Andy, Charlie and Whistler hung around the camp. They waited by keeping the campfire going, but had stopped searching for Bill, Jack and Ben, who had all disappeared.
Days went by slowly, but surely. Charlie and Andy learned more from Whistler, and his own story every day.
Whistler had a couple of stringy sinews tucked away in a small bag. He went off to search for suitable wood to make arrows, and a couple of more bows for which the sinews were needed. They had to protect themselves against possible hostilities. Andy willingly stayed at the camp with Charlie in case somebody was to turn up.
Their situation became bleaker by the day. Andy became more than restless. He was eager to continue on to Boab Plute. His girlfriend Angelica was constantly on his mind. It was hard not knowing her whereabouts. Would he ever find her? Would all of them ever be able to leave the madness of the cave world behind? He needed to do something to find her, instead of waiting around doing almost nothing. But he knew it was impossible to leave, as long as Charlie was adamant to stay. There was no way he could leave her to fend for herself with only a teenager to protect her.
Andy tried to reassure her, as she sat staring into space with constant tears in her eyes, while Whistler sat beside her, holding her hand. They waited, but nobody turned up.
Charlie’s thoughts circled around her family, the same as every day. Why did everyone have to disappear? Why had none of them come back? Would she ever see any of them ever again?
She was interrupted by Andy.
‘Charlie, I know you want to stay here, but it just doesn’t work. It’s been too many days since they all vanished. But, you know what? For all we know they might already be at Boab Plute. They could be sitting there waiting for us as we speak. I think we should be on our way. We should aim for our goal. That was the original plan. They ought to know how to find it. Either on their own, or all together. The thing is, we just can’t stay here forever.’
‘I know, Andy, but it’s so hard to leave. This is where they were last seen. If they come back here, and we’re gone … not so good.’ Charlie studied her stubby nails on one hand. ‘I’m most concerned about Ben. He’s too young, and always worries about every little thing. I don’t think he understands much about what’s going on in this world. If he’s completely lost, what will happen to him? And if he comes back to this campsite on his own after we’ve left, it could be, yes, it could be catastrophic.’
Whistler finished a quiver to which he added some arrows. He looked at Andy. ‘You know way?’
Andy nodded. He had a vague memory of Ambrosius telling them that all trails lead through the Alkasar Forest. If they only found one, they would be on their way. He went through how to find the place, even if there was no compass, and no map. This was wise in case something was to happen to him. Then Charlie and Whistler could follow the plan to try, and find the others.
‘We’ve got to do something, Charlie. Nobody knows what’s going on here. Not me, not your grandpa, not Whistler, and definitely not Jack and Ben. I think we should pack up, and leave now.’
‘I’m already packed,’ said Charlie. ‘I’ll write a note for them in case they come back here.’
She reluctantly pulled out a page from her notebook, and wrote a few words before Andy was to help her by tying it to a tree branch.
‘There’s nothing to tie with,’ said Andy.
‘Wait a minute! I have the perfect thing.’ Charlie dug into a pocket on her backpack. She pulled out a red flowery covered elastic band for her hair. ‘If they see this, I think they’ll know it’s from me.’
‘Let’s try it! Andy hesitated in the longest to put it up in case it was to end up in the wrong hands, but knew there was no other way for Charlie to move on.
‘Okay, that should do it.’
Charlie was hesitant, and still far from convinced about leaving.
‘Don’t forget they could all be at Agrimona’s place when we get there!’
She showed a weak smile, and nodded.
Whistler helped to gather the rest of their belongings. Andy offered to carry Charlie’s pack since his was gone. They slung their bows and arrows, and all the extras, over their shoulders.
After turning around for one last look, they stumbled onward into the immediate group of trees to find one of the trails leading through, and then out of, the depressing, unpredictable Alkasar Forest.
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© Lena Nilsson. All rights reserved.