Din Din's ugly encounter

Din Din had decided to spend this particular Sunday visiting his friends in the Dark Forest.

"Its been so long since I visited the forest," Din Din explained to his best friends Delma and Dazel, on Saturday evening. "And the two of you are not free tomorrow, so I'll use the opportunity to visit the Forest."

"Sorry Din Din, but its clean-up weekend at the pond where I live and I have to contribute," explained Dazel, "Otherwise I would have loved to come to the Dark Forest with you. I don't like you to go there alone. It's so dark and spooky."

"Oh, come on, Dazel," said Din Din with a laugh, "You know I like the solitude of that forest. It gives me time to ponder and be with my own thoughts. I used to go there all the time. But ever since I started gardening, I've hardly had the time to go visit my friends there."

"I also promised Olly the Octopus that I'd help him with the notes of his new book," said Delma, "Otherwise you could have come here to the lake and we could have played a game of water volley ball."

"My dears, it's not a problem. You guys enjoy the weekend. Infact my mom will be pleased if I bring back a basket of wild berries from the Dark Forest for her. She makes the best jam with it and then the three of us can have a grand time feasting on the jam."

The three friends parted, promising to meet on Sunday evening.

Sunday dawned with a sheen of clouds over D'Land. A cool breeze blew and by the time Din Din reached the Dark Forest that afternoon, it was darker than usual. He ventured inside, unafraid because he was well acquainted with the paths of the forest. It was dense and humid inside like a rain forest and Din Din was warmly greeted by the creatures who lived there.

"Hello," waved a few chimpanzees.

"Long time," hailed a sleepy sloth.

Din Din exchanged greetings with them all. It was nearly twilight when Din Din finally remembered that he had to collect wild berries. Bidding farewell to the toucans he was chatting with, Din Din went in search of the berries.

In his quest and the twilight, he wandered into a cave. As soon as he entered, a flock of flying creatures flew to come towards him. They looked like winged rats and seemed to stick to Din Din's body and he felt tiny teeth bite into his thick skin. Letting out a yelp, he scampered out of the cave. As he continued to run, Din Din bumped into Molly the moose.

"Hey, Din Din! What happened? Why do you look so startled?" Molly asked curiously.

"Oh Molly! I don't know what's inside that cave. It was a flock of flying creatures, but they didn't look like birds. Infact they looked like flying rats and they bit me," said Din Din with a shudder. "They were ugly!"

"Oh Din Din! They were bats!" said Molly kindly. "Just calm down. Bats usually don't bite. They are insectivores or even fruit eaters. They have tiny little teeth, but are still able to inflict a bite—but that would occur when a bat is picked up. If the bats landed on you, you must have tried to brush them off.

The bat would bite only as a defensive action. They are not aggressive. "

"I just want to get away from them. Just recalling what they looked like is giving me the creeps," said Din Din shaking his head.

"Bats are interesting creatures," said Molly as she walked with Din Din. “They are actually mammals—the only mammals who can fly."

"How?" asked Din Din inspite of himself. "There are mammals like flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos who are capable of flight."

"No actually, those creatures can `glide' for short distances, not fly. It is only bats whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight," explained Molly. "Bats do not flap their entire forelimbs, as birds do, but instead flap their spread-out digits or fingers, which are very long and covered with a thin membrane."

"You'll be surprised to know that the wings of bats are much thinner than those of birds, allowing bats to maneuver more quickly and more accurately than birds. But these wings are also very delicate and can tear easily," said Molly.

Din Din stopped in his tracks. "Really! You know, when the bats flew towards me and I was waving my limbs around trying to get them off me, I think I heard a ripping sound." Din Din gulped anxiously. "Do you think I ripped a bat's wings?"

"Maybe," answered Molly thoughtfully. "But the tissue of the bat's membrane is able to regrow and small tears can heal quickly."

"Oh! Thank God!" exclaimed Din Din with relief. "I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I was just taken by surprise. They were just so unpleasant to look at!"

"Din Din, will you stop saying that. Every creature is made by God, you and me could be unpleasant looking to someone else," said Molly. "No matter what one looks like, every creature is made by God for some special purpose.

"What could be the purpose of these bats," asked Din Din. "Do you know that bats are present throughout most of the world, performing vital ecological roles of pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds. Bats are important in eating insect pests, reducing the need for pesticides," explained Molly. Din Din listened as he walked towards the edge of the Dark Forest. He bid Molly goodbye. "Thanks for the talk," Din Din said.

Din Din trudged off to the lake even though it was late evening and the stars were beginning to glitter in the sky. Fortunately, Delma and Dazel were waiting for him.

"Where were you," Delma asked. We were worried!"

"Oh, I lost track of time," Din Din said. "I also bumped into bats."

"Oh! Interesting," said Dazel. "I've never seen one before."

Din Din was silent.

"I have heard that bats are blind," said Delma.

"Actually, we learnt at school that although the eyes of most bat species are poorly developed, but none of them are blind. They also have high-quality sense of smell and hearing. Bats hunt at night, reducing competition with birds, and travel large distances of up to 800 km in their search for food," said Dazel.

"Interesting!" said Delma.

"And I thought they were ugly," said Din Din softly, his tone ashamed. "I feel terrible for that."

"It’s okay, sometimes, first impressions can be deceiving," said Delma kindly.

"But we shouldn't be quick to judge anyone. I realize that!" said Din Din.

And the three friends smiled at eachother.

The Adventures of D'Land
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