THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Illustration by Carlos Uribe
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Abby grabbed the tall oval rock, rolled it a few feet out of the narrow space between the boulder and cliff, and then squeezed through, pulling the rock back behind her. Holding the mapstick and briefcase to her right and left, she slipped sideways through the thin tunnel to the stairway up the rising crack in the cliff. It was not a real stairway, just rocks piled up in the long diagonal opening. It was not hard to climb, just exhausting. At the top Abby rested in a flat, concealed space, and then tied the mapstick diagonally across her back.
She took a deep breath and set out along the ledge that zigzagged up the rest of the cliff. Soon she was on all fours, clutching dwarf pine trees, rock, anything to get a hand-hold. Her right hand had to balance her progress while gripping the briefcase at the same time. Finally she crawled over gradual slope to level ground, and lay there a minute in relief.
Relentlessly pushing herself forward, she crawled into the trees to avoid being silhouetted on the cliff for any observer in the valley below. She sat and rested for a moment, untied the mapstick, and enjoyed holding it again in her hand. There was something so pleasing about the lightness of the staff. It felt like she could twirl it in her fingers like a baton. The crows circled overhead, calling their hello in rough voices. She knew she was close to home.
Hurrying over the stony ridge covered with dwarf pine trees, she descended into a narrow valley thick with maples, pines and boulders. Then she hit a second, much smaller cliff, a sheer face of stone about thirty feet high. She walked along it for a moment, and cautiously looked behind her and listened carefully. The crows settled calmly on a nearby maple tree. There were clearly no intruders around.
She moved through the bushes to the point where one vertical edge of the cliff face extended beyond another. There she squeezed into a small opening, and climbed through a narrow crevice over rocks and stunted undergrowth. Soon the crevice closed over her head, and became a dark and cramped tunnel. Steps impressed in the dirt and stone made it easy for her to climb slowly in the dark.
And yet… it wasn’t quite dark. A faint bluish glow illuminated some of the details around her. She noticed that the wrapping had slipped off the top of the mapstick, and it was shining like a tiny moon. That glow had met her eyes once before, in her father’s closet long ago.
This is no dream. Or maybe it’s a dream that’s really happening.
In a minute or two she had to slip sideways through another narrow opening. With a feeling of panic she wondered if the end of the tunnel would be open, but turning the corner saw the golden light, and wriggled out under a thicket of bushes on a hillside. Standing behind a boulder, she caught her breath and listened to the faint music of the stream not far away. She brushed off her clothes, smoothed her hair, and walked down through a small, secluded valley.
The setting sun was broken into a thousand shadows by a great beech woods. The thick gray trunks burst into long silver branches reaching for the sky. Abby crossed a small stream and took a few strides up a hillside soft with countless years of leaves. On her right, almost covered by a mat of ivy, was a knoll that jutted out of the hill above the stream. She walked around to the uphill side. The knoll rose about thirty feet, all covered with stone, earth, grass, vines, and even small trees. At the very bottom was a green wooden rectangle, maybe three feet wide and four feet high, covered with ivy and wild plants growing high. It was the door to Wendy’s house.
Abby stood listening to the faint splashing of the water, and sent forth a silent prayer. Then she knocked. There was no reply. She knocked again, but heard nothing.
Wendy’s not here, came the voice inside her head.