Field Trip

November 7, 2011
By
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The yellow school bus rumbled down the dirt road kicking up dust and rocks. The quiet roar was the only sound for miles. However, the inside of the bus was another story. The children inside screamed and laughed under the miserable scowl of their teacher. He had given up on quieting them hours ago. He shot a furtive glance to the bus driver. Having carted around restless kids on numerous occasions, the bus driver thought to bring ear-plugs. The elderly man smiled as he hummed tunelessly, unaware of the disgruntled teacher and screaming children.
The dusty road winded into a forest with trees as tall as skyscrapers. They bent over with age, their leafy tops creating an ancient archway that eclipsed the sun. As the light left, so did the laughter. The bus was silent except for the engine. Even after the driver flicked on the lights, no one spoke. The kids fidgeted uncomfortably under the sudden tension.
“Are we there yet?” whimpered a small blond boy. The kids looked to their teacher who replied with a curt “almost.” Slightly comforted, the children’s noise rose to whispers. The blond boy, still not reassured, turned to his friend. She smiled at him. “Don’t worry Alex; we’re going to be fine. This forest is just like the one by your house,” she explained. He almost cracked a smile when –BANG! The bus engine back fired. Before the bus driver could cut the engine, the whole thing shuddered and went quiet. The lights flickered, but stayed lit. Screams began to erupt from the class. Two girls in the back began to cry, snot and tears dribbling noisily down their fronts. The teacher and bus driver scrambled to calm the frightened children and evacuate them from the bus. Eventually, they got out and sat on a fallen tree that seated all twenty-four of them. Across from them sat the yellow bus, gray smoke curling out from of the tail pipe. The bus driver pulled off his blue cap and scratched his balding head in confusion as he stared at his bus. At the other end of the tree the teacher sat dejectedly on a tree stump trying to get cell phone reception while mumbling to himself. In the meantime, no one noticed that two students were missing…
“Anna! What are you doing?” cried Alex, running to keep up. Anna stopped and turned. “Oh, c’mon Alex! Look at where we are, this place…can’t you feel it?” she asked looking up at the tree canopy. Here, light filtered down in rays, illuminating the misty puddles on the forest floor. “I feel it all right,” he mumbled looking annoyed. “What if we get in trouble or lost? We might never go home again! We could end up like those kids in that story where the witch with a candy house tries to eat them and then...” he said, his voice trailing off when he saw Anna’s face. She rolled her eyes at him. “You really think I would let us get lost or in trouble? Of course not Alex! As for your story, Hansel and Gretel, they get away. Remember? Safe and sound.” she said exasperated. When he still looked worried, she said, “Close your eyes Alex.” He followed. She spoke again, quieter this time, “Take a deep breath and listen.” As he filled his chest with air the wind began to pick up, spreading the scent of pine, oak and earth. The sound of a blue jay was heard in the distance talking with another bird. “Does that sound evil to you?” asked Anna, still quiet. He shook his head no and opened his eyes. The two exchanged a smile as the wind died down. Anna motioned him forward and led him further into the forest explaining how they would avoid trouble when they reached the bus.
They had been walking for a good ten minutes when Alex stopped. Anna turned to him with a confused expression. “Listen,” he whispered, cupping his right ear. She mimicked the gesture and squinted hard into the forest. There was a soft “thud thud” in the distance. The beat was steady like a metronome. “Drums?” suggested Anna. Alex shook his head, still listening intently. Then he spoke, “It’s not drums. I’ve never heard this before. But, if feels familiar.” Anna nodded in agreement. The wind picked up again, beckoning them in. Anna turned to Alex and spoke. “I think we should follow it,” her voice quavering slightly as she said it.
The two moved swiftly, being careful not to trip over the underbrush. As they advanced through the forest, the sound grew louder. They could feel the thuds vibrate through their feet to their chests. Anna was about to leap over a moss embroidered log when Alex grabbed her hand. In mid-jump, he caused her to fall in the mud. “Ugh! Al-lex! W-why d-did you sst-top?” she said, the earth tremors making it hard to speak. Alex gestured to the whole forest, eyes wide. It was vibrating in unison with the steady “thud, thud, thud.” Even the thick mud they were standing in rippled. “The f-forest f-feels like it’s alive.” he said. His face was like it was on the bus –worried and scared. Before Anna could say anything, a huge tremor shook the forest. “RUN!” shouted Anna. The two ran as fast as they could dodging spider webs and overturned trees. Nothing was chasing them but the beats were increasing, making the two of them too nervous to stop running. They wound their way deeper to the center of the forest.
They finally stopped after scrambling over a large rock. Their breathing was haggard as they leaned against the earthen stone for support. The tremors had slowed, but were louder than before. Alex looked to Anna’s face to see that her eyes now wide with fear. He quickly turned his head to see where she was looking. His mouth gaped open with a small ‘pop.’ In front of them was a cave. It vibrated as the tremors erupted from its dark mouth. The cave was interlaced with roots and moss. Whether the roots came from the cave or went into it was too hard to tell. They were so tightly entwined that the floor looked like it was made of roots.
“We have to go in,” rasped Anna’s voice. Alex stared back in horror but nodded. There was a feeling in the air so strong that he couldn’t even argue. It was a pull. It was like a rope as thick as the roots they stood on was attached to their very selves. It continued to tug at them as they walked closer. The wind picked up again as it pushed against their backs, forcing them forward into the dark cave. Afraid, they grabbed hands, their knuckles white from squeezing. The tremors were slower still, matching the pace of their footsteps. When they rounded a corner in the cave, they saw sunlight. It broke through a hole in the top of the cave where more roots poured in. Anna gasped. The roots connected to the source of the tremors. Before them, a giant heart sat covered in moss and vines. It was beating life into the forest. “I knew it felt familiar,” whispered Alex covering his hand over his heart.





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