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Adventures in Akadia

Chapter 7

Cabin in the Woods

Chapter 7

Aurelia and Sir Barkington McSlobbers

     “I don’t think anyone is home,” Gabriela said after Jamari’s second time knocking on the door.

Jamari stepped back to be in line with the others.

     “What now?” asked Elizabeth.

     “They have to come home eventually,” Lukas pointed out. “Maybe we should just wait here.” Everyone agreed and they sat on the step leading to the porch. 

     “I’m hungry,” Jamari said.

     “Me too,” Elizabeth agreed.

     “Hey…,” Jamari said, turning to Gabriela, “...What was the food you were talking about earlier?”

     “Huh? When?” she replied.

     “Back in class. You were talking about a food your grandma makes.” Elizabeth’s jaw dropped as she realized Jamari had paid attention to something in class.

     “Oh yeah.” Gabriela smiled. “I was talking about the enchiladas she makes.” 

     “What’s in them?” Jamari asked.

     “So many good things! She puts chicken, cheese, beans, and peppers into a tortilla, wraps it all up, and then puts the most delicious sauce on top with just a sprinkle more of cheese.”

     “That does sound good,” Jamari said, rubbing his stomach. “Do you think she’d make some for me?” 

     “Oh, for sure! She loves to feed everybody. You can come over any time and she will—” Gabriela stopped, struck with the reminder that she didn’t live next to her grandma anymore. Not only could she not invite friends over, she couldn’t go herself. Her head drooped and she looked toward the ground. The others could see she was starting to wipe her eyes.

     “What’s wrong?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you okay?”

     “Yeah…no…I don't know. I just want to go home.”

     Wanting to assure Gabriela, Elizabeth said, “I’m sure we’ll find a way back home.”

     “No, I mean my home home.”

Everyone was quiet as they realized she was talking about where she had moved from. They wanted to help her but they couldn’t fix that.

     After a moment, Lukas spoke up, “My mom and I moved about two years ago. I only remember a little of it. Why did you move here?”

     “My dad got a new job,” Gabriela replied, wiping away another tear.

     The others didn’t know what they should say next. They worried that asking more questions might make Gabriela feel worse.

     As Jamari was trying to think of something else they could talk about, he noticed something moving in the forest.

     “Guys, look!” he said in a quick whisper.

     With how dense the forest was they could only catch glimpses, but something was definitely out there and it was moving toward them. The kids nervously stood up, wondering if they should try to hide. 

     After a moment, a woman emerged from the forest with a bundle of firewood. As she made eye contact with the children, a smile came across her face and she started walking toward them. The woman seemed to be about the same age as Ms. Quinn. She had long blonde hair that was braided and came over one of her shoulders. She wore a forest green long-sleeve dress that had been neatly handmade. The dress had subtle marks of countless chores but remained remarkably clean and well-maintained. She had a brown belt around her waist with a pouch attached to it, perfect for gathering items she may have found in the forest.

     “They told me you were here,” the woman said as she approached. She began setting the firewood down next to the step leading to the porch. The children watched her every move, not daring to say anything. 

     “I’m so glad you made it,” the woman said as she finished setting down the wood. She clapped her hands together a couple of times to dust them off and continued, “I’m sure you have plenty of questions for me. But I have one for you first: are you hungry?” 

     The kids looked to each other before answering, and then Jamari spoke, “Yes! Do you have enchiladas?”

     The woman laughed and responded, “I’m afraid not, Jamari. Besides, I don’t think I could make them as well as Gabriela’s grandmother.”

     At first, nothing seemed off with her response. But one by one, the children realized that the woman had only just joined them and that it didn't make sense for her to know their names or about Gabriela's grandmother.

     As the children stood in stunned silence, the woman leaned over to pick up a basket of vegetables. One hand held the basket against her waist and she used the other to point to her left, “There is a table around the side of the house. Make yourself at home and I’ll be right out with our food. I’ll grab some vases for you girls to put those beautiful flowers in.” The woman walked past them and into the house.

     Giving each other unsure looks, the children slowly made their way in the direction the woman had pointed. As they came around the house, they found a large, round wooden table with chairs around it. They each took a seat and noticed there was the perfect number of chairs, one for each of them and one more for the woman that lived here. 

     When the woman emerged from a back door to the house, she had a basket in one hand and a large black pot in the other. She set both down on the table and began removing items from the basket: two vases, bowls, spoons, mugs, and what looked like a fresh loaf of bread. Jamari and Lukas leaned forward and began sniffing very loudly.

     As the woman began to ladle soup into their bowls, Gabriela asked “Are you Aurelia?” 

     She smiled and responded, “I am.”

     “What is this place? Where are we?” Lukas asked.

     “I suppose you’ve realized room 143 is a little more than just a “room”, huh?”

     The kids all nodded as they began feasting on soup and bread.

     Aurelia raised her arms, motioning all around them, “This is Akadia.”

     “Where is Akadia?” Lukas asked while chomping a mouthful of bread, “I’ve never seen it on a map.”

     “You’re right, Lukas. You probably won’t find Akadia on any of your maps back home.”

     “So why are we here?” Elizabeth asked.

     “Good question, Lizzy. Akadia is a place to learn. It’s a place where—”

     “So it’s like school?” Jamari interrupted with a frown that took up half his face.

     “Not quite, but you will learn things while you’re here,” Aurelia responded.

     Unconvinced, Jamari used his spoon to play with his soup and eventually took another bite.

     Elizabeth followed up, “The door didn’t work after we got here. What do we need to do so the door will take us back home?” 

     Aurelia nodded. “Each of you are here in Akadia to learn something that will help you when you return home.” She paused and stood up, “I’ll be right back. There’s something I want to show you.” She went back into the house and returned with a large scroll of paper. She set it on the table and rolled it out to reveal a map. The kids knelt on their chairs, leaning over the table so they could get a better view.

     “Is this Akadia?” Lukas asked.

     “Yep,” Aurelia responded. “I want to tell you a little more about your journey.”

     “Journey?” Jamari asked.

     Aurelia nodded, “That’s right. And at the end of your journey, each of you will have the opportunity to complete a special test.”

     “A test?!” Jamari complained. “So this is just like school.”

     Aurelia shook her head but still had a smile, “This won’t be like a test you would do for math or spelling,” Aurelia clarified. “Maybe it would help if you thought about it more like a challenge or a championship game.”

Jamari pursed his lips and squinted his eyes. He was still skeptical, but he liked the idea of a challenge or game much more than a test.

     Pointing to the map, Aurelia explained, “Your challenge will happen here at Challenge Stadium.” Moving her finger to the top of the map, she continued, “Here is the door that brought you here. And you–” she moved her finger down slightly to point to a forest with a small house in the middle, “–are right here.”

     The kids looked over the map, examining the path between where they were now and the stadium. Seeing how far the journey would be, each of the children acted a little more nervous. 

     Seeing that their path would once again lead them into the forest, Gabriela spoke up. “When we were in the forest, we heard something in the trees. It sounded like it was…giggling. Do you know what that was?”

     Aurelia chuckled. “I sure do. They are the ones that told me you were here.”

     “So those were people in the forest?” Lukas asked.

     “Not exactly. Those were Quotidians. They are a joy to be around, although they can sometimes be a handful.”

     “So why were they giggling at us?” Elizabeth asked.

     “I’m sure they weren’t giggling at you,” Aurelia replied. “They’re probably just really excited that you’re here. They love it whenever new people come to visit.”

     “That reminds me!” Gabriela blurted out excitedly. “Ivy wanted us to tell you that she says hi.”

     “Thank you for telling me that!” Aurelia responded, matching Gabriela's enthusiasm. “Ivy is certainly a very special girl.”

     “Wait, if Ivy came here, does that mean she had to do a challenge too?” Elizabeth asked.

     “She sure did.” Aurelia looked into the distance and added, “She was amazing.” 

     Hoping to get a better idea of what their own challenges might be, Jamari asked, “What was her challenge?”

     Aurelia thought for a moment. “Hmm. I probably shouldn’t talk about someone else’s challenge unless I had their permission. But you could certainly ask her about it the next time you see her.”

     They sat in silence for a moment, each thinking about what their challenge might be. Then Elizabeth asked, “Will we know what our challenge is before we do it?” 

     “No.” Aurelia said as she shook her head. “But we’ll help you be ready for it.” 

     Lukas had been looking over the map more closely and asked, “Are we going to have to worry about wild animals like bears or coyotes?” 

     Aurelia sat back in her chair and folded her arms, “Lukas, I think your favorite thing about Akadia will be the animals we have here. They are very different from the creatures you have back home and they are all very friendly to humans.”

     Lukas’ eyes got big. “Do you have any pictures?”

Standing up, Aurelia responded, “Oh I can do better than that! How about I just show you the real thing?” Aurelia placed her pointer finger and thumb into her mouth and let out a piercing whistle.

     Excited to get a view of what Aurelia had called to her, Lukas stood on his chair and darted glances in every direction. After a moment of silence, the children could hear something big was quickly approaching and they locked their eyes in the direction of the noise. 

     A large creature burst from the trees and was barreling toward them. When the creature noticed the kids, it began making a loud barking-like noise. The creature was moving so fast and was so big, it seemed like it could plow over them without even noticing. 

     With incredible agility, the creature skidded to a halt just before slamming into Aurelia. Amazingly, Aurelia hadn’t flinched the entire time and now stood face to face with what looked like some sort of mix between a St. Bernard and a male lion. Aurelia gave the creature a hug and it rested its massive head on her shoulder. 

     “Everyone, meet Sir Barkington McSlobbers. Most people just call him ‘Barky’.”

     “He’s amazing,” Lukas said in an awed whisper. “Can I pet him?”

     “Absolutely,” Aurelia responded and she wiped a bit of slobber off her dress, “Just know you might get some slobber on you.”

     “That’s okay, I don’t mind,” Lukas said as he hopped from his chair and stood in front of Barky. He was so big compared to Lukas and the other children that they could only reach up to his neck. As Lukas began scratching his fur, Barky leaned forward, and with one lick, he completely soaked the entire top half of Lukas.” 

Everyone laughed and Lukas couldn’t help but smile. Whatever kind of animal this was, it was definitely Lukas’ favorite.

     “I think he likes you,” Aurelia said as she stroked the top of Barky’s head.

     The kids spent the afternoon playing fetch with Barky, helping Aurelia with her garden, and learning how to carve wood. As they were sitting back at the table enjoying a delicious drink called Zestyfizz, Aurelia brought the groups’ attention back to the adventure before them.

     “So do you all feel ready for the journey?”

     Their smiles faded a little. They had been having a great time in Akadia so far, but they worried that might change as soon as they ventured into the unknown.

     “Are you going with us?” Gabriela asked.

     “I’ll be there for parts of your journey, and for other parts you’ll have each other.”

     Lukas spoke up sheepishly. “We don’t have anything to take with us on this trip. No food, no water, and no way to keep warm.”

     Aurelia nodded knowingly, “Don’t worry. I have everything you’ll need. Let’s all get some rest and we’ll start our journey in the morning.”

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