Benedict Davison brought the back wheel of his mountain bike in a wide arc as he slammed on the brakes and brought himself to a juddering halt, spewing a semi-circle of dry dirt up in the air. He steadied his own heavy breathing, and listened carefully, and after a short while he heard it again: a high pitched shriek. It sounded like a girl, in distress, but it didn't sound dangerous; not like someone being murdered or anything.
With care, he climbed off his bike, and began wheeling it off the track and into the forest proper, his eyes scanning carefully for any possible source of trouble. He didn't want to get into anything he couldn't handle, but on the other hand that sound had stirred something primeval in his twelve year old body, and he had to see what was causing it. As his breathing slowed his ears attuned to the sound of the birds in the forest, his nose attuned to the sweet smell of the ancient oaks and beeches that were in full leaf.
He heard the sound again, only this time its tone had changed, half shriek, half whimper. He changed direction slightly, homing in on it, ready to leap back on his bike and pedal for his life at the first sign of danger. He quickened his pace a little as he pushed his bike up the slope, through the thinning trees; breathing heavily again, afraid he might miss whatever was at the root of this noise.
"Bugger" he said quietly, as he realised he wouldn't be able to crest the rise because of the thick undergrowth ahead of him. He looked left and right and seeing no clue to which way would be best, he turned to his right and skirted the brambles and nettles blocking his path. The smell of the trees was still with him, but mixed with it now was the smell of grass, of the nettles, of the brambles. Hard, green, unripe blackberries followed him around, impassively.
After a few minutes another shriek split the air, this one sharp and with no hint of a whimper, and Benedict broke into a jog, desperately searching for a way through the vegetation. Eventually he spied a gap, just wide enough, and the nettles guarding this pass were trampled down, marking it as a path used recently by others. He paused, looked round carefully, and rested his bike gently on the ground near the break.
With care, he crossed the trampled nettles and squeezed himself into the gap. His faded black jeans protected him from the brambles that tried to snatch at him, but his short sleeved polo shirt did a poor job of protecting his arms and upper body. He gritted his teeth as the freshly tanned flesh of his arms was scratched and torn, and he forced his way between the brambles with urgency. The gap turned, and turned again, and Benedict became afraid that he was going to come to a halt in a dead end. But just as he began to contemplate the misery of the unrewarded return journey, he saw the gap open up ahead of him. Space and light, more trampled nettles, trees in the distance, and another shriek, louder this time, and with a discernible significance - "Nooooo!"
Benedict hurried, his mind filled with noble intent: to aid, to rescue, to bring succour to this tormented soul, who, as he was now certain, was a girl. Of course it would depend on what the situation was; the precise nature of the threat. He rehearsed several scenarios in his mind as he fought his way though the last few yards of bramble and broke out into the open again, barely registering the scratches. If it was a snake, and there were adders in the forest, he knew, he would fight it off with a stick. If it was a bear, he wasn't sure if there were bears in the forest, then maybe he could throw rocks at it; if he could find any to throw. If it was other kids, then, well, maybe he could be brave and fight them off, or if the success of that seemed unlikely, then he could run and get help.
Either way he'd be able to do something, and earn the respect and gratitude of the damsel in distress. He desperately hoped she was pretty, or if not, then would at least show him her breasts in gratitude. He hoped it was a bear, that would be best, that would be the most frightening, yield the most gratitude, and maybe she'd be injured. Not too much obviously, but enough. Enough so that he might have to tend to her wounds, perhaps tear some of her clothes off to make bandages, or get to the wounds to heal them. No one could blame him, not if he had saved her from a bear and was now saving her life. He'd be a hero.
He was running across thick grass now, and stopped suddenly, jerked out of his mental reverie by a steep dirt slope, a mini cliff gouged into the landscape, and he looked down. Below him was a grassy hollow, a stream, an old wooden building which looked long abandoned. A quick scan of the landscape revealed no bears, not even one.
Slightly disappointed, he lowered himself over the edge and tried to navigate the steep slope carefully, but as soon as he released the pressure of his hands on the top he slid right to the bottom on the seat of his trousers, the cloud of dust he threw up choked him and stung his scratched arms. He landed in a crumpled heap in the grass below, and paused to catch his breath.
He might have rested longer, gathering his thoughts and recovering from the shock and the stinging, but another shriek, this time more of an "Eeeeek", jerked him to his feet. It had definitely come from the old wooden building.
He kept low, body hunched, and he ran across the grass as fast as his awkward posture would allow. He straightened himself briefly to jump the stream, then crouched low again, slowing as the building grew nearer. By the time he reached its tired wooden side, his heart was thumping and his breathing was ragged. He didn't stop. Hugging the wall, he moved quickly for some means of entry, or better still some means to spy on what lay within.
He might have missed the jagged hole near the bottom of the wall if he hadn't heard the voice drifting up from it "... like tourists." it had said. Benedict froze, looked down, and then dropped to his belly to peer through, in the hope of finding out what was going on.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Wednesday, December 13, 2017