Planet Earth Protectors, The River's End

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8 TEPLAN AND TERAH AT THE BIG BARN

“Ugh. This whole place reeks!” Terah said, looking at the wet ground in the forest behind the leaking riverbank.

“Super smelling-ability — activate!” Teplan snickered.

Terah ignored the comment and followed Teplan through a cluster of low-hanging branches into the forest. Suddenly, surrounded by a silent, humid forest, they stopped to observe their new surroundings. Droopy branches dotted their view. The afternoon sunlight barely peeked through the canopy and hung in a haze.

“This place is creepy! Let’s just go, Teplan.”

“Let’s just get to that clearing up ahead.” Teplan glanced at her quickly and then pressed on into the wet woods.

By the time the river was out of sight, the tree limbs were heavy and drooped from their trunks like branches after a heavy snowfall. The forest floor glistened. A dense, rotten smell hung in the air. They approached a clearing in the forest that penned-in what looked like soaking wet mud. Teplan eyed the surroundings. Everything stood motionless while an intense silence sealed the perimeter.

“What is this place? Why is the mud shiny? I knew there were farms around here, but I never knew they were like this; what are they farming here, mud?”

Both Teplan and Terah’s eyes scanned the field and fixed on a massive sprinkler system. A super-long hose atop a series of triangles on wheels spread the entire width of the huge field. Systematically, it fired long streams of brown liquid.

“This place doesn’t seem right . . . I bet it has something to do with the river,” Teplan remarked. “If we want to see where this mud is coming from, it looks like we need to cross this field.”

Terah laughed out-loud and said, “If I want to see where this mud is coming from? YOU should check it out, by yourself. You want me to walk through this field of gross sopping wet mud?”

Teplan smirked. “That’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it?”

“ ‘That’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it?’ ” Terah mocked, tilting her head from side to side. “You’ve got to be kidding if you want me to walk through that! It’s soaking, it stinks and it looks gross!”

“Okay, well, we either make it through this muddy field and find out if this is causing the river to be so gross or we don’t cross, we go home and likely never know what’s going on and just always wonder what happened to that river. And, in like, 20 years from now, we’re going to say to each other, ‘Hey Teplan, ever wonder what happened to that river back all those years?’ And I’m going to say, ‘Yeah, what did ever happen to that river? Hmmm . . .’ ”

“That’ll be fine with me,” Terah replied. “First of all, this field is disgusting. Second of all, I don’t feel like getting in any more trouble today.”

“It’ll be fine, Terah.”

“No, it won’t be fine, Teplan. I know you and know you’re going to want to just keep looking for clues or something like that.”

“Well, I know you, too!” Teplan lightheartedly shot back. “I know that if we went home right now, you’d Google all about this place and do all this research about it and then get frustrated because you gave up the chance to check it out yourself. Am I wrong?” he said with crossed arms and a wide-eyed bobble-head stare.

“Ugh.” The corners of her mouth dipped as she pursed her lips. “Fine. But I am not happy about this!”

Teplan immediately took a step into the sopping-wet field. Terah held her breath and squished her way beside him.

“Hey, make sure you curl your toes so your boots don’t get sucked in,” Teplan advised. “It’s like walking through a field of peanut butter.”

“That’s what I’m doing. This mud is crazy!” Terah replied as they trudged their way towards another grouping of trees ahead. “Hey look! There’s something up there. Look past the rest of the mud field and through those trees up there. See that?” Terah pointed.

“Oh yeah . . . What is that? A building?”

They both lowered their heads a bit and moved to get a better look. About fifty feet in front of them, a partially hidden building revealed itself behind a dense grouping of trees.

“What in the world is that thing? It’s massive!” Teplan whispered as they reached the trees. “Let’s get closer.”

The trees in this grouping were close together, the canopy was tighter, and in between grew shrubs that stood about 3-feet tall. Their wet clothes suddenly felt cold.

“It looks like one of those metal sheds that people have in their back yards, only it’s gigantic,” she whispered without taking her eyes off it. “It must be bigger than two soccer fields!”

Teplan and Terah stared at the wavy sheets of metal that completely dominated their view. The A-frame roof had slats for windows that opened upward. A number of giant fans marked the roof and hummed as they spun. All were working, except one.

“Get down!” Teplan grabbed Terah’s hand and pulled her towards the ground as the sound of a car’s engine rattled their silent surroundings. Both lay motionless, hearts pounding. Getting caught trespassing was definitely not what they had in mind. They carefully propped themselves on their elbows and peered through the bushes between them and the small roadway that ran behind the barn. The thirty feet between them and the roadway seemed to shrink quickly as the car pulled up beside a door to the barn right in front of them.

Surprising herself, Terah, without taking her eyes off the car, slowly whispered, “You have your camera, right? Let’s take a video of this and then get out of here!”

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