Toby should have been afraid of this new place but there was something pleasant about where he was walking. It was a cool, dark night here and there was a body of water nearby that he could hear. It was more like loamy earth but it moved more than even this. He knew this wasn’t the stone of the regular place that he called home but it was all so new and exciting. And squishy. He hadn’t really anticipated that the ground would move quite that much and when he crouched to see what he was standing on, he was surprised to find that it moved more still. It wasn’t like earth at all. It was much finer and the little pieces were so tiny that they almost moved like water. It had been a very very long time since Toby had seen this but he was pretty certain that this was sand. It was actually quite fun to move in but sometimes, especially as he moved over little crests along the ground, he found it particularly difficult to stop from moving in certain places. It was a little like that one time Will had found a place that was covered in ice. Still, his curiosity was something he couldn’t deny and the want to explore this new place was something that was keeping him happy and from worrying about getting back home.
Toby knew that getting back to the other place was just a matter of finding a place where a rift was or where he could make one. He was a little too small to create a huge one but he’d managed to make his way through a few that he’d made before. Granted, he’d been a lot smaller then and this was before he’d found Will, who was much better at making them. Will also had better eyesight which meant that getting back was easier for him than it would be for Toby. The little spider was starting to slow his steps as he thought of this. Moving along the sand was still quite a bit more interesting than checking and maintaining empty webs but it was a bit less exciting now that he realized that he might be lost and he had no way to contact Will if he got in trouble. This was a lot more bothersome and it reminded him that this place might be full of things with large teeth.
“Well, my word, have you seen such a large one before?” an excited voice said from nearby. It was a strange voice that had some weird tones that Toby wasn’t used to.
“Oh no, that is the largest I’ve ever seen,” a second voice replied.
The voices were coming from a place where the sand was darker. They didn’t sound like mean voices so Toby cautiously made his way towards where he thought he had heard them. After a gentle slope in the land, the sandy ground seemed to even out and he moved easily towards where the water was lapping against the shore. He saw two dark rocks stationed in the water, not far from the place where the sand was darker. There was no one that he could see here so Toby assumed that whoever had been speaking must have moved on. Still, he thought the voices were closer than this. Looking at the rocks near the shore, he wondered if they might have been small birds. The ones where the nice people lived didn’t talk but in some places they could. Maybe they would tell him where bigger birds lived and if they were easy to catch with webs. Sometimes those crafty small birds were dark and could hide well in trees and on dark stones. As he approached, Toby stopped when he felt the wetness on his paws and realized that the sand here was quite a bit squishier and a little less easy for him to move in.
“Do you think it can swim?” one of the voices said. It came from the rocks. He backed a way carefully.
“Now why did you do that? You’ve spooked it,” the other voice scolded.
Toby made a little hop backwards, still watching the rocks. He was curious but he knew these two figures were talking about him and there was a good chance that they would try to trap him if he wasn’t on his guard. Skirting the line in the sand, Toby kept one eye on the two rocks in the water as he approached something that looked like a bush or a stump of some variety. He poked at it with his nearest paw and was relieved to find that it didn’t move away from him. Feeling mostly confident that he could jump on it, he hopped up and climbed to the top of the dry bush, holding comfortably to the small branches. Toby was concerned when he turned to look at the two rocks to see that one of them had disappeared. A dark shape moved beneath the water only to emerge just before the shoreline and with two, spotted, darkened arms, dragged itself up on the wet sand.
“You’ll dry out there, you know,” the figure further back called out.
The dark shape paid the comment no mind as it turned its large, silvery eyes up towards Toby. It smiled with a wide, toothy grin.
“It is a larger version of a little beast!” the figure cried. It cocked its head to the side. “And it’s looking down at me. If I didn’t know any better, I might say that it was listening to us.”
“Well of course it can hear us,” the other figure retorted. “And now we can guarantee that it won’t swim out closer to us.”
“I don’t know that it can swim,” the figure in the sand replied. It strained to see better through the darkness. “And of course it can hear us but there is a large difference between something can hear and something that can listen.”
“Are we going to be privy to another one of your philosophy courses on sentience,” the figure in the water sighed with heavy disapproval.
“Should we then adopt Hector’s method of hunting and simply swim after everything that comes in our direction without a thought as to how it works?” the figure in the sand said, rolling its eyes. “You’ll note that he is a lot lighter than he used to be.”
“I’ve noticed that since you’ve taken this interest in whether or not the kelp can feel anything, you’ve become a might bit thinner yourself,” the other figure shot back, stretching out so it no longer looked like a rock.
“You can agree that this creature is hardly kelp and if it couldn’t swim and it can clearly hop, it would not have made for a very easy meal anyway,” the figure in the sand said, looking over Toby again. It sighed. “And though bigger, if I look at it the right way, it doesn’t appear to have much for meat on it. It has many legs but the torso is quite a bit less to offer. It’s also travelling alone and that makes it somewhat of a less interesting catch for the school.”
“I suppose,” the water figure said, begrudgingly. “But if that’s the case, why are you still looking at it? We’re not going to catch very much sitting about, trying to lure a creature that has no intention of going for a swim.”
“Well don’t you at least find it a little fascinating to see something this unusual?” the sand figure scolded. “My word, surely you’ve got more going on in there than old Hector, with no regard for anything around him.”
“That’s hardly fair,” the other figure said, moving around in the water now. “Hector is old. And half blind.”
“Well I’m not and I like looking at peculiar things,” the one in the sand argued. It turned its huge silvery eyes to Toby again. “I wish it could talk. I very much wish that it could. I would be curious to know if it really does understand what we’re saying.”
“If the school could hear you now, it would make us both a laughing stock!” the other creature whined.