The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 6 -No, Seriously, Not The Right River
Alex's mind registered, vaguely, that there was no waterfall on the Red Cedar River. It was flat, muddy and slow. But the roar of the falls was too loud to ignore, and the current was racing.
Alex grabbed Old Thorny's sleeve and pulled and kicked, away from the center of the river. He didn't care where they landed. They just had to get out of the the current. Now.
The professor floundered and might have brought them both under, but Alex had him by the elbow, and pushed him forward. In a moment the professor had control of himself and started kicking and swimming with a will.
They reached the shallows. The water still bounced them among the rocks, but with less force. They hauled themselves up and half crawled, slipping and grasping, back upstream, to the small inlet at the side of the river. It wasn't exactly a beach, just a flat area of gravel and broken rock, but it was out of the water.
The professor collapsed into a heap. Alex fell to the ground beside him, and looked at the raging river, and the deep forest on the other side of it, and the high rocks all around them. Not Michigan. Where the hell were they?
Just then there was the rattling sound of an old car. A very very old car. Alex turned and saw a narrow road above them, running parallel to the river. The vehicle bumped into view. It reminded him of a Model T -- with round headlamps and an engine hood which opened on the sides -- but it was bigger. The top was folded back and it was packed with soldiers. There were a couple of soldiers standing on the running boards, and clinging to the sides.
They rattled past, honking a hoarse old horn, and then the car couldn't quite make it up the steep incline.
"Spushta!" shouted one of them, and the others all jumped out and pushed to get the car going again. In a moment they were out of sight.
Alex had heard that word hundreds of times. Aunt Flavia used to say it to him when he lagged behind.
That was her secret language, the one he thought she'd made up, to go with country she'd made up
"Don't look now," drawled the professor, "but I think we're not in Kansas any more."
"Not by a long shot," said Alex. He stood up. "We're in Awarshawa."
Rather than ask where that was, the professor simply passed out again on the gravel. Alex turned to look at the river.
Aunt Flavia had disappeared into the water without a splash or a trace, and then reappeared, hours later, inexplicably injured. And that night she told him he'd want to jump in the lake sometime himself. I encourage you to do it, she said.
And then she gave him the ring and said to wear it when he jumped in.
"It's the ring," said Alex. "And the river."
He went to the edge and looked in. The reflections played across the water, and he had that same feeling of vertigo he'd had before. Two images blending on the water. And there, among the fractured bits of trees and rocks and sky, he saw reflections of the bridge they'd left behind.
They could get back just by jumping in, he was sure. The only problem was that Thorny was still too drunk to swim. Still, the shallows here were not as dangerous as mid-river, and back home, the river was plenty slow.
And he really wanted to get Thorny home before he sobered up and saw what was going on.
He turned to get the old man up....
But the professor wasn't there.
Stay Tuned for Episode Seven: "Welcome to Awarshawa"
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