CHAPTER III

THE JUNGLE  

by Warren Scott Foster 

illustrated by Adrienne Potter

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For a long while Bo crouched on the branch, gripping it with both hands, hardly daring to breathe as he felt himself slowly swaying in the air. He was dry and warm now. The air was steamy, and filled with the sounds of strange insects, birds, and other creatures. At last his mind began to work.

          I'm alive! he realized in surprise. "I can't believe it! I'm alive!" he gasped, then laughed outright. "I'm Alive!!!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. The noises around him ceased instantly, and for a moment he heard faint echoes of his own voice muffled in the distance. Slowly the jungle noises started up again as nature forgot his brief disturbance.

"I fell off a cliff a hundred miles high...and lived!" Bo breathed in amazement, then chuckled. His relief was short-lived, however, for in less than a few minutes he realized his problems had just begun. Bo was very hungry.  

 He was also terribly thirsty. And soon he realized that he was also painfully lonely. How am I ever going to get home again? he thought. The more immediate problem was how was he going to get down from the tree.

Bo looked around and thought for a while. The air was thick, warm, and humid. Above him there was no sky, but instead, a great canopy of leaves that glowed green in the brightness of the sky shining high above it. Below him was nothing but darkness, hinting of green, then brown, and finally black, where the canoe had fallen out of sight.

          Bo cautiously eased himself from the base of the leaf to the branch that supported it. He was not about to fall again! He crawled on his hands and knees along the thin branch until he reached a larger branch from which the first one grew. This branch was even more huge. It was bigger around and longer than any tree Bohideus had ever seen. The great branch reached out at an almost horizontal angle, and was so wide Bo could stand upright easily walk along it with no fear of losing his balance. Around him were other branches and leaves, all tangled and crisscrossed, growing so thickly that it would be impossible to climb through them. In some places the vegetation was so thick that dust and decaying plants had collected there to form clumps of earth. They were like tiny island gardens suspended in the air, covered with brush. Small bushes, flowers, and even trees, grew out of them. Many kinds of vines grew among the trees, their long runner-like stems seeming to reach forever. Other vines grew out of the little clumps of earth, connecting one earth clump to another, forming a tangled web of vines which veiled one tree from another.

          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. Delicate ferns grew out of the hanging earth gardens in all directions, their huge green fronds unrolling to many times Bo's height.

          Birds were everywhere, some large, some small, flitting about noisily while chasing insects and each other. Bo had never seen such vividly colored birds. One landed on a fern frond nearby, staring curiously at him. Bo quickly realized it had never seen a human before. It cocked its head sideways to study him, first with one eye, then, with a cock of its head, the other. It stood more than a foot tall on its perch. A huge orange and yellow beak nearly hid its beady black eyes, and long, brilliantly colored tail feathers of green, red, blue, and white curved upward, then drooped in a royal train. The bird's wings were several shades of sparkling, florescent green, and its breast was shaded in hues of red, purple, violet, and blue.

          Bo held his breath, awestruck by the bird's brilliant beauty as it gracefully leapt from the frond and glided out of sight. He soon realized that this was only one of numberless birds, each different, yet equally amazing. And there were butterflies, some with wings as long as Bo's arm, which fluttered by him lazily. Smaller butterflies moved through the flowers nearby, many even more colorful than the birds.

          Bo explored his branch, walking along it until he reached an even larger one from which it grew. If the branch he was on had been a trail, this larger branch was a great highway. It was so big around that it was like climbing a steep hill, and he was very weary when he reached the top. Once there, the branch nearly flattened on top as it gently curved away on both sides. Moss and dirt covered its entire length, and all along its surface grew its own separate forest of jungle plants! Even this forest was amazingly big and dense compared to the forests Bohideus had seen. Some of the trees growing off the great branch were so large that they, in turn, supported other suspended earth-islands, from which still other plants grew.

          Down the center of the great branch a natural trail stretched through the forest. Bo curiously walked along the branch, through this strange and unnatural jungle forest growing so high within the tree. He was ever cautious, fearful of what he might find. He soon found himself surrounded on all sides, above and below, by dark branches, green plants and leaves, and still more colorful birds, flowers, and butterflies. Gradually he realized that it was a three dimensional jungle, stretching out in all directions above, and below him, with no REAL ground surface anywhere in sight. Wildlife travelled in all directions, including up and down. Above him the leaves glowed with a pleasant green light from the sky, while below was little but shadowy darkness. Everywhere the jungle was swarming with plant and animal life.

          Bo's stomach growled fiercely as he wandered along the trail. There had to be food in a place like this. He looked hungrily at some of the larger birds, but knew he could never catch them. Bo stopped and looked around. A pair of bright, beady eyes stared at him from the brush on the side of the trail. Slowly he crept toward the creature. Suddenly it leapt from the underbrush with a noisy screech and chatter, and didn't stop until it reached a branch far above Bo's head. Bo had never seen or even heard of a monkey before, and he stared in amazement as the furry, man-shaped little creature hung from its tail and scolded him, still screeching and chattering.

          "I won't hurt you," Bo called out, eager for a friend. The monkey simply swung further up and scampered away, leaping from branch to branch until it was out of sight. Bo realized again that he was just as new to the creatures of this forest jungle as they were to him. None had ever seen a human. Suddenly the air around him was filled with chattering and screeching. The little monkey had returned with all its friends. They swung about wildly, hooting and screaming as they crisscrossed each other, flying through the air with great leaps as if to mock Bohideus.

          Bo watched them with delight. He had never imagined a flying trapeze act, but if he had, he was now seeing one that would put any circus to shame. Suddenly several monkeys jumped to the ground of the great branch which stretched before him. Slowly they began creeping toward him. First one advanced a short distance. Then it stopped and watched him as if to see if it had gotten away with something very naughty. Bo smiled. Soon another followed, not wishing to be outdone by the other. This one moved even closer. Soon others followed suit. Sometimes they all seemed to think they had gotten too close and would retreat all at once, screeching and hollering, only to start slowly advancing again. Bo laughed outright at their antics.

          Suddenly Bo noticed one of them chewing on something. He had never seen a banana before, but the long yellow fruit looked good enough to eat, and the gnawing in his stomach instantly grew worse. The little fellow moved ever closer until he was almost within reach. With a quick leap Bo lunged at the monkey, his hands outstretched to grab the banana, but the monkey was much too fast. Bo landed on his belly in the soft mossy grass on the branch, while in a flash the monkey was in a branch far above, screaming and scolding. Suddenly it swung its little arm and threw the banana. It hit Bo square in the face with a splat. Soon all the monkeys joined in, screeching and hooting, throwing the fruits they had brought with them.

          Bo took cover under the shrubs while he was showered with bananas, oranges, and other fruits, all kinds of nuts and berries, and even bird eggs. For a moment he thought he might be buried alive! The monkeys tired of the game eventually, and moved on, looking for other ways to play. What a feast they had left behind! Before long Bo was stuffed with delicious fruits and nuts. He stretched out in the warm soft grasses and went to sleep, to the pleasant noises of this strange, enchanting jungle. Glad to be alive yet weary and sad, he dreamed of home.

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