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Spirit in the Rainforest

The rainforest of British Columbia holds many secrets, but none stranger than those of Nearby Island.  After hair-raising events during a Pacific storm, Tom and Liz Austen seek answers among the island's looming trees.  Alarmed by the ghostly shape of the hermit Mosquito Joe, they look for shelter in a deserted school in the rainforest.  Then, in the night, Tom and Liz hear a girl's voice crying, "Beware! Beware!"

"Young adults will love Spirit in the Rainforest . . ."

                                                      Thomson News Service

Chapter 1


They buried Tom Austen just before midnight.  For an hour workers had dug while a crowd watched silently.  The only sounds were night creatures calling in the nearby forest, and the engines of boats arriving in the cove.


         When the workers stopped shovelling, a drum sounded.  The rhythm was low and mournful.  Then it began to swell, growing louder as more drums joined in.


         Gently the workers placed Tom in the hole they had dug.


         Dirt was shovelled around him until only his head remained above ground.  For a moment he panicked.  Then he made himself calm.


         Close by a native girl was also being buried.  “That machine is so big.”  She looked at the steel blade of a bulldozer on the nearby beach. "Do you think we can really keep that thing out of the forest?"


         "This path is the only route the bulldozer can take.  Everywhere else the forest is a wall of cedars.  The loggers can't move the bulldozer into the forest while we're buried in the middle of the path.  And when we're dug out, others will take our place."


         "But the loggers don't have to start work in the forest.  They can cut down the trees along the beach."


         "I don't think so.  Look."  Tom turned his head toward the giant cedars rising above the cove.  Chains were being strung around them, then attached to protesters standing against the trunks.  "They can't chop down a tree when someone's chained to it."


         "I'm scared," the girl said.  "But I want to save this island."


         "It'll be saved," Tom said quietly.  "Don't worry."


         A week earlier, Tom had arrived in British Columbia with no idea he'd be part of this protest against logging the centuries-old rainforest of Nearby Island.  He'd simply flown out to be a summer guest of a B.C. family his mother had known for years. But then he'd learned of the protest and had offered to help fight to save the island's forest.


         The owner had given a logging company permission to clear-cut every tree on the island.  Environmental groups objected, saying this would mean the destruction of eight-hundred-year-old cedars and the loss of beautiful and important rainforest that was already far too rare.  Natives also protested, saying they had never given up their aboriginal title to the island.  Plans were swiftly made to prevent the logging by every possible peaceful means.


         Now, as midnight approached, hearts beat fast.  The contract with the logging company said its workers could come ashore at 12:01 A.M. to begin taking trees, and the protesters waited anxiously to see what would happen.  Many of them were natives wearing both traditional costumes and jeans, and ranging in age from round-faced babies in their parents' arms to an old man who wore a braided leather headband and leaned on a wooden cane, his face troubled.  Other protesters had come from all over North America, determined to prevent the island's destruction.


         "It's midnight!" a voice called, and immediately the drums stopped.  At the same moment, figures left the boats in the cove and climbed into small skiffs with outboard motors.  Moonlight gleamed on chainsaws in the workers' hands.  They would be using the saws, plus the bulldozer and other machines that had been brought to the beach by transport helicopters earlier in the day.


         Tom's mouth was dry.  The steel blade of the bulldozer loomed above his head, blocking his view of the loggers as their boats began moving to shore.  They seemed determined to begin work despite the protesters blocking their path.


         A figure left the crowd on the beach and walked toward Tom.  She was a slim woman of about twenty-five, with dark hair in braids falling over her fringed buckskin jacket.  The older daughter in the family Tom was visiting, Nikki was a member of Greenpeace, a group famous for its struggles to protect the environment.  As she knelt beside Tom her brown eyes were serious.


         "Are you okay?"


         "I guess so, Nikki.  I'm a bit scared, but I'm sure those loggers won't do anything crazy with the bulldozer."  Tom swallowed.  "Will they?"


         "If anything awful happens, we'll give your head a state funeral.  Everyone will be invited, and we'll try for TV coverage.”


         "Thanks a lot."


         Nikki laughed.  "You're part of Greenpeace now, Tom.  This is your baptism by fire."


         The first of the loggers' boats reached the beach.  Two workers jumped out, their faces grim.  As more boats landed, the protesters surged toward them.  Then a native stepped forward.


         "You have entered my people's garden," he said to the loggers.  "Why have you brought chainsaws into a garden?"


         A man frowned.  "We've been given a contract by this island's owner to log it.  You'd better step aside."


         "Nearby Island is the ancestral home of my people, who lived here for five thousand years before the coming of Europeans.  My people have never signed away ownership.  We have declared this island a tribal park."


         "We've come to log."  The man gestured at the workers.  "Let's get started."


         Immediately the quiet night was split by the motors of the chainsaws.  The machines snarled as the workers moved forward.  The protesters linked arms and stood before the screaming saws, refusing to move.  For a moment it seemed that the chainsaws would just keep coming, but then the loggers stopped.  Their leader motioned for the saws to be silenced.  Then he spoke into a CB radio.


         "Call the police, and tell the owner to get here fast.  There's nothing more I can do."


         The loggers and protesters faced each other without a word.  Once again the birds and animals of the forest called to each other, while moist air blew off the ocean, carrying its salty smell.


         "What will happen now?"


         "We'll soon find out." Nikki glanced at the night sky.  "They sure came fast."


         Tom heard a whistling roar, then saw the lights of two approaching helicopters. For a minute they hovered while searchlights in their bellies lit the beach.  Then they slowly dropped down.


         Police officers climbed down from one helicopter, then watched a door open in the second machine.  A man appeared, filling the doorway.  He wore large boots, jeans with a shiny belt buckle, and a T-shirt that revealed the huge muscles of his chest and arms.  His hair was extremely short, and his eyes looked fierce under bushy eyebrows.


         "Wow!" Tom exclaimed.  "I expected the island's owner to be pot-bellied and balding and smoking a cigar.  This guy looks rough."


         "He isn't the owner.  He's just the heavy who handles the nasty work.  His name's A.X. Edwards, so everyone calls him Axe."


         The man picked up a large stick from the beach.  Approaching the protesters, he stared into their leader's eyes without speaking.  Then, slowly, he raised the stick to the other man's face.  Suddenly his muscles bulged and the stick snapped in two.  Dropping the pieces at the native's feet, he turned away.


         "He gives me the creeps," Tom whispered.  Then he watched the helicopter, waiting for the owner to appear.  Seconds later he received the shock of his life.  Instead of the Godzilla he'd expected, a tiny figure emerged.


         "But... but, she's a woman!"


         "That's right."  Nikki sounded annoyed.  "Aren't women allowed to own islands?"


         "Sure, but, I . . .”


         Tom couldn't take his eyes off the woman as she stared at the protesters.  Her head was covered with a mass of red curls, and her eyes were pretty even from a distance.


         But she looked angry.


         For a few minutes the woman and the police officers spoke in low voices.  Then she marched swiftly across the beach.  "She's coming this way!  Maybe you'd better dig us out, Nikki."


         "Not a chance."


         Reaching Tom, the woman looked at him and the native girl.  "You're just kids.  Why are you involved in this nonsense?"


         The girl spoke up quickly.  "My people are protecting this island for me and all the children of the world.  This is our park, and one day I will see my own children play here.  You can't destroy our trees."


         The woman walked quickly to the bulldozer and climbed up to the operator's cab.  With a terrifying roar, the engine sprang to life.  She switched on the machine's lights, then left the cab and walked to its front, high above Tom and the girl.


         "Get out of my way," she shouted above the thunder of the engine, "or accept the consequences.  This island will be logged!"


         Tom looked at Nikki, who was kneeling at his side with her arms crossed.  Now others joined her.  An old native woman with white hair knelt beside Nikki, and so did a boy of about six.  They were followed by a young man in a leather jacket, then others.  Soon the path before the bulldozer was filled.


         "I warned you!" the woman yelled.


         She returned to the cab and fed more power to the engine.  Desperately Tom twisted his head, looking for the police.  He spotted them approaching from the beach. But they were moving too slowly.
         And then, at that moment, he saw the spike.


         It was long and sharply pointed, and it gleamed in the light from the bulldozer.  It was held by a man who had just come out of the forest.  Thick black hair spilled down from his head, a woolly black beard covered his chest, and his eyes held a strange expression as he stared at the red-headed woman in the bulldozer cab.


         Then, as he suddenly ran forward, Tom shouted, "The spike!  Stop that man with the spike."
         But Tom's warning was lost in the terrible roar of the bulldozer.


    What Happens Next?  Is Tom Run Over With The Bulldozer? 

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SPIRIT IN THE RAINFOREST. Copyright 2012 by Eric Hamilton Wilson
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