There was once a little blind girl named Margaret who had few friends she couldn’t see. This sounds like a lonesome proposition for someone born blind, but in fact, Margaret had many friends. She could not see them in the traditional way, but that did not bother her one bit. When her mother told her that she was blind and could not see, she accepted it calmly and then proceeded to make up her own word for her perception of those creatures that were dancing and waving all around her. She called that sense “snee”. She couldn’t see at all, but she could snee with the best of them.
The things she snaw (the natural past tense form of snee) were usually larger than she was and generally happy. They differed from each other much more than humans did. What’s more, they drew to Margaret like a horde of hungry children to a single lollipop. Apparently there were not many people who could snee.
The sense of snight was a strange one. She could not snee anything she could touch. When she asked her mother why this was, her mother (who did not understand the idea of sneeing) patiently explained that it was because she was blind. As well, with the creatures Margaret could snee (she called them snurps), she could tell their emotions, their motivations and their basic personality at once, as if they were wearing all that information on a badge on their chest. This was good to know, but all of the snurps Margaret snaw were kind and benevolent. Actually, she had never sneen a bad snurp in her life.
Of all the snurps Margaret knew, three were especially close to her. They didn’t have names before she met them, but she called them Splik, Drizzlepop, and Mr. Crustypeppers.
“Good morning, Margaret.” She woke up and saw her three snurp friends looming over her (she did not need to open her eyes to snee things. This made it hard to get to sleep when they were capering around her at night, generally acting like buffoons). The alarm clock went off, beep, beep, beep and she swiped at it, accidentally knocking it to the floor.
“Beep beep beep,” Drizzlepop said in a chortling monotone. “Beep beep beep. I like human music.”
“Happy birthday, Margaret,” Mr. Crustypeppers said. He held out his two translucent blue arms that looked like they were carved from ice. There was just empty space between them. “We baked you a cake! You just can’t snee it,” he added with a wink.
“Thank you guys,” she said, sitting up in bed and yawning. “Thank you, Mr. Crustypeppers, you piece of garbage. You really are a stupid cow.” Mr. Crustypeppers beamed and put the invisible cake carefully down on her desk, also invisible to her. She had once told the snurps about insults and Mr. Crustypeppers had been so tickled with the idea that he had insisted she insult him at every opportunity. If she forgot for a while, he would prompt her, saying, “So, Margaret, who’s a stupid cow?” Then she would remember and say, “You are, Mr. Crustypeppers,” and he would grin with pleasure, showing both rows of his long, blackened fangs.
In reality, it wasn’t her birthday. Every so often, the snurps would get it in their heads that it was her birthday and they would have a party. She had told them about birthdays but she wasn’t sure they really understood it. She wasn’t sure they understand the idea of time, for that matter.
Margaret was getting dressed when her mother came in. The slurps were outside by the road—Margaret could see them capering around, running back and forth, dodging things that were invisible to Margaret.
“Marg, we’re going to go for a drive after breakfast,” her mother said. “Dad got the day off, so we’re going to go have a picnic. Does that sound good?”
It did sound good to Margaret and an hour later, they were on the highway, headed for a state park called Pickett’s Notch. Margaret had never been there before. Of the three snurps, only Splik was in the car with her. He liked to sit down, although his tentacle-like arms were hanging down through the floor of the car and bumping along on the road surface. He was much taller than her and his head was probably sticking up through the roof. Drizzlepop had no legs and was floating along next to the car. She could just hear him singing along with the hum of the engine. Mr. Crustypeppers was nowhere to be seen. He often disappeared when they went on long trips and showed up when they arrived. Margaret was not sure how he traveled.
On the way, she snaw other snurps floating by or bounding through the air above them. They all waved and called her name. Even snurps she had never met before knew who she was. She gave small waves in greeting, but could not say anything without worrying her parents.
The breeze felt fresh and warm when Margaret opened the door and stepped out at Pickett’s Notch Park. Her mother told her how beautiful the view was; how green the trees were and how she could see for miles out over the valley.
Margaret could see nothing. Instead, she snaw two green snurps standing a little ways off, staring at her. She could tell instantly that they were not friendly and they did not want anything good for her. It was a scary feeling to see that kind of malevolence in a snurp. The green snurps just stared at her, not moving.
“I don’t like it here. It’s scary,” Margaret said.
“Scary?” Her mom laughed. “What are you talking about? It’s a gorgeous day: the sun is shining and there’s a wonderful breeze. Plus, there are other people here. See?” Even after eleven years, her mother still had lapses of forgetting she had a blind daughter.
She took Margaret by the hand and led her towards the green snurps and then past them. Margaret’s sense of unease continued to grow. They went down a short slope and Margaret suddenly snaw another snurp come into view. It was one of the biggest ones she had ever met and thin and willowy. She knew immediately that it was evil.
It looked at her for a moment, then started towards her. “Margaret,” it said in a dry hiss of a voice. “I have heard quite a bit about you. I heard you could see us.”
“I can’t see a thing,” Margaret said. “But I can snee you fine.”
This response made the snurp pause. At the same time, Margaret felt a hand on her arm.
“Come sit down, Marg.” It was her father. “Your mother has a blanket laid out.” There was worry in his voice. She knew that her parents sometimes overheard her talking, apparently to no one, and they didn’t know what to do about it. They worried, but not understanding, they tried to ignore it. They couldn’t hear the snurps, only her.
“I’ll be there in a moment,” she said. Splik and Drizzlepop had moved in front of her and were trying to make themselves look bigger. She looked back to see other snurps above her at the top of the unseen hill. She had never sneen snurps fight or attack a human and she wondered what would happen.
At that moment, Mr. Crustypeppers appeared out of nowhere. He gave a keening scream, like the howl of a furious predator. Hearing that noise of rage from her sweet, happy Mr. Crustypeppers scared Margaret more than anything.
Several other snurps appeared behind the tall, willowy one. There were about twenty of them, then twenty-five. She looked behind her. Only her three friends were close. There were other snurps further back, looking on.
There was going to be a fight and someone was going to get hurt. She was not sure how a snurp could get hurt, but her three friends were vastly outnumbered and about to defend her.
“Mom, Dad!” she cried. They were there in a moment, asking what was wrong.
“I know you won’t understand, but this place is dangerous. Please, we have to get out of here now.”
“But Marg, we just got here. I made all this food.” There was hurt and disappointment in her mother’s voice. Just be normal and let’s go have a good time, Margaret added mentally, in her mother’s voice.
“I’m so sorry, but we have to go now.” Margaret started moving back up the slope, feeling her way as she went. Her parents did not say another word. Her father took her arm and gently guided her to the car. She could hear the clink of dishes as her mother packed up the food she had prepared.
Margaret looked back. The evil snurps had followed them back to the car, but had not tried to attack. Splik got in the car with her, his eyes glowing in a way she had never sneen before.
They had a subdued picnic in the backyard. Her parents did not ask what the trouble had been at Pickett’s Notch and she was too disheartened to try to explain what they could never understand.
It was really hard having parents who could not snee.
That night, her three friends crowded around her bed as she went to sleep.
“Would those bad snurps have hurt you?” she asked them.
“We will protect you,” Drizzlepop said and the others nodded, conveniently not answering the question.
“Thank you for appearing and defending me, Mr. Crustypeppers,” Margaret said. “You really are a stupid cow.”
The grin on his face told her that it was all she needed to say.