A Stranger World
Previously, a boy and a man, sentenced to spend their lives in the prison at the end of the world, make a daring escape. But far out over the arctic sea their little plane goes down…
Where am I? he wondered, for he couldn’t recognize any of it; and the island that floated over his head was stranger than anything he’d ever seen.
He sat up and admired the flowers that spread around him like a mat. They all looked quite familiar, like a countryside field at home. But there were anachronism that felt out of place, like the leathery mushroom caps that were sprouted like stones amidst the grass – he thought they were stones until he touched one. And there was a tree overhead that had long weeping branches. It’s bark was like what he thought a palm might look like, for he’d never seen one, but purple bananas were hanging from its boughs. It offered some shade to him, for the sun was quite hot; but the most peculiar thing was the stream that flowed from beneath its roots and chattered past his feet over smooth stones that were much bluer than the sky.
Had the boy been churched as a child he might’ve thought it very like the place those people call heaven; as it happened, he knew nothing of such things. As he looked around at the strange world he’d fallen into he thought only that it must be one of the places in the Earth he’d never been to: certainly he never dreamed it might be anything else.
He was terribly thirsty, and the stream that flowed from the tree was quite refreshing. It filled his mouth and left him feeling invigorated, so that, as he rose to his feet, he thought he might just be able to climb to the top of the little grassy knoll behind the tree and so see what country lay about him. It was a brisk climb, though easy enough, and the flowers kept him company; and when he stood at the crest, he could see the obsidian spires ran about like a ring, and he on his hill was set in the centre. The land fell away around him, all in green mountains and woods of the great bowing trees like the one he’d only just found himself under. There were clouds still below him, as well as above, and he couldn’t rightly tell if he was surrounded by low valleys or something else. There wasn’t one island in the sky, he also realized, but many, all floating like clouds of stone, and they were covered in green rolling mountains. They were beautiful in their colours: heathery downs, deep evergreen woods, cheerful grassy hillsides outlined in deciduous gold and cherry. If this was America, he thought, it was a wonder that anyone had ever committed a crime here that would have them committed to the prison at the end of the world.
He found a tear rolling down his face with that thought, for he remembered at once the old man who’d flown the little seaplane, and he wondered where he’d gone to. He only hoped his old friend was somewhere in that beautiful land, too.
He sat on a large mushroom cap then to think, because he knew it was no good if he didn’t. All fool- hardy ventures began without thought; but a good seat went a long way.
The sun was now sinking toward the horizon and soon would be darkened by the pinnacle mountains that bordered that land. It was shining on his back, and that was good. And as he watched the valley below him, the sun rays turning gold over it, he saw the clouds pulling back and below was a lake of deep emerald. The water was not deep, and he could see the sandy bottom which sparkled under the sun. But the thing that caught his eye was the white shape of an aeroplane on the furthest shore, some way out into the placid waters. He strained his eyes to see, but there was no mistake: it was certainly a plane. And it had to be the little seaplane he and the old man had stolen from the prison. How one passenger had come to the top of the hill beneath a weeping tree while the plane and doubtless the pilot were so far below the boy couldn’t guess, but he thought at once the best thing to do was go down to the wreck: if the old man had survived he surely wouldn’t be far.
The hillside was steep and in places densely wooded. The weeping trees clung to whatever which way the ground went, and their long hanging branches seemed like fingers reaching out to support them against the earth. The grass was dry and good for footing, and the boy could easily make his way down even the steepest of places. And so he came before very long to the edge of the water.
It was a quiet, peaceful lake. It’s waters were as clear as a mountain pool, but when he’d scooped them in his hands he was surprised to find the deep emerald colour went with them and made his fingers look green. He supposed it might be an algae in the water; it might be quite poisonous: he drank some anyhow, and found it was very sweet.
The shore was smooth, white sand, and he immediately sat down to take off his shoes when he’d stood on it. He couldn’t have passed up the opportunity to have it sift through his bare toes. Then he followed the shoreline, sometimes on the beach where the reaching arms of the trees came down laden with heavy bunches of ripe fruit and sometimes in the water where little silvery fish darted away at his coming. The sun was now quite out of sight, and the air was getting cooler by the minute; but the evening was pleasant, and he didn’t mind at all.
When he reached the place where the seaplane had landed, darkness was coming. The aircraft itself was some way out in the lake, and he could see the better part of it sticking up from the water. One wing was broken, and it wouldn’t likely fly again soon; but it didn’t look like it’d been an altogether unfortunate landing. Of course, he thought to himself, the old man would doubtless have seen the little lake from the air and known it was their only chance of surviving the crash.
The water wasn’t deep – he could see that well-enough: he waded out a ways and found it was only up to his knees. So he continued the rest of the way to the plane.
The cabin was empty, and he wasn’t surprised: somehow he’d known it would be. The door was ajar, though, he saw, and he climbed up onto the pontoon and looked in. The controls were all dark, and there was a red smear of blood on the handles. It had to be the old man’s, for the boy hadn’t found any blood or wounds on himself. But there were no other clues that would tell him if his friend was dead or alive.
He found a knife beneath the seat – a long straight-edged dirk in a scabbard of leather. He took it and tucked it into his belt.
When he turned back to the forest he was startled to see something standing out against the trees. Of course the light wasn’t good, and of course the boy knew what a dinosaur looked like, and of course he knew they ought not to exist: but ought not is a pretty poor excuse when compared to one’s own eyes; and the boy couldn’t call himself a liar: the thing on the beach was most certainly a dinosaur, and a rather large one, at that. It had just dipped it’s head to the water to drink, a lizard far greater than anything he’d ever seen. The boy stood still in his tracks. Snakes and other reptiles didn’t have good eyesight, he remembered, and perhaps it wouldn’t see him if he didn’t move. At any rate, he mustn’t let it think he might be dinner, for the great thing could easy wade out to the wreck of the little plane and eat him quick as anything. But a moment later it raised its head once more and turned round to return to the forest, and the boy let out a ragged sigh. Only when the creature was gone did he move again: the little knife he’d taken from the plane would serve little use against an enemy that size.
He was nearly to shore once more (and by this time it was quick dusk and nearly dark) when he heard far away a screech and a whoop like a wild animal or bird, and the boy felt suddenly very afraid. To be alone in the strange forest at night was a terrifying thought, and he nearly returned to the seaplane to hide in its fuselage. For a moment he froze in indecision; but at last, when the terrifying cry was replaced by the chirp of frogs and crickets, he found he could go on.
Back on the shore, he put his shoes back on his feet and began to consider where would be safest to sleep for the night. He regretted now not having stayed at the seaplane, but he also knew it was quite exposed in the midst of the lake, and predators would find him there easily. He might climb back to the top of the hill again, though in the dark that would be a terrible challenge.
He was still considering this when he heard a voice near in the dark say, “Are you going to stand there like a fool until the Farlong comes back for you as he did for your friend?”
This work is written by AD Bane and published by adbane.com. It is solely the property of ADBane.com and may not be reproduced in part or in whole for any reason except at the exclusive permission of the author. © 2018 ADBane.com