39 UP A TREE
The sound of sticks and leaves trampled in a hailstorm filled the forest air as the group of men flew through the woods, dodging trees and ducking branches heading directly for Teplan and Terah.
“Hurry!” Terah whispered loudly. “They’re coming!”
Without hesitation, Teplan backed up a couple of steps, and tried again. He planted his foot on the trunk and pushed himself upwards while stretching his arms as far as they could go. His hands brushed something other than bark and he grabbed it, making his body swing. He pushed off the trunk again and swung his leg over on his upward spin. The backpack! He grabbed a hold of it and used it to pull himself onto the branch and into a sitting position. Great idea, Terah! Both began to climb.
While hoisting themselves a few branches higher, they paused to listen for the crunching leaves and breaking sticks. No sound.
Without even moving her lips, Terah slowly whispered: “Don’t move…”
Only five branches up, they knew they could be seen from the ground.
The two men’s footfalls were careful and deliberate. Each of the men scanned the forest with their flashlights.
Twenty feet away. Teplan guessed.
The lights bobbed through the branches of the neighboring trees.
“Terah,” Teplan whispered, “When you hear my signal, climb as fast as you can.” He pulled a flat rock out of his pocket, still there from when they first got to the river earlier that day, and let it sail through the air as hard as he could. Without hitting a single branch, the rock flew over and well past the neighboring tree and landed into the forest floor well beyond them. Immediately, the men turned and bee lined in the direction of where the rock came down.
Terah began to climb, fast.
Adrenaline rushed through them and elevated their bodies up the tree.
“Let’s get near the top — it’s got to be at least 60 feet up there,” Teplan whispered. “I did want to do some tree climbing this weekend, but I didn’t think it’d be like this!”