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by Deborah Richards
Genre Tween Sci-Fi Fantasy
Tags UFO, telepathy, Stonehenge, crop circles, non-human entities, Iceland, Vikings, treasure, Roswell, aliens.
Release July 18, 2014
Content Editor Nancy Bell
Line Editor Val Haley
Cover Designer Carolina Bensler
Esme and her teenage brother, George, find a strange creature while they are out treasure hunting with a metal detector. Before they know it, they are clinging to the veins in the animal’s back while looking out over the tops of trees. It is too late to escape and they fly off into the sky on an adventure. They call the strange animal a “skywhale.” Over the course of a day, they learn that the creature is a highly intelligent being with a great sense of humour and a weakness for courting danger, something that ultimately gets them all into trouble.
After an hour of searching the metal detector started beeping. Beep, beep, beep, faster and faster it went until it became a constant buzz. Esme raced over with giant footsteps as fast as the thick mud would allow, to where George was standing with the metal detector beeping like crazy.
“What have you found?” said Esme.
“Don’t know. You better start digging…hang on, it goes over here too.” George continued sweeping with the metal detector following the beeps from the machine. The “hot” area spread out to where the clear river water flowed.
“It’s big,” said Esme.
The ground started to shake. Esme screamed and dropped the spade. She grabbed George and hugged him around the waist, clinging on to him as though the world was ending.
“Oh my God, it’s an earthquake,” said George. He’d already dropped the metal detector into the sludge next to them and hung on to Esme, waiting for the shaking to stop.
The ground continued shaking and bits of mud started to explode upward as if it had been hit by gunfire. Ralph ran back to the path and stood barking at the shaking mud.
Slowly the ground started to rise like a hump, with them in the middle. Mud and water slid off in all directions. They were rising up above the water level. Pebbles rolled to the edge of the mound and fell off making popping noises in the river mud below. Esme screamed again. She clung on to George so hard it made him gasp for air.
Ralph stopped barking. He put his ears down and his tail between his legs. The dog growled once then turned and raced away toward home. Esme saw him go and was surprised at how fast Ralph could move when he wanted to.
Whatever they were standing on was domed, more or less round and about the size of their sitting room. It stopped shaking and little rivulets of mud trickled outwards toward the edge. The surface seemed quite firm and smooth, a grey colour with streaks of mud hiding strange markings. Esme could make out large orange-shaped diamond patterns around the edge with the points facing toward the centre of the mound.
“It’s like the pattern on a fish,” said George, eyes wide open and face very pale under his dark hair, “but it doesn’t look like any fish I’ve ever seen. Perhaps we better get off quick.”
Before they could move away, a hollow appeared in the middle of the mound where they were standing. Bulges appeared in the sides and bottom of the hollow. The hollow appeared to be criss-crossed with roots, some as small as Esme’s fingers but others as thick as her leg. Esme half let go of George so she could bend over to get a better look. The roots were hard and knobbly.
“If it’s a fish what are those roots doing in the bottom of the hollow?” asked Esme.
“What if they’re not roots,” said George, cautiously poking one with the toe of his boot.
“What are they if they’re not roots then? They look like roots,” said Esme.
“Veins,” said George.
Esme gasped and stood up quickly. She didn’t like the idea of getting too close to giant veins, although roots would have been fine.
“Come off it,” said Esme hoping to find a more reasonable explanation. “They’re too hard to be veins. They’re more like wooden roots with rough bark over them.”
“No, it’s skin,” said George, “because it’s an animal.”
“You mean it’s alive?” said Esme, her eyes wide with horror. “We really should be getting off this thing now.”
But it was too late. The thing rose up in the air until it was hovering at the height of a tree…with them standing on top of it. They could see all the way to the church spire in the next village. Esme even saw a blackbird fly below them in the branches of the tree. She couldn’t remember ever having looked down on a bird as it was flying. It was amazing. Slowly the thing began to spin.
“Oh no, what’s happening now,” cried Esme and sat down in the hollow before she fell off.
“Turn off the beeping machine. It tickles.”
“Did you hear that?” asked Esme.
“Hear what?” asked George.
“It said to turn off the metal detector because it was tickling,” said Esme. “I heard it in my head as clear as anything.”
George very slowly bent down and turned off the metal detector so as not to startle the thing.
“Thank you, that’s better.”
“It said thank you,” said Esme.
“Are you making this up, Esme? It’s really not funny,” said George.
His comment made Esme cross.
“We’re floating in the air above the trees on a thing that’s alive and you think I’m pretending I can hear it talk? What are you…mad?” They looked at each other and started giggling.
“Do you think it’s an alien?” asked Esme.
“How can I be an alien? I live here.”
“It says it isn’t an alien, it lives here,” said Esme.
“Ask if it can go into outer space,” said George. “All aliens have to go into space to travel between stars.”
This was the first time Esme had ever talked to something that couldn’t speak out loud. Even Ralph could speak in a dog kind of way. She closed her mouth tight and thought the question very hard aiming her thoughts toward the middle of the creature. It answered.
“It says if it went too far into outer space it would explode in the vacuum, but it can go to the edge of the atmosphere,” said Esme. George nodded like that made sense.
“It’s as big as a whale. I think it’s an animal like a whale, but instead of swimming in the sea, it swims in the air,” said George.
“A skywhale,” said Esme.