The task at hand.
Back in the real world.
Davina and Ghost climbed into a transparent vessel that resembled an elongated egg crossed with a sealed canoe. The material was tough and reminded Davina of a double layered, dense plastic bag. When she pressed her hand on the surface it wobbled and sprung back into place.
‘The material has the capacity to filter oxygen through the skin,’ said Thalia, noticing Ghost’s perplexed expression.
‘Oh that’s good,’ said Ghost vacantly.
Once the pair were settled inside, Thalia sealed the lid and launched them into the Gargantuan upside-down river. After a sudden jolt, they plunged into gushing water. They were shaken violently for a short while before they found themselves rising into the air. Ghost clung on as hard as he could expecting the worst. Slow rotations on the outer rim of the porthole increased in speed as they travelled towards the centre. It was as if they were inside a giant washing machine.
‘Oh no,’ said Ghost bracing himself.
Davina remained silent but also gripped her seat. Her breathing was loud and deep and intensified as the central porthole drew closer. With a sudden surge the pair were tossed into darkness. The sensation of being shaken in a blender whilst falling through space with the accompanying sound of a loud jacuzzi could only just begin to describe the experience.
After what felt like forever, a glimpse of light marked their exit. After flipping a number of times, the pair were spat onto the top of a waterfall on the outside world. Ghost smiled with relief. Davina’s breathing calmed and…. they plummeted.
‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!’ screamed Ghost, whose skin had adopted a tinge of green.
‘Woooooooooooaaahh!’ yelled Davina. She was thrown from her seat and squashed against the roof of the capsule for a few seconds until they splashed down into the torrent beneath the waterfall. They rebounded off rock after rock until quite unexpectedly a gentle current swirled about them and guided the egg-vessel to a riverbank.
For a few moments the pair just laid back in their seats breathing heavily. They half expected to be flung in some other direction but it did not happen.
‘That was awesome!’ said Ghost once he was sure that no surprises were coming.
‘Is anything broken on you?’ asked Davina as she checked her body for bruising.
‘I don’t think so… Erm do you think we can get out?’ asked Ghost with a strained tone.
Davina opened the hatch and glanced at Ghost, he was the palest she had seen him.
‘I could do that all over again…’ Ghost trailed off as he clambered from the capsule, grabbed his stomach and ran, ‘I need to…Errcgh!’
He reached the nearest bushes and retched until he was sick.
‘Sorry but… that’s better!’ said Ghost wiping his mouth when he was finished.
Davina remained sitting in the capsule, she was still giddy. ‘My brain hurts,’ said Davina holding her head while the sky spun.
‘That’s how you probably lost your memory in the first place. All the violent shaking has to do something…’ said Ghost trudging back to the vessel.
The smell of vomit wafted about him.
‘Oh Ghost…’ she said covering her nose with her hair but gagging at the stench.
‘So what? Now imagine what people would say if they saw that!!!’
‘Ghost we can’t tell anyone. This is our secret,’ said Davina from behind her hair.
A look of disappointment and annoyance graced Ghost’s face. Davina could be a little too bossy for his liking.
‘Davina… I have been thinking about… all this.’ He gestured at the Canoe, the forest and their bags. ‘Why am I even involved. It’s not like I signed up for it or anything,’ he said awkwardly.
It was true, he had unwittingly stumbled into the situation but now that she knew him, Davina didn’t want to lose him. Even when he was being a complete spack she actually liked his company.
‘Remember what Thalia said about it being your destiny? Ghost you can leave at any time,’ she said climbing from the canoe. Athough imagine how you would feel if the Chimera ruled the world because you hadn’t tried to stop her?’
Ghost stared guiltily at the ground, shuffled and kicked at some nearby ferns laying on top of the muddy forest floor. ‘It would have been nice to be asked – that’s all. You and Thalia just assumed that I should be trying to save the planet when I never even knew it was in trouble!’
‘I know we haven’t known each other very long, Ghost. I guess this is probably the strangest thing you have ever experienced, but will you try and help me save the world?’ requested Davina sweetly.
‘As much as I would love to help… Well… I don’t know if I’m cut out for this kind of thing,’ he replied honestly. His posture instantly deflated.
‘Of course you are – you made it this far… and you didn’t die… and Thalia said it was your destiny,’ enthused Davina.
‘Well I suppose if I can survive eating algae and Goyle snot then…’ Ghost trailed off. ‘Do you have any idea where we are or where we go now?’
‘Nope,’ she replied with a shrug. She had absolutely no clue.
The pair giggled awkwardly as they gathered their things and set off. It was ridiculous: two smallish teenagers were in the middle of nowhere convinced they were on a journey to save the world!
There was a rustle in the bushes just a few hundred meters away. Davina instantly reacted and crouched down behind a rock. She grabbed Ghost’s arm and dragged him with her. Ghost blinked, his sight had somehow altered. He could see with absolute clarity.
‘Davina, there is something weird happening to my eyes.’
‘They look fine to me… so what’s weird?’
‘I can see the warm shape of an animal, but I can see it through that solid oak tree,’ he replied with a gulp.
‘What colour is it?’
‘It appears to be all colours,’ Ghost answered in confusion and then rubbed his eyes.
‘What sort of animal is it?’ asked Davina.
‘It’s a deer… I don’t get it Davina… how can I see like this?’
Davina frowned, she tried to work out what the deer meant? ‘Okay deer are gentle and usually live in herds. This is a lone deer. That must mean something…’
The deer turned and bolted away from them.
‘Look there is movement in the bushes,’ said Davina.
Ghost watched the deer. ‘She is running to that glade and look at that massive tree. We should follow her and climb the tree. We can then work out where we are,’ he said with a sense of conviction.
Without hesitation, Davina picked up her knapsack and prepared to follow.
In the meantime, Ghost became preoccupied with a clump of yellow lichen nestled on the bark of a nearby birch tree.
‘Come on Ghost! Er…Ghost… what are you staring at now?’
‘Everything. This is insane! There are all these different particles floating through the air and I can see a magnetic field too. Imagine… all this was there and I never knew about it.’
Davina remained silent while Ghost examined the surrounding area and appeared very pleased with himself.
‘Come on,’ beckoned Davina, waving her arm.
As Ghost carefully put on his knapsack he noticed the trail left by the deer.
Davina followed Ghost’s gaze. ‘What can you see now Ghost?’
‘That is so weird! The deer has left a path for us to follow. It’s like there’s a web making up everything and connects everything. I know it sounds weird… but it’s what I’m honestly seeing. I wish you could see this through my eyes. It’s so amazing!’
Davina, even though she smiled, felt a pang of envy. She wished she could see the world through Ghost’s eyes.
The pair followed the trail left by the deer for what seemed like forever. All the while the sun was sinking towards the horizon, and the forest was growing increasingly dense. Davina listened to the muttering of a gentle breeze. ‘Be careful, be careful! They are searching for you,’ the wind whispered.
Had Ghost heard it too? She stopped, looked around and searched in the direction the breeze had come from. The forest was now so thick with trees that there was hardly any light filtering through the canopy. The dark, dark forest was full of eyes – eyes more attuned than her own. She folded her arms and rotated once more. She didn’t like not knowing who or what was watching.
The rattling of a woodpecker pecking the tree above their heads made the pair jolt and grab their chests.
‘I really don’t like this,’ said Ghost with a frown. ‘The sooner we can see where we are, the better.’ He gestured at the lone majestic oak at the centre of the clearing.
‘Hang on! The deer’s trail stops at the clearing,’ warned Ghost.
‘Does it stop at the clearing or before the clearing?’ asked Davina.
‘It stops just before… why?’ he said tilting his head to the side.
‘That makes sense. Right we should make camp here.’ Davina dropped her pack.
‘Why?’ asked Ghost unsure of the logic.
‘If the Grotesques fly over during the night, we can be spotted,’ she explained.
‘Can we at least make a camp fire?’ Ghost pleaded.
She shook her head, ‘Smoke will lead them right to us.’
Ghost made an exaggerated sigh, ‘If we climb the tree we can work out where we are.’
‘We can do that just as the sun rises.’ She peered inside her knapsack.
The setting sun illuminated the canopy and made it appear gold. Ghost crouched down and returned to examining foliage in minute detail. ‘Look at this,’ said Ghost pointing at a tiny green leaf. ‘Can you imagine this was here all the time and I never noticed it before?’
‘That seems to be a very nice leaf there Ghost.’
‘You’re taking the Mickey aren’t you?’ he said turning his attention from that particular leaf.
Davina nodded and grinned.
Ghost lifted another leaf and discovered a multi-coloured beetle on the underside. ‘Davina you might laugh… but if you could see this how I see it – you would also think it was pretty cool,’ he said rising to his feet.
‘I’m sure it is…’ Davina trailed off, she was searching for an area to camp.
‘What are you looking for?’ asked Ghost.
‘A place where we can hang our hammocks. It needs to be concealed but comfortable.’ She tested the strength of the branches of two neighbouring trees.
‘Erm… Davina do you have any idea of this survival stuff?’ he said with a look of helplessness. ‘To be honest… I don’t have a clue. How would I? I was brought up in a city.’
Davina looked about, ‘Thalia kind of mentioned that I’ve been specially trained for this stuff. It is strange because I know that mushroom over there can kill you in two minutes. It’s called a death cap. Whereas that one over there is a giant puffball. We could eat that if we wanted to. Then over there is a hawthorn berry – we can eat that …but over there is deadly nightshade. Ghost, the more I think about it, the more I am sure I’ve been trained to survive… although… I think we should stick to the algae – just in case I’m wrong.’
‘I wouldn’t want to be killed by a mushroom,’ he said thoughtfully. The two mushrooms she had pointed out weren’t terribly different. ‘So… Davina… we are actually going to have to sleep out here, aren’t we? You know in the open.’
‘Yep, I think we should set up over here,’ said Davina, patting the branch of the tree beside her. ‘There’s a slight hill, it will give us better shelter and we can use these two trees to hang our hammocks and canopies. What do you think?’
‘It sounds logical enough,’ Ghost replied. There was no better alternative.
The pair crouched and peered into their bags. Davina pulled out her canopy and hung it over the branches. She was so focused on what she was doing that she didn’t notice that Ghost was getting tangled in his webbing. In the time Davina had arranged her canopy and set up her comfy hammock Ghost had only pulled out the webbing and hammock from his bag. For a short while he stood looking completely perplexed while Davina remained completely oblivious to what was taking place behind her. When she was set up, she turned to look at Ghost and burst out laughing.
In the time Davina’s back was turned something out of the ordinary had happened with the webbing: it appeared as though Ghost had been captured by a falling net. He was completely entangled. The more he struggled the tighter the webbing became. His feet were particularly snared. After a yank of frustration Ghost found himself suddenly upside down, suspended from a branch.
Davina laughed so hard she had to gasp for breath. ‘That was brilliant! Do it again! Ghost… I don’t get it… you’re so agile and… oh… that’s soooo funny!’
He lowered himself back towards the ground clumsily with a scowl on his face. With the webbing wrapped around him, he avoided eye contact. ‘Boys are supposed to know this stuff!’ he muttered to himself.
Davina strode over and went to help him.
‘No I can do it!’ Ghost insisted stubbornly. The shade of deep crimson on his neck revealed his feelings.
Davina took the hint and returned to her cosy camp. She silently climbed onto her hammock and lay down to watch the show. Wrapped up snugly in her cosy white web blanket she watched Ghost struggle with all parts of his camp assembly.
After ten minutes of watching and not being allowed to get involved, Davina got up and prepared algae paste for dinner. This time she chose the orange variety for help with sight. ‘If you need any help just ask,’ she offered.
‘I don’t need any help! I can do it! By myself!’ Ghost snapped.
‘Okay!’ smiled Davina, with her hands held up in the gesture of surrender.
Davina looked up to the sky, huge black towers of cloud gathered – it looked like it was going to rain. There was a sudden flash of white. Was it Elora? Davina considered asking Ghost but he was too busy being trapped inside his self-crreated fishing net. ‘Ghost you’re going to have to hurry. It looks like there could be a storm on the way,’ she urged.
‘Yeh… you’re just saying that. Anyway I’m nearly there now.’
Ghost was nowhere near ‘nearly there’. The first heavy raindrops pattered on the ground.
‘Come on Ghost, please let me help.’
‘No! I’m fine – really. Nearly there now…’ Ghost unravelled one side of the canopy while the other side tangled.
‘But it’s raining,’ Davina implored.
‘Look I can do it!’ Ghost snapped back stroppily.
Davina sat under her canopy cosily swinging in her hammock. Ghost continued to tangle himself in both the web and the hammock.
The rain drops beat the ground with increasing frequency until the heavens opened. It was like a giant bucket of water had been tipped from the sky.
‘Arrrgh!’ Ghost threw down the web canopy and stomped through the sloppy mud with it all attached to the various parts of his body. ‘Okay, you were right!’
‘Are you hungry?’ asked Davina, intending to distract him from his anger. She handed him a plate and hungrily tucked into her own portion. Ghost leant against the trunk of the tree examining the orange gloop.
‘Why don’t you hang your hammock over there? My canopy will cover it,’ she said between mouthfuls. ‘There’s no point trying to hang a wet canopy now. I’ll show you how to do it properly tomorrow.’
The large tendril of orange gloop suspended from Ghost’s spoon was his focus of contempt.
‘I would eat it if I were you – it will give you the nutrition you need.’ Davina shovelled another spoonful into her mouth and watched him. ‘I’m going to eat mine and go to sleep. We need to rest before tomorrow’s journey.’
After sniffing the orange gloop, Ghost closed his eyes and gulped down the concoction as fast as he could without tasting it. When he was finished he gulped some water he had collected in a canister. The dark orange sun was setting behind some clouds. ‘Are you sure we shouldn’t be over there, it’s just that it’s light over there.’
‘If news is out that we’re on our way, then they’ll know where we are if we sleep out in the open. I don’t want to be captured,’ said Davina seriously.
‘You know what? If we’re captured, we’ll be taken to the Chimera’s lair and then we’ll have found the right place without even trying to. I bet they have normal food there too,’ added Ghost hopefully.
‘And what use would that serve? We would be imprisoned,’ Davina snapped, with a shake of the head.
‘But we would be in the right place,’ Ghost insisted.
‘We would be in the right place surrounded by stinking Grote guards. Is that what you really want?’ Davina scraped the last bits of algae from her plate. She then reached into her knapsack and pulled out some liquorice sticks. She gnawed at one to clean her teeth.
Ghost shrugged helplessly.
‘If we were captured then we’d be in no situation to save my father plus we’ll also need to be saved ourselves. So who’ll be left to save us? Now, we can use the journey as time to learn, don’t you see? What we learn we’ll be able to use against the Chimera. You’ve already learned so much about your new vision and you’re seeing everything through fresh eyes. In a few more days you’ll probably see things in a completely different way,’ rationalised Davina.
‘Why do you always have to be right?’ Ghost replied sulkily, with his lower lip jutting out.
‘Maybe that’s my weakness,’ Davina replied sharply.
‘You act like you don’t have any weaknesses,’ scowled Ghost.
‘We all have weaknesses Ghost, I just do a good job at hiding mine.’ She rolled onto her side so she could face him.
‘But you come across all perfect and always right. It makes other people feel rubbish.’ He paused and watched her chew the liquorice stick.
‘You want one?’ She asked offering him a liquorice stick sheepishly. ‘You know – I really didn’t realise I came across like that. I know I can be bossy but I’ve had to survive alone. I’m certainly not perfect.’
Ghost glanced at the liquorice and mimicked Davina. She wasn’t all bad. ‘Well if you’re not so perfect then what are you really scared of?’
‘Failing and…’ Davina trailed off.
‘And what?’ pressed Ghost.
‘This is really embarrassing…’ A hint of a blush rose up Davina’s cheek.
‘It’s nothing… I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Go to sleep Ghost, you’ll need…’ She closed her eyes and began to drift into sleep.
A few moments passed where Davina began to nap but the sound of someone struggling nearby disturbed her. Davina opened one eye and peered at Ghost. He was attempting to climb into his hammock. One minute he hung upside-down, the next he took a run up and flipped over. Finally, he managed to climb in, but was instantly flicked out. Davina watched Ghost’s frustration and giggled behind her hand. Flushed with all the effort, Ghost retreated from his hammock and turned back towards Davina. Davina closed her eyes and pretended she was asleep. Ghost stealthily crept over and studied Davina’s eyelids.
‘Davina….’ he whispered.
Davina didn’t stir.
‘Davina,’ he softly said again.
Still Davina didn’t move.
‘You’re pretending!’ Ghost asserted.
Davina burst into giggles.
Ghost looked like he was going to explode. ‘I knew it!’ he cried. ‘It’s not funny! I can’t get in.’
Davina jumped from her hammock and strode over to Ghost’s baggy hammock. ‘Just do it like this…’ Two simple knots and the hammock was securely in place. With one simple motion, Davina effortlessly climbed into the hammock. It all looked very straightforward indeed.
‘It can’t be that difficult,’ Ghost muttered. He mimicked her moves and ended up laying face down on the ground. ‘I really don’t like this outdoor life!’ With a stroppy motion, he picked himself up from the mud and folded his arms. ‘This is getting stupid now!’
‘When you’re used to it you’ll love it. Now try again,’ Davina encouraged.
Eventually Ghost managed to climb into the hammock, even if it was a bit wobbly. For a short while he swung back and forth until he found his balance. He made himself as comfortable as he could while he looked pleased with his achievement.
A matter of five meters away, on the other side of the tree, Davina climbed back into her hammock and watched Ghost using very small movements to reach his sleeping position. His breathing rate gradually slowed as he relaxed.
‘How do I roll over?’
‘I don’t think you’re quite ready for that yet. That’s a skill reserved for an advanced hammocker,’ responded Davina, smiling wryly.
‘Oh,’ replied Ghost thoughtfully. ‘And when will that be?’
‘Oh you’ll know – it will just happen one day.’ Davina snuggled into her cosy web duvet and exhaled deeply. Sleep softly crept into her mind. Ghost muttered and hummed and began to doze, he slept with his eyes open again but this time made blowing noises. It wasn’t going to bother her for long because she was just too tired. Amongst the rhythm of Ghost’s loud sighs, Davina felt the strangest sensation. It was as if something was out there watching the pair of them.