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Chapter 13: Into the forest

April 15, 2013

Ian watched the departing security officer, feeling strangely at sea.

The boy wasn’t his responsibility, of course. He hadn’t even wanted to take him to breakfast, had had the whole thing foisted upon him. And he’d looked after him impeccably. He’d taken the boy straight back and made sure he got safely to his parents. They’d still been in the tent but he’d heard the mother – Mo, she was called – speaking to Falcon, so they’d definitely been awake.

It certainly wasn’t his fault if the boy had wandered off afterwards. It wasn’t Ian’s fault if Falcon’s parents didn’t bother to look after him properly.

Still…

Ian was used to feeling in control of things. That spirit drumming had been an odd experience, made him feel – for a little while – like he was part of something larger. He’d been swept up in it, even in the bizarre tree-hugging nonsense with that tribe of wannabe witches. It had felt something like drunkenness.

That’s what it was. He would feel himself again soon.

“Alright, Fred?” he said. Nice boy, that. Bit shy, he thought, but then Ian hadn’t been much of a talker when he’d been an adolescent either.
Fred shrugged. “I hope the kid’s going to be alright.”
“I’m sure he will,” said Ian. He had his phone out now, to call Daisy. It was getting towards lunch time.
“No answer,” he told Fred.
The boy shrugged again.

Ian wasn’t altogether sure what Daisy saw in him, if he was honest. Definitely a nice lad. Decent manners, please and thank-you, that sort of thing. But he’d have expected her to prefer the older brother. At least that one was good-looking, had a bit of charm about him. But she’d seemed keen enough and – well, the opposite sex were always unpredictable, weren’t they? You never really knew what they were thinking.

“I’m going to see if I can get hold of her for some lunch,” he said. “You’re welcome to tag along if you want.”
“Er,” said Fred. He seemed awkward. “I’ve got to, um – I said I would…”
Ian wondered if he’d been a bit heavy handed. The overbearing father. After all he and Daisy had only just met, it wasn’t as if the two of them were going steady, or whatever they called it these days.
“That’s alright,” said Ian. “No big deal. Some other time maybe.”

Fred backed off, looking relieved.
Ian smiled him away, only faintly disappointed.

He considered his options. He could go and track his daughter down at this Discussion Dome place, see if she was still there at least. But he didn’t actually know where it was, and there was some bread and cheese in the tent that he’d earmarked for lunches. He’d even brought hummus for Daisy. He decided to head back to base camp and give her phone another try in a few minutes. Maybe she’d lost reception, it could be a bit unreliable out here in the middle of nowhere.

When he got back to the camping field, he looked first to see if Falcon was there.

Terry, the boy’s father, was standing up outside their dome tent – the first time Ian had seen him upright. He had a phone in his hand and he was anxiously scanning the camp-site, looking in all directions. Turning, like a watchtower.

“No sign of him?” asked Ian.
Terry shook his head.
“I talked to one of the security chaps out looking,” added Ian, by way of explanation.
“We thought you might still have him,” said Terry. Accusing.
“I wish we did,” said Ian.
“You should of brought him back yourself,” said Terry. “He’s got lost on the way.”
“We did bring him back.”
“Eh?” Terry was troubled, uncertain.
“Fred and I, we brought him back here right after breakfast. Your – er – your partner was – awake.”
Terry looked keenly at Ian. Then away. He went back to scrutinising the tented horizon. At length he said: “We must of been half asleep still.” He shuffled a bit. “Late night, yeah.”

Ian wanted to say – It’s not my fault.
He wanted to say – Don’t you look at me that way.

He said: “Is there anything I can do?”
Terry shook his head, dismal. “Don’t think so. He’ll probably turn up right as rain in a bit.”
“That’s what they said to me as well.”
“Yeah.”
“Well let me know, yeah, if there’s anything at all?”
“OK. Thanks, man.”

He went into his own tent and made sandwiches, cheese for him, hummus for Daisy.

He wouldn’t eat here, it was too – uncomfortable. He felt like a child-thief. Instead, he wrapped them up in the now-empty bread bag and chucked them into his backpack. Perhaps he’d try and find the Discussion Dome. Perhaps he’d have a look around for the boy.

He went to the standpipe on the way back out, at the edge of the field, right up against the forest. He refilled his water bottle, and put that in the bag, careful not to squash the food. He grabbed his phone for a second try and listened to Daisy’s ring tone as he walked up along the edge of the trees. Still no answer.

He stopped to text her: Made sandwiches. Ring me if you want some. And then, an afterthought: Falcon’s got lost. Ring me if you see him.

As he was slotting the phone back into his jacket pocket, he glanced at the trees and noticed a little pathway that led into the woods.

There was a tiny wooden footbridge just inside the treeline. It was just a couple of logs slung across a narrow stream – more of a ditch really. There was a fencepost on each side, with a rope between them to serve as a handrail.

But what caught his attention was a feather, incongruously sticking up from the nearest fencepost. Curious, he walked the few steps into the trees for a closer look. It was a long, stiff feather. A flight feather, he supposed. Black. Perhaps it was from a crow, or a raven. He wasn’t much of a country man. For all he knew it could be a kookaburra.

He reached out and touched it. Soft. There was another on the post at the other side of the bridge. Holding the rope, he stepped onto the bridge.

A trail of feathers.
He wondered who had put them there.
He realised that he had got the boy Falcon in the back of his mind.

Still standing on the bridge, he looked back towards the sunny camping field, noisy and bright. He turned to look the other way, into the cool gloom of the forest, the narrow path that wound into the trees.

He felt uneasy. He felt sure it was foolhardy to venture into a strange forest without a map, compass or native guide.

But he had his phone. He had GPS. What could go wrong?
He crossed the bridge.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013 10:59 pm

    Wordcount – 1161
    Prompt (1) A bridge (Cath) and (2) A crow’s feather, disappointment (DichotomyOf)

    Please leave a comment with a prompt suggestion for Chapter 14
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. April 16, 2013 12:43 pm

    Lovely 🙂 prompt – a change of opinion and a hole.

  3. April 16, 2013 6:31 pm

    Poor Ian – his kind act immediately portrays him as a suspect.

    prompt – search party

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