be close. He checked for signs of predators then chittered. There was an answer in the next tree.
Wubin ran to the too of is tree and launched himself towards the sound. He landed with a thump and looked around. Coming toward him was a beautiful female glider. Her eyes glittered with excitement. She too had been searching for a companion.
They met cautiously, touching noses, sniffing on another. Then the female turned and scampered away. Wubin followed. All that night they played hide and seek in the treetops. In the morning they curled up together in a hole, just the right size for two tiny gliders. His odyssey was over.
Wubin was home -