Page 67 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 67

Andy grabs for the solid ice, but he’s underwater. He tries to kick his legs, but they are cinder blocks. His boots pull him down, down, even though he moves his arms wildly. He opens his eyes for a blind- ing second. He sees a bright hole above him, cracks radiating from its edges, like a white sun.
In that split second, something else catches his eye. A dark shape. At first he thinks of a fish, but it’s too fat. When he sees the flat, leathery tail, he knows what it is.
The beaver swims close, circles and comes up from behind. Andy floats in the water like a bubble. He feels his lungs burning in his chest. He can’t feel his hands or his feet. “I’m going to die,” he thinks, “and I’m only twelve years old.”
A sound like the ocean rumbles in Andy’s ears. He reaches toward the beaver, now about six inches from his right shoulder. It hovers so near him that he can see its black eye. His hand touches something. He tries to close his fingers, but he can’t tell if they move or not. He feels himself drifting. He isn’t cold any- more. His head hurts and he needs to pee. He smells pumpkin pie. He wishes he could eat a piece, right now, while it is still hot.
The next thing Andy smells is damp earth. He’s lying flat on his back on a solid surface. Something sharp is sticking into his back. He thinks he might be on the floor of his bedroom, even though his clothes are still wet. It feels warm, like he’s inside, but it smells like his mother gardening, turning the soil for the first time since the winter.
He reaches up to rub his forehead. His hands are bare and fairly warm. When he moves, everything aches, everything feels heavy. He rubs his eyes before he opens them.
When he does, he quickly closes them again, thinking he must be mistaken . . . or dreaming. That’s it, he thinks, I just have to wake up and I’ ll be home in bed. I never fell through the ice. That was a dream, too.
But when he opens his eyes again, there isn’t much light, so it’s hard to tell what he’s looking at. It looks like a tree above him, a mesh of twigs and bark, but there are no leaves. The twigs are held together with light brown dirt, all smooth in between. Andy sees pine needles, strips of birch bark, and reeds from the river’s edge.
He reaches under his back and pulls out a stick, about a foot long, about half an inch thick, with pointed ends. He tosses it aside.
He looks around. He is in a domed room, about six feet wide, that has the same ceiling all around. The floor is dirt, smooth as wet sand. In one corner is a black hole, about a foot wide. Near the hole are two big branches, crossed, set on end, that seem to hold up the whole room.
Andy begins to roll to his left side. He sees where the ceiling meets the floor. He sees how carefully the twigs are woven together, and their white tips remind Andy of pencil points. As his eyes get used to the dim light, he sees teeth marks on the points.
Andy moans. His shoulder hurts as he rolls his weight onto it. It is then he notices the other hole in the floor, opposite the first, about the same size, but wet all around the edges. The dirt is muddy and torn up. Like something was pulled through it. Something a little too big.
Andy tries to sit up but feels dizzy. He lies back down and tries to think. What floats into his mind is the dark shape in the water. By now, after seeing the room—and feeling that sharp pain in his shoulder as he rolled—he is sure that he did fall through the ice. This is no dream. He also feels safe, at least for now. He can breathe. He can move. Only thing is, he’s missing his gloves and his boots.
Margaret Lindsey

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