top of page

Adventures in Akadia

Chapter 22

The Swamp


     The sun beamed brightly overhead, its warmth embracing the group as they continued their hike. The sunshine helped to dry what remained of the cascade of water that Barky had shared with the group. The kids were feeling happy and energized, they loved having both Aurelia and Barky at their side again. 

     Suddenly, Barky came to a halt, his ears perked up and his nose twitching as he raised his head to sniff the air.

     "You're right, Barky. It is getting close," Aurelia remarked, her voice tinged with concern.

     Worried, Elizabeth spoke up, "What is it? What's getting close?"

     Aurelia continued hiking as she replied, "The swamp."

     "Do we have to go through it?" Jamari asked.

     Aurelia nodded.

     "Isn't there a way to go around it?" Elizabeth inquired.

     Lukas chimed in, "Not really. We would have to go back around the mountains."

     The others looked to Lukas, momentarily surprised that he had the answer, before remembering how much time he had spent with the map.

     "He's right," Aurelia affirmed. "We'll have to go through it."

     Almost immediately, the kids sensed the trail leading them downhill. The ground beneath their feet sloped gently, and the air seemed to get more muggy as they descended.

     Before long, the dense trees opened, revealing a swamp that seemed to go on forever.

     Two things caught their attention as they gazed out over the swamp. First was all the mud. It covered everything like melted chocolate, creating a gooey, sticky landscape. The second thing they noticed were the countless logs scattered throughout the swamp.

     "Oh, great," Elizabeth muttered sarcastically. 

     Jamari stepped forward confidently, "This will be easy," he declared. "We just need to walk on the logs."

     Without waiting for anyone to offer their thoughts, Jamari stepped out onto the first log, arms outstretched for balance. At first, it looked like he might be right but the log under his feet quickly began to wobble, threatening to toss him off balance. With a quick backward hop, Jamari narrowly avoided falling into the mud below.

      Undeterred, Jamari moved to another log and tried again. But this log reacted the same way and wobbled until Jamari hopped off to again barely avoid being sent straight into the mud. 

     Sounding somewhat defeated, Jamari admitted, "I don’t think that’s going to work."

     While Jamari had been making his second attempt, Lukas ventured nearby to pick up a big walking stick. Without a word, Lukas attempted the same route as Jamari, attempting to use the stick for balance. The walking stick seemed to provide some extra support but it was clear this plan wasn’t about to work either. It was simply too unstable. Lukas hopped off the log and back onto solid ground.

     "What do we do now?" Gabriela asked.

     In that familiar voice when she wanted to teach the kids something, Aurelia asked, “Have you thought about how we might be able to get across together?”

     The kids looked out over the large swamp, their faces thoughtful, before turning their attention back toward Aurelia.

     “What do you mean?” Lukas asked.

     Aurelia smiled patiently, "Maybe we need to think about how we can cross together, rather than trying to do it on our own."

     “But wouldn’t it be faster to go across by ourselves?” Lukas countered.

     “You would definitely go faster on your own, but how far would you get?” Aurelia responded gently.

     Lukas was reminded of how wobbly it had been when he and Jamari tried standing on the logs on their own. He nodded and replied, “Not very far.”

     As she took a few steps forward, Aurelia taught, “Faster alone, further together.” She then turned to face the kids. 

     "Let me show you," she continued. "Everyone, stand in a circle and join hands."

     With joined hands, the group formed a small circle.

     She then instructed, “Okay, now everyone lean back.”

     The kids hesitated but eventually started to lean backward. For the briefest moment, the kids experienced the sensation of falling, but it was immediately followed by the security of everyone holding on to one another.

     “Whoa!” Jamari remarked, his eyes wide with surprise. “That’s a weird feeling.”

     “What does it feel like?” Aurelia asked.

     “It feels like I’m going to fall, but I’m not,” Jamari replied, his tone a mix of awe and realization.

     “That’s right,” Aurelia affirmed with a smile. “As long as we’re all holding onto each other, we won’t fall over.”

     Aurelia guided them closer to the logs sitting atop the mud, her steps deliberate and sure. She stepped out first, demonstrating each movement with grace and confidence, and then guided their first hesitant steps onto the logs.

     The kids were nervous at first, wondering how this could possibly work. But as they watched Aurelia's example and listened to her guidance, the group began navigating the logs together. 

     As they held onto each other, they noticed that sometimes they were being helped to stay standing and other times they were the ones to help. Their movement was slow, but relying on others for balance made it possible.

     After successfully navigating the logs for a few minutes, Elizabeth called out, “We’re doing it!”

     Aurelia replied with a proud smile, “That’s right!”

     Gabriela looked back and realized Barky was still on the edge of the swamp, his big eyes watching them closely.

     “Wait, what about Barky?!” she asked somewhat desperately.

     “Oh, right,” Aurelia replied. She called out to Barky, “You’re probably going to need to go around, Barky. I think you’re too big to cross on the logs.”

     Appearing to have understood every word, Barky let out a happy howl and bounded back into the forest, wagging his tail.

     A few of the kids called after him with, “Bye, Barky!” 

     The kids were starting to get the hang of it. They had learned to trust each other, communicating about the steps they needed to take to keep their balance. Just as they perfected their technique, Jamari spotted a familiar face in the distance.

     "Hey guys, look, it’s Wink!" he called out excitedly.

     Everyone turned to see Wink standing about 20 yards ahead at the other edge of the swamp, waving eagerly as they made eye contact.

     Excited to see him, the kids forgot for a moment that they were relying on each other for balance. They let go of each other's hands to wave back.

     Aurelia called out, “Wait, don’t let…” 

     But it was too late. With a SPLAT, they all tumbled into the mud. Of all the muddy mud in the world, this had to be the muddiest. The gooey stickiness seemed to cling to their bodies, making it difficult to move.

     Knowing it would be impossible to get back on top of the logs, the kids began to crawl and lurch forward toward Wink. Exhausted and completely covered in mud, they were finally able to make their way to the edge of the swamp..

     "Hiya, kiddos!" Wink said in his familiar and cheerful voice.

     Trying to catch her breath and wiping mud from her face, Gabriela replied, "Hey, Wink."

     With a chuckle, Wink said, "You kiddos be lookin’ like mudchubs.”

     The four muddy faces looked to Wink in confusion.

     Realizing the kids wouldn’t know what a mudchub was, Wink elaborated, "Oh, yes, uhh, a mudchub be a big animal that live in mud.”

     Each of the kids examined themselves and then glanced at each other. Even though they had never seen a mudchub, they had to agree. They could hardly recognize each other.

     Aurelia was the first to force herself out of the mud and onto the solid ground. She then knelt down to help the kids free themselves from the swamp.

     "We are quite a sight," she remarked with a smile. "The Quotidians in the village might think a herd of mudchubs have come to complete the challenges instead of a group of kids!”

     Elizabeth, who had just managed to stand up, replied, “A village?”

     Lukas, recalling his study of the map, chimed in, “The Quotidian Village?”

     Aurelia smiled and nodded.

     “Is it close?” Lukas followed up eagerly as he attempted to wipe mud off the top of his head.

     “Well, see for yourselves,” Aurelia replied. Stepping a few paces away from the group, she held back the branches of a bush to reveal the Quotidian Village in the distance.

bottom of page