BOHIDEUS: CHAPTER VI

THE CLIMB  

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By Warren Scott Foster

Illustrated by Adrienne Potter

Bo sat and thought. Was he really stuck here? Could he climb up the sides of the island...the tree? Bo cautiously allowed himself the thought. Could it be done? It would be pitch dark on the way up, and almost straight up. For several miles, at least! And there was at least one big panther up there that considered him fair game. There were giant snakes and bugs and other creatures which also considered him prey, not to mention waterfalls running down the sides of the tree.

"But I'm tough!" Bohideus cried aloud, shaking his fist at the jungle, desperately trying to convince himself. "Who else has gone over the great waterfall at the end of the world and lived to tell about it? Who else ever fell off a cliff a hundred miles high without a scratch? I WILL climb this tree!" he cried. "I WILL!"

 

     

                      And so he began. First Bo took some flower stems and wove them into a net-like knapsack. Then he gathered some glowing mushrooms and peeled their outside layers off with his knife. The mushrooms were as tall as he was, and it only took a couple to fill his knapsack. He didn't yet know if the mushrooms would be safe to eat, but their skins glowed bright enough to light his way. Bo knew he would have to hope for some food on the way up if this took very many days. But now he had light, at least, and he started along the top of one of the ridges in the bark, slowly making his way back up the tree.

          Bo walked, jumped, scrambled, and walked some more, changing ridges once to avoid a snake, until the tree slope grew so steep he had to begin climbing. Mushrooms, flowers, and other plants grew within the bark, providing hand holds and footholds. And there was always moss to hold onto. Soon he came upon a large muskrat-like rodent nibbling on a mushroom. The muskrat scampered away, very frightened by this enormous creature it had never seen before. Bo decided that if the mushroom was safe for a muskrat, it would be safe for him...he hoped. He tasted it. Not bad! He made a fast meal of it, stored several pieces in his knapsack, and resumed his climb.

          When Bo became tired, he hid himself in bushes growing in a hollow of the bark. He dug a hole in the bark dirt and spread leaves over it. Then he curled up, pulling the bushy branches down to hide him from hungry animals. The leaves would keep him from falling as well, and he quickly he fell asleep.

          Bo awoke a while later, and ate a mushroom breakfast. Or at least he presumed it was breakfast. There was no way to be sure this deep in the jungle. When he was finished, once again he began his climb. The tree grew steeper and steeper, almost straight up now, as it would be for the rest of the journey. There were nearly always things growing out of the bark to hold onto. At times he was forced to use the bark itself for hand holds, using his knife to carve out hand and footholds. The climb was very slow. Bo didn't want to fall again. His biggest fear was not the fall itself, but knowing he would have to climb all this way again.

          Higher and higher he climbed, for days and days, it seemed. For Bohideus a day was the time in between sleeping, which he did whenever he was tired since he had no sunrise or sunset to measure the time. Bo was constantly on the watch for places where he could lodge himself without fear of falling. Fortunately there were many places where the bark of the tree trunk jutted out and up, forming little steps for climbing, and ledges upon which he could sleep. Often he chased other small creatures away from such refuges so that he himself could use them. He rested when he was tired, ate when he was hungry, drank when he was thirsty, and slept only when he was sleepy. Time was of little concern. His only hurry was to get the task over with, and then to find some way of getting home again.

          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. It was hard to see, harder still to climb, and even harder to find safe places to rest. Always Bo had to be holding onto something for fear of his life. Once he became so sleepy that he drove his knife into the bark, then tied his knapsack to the bark and to himself so that he could sleep without falling.

          After what seemed like forever in the darkness, and as his glowing mushrooms had all but faded away, at last Bo began to see a faint glimmer of greenish light here and there in the darkness above. It was getting lighter! And there were his trusty vines. "I made it!" Bo gasped breathlessly, stretching his weary limbs. It would take more than weariness to keep Bohideus down now. His body was sore, and he was sick of climbing. But only a little higher and he would be able to grab the vines. From then on the climbing was as rapid as he had the strength and breath for. Two days later he was back in his favorite part of the jungle, eating his favorite fruits and nuts, and jubilantly celebrating his return. It wasn't home, but it almost seemed like it.

          Bo rested for several days, lounging by a leaf pool, drinking pure, clear rain water, and eating delicious fruits, berries, and bird eggs. Once he was well rested, he found he could leap through the trees and climb the vines almost as well as the monkeys! The long, difficult climb had made Bohideus very strong. And a little wiser..

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