41 DOWN A TREE
Teplan and Terah’s feet rested gently on branches high in a maple tree as they listened for signs of movement.
“I hear them coming back,” she whispered.
Both of their arms tightened around the tree as they scanned the forest floor below for the angry men. And way down on the ground, there was the crinkling of dead leaves on the forest floor and flashlights danced about.
“They wouldn’t be able to see us, anyway…” Teplan whispered. “It’s too dark and there are too many branches between us and them.”
Suddenly the men’s radio crackled and a voice demanded, “Status update?”
“We lost them,” came a timid reply from a voice near the bottom of their tree.
“YOU WHAT? You just said you had them in your sights!”
“They disappeared in the forest — we’re looking for them now.”
“GET BACK TO BASE! NOW!”
“Yes, sir,” said the two men.
Two sets of feet trudged in the direction of the truck. In a moment the two tree-climbers heard the engine start and the vehicle take off
“Do you think they’re gone?” Terah asked nervously. “Maybe, it’s a trick?”
“Maybe, I should throw another rock?” Teplan said reaching into his pocket. “It worked the first time.”
He threw it hard. But this time, it crashed into the branches of the neighboring tree and landed at the base.
Panic lit up their faces. They braced themselves again and froze. After what seemed like the length of an entire math class went by, no reaction came from the ground.
“Do you think we should climb down?” Terah asked.
“I guess so…. We can’t stay up here forever,” Teplan said begrudgingly. “Keep your finger on the dial button, Teplan, just in case.”
“Good idea,” Teplan agreed, but as he pulled the phone from his pocket, everything went into slow motion and he watched his arm stretch out and his hand bobble the phone, sending it end over end and over the tips of his fingers.
“Nnnnooooooo…!” Teplan whispered as he lunged to catch it.
Terah looked in time to see the phone bounce of out Teplan’s hand and begin its 60-foot drop through its branch-covered pathway.
“Oh man!” Teplan mumbled as he listened to the phone crash from branch to branch. They looked at each other with eyebrows raised. If that phone is broken, we would have no way of getting in touch with Ian until we got home. Going back to the pig farm seemed easier when he knew he could call Ian at any time.
Slowly they climbed down the large tree and made their way to the lowest branch where they perched. “Listen, Terah. If it comes to us having to run, let’s go that way,” Teplan said pointing towards home.
After being in the dark for so long, Terah’s eyes had adjusted and could see quite well. “Okay,” she agreed.
Teplan jumped down first. He landed in a crouched position and waited for someone to pop out of a bush. But, no one did.
The forest was dark and still. Terah did a swift and silent hang-drop and landed beside him in ready-to-run position.
“I think the coast is clear,” Teplan said. “Let’s get to the sewage pools and see if they’re leaking. It’s our only hope.”
After a few steps, Terah blurted, “Hey, here’s the cell phone!”
“Wow, does it work?”
“It doesn’t look broken,” Terah said studying the phone. “This protective casing is strong! The light is on and the screen still works. There’s even a dial tone,” Terah said. “It’s a weird dial tone but it’s there.”
“Oh good! I thought it would be broken, for sure! Let’s get samples and videos of the pools and get home!”
“Getting home is a great idea.”
They walked carefully through the rest of the forest. Neither spoke. It didn’t take long for the disgusting stench of the pig farm to give direction to their nostrils and turn their stomachs. Teplan and Terah peeked though the last few trees.
“Here comes the spray field,” Teplan said as the clearing of the farm ahead came into view. “If we get separated from each other,” Teplan said, realizing that saying it out-loud made it more real, “let’s try to meet back at this spot. If not, just try to get back to Marney’s.”
Terah acknowledged. “Okay, there are the pools, beside the barn.” Terah said, pointing as they crouched under the last grouping of trees. “Two black trucks parked in front of the building . . . I think we can make it if we stay low and follow that ditch.”
Teplan looked at Terah and smiled, “Now, you’re getting into it!”
“Actually, just trying to get out of it!”