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Adventures in Akadia

Chapter 16

The Detour


     Rosy guided the boat toward the distant island as the kids took turns casting wishful glances back at the Golden Shore. We’re supposed to be with Aurelia right now, they thought to themselves. This detour had cast a shadow over their spirits and made them nervous for what lay ahead. 

     Rosy descended gracefully from her position at the rear of the boat and moved forward to retrieve a long post. 

     “Jammy, you help?” Rosy asked.

     Without speaking, Jamari followed Rosy’s lead and helped to position the post, adorned with a series of ropes and large pieces of fabric, at the center of the boat. Rosy quickly and skillfully tied the ropes to different points on the boat, revealing the fabric to be a large sail. As she completed the final knot, the sail caught the breeze and the boat surged forward.

     After a few moments of observing how the wind interacted with the sail, the children directed their attention forward again and toward the island.

     “Rosy,” Elizabeth said tentatively, “What is on that island?”

     With one hand firmly on the tiller to steer, Rosy looked to Elizabeth with her bright green eyes and gentle smile, “Sometimes it be hard to see,” she then paused and directed her gaze toward the island, “the island help you see.”

     The kids had gotten used to answers like this. Adults back home would sometimes do the same thing. They would answer a question, but not really. Each of the kids attempted to make sense of Rosy’s response. They suspected that the island wasn’t actually going to help them see better. Their eyesight was just fine. Jamari chuckled to himself as he imagined meeting a Quotidian eye doctor. 

     As the kids continued to think about what Rosy's response might have meant, they remembered her words from the night they met her: I know it can be hard to see, she had told them. Was that somehow connected? One by one, the kids gave up trying to figure it out and knew they would have to wait and see how the island would help them see. 

     In the open ocean, the wind was blowing harder and the water had become much more choppy. The kids felt like they were being tossed around in a washing machine and each of them were beginning to learn what it meant to be seasick. To their relief, the water calmed as they approached the island. Rosy guided the boat toward shore and they gently met with the sandy beach.

     Penpen, Magoo, Sunny, and Rooby leaped from the front of the boat and onto the sandy shore. Needing no instruction, they grabbed a rope and pulled the boat further onto shore. Penpen then took the rope and tied it to a nearby post.

     Each of the kids struggled to step off the boat and onto the beach. The rough ride and the seasickness had left their legs feeling like jelly. Lukas let out a, “Whoa!” as each of them were holding out their arms and trying to keep their balance. It took a few minutes to get used to standing on solid ground again.

     Once their legs felt solid, their attention turned to examining the island they had just landed on. To their left and right, the sandy beach seemed to go on forever. But looking forward, the beach only stretched forward about 20 yards before meeting up with a dense treeline of tall evergreens. 

     The kids turned back around, realizing Rosy and the young Quotidians had been tidyed up ropes, taking down the sail, and preparing the boat to be left on shore. 

     Rosy swung her pack across her back and let out a cheerful, “Righty-O, let’s go!”

     The young Quotidians enthusiastically followed Rosy straight for the dense treeline. The kids were somewhat apprehensive and lagged behind for the first dozen steps. The group was soon enveloped by another dense forest. The kids looked around and noticed that many of the plants and trees looked similar to what they had already seen in Akadia.

     While everything looked similar, something felt different about this forest. Lukas thought hard to make sense of it. Looking up, he realized the forest had completely blocked out every bit of natural light. Sure, a dense forest will block out a lot of the direct sunlight, but not everything. Lukas couldn’t make sense of it. They had been in direct sunlight just a few moments before, but now there was no clue that it was daytime. More surprising was that, even without the natural light, the forest wasn’t dark. Lukas’ mind went into overdrive as he attempted to understand how this was possible. The light was coming from somewhere, but where?

     Gabriela had noticed that this forest didn’t get colder like the other ones did. She was more sensitive to cold than the others. Where she had lived before moving to White Creek, the weather was hardly ever “cold”. She noticed that if anything, the forest was warmer than on the beach. But was warm the right word? This wasn’t the kind of warm that made you want to jump in a pool. She realized that the warm feeling was coming from inside.

     Rosy kept the group hiking at a steady and deliberate pace until they came upon a group of rocks that made perfect places to sit and happened to be in the shape of a circle. Everyone seemed grateful as Rosy instructed them that they would rest here. Rooby handed out a snack for everyone to enjoy. It looked kind of like a granola bar, except with a lot more color. They sat back and had just started having a conversation about how unique this forest was when a spark of light in the distance caught Elizabeth’s attention.

     “What was that?” she said while pointing.

     Everyone turned to face in the direction Elizabeth had pointed.

     The group stayed quiet for a moment before Jamari responded, “Probably just a firefly.”

     The young Quotidians looked to Jamari, having never heard of a “firefly”. At the same time, Lukas turned to Rosy, curious if she might offer a correction. Lukas knew that Akadia was unlikely to have the same insects as back home. Rosy didn’t say anything, and instead continued looking in the direction Elizabeth had pointed with a slight smile.

     Everyone had gone back to their snack until Elizabeth once again saw a light flicker out in the forest.

     “There it is again!” she said, pointing, this time standing up.

     The kids tried once more to see what Elizabeth had pointed to but it was gone. They all turned toward Rosy, hoping she could offer some sort of an explanation. Rosy remained silent as she stood and took a few steps forward, now standing in the center of the group. 

     “It be okay, they nice,” Rosy said quietly.

     “They?” Jamari asked.

     Before anyone else could say a word, the faint flicker that Elizabeth had spotted suddenly burst into a small, but brilliant, ball of light. The light began moving toward the group, fluttering like it were a butterfly. As it approached, the kids could see that it was about the size of a gumball and had a tiny set of wings. The kids couldn’t tell if the creature had a body. All they could see was light between its small wings.   

     The creature moved closer and closer until it was clear that it was heading toward Elizabeth. Realizing this, Elizabeth took a half step back in hesitation but figured something so small couldn’t do any harm. She had also snuck a quick glance toward Rosy, who had been smiling the entire time. Elizabeth took that as a sign that everything would be okay.

     The small creature slowed as it approached Elizabeth and then began to hover just in front of her. Instinctively, Elizabeth held out her hand and allowed the creature to gently land on it.

     The other kids gathered around swiftly, but quietly, attempting to get a better view. They had never seen anything like it. Even up close, its brightness made it impossible to tell if it had a body. Gabriela let out a gasp when she noticed a dim glow had appeared under the skin of Elizabeth’s palm, about an inch in front of the creature. The glow moved slowly toward the creature before seeming to transfer from her hand and into its body.

Each of the kids checked the expression on Elizabeth's face, wondering if what had just happened was painful. Elizabeth gave a bewildered look and shook her head slightly, communicating that she wasn’t feeling anything.

     When the light had completely transferred from Elizabeth’s hand to the creature, it transformed from its original bright white to a soft shade of pink. The creature then gently took flight and headed upwards until it began flying in a large circle about 5 feet above their heads.  

     The kids watched in awe as the creature continued to silently circled above them. When they finally brought their gaze back down, they could see that hundreds of the small creatures were coming out of the tree line and beginning to surround each of them. 

     Each of the kids had dozens of the small creatures surrounding them and then landing on their arms, shoulders, and head. They creatures only stayed for a moment, pulling a little bit of light from their body and then taking off to join the others that were circling above them. After landing on the kids, the creatures were now a wide variety of brilliant colors: greens, blues, pinks, purples, orange, yellows, and reds.

     The final of the small creatures had landed on Gabriela’s forearm. Once this one had pulled the dim light from Gabriela, it turned a pale blue and joined the circle above the kids’ heads. Once this final creature joined the formation, they began their journey upward and away from the group, quickly disappearing from view.

The group sat in stunned silence until Lukas asked, “What were those things?” 

     Rosy’s eyes were still looking where the creatures had faded away when she responded, “Those be Lumibugs.”

     “Lumibugs?” Jamari asked and immediately followed up, “What were they doing? Why did they only land on us and not any of you?”

     “They get the lesson ready,” she responded.

     “What is the lesson?” Elizabeth asked.

     “Good question, Lizzy!”, Rosy responded, turning to gather her walking stick and put her pack back on. With her pack secure, she looked back to the children and responded, “Let’s go see.”

     A surge of adrenaline went through each of the kids. They didn’t expect to find out so soon. They hurriedly gathered their things and made themselves ready to follow Rosy. The young Quotidians remained silent but had been smiling through the entire experience. They had clearly helped with this journey before and were loving every minute of it.

     The next portion of the hike went quickly. Nobody said a word. The kids’ minds were busy wondering what the lesson was going to be. Rosy, sensing their excitement and curiosity, kept the group at a quick hiking pace. 

     Up ahead, the kids caught sight of the dense trees giving way to a clearing. Getting closer, they could see the trees opened up to a grass field that was in the shape of a circle. In the center of the clearing was a stone archway, similar to what had held the magical door that brought them to Akadia. But instead of a door, the archway appeared to have some sort of soft flowing blue magic. 

     The kids remained silent, eager for instructions. Rosy took a few steps forward, her gaze steady on the stone archway. Finally, she turned to face them, “Kiddos, this be the lesson. One by one, you go up to look in the mirror.”

     The kids looked puzzled, their eyes alternating between Rosy and the archway. Lukas wondered to himself, Why did she call it a mirror? 

     “What will we see?” Elizabeth asked, her voice giving a hint of unease.

     “You see what you need to see,” Rosy responded, her tone serious but still kind.

     There was a long pause before Rosy added, “Lizzy, you be first.”

     Elizabeth’s heart dropped like a rock. The others felt nervous for her but were relieved that they wouldn't have to go first.

     Dread painted Elizabeth's face as Rosy extended her arm toward the archway, signaling for her to approach. Elizabeth cautiously made her way into the clearing. When she was about halfway between the group and the archway, she glanced back. The other kids did their best to give silent encouragement. Lukas and Gabriela smiled while Jamari gave a thumbs up. 

      As she ascended the stone steps, Gabriela’s gaze was fixed on the glow that filled the space of the open archway. She had never seen anything like it. The glow resembled the surface of water, except this was somehow standing vertically. She positioned herself directly in front of the archway, closed her eyes as she took in a few deep breaths, and then gazed deeply into the mirror.

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