BOHIDEUS: CHAPTER XII

THE GIANT BIRD

By Warren Scott Foster

Illustrated by Adrienne Potter

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            When Bo awoke, he was dry and thoroughly warmed from the sun on hot sand. His bruised, beaten legs could barely walk, and he desperately needed food. A meager breakfast of berries staved off hunger, but he knew what he had to do. He began his long, difficult climb back to the top of the jungle. There he would find food...and the materials for glider number four. Bo also knew that he must hurry, for his mother was waiting without hope.

          Bo took it easy for a few days, working only enough to find food while his body healed. But not for long. Soon he found himself driven by a sense of urgency. The picture of his mother refused to go away. He knew that she was desperately lonely, weak and desolate, as if her will to live was slowly being sapped away. He must get back to her quickly, he knew. She needed him.

          This drove Bo to work at a feverish pitch. Now he traveled through the trees with strength and purpose. As soon as he reached his working area, he went to work on glider number four. By now he was getting good at it. But he had to build glider number five to actually begin his journey. Number four had one major change from number three. He designed another part into the wings with a separate control, so that they could be pulled back toward him partially. This would shrink the surface area of the--what had Schmoe called it?--the airfoil!--and streamline the craft. Now the next time he flew into severe air turbulence or too strong of an updraft, he would be able to shrink the wings and zoom down and out of it.

          It was a good idea, but a few problems needed to be worked out. As Bo tested the new design, he realized he needed a better way of extending the wings back out again after he had pulled them toward each other. Fortunately, he escaped unscathed from crashing glider number four!

          Glider number five was by far the best of all. He had become an expert at building hang gliders by now, and quite an experienced flyer. This craft was the sum total of all his experience. It flew beautifully and gracefully, responding quickly to every command of his vine-made controls.

          Bo practiced for several days, gathering supplies for his journey between each flight. Each day he rode one updraft high into the sky, glided over to the cliff, then rode another updraft higher still. Then, pulling back his wings, he zoomed down through the air like an eagle diving for its prey. Then he slowly extended the airfoil and leveled off, coasting all the way back to his favorite launching tree. At last the time had come. Today Bo would sleep until he could sleep no more, and tomorrow he would go home to Mother and Father.

          When Bo awoke, he gathered his things and bid the jungle a fond farewell. He tossed a few fruits to the monkeys, teased a friendly bird or two, and then went about his business. Bo easily launched his craft, quickly gaining the altitude he needed to make it to the cliff. Then he began his slow climb. He traveled for miles along the side of the cliff, circling in the upward air currents higher and higher. When he traveled too far from the ice mountain, the currents slowed down, and so he turned back toward it. Each time he was careful to turn away before getting close enough to be pulled into the down draft. He had learned that lesson once and didn't need to learn it again. No more icebergs for me! he thought. Forget the beautiful view!

          Hour after hour Bo climbed, until he could no longer see the ground through the haze. He doubled back more often now so that he could keep track of where he was on the cliff. He didn't want to be too far from the river when he reached the top, but he also needed to make sure he didn't pass under it.

          Bo carried a good supply of juicy, ripe fruits on his back, which provided him with food, water, and energy. When he grew tired, he would move out away from the cliff, set the aircraft in a straight, level glide away from the cliff, lock the controls in place, and rest for a while. By doing this he could actually doze for a few minutes, but never for very long, for fear he would lose sight of the cliff and not know exactly which direction to go.

          More hours passed, endlessly slow. Or was it days? It was hard to tell in this forever daylight. He knew he would have slept by now...if he had been able to. But he also knew it would be foolish to do so. Steadily, slowly but surely, Bo ascended the side of the great cliff. Gradually it dawned on him, however, that the higher he got higher, the slower he climbed.

          Cautiously Bo moved closer to the cliff so that he could watch it while he studied his upward progress. He was climbing very slowly now. Not long afterward the air grew noticeably cooler, and soon he wasn't climbing at all. In fact, to Bo's dismay, he slowly began LOSING altitude in his glider! This was the one thing he hadn't planned for, the one thing he hadn't known. The updrafts didn't go all the way to the top!

          Bo cried out into the wind, "NO! IT CAN'T BE! IT CAN'T BE!!" Anger and frustration consumed him. He had come so far! But there was simply no way to make his glider go any higher without rising air currents to lift it. Bo's heart sank still farther as he slowly realized he would never return home. He sobbed, then screamed, "IT... CAN'T...BE!" And then sobbed some more. The picture of his mother came into his mind. "NO!" he cried. "I'M NOT FINISHED YET!" He must never, EVER give up, he knew.

          Bo cruised miles farther down along the cliff, searching for the faintest hint of rising air. 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. How they tossed and turned high above, farther than the eye could see! Bo's fear made his stomach feel like a butter churn, but he knew that    was where he would find the rising air currents he so desperately needed.

          As soon as he felt the violent down drafts outside the storm, Bo pulled back the wings, streamlining them. He lost some altitude with this maneuver, but still kept excellent control of his glider zooming through the turbulence. Deep within the dark clouds Bo found what he was looking for. There the rain fell backward, blown upward toward the heavens by the fearful wind!

          Bo extended the wings and felt the thrill of acceleration as his glider was hurtled upward through the sky. It was a bumpy, terrifying ride, at best. When Bo feared that the strength of his tiny craft was about to give way, he would streamline the wings until things settled down. Then he would maneuver his controls and stretched out his airfoil to its fullest expanse, climbing as fast as the updraft would carry him until it sent him spinning again.

          It was just too violent. Once Bo streamlined the glider and shot right out of the storm, simply to rest from the constant buffeting. He took advantage of the moment to get his bearings. Far behind him, in the direction of the cliff from which he had come, he saw          something rather curious. At first it looked like the heaviest downpour he had ever seen, but there didn't seem to be any storm above it. No, the clouds were wispy bits of white vapor drifting away from it through the air. They couldn't possibly be storm clouds.

          Suddenly Bo's heart skipped a beat. He knew now what it was! The Great Waterfall! He had flown so high that he was opposite falling the water, above the point where it was not yet dispersed or evaporated! Bo knew exactly where he was now. The top of the cliff was still nowhere in sight, but he had to be at least half way up its side.

          With renewed determination Bo ate some fruit, then turned back into the fearful thunderstorm. He was shivering with cold and excitement, but as soon as he flew back into the storm, the exertion of fighting it had him dripping with sweat. Hour after exhausting hour Bo fought its fury, until finally the storm seemed to have spent all its energy.

          The buffeting gradually grew weaker, and at last the turbulence ceased. The rain was gone, the blinding flashes of lightning stopped, and the thunder was replaced with silence. Pure, blessed silence. Soon a small, battered hang glider drifted quietly out into the bright sunshine of broad, hazy daylight, just below the billowing tops of the clouds.

          Bo looked around quickly, searching for the familiar cliff wall. He couldn't see it! Fear welled up within as he spun his head around, frantically searching in all directions. He had to keep track of the cliff or he would become lost above the jungle! He glanced downward quickly. Miles below he could barely make out color through the haze. It couldn't be! Was that the ground? Bo's hopes were suddenly dashed to pieces before his very eyes. This was the same height he had been above the ground before he entered the storm! After all that work, he was right back where he had started! How could this be?! He knew he had been blasted upward the whole time he was in that storm, so how could he now be so low?

          Bo flew further from the enormous clouds till the air cleared completely and removed all doubt. He looked down at the ground far below. He passed by a small cloud to find a clearer view, when suddenly his heart leapt. Just a few miles below him the ground ended abruptly. This was not the ground at the bottom of the cliff. He had climbed far too high for that. Did he dare to hope? Was he looking down at the TOP of the great cliff?!

          Before him and below were the jagged mountains which rimmed the upper cliff. Far away in the distance he saw the great river running toward, and abruptly ending in what had to be the grandest waterfall in the universe! It was a stupendous sight, and Bo gasped, thrilled and trembling. From this amazing vantage point, he could see the deep gorge the river had carved through the jagged mountains like a great gash in the top of the cliff. The whole tremendous rush of river shot out into the air and plummeted in an endless profusion of white foam, spray, and vapor clouds. It was beyond description, more beautiful than anything one could ever imagine.

          Bo could scarcely breathe. HE'D DONE IT! He shouted his triumph and joy into the wind, crying out to the very skies of his childhood. He was back from the depths of the jungle! He knew that from this height he could easily sail over the jagged mountains and glide all the way home!

          "I made it!" he cried more and more jubilantly. "I MADE IT! Goodbye, you jungle trees! Goodbye, you icy, wonderful cone mountain! Goodbye, you monkeys, birds, and beasts! I'M GOING HOME!!"

                  

* * * * * * *

 

Once again Bo's Mother stood watching out over the river. She would have to stop this, she told herself weakly. It was foolish to keep hoping, foolish to keep a dream alive that was so utterly hopeless. In a few hours it would be bedtime and she still had much to do. She chided herself for wasting strength pining for that which was lost forever, she realized. It only prolonged the pain.  

          Bo's mother turned and watched the other children playing happily on the beach. One was pointing up to the sky crying, "Look! Look!" This caused all the children to look up, as did she. Far above the village an enormous green bird was circling in the sky.

 

          Children began crying, alarming their mothers who ran to them while others came out of their homes to see. All over the village the people stopped what they were doing and gathered to watch the giant bird. Some were curious, some awe struck, others filled with fear. Was it seeking its prey? Watch the children! Better grab a weapon...just in case!

          The giant creature orbited the village in a great spiral. It seeming to grow larger and larger with each circle of descent. Anxious mothers gathered their children and took them inside where they would be safe from the flying beast. Other children ignored their mothers' cries, for they were too fascinated to obey. Had anyone ever seen such a bird?

As it grew closer, Old Man Schmoe dropped his jaw in amazement. "Why, it's not a bird! Its...!" He closed his mouth. Better let them see for themselves, he decided.

          In one last, great spiral the creature flew out over the river, then cruised in toward the beach. Suddenly they saw what they hadn't seen before. Funny, human-looking legs stretched out below the creature! As it approached the beach, the wings slowly flared upward, and pulled down gradually bringing the bird to a near halt. Then it settled gently and softly to the ground.

          The people gasped in wonder. How could so graceful a creature be dangerous? Suddenly out from under it stepped Bohideus.

          "BOHIDEUS!? How could this BE?!!" they murmured. "Bohideus is back from the dead!"

          Bo staggered away from the glider. The people easily recognized him now, although he had changed quite bit. He was a good many inches taller than they remembered him, and his arms and shoulders much more filled out. The fragments of clothing remaining about his loins weren't much to speak of. He hadn't thought about that, and hoped he was still decent.    

          With each step he took, the trying days, weeks, and months of his ordeal ebbed away. Was this real? Was he actually here? Or was it a dream? Would he wake up to the chattering of monkeys?

          Bo suddenly felt shy as he walked toward the people of his village. He had been alone too long. He was overcome with emotion, and didn't notice the girls curiously eyeing his torso. His skin had browned, his waste narrowed, and his shoulders broadened. He had developed strong, sinewy muscles in his desperate struggles, and become a man.

          Bo's eyes sparkled eagerly as he scanned the crowd for his parents and Schmoe. He grinned from ear to ear while the villagers gathered around him, some cheering, others silent, dumbstruck with awe. They were quick to observe a strong, mature face and jaw, firmly set with the sternness of bare survival. Old Man Schmoe stood among them quietly, proudly admiring Bo. Only he recognized the self-assurance and strength of purpose of one who has soared with the eagles through the sky.

          Bo's mother staggered. She caught herself against a tree stump and shook her head in disbelief. His father rushed toward him and caught him, for he saw Bo's legs wobble weakly and nearly collapse. Father wept with joy as he hoisted Bo in his arms and carried him to his mother.

          "A miracle has brought our son down from the sky!" she gasped. Her arms closed around him as she whispered, "A miracle has brought him from the Land of the Dead!"

          Bo was dazed by the sounds of human voices and the joyful confusion surrounding him. It was wonderful, but too much to take in all at once. It had been so long since he had heard human speech that he barely understood their words. He stammered in broken sentences trying to answer their questions, but soon gave up. Instead, he leaned his head against his mother's bosom and allowed himself to cry. He was too old for that sort of thing, Bo thought, but he didn't care. He was loved, he was cared for, and he belonged to somebody. He was home.

          Soon Bo was snatched from his mother's arms, and lifted above the heads of the crowd. He caught a glimpse of Old Man Schmoe's face among the cheering villagers. Schmoe's eyes always twinkled with new adventures and delights. Now Bo would have his own stories to tell. But not tonight. Tonight Schmoe would leave Bo to his family reunion...and to badly needed food and rest.

          Smothered with hugs and kisses, pampered and well fed, Bohideus slipped into a clean, soft bed. He slept like a babe while his mother stroked his hair, unwilling to let him out of her sight. Bo slept, and slept, and slept some more...he was so very tired...and while he slept, he dreamt of flying. And of the jungle he had left behind and was already beginning to miss.

The End

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