Dear Protectors of the Wood fans: In this episode we begin Protectors of the Wood #4, Abby and Wendy. To check out the story so far see our website www.protectorsofthewood.com Thanks to all for your support and interest in our group of misfit teenagers working to save the world from climate change.
INTO THE FOREST
Illustration by Carlos Uribe
Abby plunged blindly into the forest, hardly caring where she was going. Her only wish was to put distance between herself and the stalkers she had seen talking to George on Main Street. But carrying the mapstick and the briefcase hindered her progress, forcing her toward wide openings in the brush and making her avoid crawling under brambles, thus eliminating many of her normal methods of escape.
After a short time she became aware of an instinct urging her to bend her course to the left. ‘But why?’ she wondered. ‘Ah, because I’m leaving tracks and making noise. The pine forest will solve both problems.’
She found the space to run up a slippery slope into the dense expanse of pine trees that covered the land all the way to the ridge about a mile ahead. Ducking low under the branches, she entered the shadow of the thick trees, and began walking on a cushion of brown pine needles. The snow had hardly touched this protected ground. She moved quickly, without a sound, leaving no tracks. Near the rocky face of the high ridge, she stopped and went down on one knee, listening intently and studying the way she had come. The only sound was her desperate panting, and the pounding of her heart.
As her breathing returned to normal she had a chance to think. ‘Was George trying to follow me? Yes, he looked at the tracks of my bike leading up Oak Knoll Lane and into the field. Was he helping the stalkers? Apparently he was. They arrived in a car and spoke to him. And yet, after George saw my tracks he jogged forward for a minute or two. When the car arrived he was at the end of the field, a fair distance from the tracks. Thus the stalkers were led away from my path. Unless, of course, George walked back to show them. But then why didn’t he just wait for the car at the tracks? Why run ahead at all? Perhaps George concealed my escape. I wish I’d had the courage to wait and see what he did.'
Pushing these thoughts aside, she tried to make sense of her incredible race by bicycle through the hailstorm. Her bike – at high speed -- had found a safe route through icy streets packed with frozen traffic. The bike seemed to drive itself, giving her a feeling of complete security, and almost ecstatic happiness. ‘Did something impossible happen? Why? How?’
Abby had no idea. ‘Am I going crazy? It’s the strangest thing… I can’t believe it.’
She forced her attention onto other issues that demanded immediate attention, and became aware of a feeling of despair, a darkness of anguish lurking behind her every thought.
‘I’m free. It looks like I’m not being followed. Then what’s the problem? That is so obvious! It’s just too painful… The horrible truth is… I’ve failed. My mission for Wendy is in ruins, totally, with no hope of redemption. The trust that people have placed in me has been in vain. I can’t see any way around it. I’ve failed through my own mistakes. I’ve been foolish, unworthy of Wendy’s trust.'
Tears began to flow down her cheeks.
‘I’ll have to tell Wendy about it. Today. In three hours or so, I’ll have to hand her this crushing disappointment. I’ll have to retire at the age of nineteen! Maybe I’ll find some work in Sonny’s garden. Maybe I’ll help Lluvia and Diego with the Boat Club. Maybe I’ll become a boat pilot like Sharon, and ferry people up and down the Half Moon River, and explore the swamp and catch fish. But whatever, my grand mission is over. It was a long shot anyway, too grandiose to be true. I’m really nothing special. Just an ordinary crazy girl trying to grow up. And yet… there are a few things that are hard to explain… but no time for that now. Wendy will know the answers.’