BOHIDEUS:CHAPTER IX

THE ICE MOUNTAIN

By Warren Scott Foster

Illustrated by Adrienne Potter  

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            It took Bo weeks to construct his glider. First he built several small models and tested them. Next he built a half-scale model, scaring a poor monkey half to death by sending him for a test flight. Catching the monkey had been no easy task. Strapping him in his seat had been harder still. All the jungle must have heard the monkey scream as Bo launched him off one tall tree. That glider had no controls, since the monkey wouldn't know how to use them even if it did. But it sailed beautifully through the air until it crash landed in the treetops far away. The little monkey grabbed a vine, as Bo knew it would, and struggled its way out of the straps. Away it scampered, furiously angry with Bo, but quite unhurt. Bo felt ashamed that he had taken advantage of his little friend, and promised himself not to experiment with the animals again.

          Next Bo built a full-sized glider. It was long and tedious work. The only tool he had was his knife...which by now could have used a good sharpening. After all, he had to make everything from scratch by himself. He cut, whittled, and shaped the wood. He whittled clever little notches in the ends of various parts, gluing them together with tree sap and lashing them with twine. He braided his own twine with the strong fibers of jungle vines. He used the same twine for sewing a double layer of leaves all around the wing frames. He invented, discarded, and reinvented several moving parts. The controls required hours of designing and testing to make sure everything worked properly.

          At last it was finished, and Bo was immensely proud of his new aircraft. Now that it was done, there were a few small details he thought he might have done better, but this one would do. How he wished Schmoe could see him take his first test flight!

          Bo had assembled the parts of the glider on an uppermost branch of one of the tallest trees in the jungle. Now he carried it out to the farthest reaches of that branch. His heart pounded with excitement and his breath came quickly as he fitted himself into position. All was ready now, he realized. He was HOMEWARD BOUND!

          Bo paused to look out over the jungle below. He was going to fly! Really fly! He hesitated, then fought back the fear. Well, it's now or never! he decided. With one giant leap he shoved himself into the air, then swung into the seat.

          Bo's heart leapt to his throat when under his weight the glider dropped straight down. Then, as it reached its proper airspeed, the great green wings caught the air. The glider pulled up and leveled off into nearly horizontal flight. Bo strapped a vine across his lap to hold him in the seat. He was flying! He was really flying!

          Bo whooped for joy! He was sailing through the air like a giant bird! If only his mother and father could see him now! Just think how proud Schmoe would be of his student! And what would his friends think?! He couldn't wait to see their faces. How he would love to sail his hang glider over the village and wave at some of the girls. What would they think of him now?! "I'm flying!" he shouted. "Look here, you birds and butterflies! I'm flying!" He heard bird calls and monkeys screeching below him in the trees.

          Bo tested the controls. He turned left, then right, dove down to pick up speed, then pulled up, actually climbing in altitude until he lost his speed. He couldn't pull the glider much higher than where he started, but when he found the right vertical wind currents, he was sure he would be able to do so. He turned for a long time in one direction, spiraling in a great soaring circle like an eagle, then turned back and circled the other way. Some of the controls needed some improvements, but they worked!

          Suddenly the glider caught an unexpected gust of wind, and before he could respond, Bo was upside down. He tried to fight the controls but everything was too confusing. The whole world looked different! Where there should have been white or golden sky was green forest, and the sky was where the forest was used to be! 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. He could no longer tell which way was up or down or sideways. Why is the whole world spinning like that? he gasped. It quickly became a bewildering blur of flashing green, white, and finally, black.

          Bo awoke to a pounding feeling in his ears and an aching head. Everything was upside down. He was sitting in his seat with blood from his nose dripping straight up. Straight up into the darkness of the jungle? That doesn't make sense! he thought in a confused daze. As he struggled to clear his mind, he realized he was hanging upside down. His glider was caught in the brush of a suspended tree garden. One wing was completely broken off. The other was in just enough shreds to hold his seat attached in place. It was the vine across his lap that had kept Bo from falling out.

          Carefully he found some branches to hold onto, unfastened himself, and climbed out of the glider. He sat down and rested his elbows on his knees, his aching head in his hands, and fought off tears. He had tried so hard! And it had really worked! At least for a little while. But it was not enough. It was never going to get him home. Discouraged and sore, he laid his aching head down and fell asleep.

          Bo felt better when he awoke, and after a quick breakfast he felt better still. "Back to the drawing board," he said, using Schmoe's favorite expression, immediately going to work on glider number two. Hang glider. That's what Schmoe had called it! Hang glider! Bo had learned a few things on the first glider, and knew that this one would be far superior. Again it took weeks to build, but he knew what he was doing this time, and did it much better. Every detail was perfect. Every shortcut was avoided in favor of the better way, no matter how much harder it was, no matter how much longer it took. Bo realized now more than ever that his life depended on it! He worked and reworked the controls until everything functioned perfectly, and at last it was finished. Bo had been proud of his first hang glider, but glider number two was a work of art.

          Bo launched again from the same tree branch, his heart pounding as it had before. This time he prepared himself for the sharp drop in altitude as he ran, leapt, and swung himself into the harness. Just as before, nothing could prepare him for the pure joy of flying. It worked beautifully! It flew so smoothly it seemed as if he floated in the wind, and it was wonderful.

          This time the flight lasted for nearly an hour before he ran out of altitude. The landing was a problem, more like a soft crash than a landing into some tree brush on a lower branch. He inspected the craft carefully, and was relieved to find no damage. Now he had another problem: How to get it back to the launch point?

          Days more were spent building hang glider number three. It was made mostly of parts from number two, but several pieces had to be made over again due to a small change in design. He was rigging number three so that it could be taken apart and put back together. Since his only fastener was lashing, it would take quite some time to disassemble and reassemble it. At least now it could be used over and over again, he hoped. Once it was finished, Bo took several flights, but for each flight he needed a whole day to take it apart, carry the parts back up the tree, and put it back together again at the launching point. Small price to pay, he decided. It was worth it!

          For days he practiced until he could soar for hours on the air currents. He learned to recognize the dangerous down drafts that could pull him down to destruction. Soon he found that for every down draft, somewhere else there was an updraft. He learned to find these updrafts, and to circle in them higher and higher until he ended up higher than where he started. Before long he could fly far above the jungle! With that mastered, he could land at, or higher than, the place he had taken off! This saved him from the long, hard work of disassembling the glider and hauling it back up to the launch point. Now he was able to spend most of his time flying!

          Bo practiced making tight turns and sharp maneuvers. As his skill increased, so did his confidence. Soon he could spiral in circles and figure eights. Eventually he even learned to turn upside down and roll all the way over in a barrel roll. His favorite thing, though, was flying in loops. "Ha! HA! No wind is going to make me crash now!" he whooped and hollered into the wind as he loop the looped above a treetop filled with screeching monkeys.       

          Bo was astonished at how quickly he could travel the distances when he was above the forest. In just a few minutes he could travel as far as it would have taken him days to go by hand and foot in the forest treetops. One day he managed to ride an updraft so high that he coasted all the way back to the great cliff. It had taken him weeks of misery to make that journey before, and now he could do it in less than an hour! He breathed a great sigh of relief as he realized he would never again have to make that terrible trek.

          When he reached the cliff he found exactly what he had hoped he would find. The prevailing wind reached the cliff, and having no place else to go, turned upward. It was a slow but steady giant updraft. He cruised down the length of the cliff, away from the ice mountain, keeping the cliff a little to his left and the vast jungle below him on his right. As he flew, the warm rising air lifted him ever higher. It took only a couple of hours until he was as high as it had taken him days to climb when he had attempted to climb the cliff a few months before. Now it was an almost effortless ride. His plan would work! He knew he could make it now! No longer did Bo struggle with self-doubt and fear of failure. He was going home!    But not today. Even this was only a small part of the climb he had to make. This was just practice. Bo was tired, and hungry and thirsty. He would come back better prepared. It might take days to fly to the top. There would be no place to land and no place to rest until he reached the very top. He would just have to do without sleep for however long it took. But he would be well rested when he began, and would take plenty of fruits and nuts for the trip.

          Bo turned back in the direction he had come. The cliff was on his right now. It was fun to see how fast he could glide along it, rising up the cliff soaring higher and higher. The jungle was a beautiful sea of green. Bo couldn't resist shouting with joy. A flock of small birds flew curiously toward him, then turned and flitted away with alarm. What's this? they seemed to screech and cry as they scattered and flew away. What strange creature is in the sky? What strange creature is going to devour us?

          Bo was flying like an eagle and loving it. His arms ached from manning the controls. Before the big trip he would have to rig a better way of locking his arms into place so that he could rest. He enjoyed flying so much that he had trouble convincing himself to start descending. After all, that was the most difficult part. He had to save his strength so that he wouldn't become too tired to land.

          A little more won't hurt, Bo decided as he happily drank in the spectacular view. He sighed in contentment and did another loop the loop. This time, as he leveled the glider he suddenly saw it, and his stomach leaped to his throat. Far out over the jungle the clouds were gathering and thickening. A storm was building up. Quickly! He must start down now before it was too late!          Suddenly Bo saw the ice mountain before him, almost directly below! He had paid too much attention to the view, and not enough keeping track of where he was. Bo froze. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. It was an awesome sight. It seemed strange to have a bird's eye view of the ice mountain from so seemingly safe a position. An entire mountain of deep blue glacial ice! Bo allowed himself a moment to look more closely. The surface was marred by cracks and crevices, and scattered about it were great chunks of shattered icebergs that had landed there. Near the edges of the ice mountain a thick fog formed, flowing down and away from it in every direction accept the cliff side, which was piled high with ice. The fog shrouded the mountain like a mysterious, eery veil. Every so often through a break in the fog, Bo could see a beautiful crystal blue lake lying at the bottom of the ice mountain. At the far end of the lake, a large blue river flowed off into the distance, disappearing in the jungle.

          Out of the corner of his eye Bo saw the cliff, off to his right. He turned, startled, realizing instantly that something was wrong! The cliff was moving up very rapidly. No! HE was moving DOWN! He looked quickly up at the wings and frantically tested his controls. Everything worked perfectly, but the cliff face still rushed upward as he sunk downward past it.

          Usually bumps and jerks of air turbulence warned Bo of down drafts, but this one had begun so gradually that he hadn't noticed it. He was almost directly over the

ice mountain now, and suddenly he realized what was happening. The ice mountain was so huge that it acted like a giant freezer, cooling all the air surrounding it. As the air cooled, it grew heavy and sunk. Of course, the warm air above it would move in to take its place where it, too, would cool and sink. This created one gigantic down draft that reached for miles above the ice blue mountain.

          Of course, this down draft meant there were great updrafts of warm air rising from the jungle to make room for, and take the place of, the air that sunk with the down draft. These updrafts were what had given Bo so many pleasant hours of gliding. But there were none to help him now! He was descending very rapidly, almost as fast as one would fall. Bo caught his breath as he realized his fearful position. At this rate, he may not be able to glide past the ice mountain and out the other side of the down draft. He pulled with all his might, turning the glider out away from the cliff toward the jungle. Then his heart froze with fear. The clouds had gathered into a great wall of a thunderstorm rushing toward the cliff.

          Bo forced himself to calm down and to consider his options. He quickly realized that there would be powerful down drafts around the storm and a fierce updraft inside it. In fact, that was the kind of storm that he had once thought would give him a ride to the top of the cliff. He had given the idea up, though, when he realized that his light craft would be no match for the forces of wind sheer unleashed by such a storm. He had decided that a gradual, controlled ascent of the cliff would be much safer.

          A flash of lightning followed by a sharp report of thunder helped Bo make up his mind. No storm for me! he breathed, and turned away from the storm toward the ice mountain. He knew he would have to glide across to the other side of the down draft.

          Suddenly there was a great WHOOSH, and the air shook him violently. The glider nearly buckled and began tumbling out of control. Bo fought the controls until he had the nose pointed nearly straight down, then pulled back up into level flight. "What was that?!" he gasped as he finally regained control. A gigantic crashing noise, louder than thunder, bellowed up from below. An iceberg! It had fallen past him, barely missing his glider! Bo was right under the waterfall!

          He quickly turned back toward the thunderstorm, away from the path of the tumbling glacier ice. He had no choice but to take his chance with the storm. On one side was the cliff, and behind him was the ice mountain. He had lost too much altitude now to glide passed it in the down draft, even if there were NO icebergs falling from the sky! With the cliff on his left, he nosed downward and tried to descend, hoping to get down before the storm hit. It was no use. Great drops of rain swirled around the glider, then blew upward past him. No matter how much he tried to nose down, he still climbed in the force of the updraft. It sucked him up into the black clouds, swirling and churning him beyond all control. First the small craft turned over. Bo managed to roll it upright. Then it was forced over again! The wind jerked and yanked it until Bo and his glider were rolling and spinning in the air.

          Higher and higher he was thrown, all the while tumbling and spinning. Everything was a noisy, confusing blur. Sharp crashes of thunder deafened his ears. He became dizzy and sick to his stomach, losing his lunch of fruits and berries. Bo clung desperately to the controls, grateful for the strong vine that held him strapped in the seat. Finally, with one strong shake the wind snapped his wings. They bent straight up like a butterfly landing, still attached to each other by the control vines. And Bo fell. He fell, and fell, and fell. Straight down.

          At least the sickness in his head and stomach went away as he stopped spinning and tumbling. "Well, I tried," he thought sadly. He had given it a good effort and overcome a lot of obstacles. There was no way out of this one. So it had all come down to this. No! He had faced death and won too many times to give up now! He had to find a way out of this. Surrounded on all sides, above and below, by thick clouds, he could see nothing else. He had no idea where he was falling. But the broken wings were still attached to each other, and he was still attached to them. They could no longer be controlled like a glider, but if he could somehow get one or both of them to turn flat, they might act as a parachute to slow his fall!

          The right wing was in better shape than the left one, which was tattered and torn. Bo cut the vine that strapped him in his seat with his knife, and frantically climbed toward the right wing. He didn't know how high he was, or how much time he had until impact. He only knew that there would be no soft jungle below to cushion his fall this time, for he had been above the mountains at the foot of the great cliff.

          The sheer force of the wind against him told Bo that he was falling very rapidly and didn't have much time. Grasping the dangling control vines and the broken wing struts, he pulled himself up the side of the wing. The shift in his weight threw the whole contraption off balance, and again it began tumbling. Wind screamed in his ears and sucked his breath away. The world was a spinning, swirling mass of dark, blurry grays and greens. Bo forced hand over hand along the right wing, his feet flailing below him and sometimes above as the glider sprawled through the air. At last he reached the center of the top side of the wing where he spread his arms wide, grasping the wooden struts of the wing frame as wide as his hands would reach. It worked! It slowed so abruptly Bo thought his arms would be yanked right out of their sockets as the wing pulled back almost flat above him. The center and the left wing flapped and beat off to one side and the whole mess rocked and spun, but he had slowed down his fall, at least a little.

          Suddenly Bo fell free from the clouds. He had barely slowed down in time! He was just a few hundred feet in the air, holding on for dear life to a flimsy wood and leaf strut. Directly below was the great ice mountain! No sooner did he see it than another huge iceberg crashed into the mountain not far away, sounding like a thousand cannons firing at once. The roar was deafening. Even the echo that came off the cliff seconds later shook the mountain and sent Bo's wing fluttering and spinning worse than before. He righted himself again as a billion shards of sparkling ice shattered hundreds of feet in all directions.

          Bo braced himself for impact. The wing had slowed him enough that he hoped he wouldn't die. If he was lucky, he might even escape serious injury, but he was coming down onto a mountainside of solid blue ice. He slammed into its steep side and instantly began sliding uncontrollably down the slippery ice. He tried at first to hang onto the glider for its stabilizing influence. But there were many bumps in the mountainside, and he was sliding so fast that the bumps kept hurtling him into the air. Soon he lost his grip on the glider. He managed to upright himself, sliding on his rump with his feet spread wide below him. His hands spread out at his sides trying futilely to grab a hand hold as he slid with frightening speed down the smooth face of the cone-shaped mountain of ice.

          Soon the skin was scraped the skin off Bo's bare hands and feet, leaving a trail of red behind him, but he was too frightened to feel the pain. Even more frightening was what was up ahead. A huge, gaping crevice opened up maybe two or three hundred feet below. Bo clawed at the ice trying to stop. It was no use. He shot over the edge of the crevice into the air, and down inside. His body slammed against the nearly vertical wall of the crevice, knocking his breath away. Too stunned to feel a thing, down he slid into the bluish empty blackness far below.

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