This is an old, old story from a very long time ago. Not many people know it, but if you come closer, I’ll whisper it to you. You see, people told stories about this park. They said that if you came into the park at night, there was magic in the air. That you’d not come back, or if you did, you’d come back changed.
But once upon a time, a girl about your age had been playing hide and seek in the park with her friends. She’d hidden herself so well that nobody had found her, and she’d lost track of time. By the time she realised that nobody was going to find her, it was properly dark, the park was empty, and the gates were locked.
But this girl, she was brave. She felt her entire body thrill at the idea of exploring the park in the dark. She hadn’t heard all those old stories about the magic in the park, you see. So she started to run across the dark lawn, delighting in the moonlight all about her. She ran towards the river, looking forward to seeing how the moonlight looked on the water.
And she found herself stopping short in exactly this spot, where you’re standing now. All about was dark – all she could see were the shadows of the trees. All she could hear was the sound of the river singing and the wind in the branches. And that’s when the girl felt a tingle run down her spine and all her bones went cold and she saw standing in front of her a shadow. A shadow that was nearly as tall as the trees all about.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” said the shadow. “This park is not a place for mortal folk at night.”
The girl was frozen to the spot. She couldn’t move.
The shadow spoke again. “Think fast,” it said. “Move quickly. Be clever. And perhaps you’ll see the morning light.”
And then the shadow was gone, leaving nothing but the soft scent of flowers on the night air.
And that was when the girl felt herself beginning to change. Imagine looking down at your body and realising there’s fur appearing all over you. That’s what happened to the girl. She was shrinking down towards the ground, she was growing a tail, she had claws and sharp teeth – she was no longer a girl, she was otter. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? And otter – well, being an otter was fun. The girl could smell everything – the sharp tang of grass, the scent of the river. She wanted to dive into the water and hunt.
She started to move like otter, run like otter. Can you do the same thing? How does an otter run? How does it swim? Swim around now. And imagine – you’re nocturnal now. That means you can see in the dark. Your eyes are sharp, and your nose is sharp, and you can smell everything…
Like you, the girl began to run and swim and enjoy being otter she remembered what the shadow had told her.
If you’re clever you might see the morning light.
What did the shadow mean? She was determined to find out.
So she looked with her sharp otter eyes and spied through the dark the strangest sight. Not far from her was a circle of stones.
And in the centre of the stone circle there was a figure.
Can you see the stone circle from where you are? If you can, run to it like an otter! Off you go – now’s your chance!