BOHIDEOUS: CHAPTER VII

THE GREAT CLIFF  

by Warren Scott Foster 

illustrated by Adrienne Potter

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            Bohideus slowly grew accustomed to his jungle home. His life there became easier and easier. He soon found that he was developing the strength and agility of a monkey, while enjoying the intelligence of a human. It was a wonderful, luxurious life with plenty to do and plenty of places to explore. Adventure was everywhere, with exciting new creatures to meet, plants to discover, and sights to see that were beautiful beyond description. Bo would have been completely happy here except for one thing. He was lonely. He missed his family and his friends, and the other people of his village. He had always enjoyed going off by himself, exploring and seeking adventure, but he had always had a place to come back to, and someone to share his stories with. Here in the jungle Bo hardly ever slept in the same place twice. He had no possessions except his ragged, tattered loin cloth and the faithful knife he wore at his side. There was plenty of natural shelter, and it was always nice and warm. There was simply no need to store food or water, for it was all around for the taking. Neither was there a need for a roof over his head. The problem with this luxury is that he didn't have any home to come home to. He didn't belong any place. There was no place to retire to, no one to report to, no one to care.

          Bo wished desperately for someone to share the jungle with. Wouldn't it be great if Old Man Schmoe were here! he sighed one day. Now Bo would have his own stories to tell. And the things he could now tell the other villagers would convince them that Schmoe had been right all along. Maybe.

          Sometimes, strange as it may seem, Bo found himself thinking about the girls in the village. He had not been too interested in them before, but as the months passed by, he often caught his mind wandering to some of the girls his own age. What would they look like now? And what would they think of Bo? He thought he might have grown a bit these past few months. At least, his arms and legs seemed wider with muscles. Would they notice his strong muscles? Or his monkey-like speed and agility? Would they listen with wonder and awe when he told them of his amazing adventures beyond the great

waterfall? Or would they laugh with scorn? But alas, there were no girls here, and Bo didn't know if he would ever see his village--or any other human-- again.

          Oh, well, he sighed as he munched on a banana, puckering his lips as if it were sour grapes. They'd probably think the same of me as they do Schmoe. They'd call us Crazy Bo and Old Man Schmoe. They'll never believe the things I've seen.

          Still, it just wouldn't do. He couldn't live here all alone the rest of his life! Yet he knew that nobody was going to rescue him. It was completely up to him. Somehow he had to make it back to the top of the great cliff. He had traveled to the bottom of the jungle with just that in mind, but down there he had found traveling impossible. Well, he would just have to do his traveling up here. From branch to branch, vine to vine, tree to tree he would travel through the tops of the jungle.

          His mind made up, Bo spent the next several days travelling gradually through the trees toward the great cliff. There was no hurry. He simply worked his way in that direction during the course of his hunting, berry picking, and exploring. Every once in a while he would venture to the top of the forest to make sure he was going in the right direction. He didn't travel straight toward the cliff, however, for that would have taken him to the big, icy blue, cone-shaped mountain. Instead, he moved at an angle that would take him toward the cliff far to the side of the ice mountain.

          After many days he neared the base of the cliff. The trees were much smaller here. They were still huge, at least a Schmoe mile high, but small compared to the giants he had lived on farther out in the jungle. Bo soon saw that the cliff didn't simply drop straight into flat jungle. There were hills and mountains at the bottom. He sensed that he was gradually moving up hill, but he wasn't certain. It was difficult to tell from the tops of the trees. Bo loved moving through the forest jungle like a monkey or a squirrel, traveling from tree to tree. But he wondered if there was still water at the base of the tall trees.

          From the tree tops he could see the cliff and mountains clearly now. He also saw the great blue ice mountain towering off to one side. Often he heard a deep rumbling like gigantic thunderclaps as the huge icebergs from the river up above came crashing onto the ice mountain. The forest trees grew shorter and shorter--or the ground beneath grew steeper and steeper--as he approached the mountains, until he could see that the trees grew to heights more normal for jungle trees. Higher up the mountains Bo could see open meadows. It had been months since his feet had touched Mother Earth. Or Schmecleosis 2, as Schmoe called it. How he looked forward to walking on solid ground!

          Turning in the other direction, Bo looked far out over the jungle. He was higher than most of it now. It stretched for miles and miles like a great green ocean of plant life, disappearing in a steamy greenish haze in the distance. Bo bid a fond goodbye to the jungle and turned to face the mountains. Still he swung from tree to tree with the aid of his hanging vines. Finally he reached a point where it was too difficult to go from one tree to the next. Time to go down, he decided.

          Climbing to the jungle floor was not the ordeal it had been deep within the jungle forest. This was partly because he was better at jumping, swinging, and climbing than before, but mostly it was because he didn't have anywhere near as far to go. It took less than an hour to reach the bottom. It was dark here, but not the pitch blackness he had to pass through before. Still, Bo was wary. He had not forgotten the great, panther like creature he had met before. As he reached the floor of the jungle his heart pounded with excitement. Finally he touched the ground! Not since he climbed in his canoe on that fateful day so many months ago had he walked on solid earth. And this ground was dry! Well, actually it was quite moist, but at least it wasn't a lake or a swamp. It was simply good old dirt!

          Now Bo found he had another problem. He hadn't seen it coming because it was difficult to see in the darkness. As soon as he started walking, though, Bo realized that it was even harder to move through the thick bushes down here than it was up high in the trees. The jungle underbrush was a growth of grasses, plants, and larger shrubs, tangled with bushes and vine-like trees interwoven with brambles and thorny, needle-sharp branches. Walking was next to impossible. It would have been easier to walk through prison bars and barbed wire fences, had there been such things on Schmecleosis 2. Bo tried to cut his way through the barrier of brambles with his knife, but it took an hour to progress only a few foot spans.

          He found a branch, leveraged it between two tree trunks, and broke the end off. He then tried beating his way through the brush, using the broken end for a club. This was a little better than the knife, but still slow going. Next he tried lying on his belly and slithering like a snake beneath the brush. This was the fastest way so far, but still terribly slow. He had gone only a short distance before he was caked in mud, moss, and squashed bugs. His back, arms, and legs were scratched and bleeding from the thorns.

          This jungle is a prison! he thought as he wiped his wounds. I will never escape it! I am foolish even to try! Fear began to take over Bo's mind as he allowed his thoughts to wander. The villagers had long since forgotten him anyway, or at least given him up for dead. By now they were going about business as usual. He would never make it back, and would quickly fade from their memories.

          Bo choked back his discouragement. "My family will never forget me!" he cried aloud. "I knew this would be tough when I started. But I am Bohideus and I can do what I set out to do! I went over the great falls and lived! I escaped an attack by a great panther! I survived a fall to the fathomless depths of the jungle!" It was hard work trying to convince himself, but Bo knew he must or he would fail. Slowly he dug himself out of the pit of despair. "I fought off the creatures of the deep and climbed all the way back up again! I learned to take care of myself and live as well as the monkeys in the tops of the trees! 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!"

          Shaking with rage and determination, Bo picked up his club and began beating frantically at the brambles. He swung, hit, crashed, and stumbled his way through the thicket for hours. At last he collapsed on the ground, exhausted, sweating, bleeding, his lungs heaving for air. He wanted to cry like a little child, but he was too tired, and crying was too much work. Gradually his breathing slowed and he fell asleep.

          Bo slept for hours, waking to the pangs of hunger in his stomach. Bugs were crawling in his hair, tickling softly as they scrambled over his back and legs. He stretched his tired, aching muscles, shook himself, and brushed off the bugs, blinking sleepily in the darkness. It took a few moments to remember where he was. Bo realized that he was no longer even sure which was the right direction to travel.

          He looked around for something to eat, but brambles and thorns didn't seem very appetizing. He had been fighting an idea, but now he had to accept it. He had come down from the treetops too soon. He would have to climb back up to the top of the forest jungle. As difficult as the travel was up there, anything was better than this miserable place.

          It was a long, hungry, thirsty climb, and took a full, tiring day to reach the top. It gradually grew lighter, and Bo was glad to get back to brightness of the light high up in the trees. The first thing he did was to find some delicious bananas to eat, and juicy guavas and oranges to quench his thirst. He slept again, ate again, and finally continued his journey. It was tough going, but at least now he could see.

          Bo searched for vines to swing from one tree to the next, and when none could be found, he would climb lower or higher, searching for another way. Sometimes he had to go backwards and find other connections through neighboring trees. Once or twice he took a risky, breath-taking leap to reach a branch or vine in the next tree. This is dumb, Bo chided himself. What good will it do to miss a vine and be dashed to death on the ground? He vowed to be play it safe.

          Still, it was much easier going than it had been in the gloomy depths below. As he moved ever closer to the mountains, the trees became shorter and shorter and he found himself becoming closer and closer to the ground. The brush growing among the trees grew more thick while the branches grew thinner and more flimsy. The trees were no longer great highways in the sky. Instead their wobbly branches bent and even broke under his weight. Once again Bo climbed to the very top of a tree to get his bearing. This time he saw something that made him leap for joy. A giant tree had tipped over! A huge wide tree trunk hundreds of feet in diameter had fallen into the jungle, stretching horizontally in exactly the direction he was going! Bo saw that it had happened few enough years ago that it was not yet overgrown with brush. It had to be at least a mile in length, and he cheered as he saw that it reached almost to the mountainside!

          When Bo finally reached the tree, it took only a few minutes to jog the entire length of it. He climbed down, and worked his way through the brush, until suddenly he found himself standing on solid ground.

          "I made it! I ACTUALLY MADE IT!" he gasped, then cheered, whooped, and hollered like a school boy. Well, he WAS a school boy. At least he used to be...

The trees and plant life became more like a normal forest jungle growing on the mountainside. It was not an easy hike, but compared to what he had just passed through it was a walk in the park.

          Every once in a while Bo came to a wide open meadow, plush with tall green grasses and flowers. He hooted in delight, sprinting through the grasses, half laughing, half crying as he realized there was no of falling out of a tree! He was actually on the ground! It had been so long since he had walked or run any place...except on the great tree branches, of course!

          Bo had more close calls with wild animals, and various obstacles to pass, but they were mild compared to everything else. In a few days he reached the top of the slope at the edge of the jungle, and stood at the bottom of the Great Cliff. He leaned back as far as he could, looking upward. Straight up. It towered far above him, higher and higher, so far that it nearly faded away in the distance. Over a hundred miles high it was, Schmoe had said. Bo couldn't begin to see that far, of course, before the cliff disappeared in the clouds.

          Once again Bo began to fight despair. Had he come all this way thinking the cliff was his goal? His final destination? He realized now that his journey was hardly begun. Now he had to climb that cliff.

Click here to read Chapter 8

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