A rat in the trench.

The way forward is down. Ming surveys the once-familiar neighborhood and finds it vastly enhanced. The three dimensional building blocks have their y-axis extended to the impossible negative. Who knew there was a world underneath the city where there’re pipes and power-lines and whatever else busy-bodies that there might be. This negative space was brought into the world by the trenches some workers have dug up right by the side-walks surrounding all the buildings, making a maze out of what was a rather plain and boring day-time landscape. They are pretty deep too, or at least as deep as Ming, who is of eleven years of age, so that if she just hunches a little bit, she can just disappear entirely into the newly turned-over unsuspecting earth.

You may think it’s a bit odd for a child to be wanting to play inside the dirty holes rather than anywhere else. But think about it: earth, tree, outta-sight, no adults can see nor hear, exploration, new! How can you not be tempted. Ming has no choice, the alternative for her would be to ignore this possibly once-a-lifetime experience (for quite a few things are once-a-lifetime events for Ming) and be a strict surface-dweller which she does not even think as an option. So she digs in.

It’s even better than she imagined. Once she’s down inside the narrow space, she finds there’s actually plenty of room once her world-view adjusts. Funny it looks a bit intimidating and dismal from above, but once you are inside, there’s a whole other world greeting her. There’s not just dirt, but roots being exposed for the first time and oh, since it’s spring time, the tree-trimming crew just been around the block and the aftermath, the discarded, still green-leaved branches are now conveniently covering the trench in intervals with their limbs and leaves piling up, resembling little fairy-houses. So there’re these pretty, spring-green, dangling bundles of baby-leaves occasionally delighting even further the already giggly newborn rat underneath.

All the neighborhood friends she has, where are they at? They must all be scattered around, so it will also be fun to randomly bumping into one of them. Some of them are hiding in the trimmed branches, giving Ming great ideas of what she can also do. Is it a rat or is it a monkey? Why not both. With the leaves as concealing canopy, branches form sitting rooms and the trench below gives plenty of leg room, Ming finds herself content for the moment, just looking at the leaves inches from her face, feeling her nimble limbs adjusting to the shapes of the branch and how the branch is taking her weight, not minding at all the dirt that has found its way upon her person. “But of course, what can be more natural than that.”

The maze though is what Ming discovers that she likes the best. It conceals the world from Ming and Ming from the world. Nobody needs to see how dirty she is, or how much fun she’s having not caring about anything nor thinking about anything. “What’s the next level above having fun?” Time moves differently when no one’s marching on a schedule, when they just move however they like. Time becomes more abstract yet more intimate like a thick coat warping around you making you more aware of and comfortable with yourself, to look into the world with more confidence and awareness. It’s heavenly is what Ming is thinking.

It’s been a couple of weeks like this. Ming makes no new friends that she can remember, except the little more than the surface of the earth, the wilting pruned tree branches still laying on top of the trenches and the dragonflies who enjoy a good shade as well as anybody. It is a quiet time for Ming, the best kind where she can hide in the sunlight and still hear the world around and above her, where she can go everywhere as she pleased, undetected. “Ah, this is the rat life.”

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