What with their small size and speed, it wasn't easy. I'm covered in brambles now and all scraped up, but I followed them.
They went from my bathroom into my bedroom, and then through a hole in the wall, out into the garden, up the hill, over a fence, under a bridge, through some thornbushes, and finally into the knot of a nearby tree. They caught me following them, and scrambled all the faster on their spindly homunculus legs, but I managed to keep up with them by means of sheer orneriness.
When I got to the tree, they were gone. So I asked the tree where they went.
The tree, which had a big human-looking face in the folds of its bark, turned to me. I thought I was going to get an answer, but instead I got a question. "Do you believe in the purity of the English language?" asked the tree.
"You mean, like, saying 'I shall' instead of 'I will' and avoiding just dropping the word 'like' into sentences without meaning, and avoiding one-line paragraphs for cheap emphasis? Not really. I'm of the school of thought that says the English language is a whore."
"That's not what I mean at all," replied the tree crankily.
Uh-oh, I thought. This sounds like it's about to become a pragmatic conversation hijacked to become a vehicle for someone's personal rant.
"I mean an atavistic purity. I mean removal of unncessary vocabulary, and the addition of new vocabulary that we should have had all along. You know that heat that you get from a crockpot dish or clothes straight out of the dryer? It's different than normal heat. It's slower, and burns from the inside. It doesn't feel like you're cooling it off. There should be a separate word for it. But the main thing that's lacking is smells...."
I always politely encourage ranters despite my best intentions; if I'm ever late for something, that's probably what I'm doing. "Smells?" I asked.
"Yes. The English language lacks the vocabulary for smells. You can't describe a smell, except to say what plant or common substance it smells like, or to use a metaphor, or to use one of the dozen or so words we have that specifically refer to smell. That's insufficient. We trees hate metaphor, make no doubt about it, and it doesn't communicate enough information, anyway."
"So," I asked, following his lead, "What do you propose to do about it?"
"Reform the language! Restore its purity!" ranted the tree, "I propose the creation of at least one thousand new words to describe the various distinctions in smell which currently are beyond our ability to describe. You might not benefit from it, but if you teach your children these distinctions, they'll have the language to think about smells meaningfully, and then they'll start acting like olfactory creatures, rather than the stumbling and inaccurate vision-language which traps the English language."
"Wait one minute," I said, "Do trees even have a sense of smell?"
The tree sighed and I walked away and came home to write this.
Now I'm going to go draw protective toothpaste pentacles around key parts of my bathroom, to keep those damn homunculi out. They're worse than ducks.