Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Marcus followed June from the school after class, across the back field, up over the train tracks, and down the other side into the woods.
“Where are we going?” He struggled to keep up, his backpack catching on a branch as she forged on ahead with determined certainty.
“You’ll see”, was her reply, not missing a step.
They walked through the forest for nearly an hour, she seemingly certain of the way, though there was no trail Marcus could make out. June was always better at finding paths, and he couldn’t help worry a little about getting separated and not being able to find his way back.
“How much farther?” He huffed, the exertion starting to wear on him.
“Not long”, the non-committal reply.
He shrugged his backpack further up his shoulders and trudged on behind her the rest of the way in silence.
The trees cleared abruptly at the edge of a ravine, and they slid down the incline to a wide river bed. Water rushed from around a corner upstream to slow in a wider pool where they were standing, before disappearing around another bend a little further downstream.
“Here”, June instructed, “watch this.”
She gathered a few fist-sized rocks and climbed along the boulders and fallen logs that lined the river bank until she reached a flat rocky outcrop, where she dumped the rocks in a pile, then waited for Marcus to join her.
“See that dark spot on the water, there?” She pointed to a shady patch where the water was caught up in a pocket behind the outcrop they stood on, forming an eddy and turning back against the current. “Watch.”
She tossed a rock into the middle of the slowly revolving circle of water. It disappeared without a sound.
“Now look up there,” she pointed upstream as a rock fell from thin air into the river with an audible splash easily ten meters away from where she had dropped it.
Marcus stared for a long minute.
“I don’t get it. Do that again.”
He watched carefully as June picked up another fist-sized rock and dropped it into the eddy.
They both stared upriver together for a few moments before a rock fell again out of thin air into the middle of the river.
Marcus stood speechless. This was scratching a part of his brain that didn’t like being scratched.
When he turned around, June had stripped off her shoes, socks, and pants.
“I’m going through”, she announced, and without another word, and before he could protest, she jumped into the water, again without a sound, leaving not even a ripple.
Marcus stared upstream and waited. She should have appeared by now. The rocks had come through right away, hadn’t they?
June landed with a thump, not in the river, not even in water, but in a hole. She stood, slightly sore from the fall, and raised herself on tiptoes to see over the side.
A creature sat, hunkered down on all fours a few meters away, staring at her with wide, unblinking eyes, its lips peeling back in a vulgar smile around a mouthful of teeth.
Beside it was a pile of fist-sized rocks.
Behind her, a rock fell out of the air, landing with a thump in the hole where she stood.
The creature picked up a rock from its own pile, and with a sound almost like a chuckle tossed it into a hole in the ground at its feet.