“Opened Eyes” (Part 2)
by Joseph Linhardt, ©2003-2004
“I’ll go look for him,” said Peter at last. Jenny’s sigh of relief came over the phone.
“Thank you. I’ll meet you in the back of the school.”
“You’re coming too?”
“He’s my brother,” came Jenny’s stiff reply.
“Right. See you there.”
Peter hung up the phone and stood. Studying would have to wait.
At top speed, Peter rode his bike back to the school. Time was short; night came on quickly in the fall. He reached the school in minutes and rode to the back. Jenny was already waiting for him. She turned at the sound of his approach, her long, blonde hair blowing in the breeze. A worried look was in her eyes.
“I went through the woods as I came,” she said as Peter skidded to a stop.
She shook her head. “Nothing,” she repeated. “And it’s going to get dark fast.”
Peter reached into his backpack and dug out a flashlight. “Don’t worry,” he said grinning. Then, he turned serious. “But if we don’t find him before dark, we should tell the police.”
Jenny nodded. “Let’s go.”
They began walking to the woods, mentally going over every path and trail that Bryan might take. Stopping at the edge, they glanced upward at the trees that towered above them; golden brown leaves hung from their branches. Wind blew the trees, rustling the multi-colored leaves at it passed.
“Maybe he went to be by himself,” suggested Peter. Jenny thought for a moment, then shook her head.
“No, he usually comes right home after school,” she said firmly.
Peter considered this.
“Then there’s only one thing to do,” he said firmly. “We’ll go through the woods, searching every trail. We’ll work our way toward your house. If he’s still in there, we’re bound to find him.”
Jenny nodded. “Good idea. I just hope… he better not have fallen into a ravine!”
Peter looked into her eyes. “If he has, we’ll get him out.”
Without another word, they plunged into the woods, alert for any sign of Bryan. The sun was still in the sky, though slowly sinking; Peter did not have to use his flashlight yet. Carefully, they began working their way farther into the woods, their eyes flicking this way and that. Leaves and vegetation crunched under their feet, shattering the oppressive silence; the noise of the wind had disappeared as they came under the tall trees. Lone birds could be heard singing their songs. The leaves had turned beautiful shades of gold, red and brown. But Jenny and Peter paid no attention to the lovely colors and sounds. Thoroughly, they checked the surrounding woodland carefully for some sign of Bryan.
Finally, Jenny sighed. “This isn’t working too well,” she said glumly. “I’m not a Boy Scout.”
Peter turned to answer her, but as he took his next step, his foot came down on empty air! With a shout of surprise, he lurched backwards, narrowly avoiding a long drop. Dirt and clumps of mud bounced and rolled down the sides of a ravine.
“Peter!” squeaked Jenny, bounding forward. “Are you all right?”
Peter was on his back, a mere foot from the ravine edge. His quick, backward leap had saved him. Carefully, he brought his legs under him and stood.
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied, glancing down into the ravine. “I was afraid of this,” he said. “See, the grass has grown over the edge of the ravine.”
Jenny glanced at the grass and nodded. “The grass makes it look like you have sure footing for another two steps or so,” she said. Suddenly, she gasped. “Do you think…Bryan?”
Peter glanced at her, worry in his eyes. “He could have…easily.”
Jenny glanced anxiously down into the ravine. “Let’s check it.” She tried to keep her voice steady.
Peter nodded. Slowly, carefully, he edged his back to the brink of the drop. He caught hold of a strong tree branch and leaned out, precariously far over the brink.
“Careful!” called Jenny, her voice tight with anxiety. “Can you see anything?”
Peter looked into the ravine carefully. It was deeper than he had thought, perhaps thirty feet. Nothing unusual met his gaze.
Wait…what was that?
The color of the ravine floor was brown and deep black. But one spot, close to the side opposite Peter, had a different, bright green color.
Bryan…his jacket is green!
“There’s something green down there,” he said slowly.
Jenny gasped. “Bryan’s jacket!”
“Hold on!” said Peter firmly. “It could have been something else! I need to get closer.” He pulled himself back. “It may not be Bryan.”
Though Jenny said nothing, Peter saw her relax a little.
“This side is too steep to go down,” she said. “Maybe over there?”
Peter looked where Jenny was pointing. It took him a moment to see it. A short distance to the right, the ravine sloped outward, forming a long, but manageable, slope. Peter snapped his fingers.
“Perfect!” he said eagerly, already moving toward the incline. “C’mon!”
Jenny followed, ducking branches carefully and trying not to trip on any protruding root. Peter stopped inches from the slope and studied it carefully. He would be able to climb down it easily enough, but climbing up? He wasn’t too sure.
Jenny puffed up behind him. “Well?” she asked breathlessly, “let’s go!”
Peter held out a hand, stopping her. “I’ll go. It’s steeper than I thought.”
“You should stay here in case we need help,” he said firmly. “I don’t want you to slip and hurt yourself.”
Jenny sighed and sat down unhappily. “Fine. But you be careful!”
Peter grinned. “I will be.”
“Because I don’t want to carry both of you back!” joked Jenny. Peter laughed loudly and began his careful climb down.
The slope was steep. Peter found that he didn’t have to walk at all. Once he started moving, he would keep sliding unless he could find a handhold.
This is going to be tough!
He was ten feet down now. The slope, instead of leveling off, was getting steeper! As he slid down the ravine side, Peter saw a tree root protruding from the sloped ravine side and seized it. His slow, yet continuous slide stopped. Dirt clumps bounced and rolled down the slope, hitting the carpet of dead leaves at the bottom with loud crunching noises. Peter knew he had made progress, but because his descent was a long, gentler slide than the ravine sides, he had thirty more feet to go.
Continue on to Part 3…
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