Tonight’s bedtime story is Chapter 6 from my book, “Fred: The Creature Sent To Save Us All.” This is an adventure story for ages 7 and up, with strong themes about environmental protection and the power of the mind.
I hope you enjoy Chapter 6…
🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #43
Chapter 6 – The Transportation
“Why are my hands so big?” I said, looking at them with a feeling of fear under my skin. They started to get smaller as Fred, Barney and I began to run away from my house.
“It was the Earth,” Fred said. “The power of the Earth. You are gifted, Wallace. I thought you would show strength, but I didn’t expect your body and voice to change like that. Did you not see your reflection in the windows of your house? You changed completely. You looked quite menacing.”
“I scared my dad,” I said, feeling pangs of guilt in my stomach. “It’s like he didn’t even recognise me.”
“He will thank you in the long run. As soon as he sees what they are reporting on the news, he will know you are doing what is right.”
“I still don’t understand why you need me,” I said. “You seem powerful enough by yourself, the way you broke into that library…”
“The portals,” Fred said. “The Earth’s portals. I need human accompaniment. Plus there’s something about you that the forest likes. It’s as if it wants to flow through you. I know you can help me in Chatamanga, too.”
I looked around. I could feel something unusual, as if the air around me was alive, and it was seeping its way in through my skin.
“What about Barney?” I said. I didn’t want to put my own dog in danger.
“I’m not sure if Barney can come,” Fred said. “I whispered that to him earlier but he seems to still want to accompany you.”
We slowed down our running and approached a thin pile of leaves on the floor.
“Take one,” Fred said. He handed a leaf to me. It was brown and crisp and I could see all the little veins running through its system.
“Smell it,” Fred said.
I smelt it. It smelt a bit like coffee, but it stung the back of my nose slightly.
“Now crush it up,” Fred said, doing the same with his own leaf. “Now blow it into the air and swipe your hand through it.”
I did as he said. As soon as I swiped, everything started to slow down. The whole forest looked like it was made of liquid, and in slow motion, I turned to Barney.
“I know I can’t come,” Barney said. “But I wanted to see it all happen.”
“I knew you were always saying things to me,” I replied. Barney’s mouth didn’t move. It was as if I could hear his thoughts. I wasn’t at all surprised that suddenly, in this strange state induced by these strange leaves and this strange practice of Fred, that I could communicate clearly with my own dog.
“Go back home where it’s safe,” I said. “Tell Mum and Dad I’m okay, if you can.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” Barney said, and as I saw him turn, in even slower-motion, he began to run back towards the house, and me and Fred were both sucked down into the ground that lay beneath the pile of leaves that we had just picked from.
For a while it felt as if I had melted into nothing. My body had disappeared. My mind was an open expanse of nothing, and for a moment, there was an absence of things to worry about. But soon my body had taken shape again, and me and Fred were sitting in what looked like a large green cave with stone walls surrounding us on all sides.
“Ah,” Fred said. “I wondered if this would happen.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “What is this place?”
“This is the waiting room,” Fred said.
“How do you know?” I said
“I read about it,” Fred said.
“In the library?” I said.
Fred nodded. He was now holding a huge brown book in his arms. He must have grabbed it just before we disappeared from the forest.
“Is that the book you stole?” I said.
“Borrowed,” Fred said. “That’s what libraries are for, you know. I don’t think it’s fair that just because I’m a different species, I can’t use a library. I will return the book, but I couldn’t leave it behind.”
“Why not?” I started to surrender to the fact that we were stuck in a large green cave with no apparent way out.
“I couldn’t absorb it like the other books,” Fred said. “For some reason, the words would not leave the pages and be absorbed into my system. It’s as if they refused to be taken from the paper they had been written on. And it might be the most valuable source of knowledge in the entire library.”
“I’m sure I’ve heard of that one,” I said. “Mythical Creatures Of The Forest. We used to read it at school, everyone would have their own favourite mythical creature. It’s not real, is it? It’s just made up…”
Fred stared at me with big open eyes.
“Gosh,” I said. “Really? You think all of those creatures are real?”
“I don’t think. I know,” Fred said. “I have seen some of them already. The book often tells you where they can be found and how they can be communicated with. We might need some of them to help us on our mission.”
At that moment, a very old, withered figure of a lady opened a hidden door in the wall beside us. She was holding a large book of her own that was half the size of her entire body, and she wore very thin glasses attached to a string of small pearls that looped around her neck. She walked with such a hunch that she could barely look up to face me and Fred.
“Next,” she said. The door closed behind her and she slowly shuffled into the middle of the room, and plonked the big book down onto the floor. I felt the ground shake slightly.
“Next!” she said again, impatiently, looking up and glaring at me so that I felt slightly guilty for some reason.
I looked at Fred. Fred looked at me.
“She can’t see me,” Fred said to me.
“What?” I said.
“What?” the old lady snapped.
“She can’t see me,” Fred said. “I get a free pass through every portal in the Earth, as long as I’m accompanied by a human. You’re the one she has to worry about. Any human or Gigamold activity has to be monitored by this young lady here.”
“What’s a Gigamold?” I said
“If you don’t know, then that’s all the better for you,” the old lady said. “Now. Name please.”
She took out her pen from her pocket and strained to open the big book to the next empty page.
“Um…Wallace,” I said. “My name is Wallace.”
“Reason for travel?” the lady said, staring down at the paper. I realised that she might not have been a human. There was something about the colour of her little eyes that was odd. They were almost too green.
“Um, to help a friend,” I said. “To help save the Chatamanga Rainforest.”
“It’s too late, you’re too late,” the lady said, clicking her pen to retract the nib, and struggling to look up, straight into my own eyes. “The fires have begun. You are too late.”
“It’s never too late,” Fred said.
“It’s never too late,” I said, mimicking Fred.
She stared at me.
“What do you propose to do? These tunnels are only for those with concrete plans and sureness of success. Tell me your plan, and I might be able to gain you access to the Chatamanga Forest.”
I had no idea what to say. Fred didn’t seem to either. He was just staring at the old lady. I didn’t know why he had called her ‘young’. He turned to me.
“Tell her what you really think,” he said.
I didn’t know what I really thought. At first all the thoughts in my head seemed to be what my father would say, or what I thought Fred might say. Even Barney’s voice popped into my head for a bit. Then everything went quiet, and a deep, powerful voice from inside my body started to speak through my mouth.
“Well, I don’t have a plan,” I said. “I’ve come on this journey with the intention to help, that’s all, to help save the forest from burning. Plans are good, but you don’t always need one. The most important thing is your willingness to help, your openness to new ideas and doing what you can to make things better. That’s why I’m here. Just because there isn’t an absolute certainty of success doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try, does it? I think I can help, so I’ve come. And because I think I can help, I’m sure that I can.”
The old lady raised her eyebrows slightly.
“Hmm,” she said, still not totally convinced.
“How many people do you really have to deal with?” I said, wondering how many people actually knew about these mystical methods of transport. I didn’t hear of anyone even going into the woods these days. Everyone was either too busy, or too scared of what might really be out there.
“Not many. Not many travel through here anymore,” the old lady said.
“You know I just want to help,” I said. “Let me help. I don’t even know why, but my friend said he needed me to help him. None of it is clear yet, but I trust him. And you should trust me.”
The lady sniffed slightly. Her eyes were definitely too green to be human.
“You have two days,” the lady said. “Maximum. Once your two days are up, you will be dragged back to where you belong, no matter where you are in your mission. If you can’t succeed in two days, you won’t succeed at all.”
“How do you know?” I questioned. She didn’t like being questioned.
“This is my job!” she snapped at me, now looking directly into me with fiery eyes. “A child like you will begin to deteriorate after two days in a foreign land after being transported through these portals. You have no coat of protection – nothing! It is for your own good.”
I nodded, calmly.
She took out a little ink stamp from a pocket at her waist and struck the stamp down onto the page so that a square red mark stained the paper she had just been writing on.
“Here is your copy,” she said, tearing off a corner of the page with her signature on it. “Keep this safe, on you at all times,” she said. “It will mean you are not dragged back home prematurely.”
“Dragged back?” I said, wondering why she kept using that term. “Why do you keep saying dragged back?”
“The journey home might not be so smooth. It depends on your mindset at the time.” She smiled. She reached down to one side of the book and heaved it closed. It snapped shut, and she stood to her feet.
“Good luck,” she said.
“What now?” I said. She began walking back to her hidden doorway on the wall.
“Wait there,” she said. “The drop will occur in approximately twenty seconds.”
“Drop?” I said. My heart started beating faster. “What drop?”
“Good luck!” she said again, hobbling to the wall. The door opened by itself, she walked out into the darkness, and she left me and Fred there by ourselves.
“What’s going to happen?” I said. “Is this going to be scary?”
“Yes,” Fred said. “It will be terrifying. But don’t worry, it won’t last. Nothing does.”
Now I was anticipating the drop. Was the floor going to give way? Was I going to be shot downwards and ploughed into the ground? Would I land in the fire? Would we be seen? Would we be caught by someone who wanted to keep the fires going? The questions I had in my mind were starting to overwhelm me.
“Don’t worry,” Fred said.
I heard the lady’s voice surround us.
“Ten,” she said. “Nine, eight, seven…”
“Fred,” I said, “what’s going to happen?”
“Hold my hand,” Fred said. “We want to stay together.”
“Six, five, four, three…”
I closed my eyes and Fred’s long fingers wrapped around my hand. Suddenly I felt safe.
And then we dropped.
Story written and read in English by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley