by Warren Scott Foster

illustrated by Adrienne Potter



            Bohideus paddled lazily in his canoe. The soft sunshine glowed through layers of fluffy white clouds overhead, feeling comfortably warm on his back and shoulders. He liked watching the little whirlpools form around his paddle as he stroked gently through the water. He had already paddled far up the river hoping to spear a fish by the time he floated back down to the village, but he hadn't yet seen a fish. At least none worth spearing. And now he was passing the village as he floated slowly down the river.

          The river was several miles wide here. It was deep and slow and looked more like a long, giant lake than a river. It seemed to Bo that he, the canoe, and the water were standing still, and that the land and the village were slowly moving past him.

          Bo knew it was unwise to float too far past the village. In only a few miles the river would begin to speed up. There the water became more and more rough as the river narrowed until it was only a couple of miles wide. Only a few miles past this area was said to be the Great Waterfall, where the river fell off the edge of the world, from which place no one had ever returned.

Bo had floated past the village many times. He knew how far he could go before the river speeded up. He could tell when he was approaching it because of the great, jagged mountains and cliffs towering above the river. When he saw those up ahead, he could easily paddle to shore and carry his canoe back to the village.

          Stroke after stroke Bo eased the paddle into the water and pushed it gently behind him, watching the tiny whirlpools swirl around it. Each stroke curved out slightly at the end like a letter J, causing his canoe to travel straight even when he paddled only on one side. The water was clear, clean, and cold. Its faint blue tint resembled the color of the glaciers at the river's source. In the middle of the river the water was more silty from the glaciers. At the banks, however, the river was clear, for after many miles much of the silt had settled to the bottom. A sandy beach lined the river's banks near the village. Here the water was shallow, and on warm days it was a great place for swimming, skipping stones, and playing in the sand.

          Bo was a handsome, healthy boy. He was proud of his canoeing and fishing skills. His parents were proud of him, too, and more than anything in the world he wanted to earn their trust and respect. Bo loved to make his father proud. He loved life and adventure, too. He was a very curious boy, much more curious about the world than other boys his age. Father said it was a sign of intelligence, even though he sometimes grew tired of Bo's constant questions about everything.

          Bo wanted to explore, to find adventures and secret places, to experience new things for himself. Father had gone hunting, and once again he had refused to take Bo with him. Father had actually considered it this time, however, which was progress. Still, Father couldn't bear the thought of his boy facing a woolly mammoth with only a spear and a bow and arrow between him and the mammoth's eighteen foot tusks. Father knew that someday he would have to allow it, for Bo was definitely becoming skillful enough that he would soon need the chance to prove himself.

          Bo's parents had gradually given him greater responsibility, and in time, greater freedom. Until very recently his parents had refused to allow him to travel the lower river by himself. They knew how dangerous it was to go below the village. Bo had proved his skill with a paddle, however, and Father had seen that he used good judgment, always staying where he could make it easily to shore.

          Very few people ever traveled down the river below the village. They were afraid of the great falls. That was just fine with Bo. He knew of some great fishing holes downstream where nobody else dared to go. Except, of course, Old Man Schmoe. Old Man Schmoe wasn't afraid of anything. In fact, most people thought he was just plain crazy. It was he who had told Bo about the fishing holes, and although he probably was as crazy as everyone thought, at least Bo knew he was right about the fishing holes.

          These fishing holes lay in deep black eddies where the river narrowed, just before the water began speeding up. Fortunately they were close to shore so that there was little danger of Bo's being carried downstream. In fact, the water next to the shore actually ran backwards in places, before it circled around and flowed out into the main current of the river. Bo knew that some of the biggest fish he had ever seen hid in these eddies.

          Actually, Bo preferred catching his fish up river instead of down. Fishing downstream meant carrying home not only larger, heavier fish, but the canoe as well! Today, however, he had been unsuccessful upstream, yet he refused to return home empty handed. He wanted to make his mother proud when he returned home with a fish for dinner. It would be further proof that he was becoming a man, that he was old enough to take care of himself. Besides, why paddle all the way up river again when he knew where there was some easy fishing downstream, and some very big, very lazy fish?

          Bo watched as the village moved slowly by. Or rather, as he moved slowly by the village. A gentle stream ran into the river near the village, creating a small inlet where children were playing in the sand. Bo waved to them and they waved back. Some were envious of Bo. They wished they were old and big enough to canoe on the river all alone like Bo. Bo was almost as tall as his mother now. His voice was changing to sound more like his father instead of a little boy or girl. Bo was also exceptionally brave and strong. Many of his friends of the same age were not yet allowed to canoe on the river by themselves. Besides, Bo knew there was not a chance they would want to go with him now, for he was canoeing below the village!

          The children knew Bo had gone there before, and that he had always come back. Still, they had all heard of people who had become caught in the main current. None of them had ever returned. No one had ever even seen the great falls. Unless, that is, the stories crazy Old Man Schmoe told were true. But several men of the village had gone far enough down the river bank to report that if you went too far, it would be impossible to get back. It had happened to boats before, hadn't it?

          Bo tried not to notice a couple of the older girls who turned to watch as he floated by. Without wanting

to, he caught himself puffing his chest out a little and trying to make his shoulders look more broad. His shiny brown hair was long and straight, and blew slightly backward in the soft breeze. His young face was tan and handsome, and his dark eyes had an intelligent light in them. The girls had noticed Bo before, and Bo had tried not to admit to himself that he found them interesting as well. One pretty girl smiled and waved. Bo's teeth flashed white as he smiled and waved back. Then he blushed, and pretended that paddling down river was very intense business which required all of his attention.

          Bo found himself more determined than ever to catch a fish today as he passed by the children on the shore. None of the adults in the village treated him as they did the other young men. Neither did his parents. He would prove to them that even if they didn't take him hunting, he was the best fisherman in the village. Bo loved to see the proud look in his mother's face when he returned from the river with a fine fish for dinner, large enough to share with the neighbors.

          The sounds of the village faded behind him, along with the children's chattering and giggling. The bank began to rise a little steeper from the river's edge. Vines and trees overhanging the water began passing by more quickly now.

          Bo could barely see the land on the far side of the river. It was still several miles away, and it seemed to hold still while the shore on the near side moved quickly by. Bo had never been to the other side of the river. Crossing the river required traveling many, many miles upstream so that he could make it across the river before the current carried him over the falls. And then he would have to do it all over again in order to cross back. Besides, the villagers said there was no reason to cross it. Once, long ago, some men had crossed to the other side to explore. When they returned, they said there was nothing over there that wasn't here. Everything they needed was on their own side of the river. Old Man Schmoe said that they must not have gone far enough. Bo decided he would cross the river someday, just to see things for himself, but not yet. It was too soon.

          He approached a deep, black eddy now. It lay in a large pool where the river had cut back into the shore. The water seemed to run in a great circle round the pool, as if there was a small river running upstream next to the shore which suddenly turned out and joined the huge river running downstream. In the middle of the eddy the water was still and deep, and Bo knew fish would be resting there...some of them as big as he was, himself. He had caught them before. Father was immensely proud when he brought one home, even if it meant making two trips, one for the fish and one for the canoe! Now Father was away on his hunting trip, and Mother was counting on Bo to bring home their supper.

          Bo brought his canoe to rest in the center of the pool. He held his left leg over one side of the canoe as a counterbalance while he leaned over the other side. He cupped his hands in a circle to smooth out the ripples, and looked through the water. Sure enough, there were several nice fish down there, some of them three or four feet long. But they were close to the bottom, too deep for him to reach with his ten foot spear. He would have to wait for a while. Surely it wouldn't be too long before one came up after a bug.

          All at once all the fish scattered and darted away. What had frightened them? Bo wondered. It couldn't have been his canoe, for he had moved very slowly and now was holding still. Still, something had scared the fish. Suddenly there was a large splash in the water behind him. Bo pulled his leg in and sat up to see. Waves were moving out in a circle from the splash, and judging from the size of the waves, whatever had made that splash was very, very big.

          At last he spotted it, a large, shadowy shape moving deep in the water now. It turned around, heading for the surface. Bo caught his breath as it breached the surface and submerged again. He had never seen such a big fish! It was as big as his canoe! He could feed the whole village with such a fish. Bo's heart pounded with excitement. He must have that fish. Then everyone would knew that he was man enough to be on his own.

          Bo quickly tied his rope to the rung near the front of his canoe. He might need some help holding onto this fish. The rope was already tied to the back end of his spear. Suddenly the fish broke the surface just a few feet from the boat. Bo raised his spear and thrust at it with all his might. The sharp point of the spear stabbed deep into the fish's back, just behind its head. With a great lurch the fish leapt high out of the water, yanking the spear from Bo's grasp. It crashed back into the water with a tremendous splash, showering the canoe and drenching Bo with the cold spray.

          The fish dove deep into the water with the spear still stuck in its back, and Bo was afraid it might pull the front of the canoe under the water. Fortunately, his rope was longer than the water was deep, and when the fish reached the bottom, the rope was still slack.

          For a second or two all was still and quiet, and Bo wondered if he'd lost the fish. Suddenly the rope jerked tight and he was thrown flat on his back into the bottom of the canoe. A mighty tug yanked the front of the canoe around so that it pointed toward the middle of the river, almost tipping the canoe over. Now it shot forward, smacking against the waves and skipping across the water like a flat skipping stone. Bo jerked himself back up, grabbed his paddle and stabbed it against the water, trying to regain control of his boat. It was no use. He was moving so fast now he couldn't hold the paddle in the water. He set the paddle down and moved to the bow of the canoe, where he reached out and grabbed hold of the rope with both hands. He would have to get control of this fish before he could control his boat. He squeezed the rope and pulled with all his might, trying to reel in the fish. Or was he reeling himself toward the fish? It made no difference as he hauled in the rope, half an arm's length at a time. The water was rushing past, splashing in his face and arms as the boat took flying leaps off each wave, coming down with a crash before starting up the next wave.

          Bo pulled till his arms ached. His hands were raw and bleeding. His eyes hurt from the cold spray, and his hair and clothes were soaked. He knew he was close to the fish now. When the giant fish sounded, or dove down, the angle of the rope went steeply down as well, and when it came back up, the rope became horizontal. Then Bo could see the back of his sturdy spear sticking out of the water. The spear created a wake behind the fish, and as the fish went lower and the spear submerged, a rooster tail of spray shot out behind it.

          Now the angle of the rope was down. Now it was horizontal. Now it was down again! It pulled the top of the boat ever deeper into the water. Bo noticed that the waves of the river were growing larger now. Suddenly the bow of the canoe crashed into the side of a wave. Water rushed over the top of him, nearly washing him from the canoe.

          Bo grabbed the side with one hand and his paddle with the other, holding on for dear life! The canoe came to the surface again, but it was swamped, so filled with water that only the rim was above the surface. It would not move so swiftly through the water now, but was still being dragged by the tremendous strength of the giant fish. The rope was pulled taut, its hair-like fibers sticking out sideways. Bo finally realized it was time to give up the fish and to worry about saving himself.

          He tried to untie his rope from the boat, but the pull of the fish had knotted it too tightly. Instead, he reached in his side sheath for his knife. Before he could cut the rope, however, the strands began to pull apart, and suddenly the rope snapped. Bo looked sadly at the short piece of rope hanging limply from the knot on the forward rung of his canoe. It had taken hours to make that spear. And days to make the rope.

          Bo carefully reached for his bailing bucket which was tied to the back rung of the canoe with twine. If he rocked the boat at all, more water came in over the sides. He bailed quickly. The more the water level went down, the higher the canoe sat upon the river's waves. Bo began to shiver as he bailed. The exertion of reeling in the rope had kept him warm before. Now he was tired and sitting in a canoe filled with icy, cold water, drenched from head to toe. The water was much colder here in the middle of the river than it was near the shore in the shallows, where it was warmed by the sun.

          Bo continue to bail, for he knew it would be too difficult to paddle the canoe until most of the water was emptied. As he bailed, a large, bluish white object in the distance caught his eye. As it drifted closer Bo realized what it was. Ice! Old Man Schmoe had always said there were icebergs floating down the center of the river. Bo remembered that sometimes there were pieces large enough to see clear from the village, but they were far away, and no one had known what they were. Now, up close, he saw that they were tremendously big and beautiful.         Up close! Bo looked around, aghast. He was in the middle of the river! Both shores were miles away. Only by knowing the direction of the river could he tell which bank was his! The features of both shores were blurred by the distance, and by the misty haze rising from the river.

          Bo dropped his bucket. There was only an inch or two of water remaining in the canoe anyway. He grabbed the paddle, and pointing the nose of the canoe toward the shore, began to paddle with all his strength. Now he saw how large the waves were that the fish had pulled him over. His tiny canoe was tossed about by the rushing of the mighty river. Bo's eyes were wide with fear. He was not only in the middle of the river, but downstream from the village! He forgot the tiredness of his aching muscles. He forgot the cold. Over and over he stabbed his paddle deep into the water, pulling against it with all his might. He pointed the canoe slightly upstream. It was useless to try to paddle against the full speed of the river, but he hoped to buy himself a little time by paddling at least slightly up river as he crossed toward shore.

          How many times did Father warn me against getting caught in the current below the village? Bo asked himself. Stroke after stroke he fought his way toward the shore. His back and arms ached and burned with fatigue, but he knew he could not rest. He tried to think of other things to take his mind off the pain as he struggled against the waves. His thoughts slipped back to his home and family while he paddled stroke after stroke.

          Bo thought of himself not as a boy but as a young man. He had only recently begun to change from a boy to a man, and he knew his parents still thought of him as a little boy. He knew that they loved him, and he loved them, but still, it bothered him that they didn't seem to recognize that he was growing up. True, they had allowed him to have his own canoe. Father and he had spent weeks constructing it. Father could build one much quicker, but he had let Bo do most of the work, assisting only as much as required to make sure Bo that learned to do it correctly. He had also learned to make his own rope and spear.

          Bo would never forget the magical day when Father had taken him to the village foundry. Metals were a very useful and valuable thing for his people, but they were difficult to work with and hard to get. They had to be mined from the mountains far away, and the ore carried back to the village foundry to be purified. No one owned the foundry. The people of the village had built it together, and it only ran at certain times when enough people needed to make things to justify firing it up. Then they would all work the foundry together.

          Everyone helped build the blazing hot fires. It took several men to pump the bellows that fanned flames hot enough to melt metal. There they had made a beautiful, long, sharp blade knife out of steel for Bo. To give him a knife was a way of recognizing that he was fast becoming a man. Father taught him how to make a handle of layers of leather which gave the knife an excellent grip. He then made himself a leather sheath so that he could wear the knife at his side. From then on he never went anywhere without his knife, and he became an expert at using it.

          Bo's mind returned to his father's hunting trip. Even after all that--after building the canoe, the knife, and the spear--Father had once again refused Bo's request to accompany him on the trip. Why? Maybe it was because he spent too much time with Old Man Schmoe.

          Bo thought it was unfair that people didn't pay more attention to Schmoe. Everything the old man had said--at least everything that anyone had gone to the trouble to check up on--had turned out to be true. His strange gadgets and inventions that the villagers made fun of actually worked when completed, if you went to the trouble to test them. It's just that no one believed him enough to be bothered. Except Bo. Bo was fascinated by the things Schmoe taught him. He would stay Schmoe's friend no matter what people thought.

          Stroke, stroke, stroke! The river was going faster now, and the waves were larger and rougher. White spray and foam tossed the little boat about as he struggled desperately toward the shore. He tried to ignore the burning in the muscles of his arms. His back screamed in agony from tiredness. It took all his canoeing skill just to keep from capsizing in the rough, choppy rapids. But Bo had to make it to shore! He knew his life depended upon it!

          The minutes seemed like hours as he struggled. He choked upward on the handle of the paddle toward the blade, lest he accidentally break it with the strength of his pulling. He paddled on and on with power he never knew he had.

          The shore was well in sight now. It was a part of the shore that he had never seen before, and for an instant he wondered if he had paddled in the wrong direction. No, this was the right shore. He could tell from the direction of the current. He also knew instantly that neither he nor anyone he knew had ever been this far downstream. Still, he was close to the shore and the falls were nowhere in sight. "I'm going to make it!" he gasped.

          The river was moving very quickly now. The waves had almost flattened out in its swiftness. As Bo drew near the shore, he realized with a jolt why no one had ever walked this far down the river. Towering cliffs jutted up from the water's edge. There was no place to get out! As he approached the side of the cliff, its smooth face zoomed past with incredible speed. He moved his canoe still closer, searching for a branch, a ledge, a finger hold--anything! Nothing but smooth, solid rock, covered with a thin layer of slippery green and black moss. And ever increasing speed.

          Bo clawed at the face of the cliff, gouging out handfuls of moss with his fingernails, but nothing would slow him down. Panic struck him as he looked downstream, desperate to find an escape, and suddenly he caught his breath. For some reason the river seemed strange. And so did the cliff. He couldn't see very far into the distance. No trees, no cliffs, no mountains, nothing. It is not that there was anything blocking his view. There was no fog, no mist, no clouds. It was just that there was...NOTHING THERE!

          In the next instant the canoe shot out into the air. Bo felt himself weigh as light as a feather within his boat. The water dropped away from around him. His stomach seemed to float up into his throat. Suddenly he felt the canoe begin to tip sideways and float away from him through the air. Grasping it with both hands, he pulled himself tight against the bottom of the canoe and leaned his weight from side to side to keep it upright. He turned for quick glance behind him. Falling white water rushed and tumbled behind him as far as he could see. Hazy skies and puffy clouds lay before and above him as he fell, dreamlike, through the misty air. He inched his head over the edge of the canoe to look down. As he did, the wind ripped at his hair, screamed in his ears, and tore his breath away. Squinting his eyes against the wind, he looked below the canoe. Nothing but clouds, mist, and haze! Bo's heart went faint as he gasped aloud, "I've...I've fallen off the edge of the world!"

Click here to go to Chapter 2

No. of readers since July 26, 2000: Hit Counter

Back to Main Page

Excerpt from Chapter Two: "How long will I fall? he wondered. Will I just keep falling forever? If I've fallen off the edge of the world, where will I land? Is there another world under this one? And what would be past the edge of that one? Maybe I'll just fall until I die."

Excerpt from Chapter Three: "Bo had seen his share of jungle, but had never even dreamed of such a jungle as this. The flowers were unlike any he had ever seen. Huge blossoms seemed to shine with a light of their own, glowing with every imaginable color."

Excerpt from Chapter Four: "Far below to the left, near the bottom of the cliff, was a blue, cone-shaped mountain. It appeared to be a giant heap of ice-blue rock. It was difficult to see clearly because of the distance and the trees, but it looked like a great lake might lay beneath the blue cone."

Excerpt from Chapter Five: "A black panther, big as a horse, with claws and fangs as long as Bo's fingers! There was no time to run, no time to fight or grab a weapon, no time to scream. He would never survive an attack by this gigantic cat."

Excerpt from Chapter Six: "Up, up, up he climbed, above and out of sight of the glowing mushrooms and flowers, into the pitch black darkness. His only light was the mushroom skins in his knapsack, but after many days they began to fade."

Excerpt from Chapter Seven: "I AM BOHIDEUS! I am strong! I WILL go to the edge of this jungle! I WILL climb that great cliff! I WILL return to my people, to my family, my village, my home!"  

Excerpt from Chapter  Eight: "But Old Man Schmoe had helped Bo build a small glider once, and he had sailed it off Schmoe's roof. Schmoe had called it a hang glider since it had a tiny harness suspended from it in which to carry tiny objects. Bo suddenly realized he knew how to build a hang glider already."

Excerpt from Chapter Nine: "Everything began to spin in circles, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Bo struggled and jerked at the cables, but it was no use."

Excerpt from Chapter Ten: "One more look of longing, one more sigh, then sadly she returned to the house, weakly crawled into her bed, and cried herself to sleep."

Excerpt from Chapter Eleven: "Slam! Crash! Thud! His body bumped back and forth against the slippery ice walls on both sides of the narrow river. Bo's hands and feet were numb with cold, and the numbness rapidly moved up his arms and legs. He could feel nothing."

Excerpt from Chapter Twelve: "Suddenly, far off in the distance, Bo saw his chance. It was risky, a dangerous chance, but a chance he had to take. It was a thunderstorm. Bo nervously approached the black, angry clouds."