Trapped in 1867

Chap­ter 5: Preda­tor

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - WRIT­TEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY CHRIS FRAN­CIS

An Ir­ish boy finds Gauri and Ben in their time ma­chine and of­fers them a ride to Ot­tawa in his horse and sleigh. That night, the horse is started as they three chil­dren come face to face with a dark men­ac­ing crea­ture.

To do list:

1. Run 2. Run fast

Jan­uary 17th, 1867 Early Evening

This isn’t hap­pen­ing. There’s no way. The im­age of its white teeth con­trast­ing against its black, stringy fur is etched now into my brain. A heavy gur­gling-snarl fills the once calm air. I duck down into the sled and close my eyes, pray­ing the omi­nous crea­ture will just slip back into the trees and leave us alone. But it isn’t mov­ing. I know this be­cause Ben can’t take his eyes off of the thing. And I’m scared. Re­ally scared. “What’s hap­pen­ing?” I ask, shift­ing my mitts away from my face.

Ben low­ers him­self and tucks his knees into his chest. “It’s a wolf. There’s an ac­tual wolf out there.”

“What about the boy? Is he okay?”

“I dunno,” he replies. “I can’t see him.” “Should we help him?” Be­fore Ben can re­spond the horse shrieks again and darts to one side, pulling the sled and us along with it.

Heavy bags and the small pot bounce around the tiny space, slam­ming against the wooden pan­els. Frozen pota­toes fly about, knock­ing us in the head and face.

I reach for Ben and wrap my arms around his waist.

I hear the hooves scat­ter over the ground, pulling us wildly along with it. I think about jump­ing— lift­ing my­self over the tiny bench at the front and cat­a­pult­ing my­self to one side. But I can’t.

I can’t be­cause I’d be leav­ing Ben be­hind. I’d be aban­don­ing a kid who doesn’t want to be here in the first place.

A kid who hates me al­ready.

A short time later— maybe min­utes—maybe sec­onds—my diary en­tries are blurred at this point

I con­tinue to hold onto Bully-Boy. (I call him that from time to time in my en­tries be­cause he’s still a jerk).

“Let go,” he shouts. “Get your hands off me.”

The sled jolts to one side, send­ing us down a steep slope.

I open my eyes just in time to see the snowy sur­face of what I think might be Lake On­tario.

We crash hard into the ice, shat­ter­ing the frozen plain.

In sec­onds I feel a cold rush of wa­ter spread over me. It’s like tiny knives dig­ging into my skin. It hurts—the icy wa­ter hurts like I’ve never felt be­fore.

In sec­onds my head slips be­low the sur­face as the weight of my clothes pull me down into the chill­ing dark­ness. I can’t breathe, I can’t see. For a mo­ment, I strug­gle, reach­ing out at noth­ing, hop­ing to kick and flap my way up­ward—but to no avail. This is it. I’m go­ing to drown—I’m go­ing to die and I will go down in his­tory as the girl who didn’t get a bet­ter mark than Shelby Reynolds.

The cold­ness has numbed me now. I’m in a dream—float­ing in a black night­mare.

I won­der if Ben es­caped—if he had the strength to pull him­self up to the top. I won­der if he will be okay—trapped in 1867.

Time Passes.

As my body heaves out the last of the air in­side my lungs, a hand grips the col­lar of my heavy coat— thrust­ing me up­ward and back into the sled.

I gasp, feel­ing the life en­ter back into my mus­cles—into my blood. I’m alive! I open my eyes as Ben pulls me up onto his lap. The pan­icked horse has now gath­ered it­self, and is tug­ging the dam­aged sled back up the steep hill, dig­ging it’s hooves into the snow. The pain from the chill­ing lake re­turns to my skin, stab­bing me all over.

“Are you okay?” Ben asks, un­zip­ping my coat. “Talk to me, talk to me.”

I spit out some lake wa­ter and cough, rolling over onto the wooden pan­els.

There’s no time to re­ply—a gun­shot echoes out—more like a can­non. I shoot up­right as we reach the top of the slope and back onto even ground. The horse doesn’t re­act, like its heard this noise be­fore.

6:32 PM

I found my phone wedged be­tween the mail­bags and the floor­boards. It’s still work­ing—it’s even read­ing the cor­rect year. It must be still pick­ing up the sig­nals from the Lo­tus-Five satel­lite reader.

How crazy is that? My dad ac­tu­ally in­vented a time-trav­el­ling satel­lite.

Any­way, the horse isn’t mov­ing and we know we have to find the Ir­ish boy. Scan­ning the sur­round­ings I see him stand­ing guarded be­hind a tree—the wolf is still watch­ing him from a dis­tance at the edge of a rocky hill­top. The light from the moon is beam­ing down on us, bounc­ing off the di­a­mond-like snow crys­tals.

“He’s there,” I say, point­ing into the woods.

Ben jumps up onto the sled’s bench and grabs hold of the reigns. He pulls the leather straps to one side and steers the ner­vous horse to­ward our new friend.

“It’s eyes are glow­ing,” says Ben. “Holy cow, that wolf, I swear it has red eyes.” “Is it go­ing to hurt us?” I ask. Ben shakes his head and turns back to me for a sec­ond. “Nah. I’ll pro­tect you.”

For the sec­ond time, a glim­mer of ‘kind­ness’ seems to come from Bully-Boy.

In­ter­est­ing.

6:41 PM

Another gun­shot blasts through the air—a dis­tant squawk from the tree-tops is quickly fol­lowed by a flut­ter through the branches.

The two of us cower back into the small cabin and pull the mail­bags over us.

“Where’s that gun fire com­ing from?” I ask—the lake wa­ter on my coat is turn­ing to ice. Another shot. And then another.

To be con­tin­ued Mon­day. Next Time: On­wards

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