Chapter 4 - Inside the Park
Dancer tried to keep at a height. Up high she could avoid the poisonous plants and rowdy rabbits that coursed the ground. She could also scan the whole area for the gardener’s bucket.
Darkness began to settle and Dancer’s night vision sharpened her focus. She thought it was safe to move more freely now that all the birds had gone back to their nests. She moved around the Park searching areas from different vantage points. There was no sign of the bucket. Night time advanced and as the temperature dropped Dancer headed for a shack-like shed and warily climbed in through the roof.
Peering down, she gasped and darted back behind some timber. She had been pleased to see the gardener’s bucket but shocked to realise that the reports of a giant rat were true. She peeped again to make sure of what she’d seen. Yes, there next to the bucket was a huge rodent. It was bigger than any rat Dancer had ever seen before. She tucked herself more tightly between the timbers, well out of sight, and did not move.
Sunlight flickered between beams as Dancer stretched herself awake. Looking down, she saw that the rat had disappeared. The gardener’s bucket was still there though, with the precious boundary stone still inside. There was no way she could lift the stone out of the bucket herself, so she knew she had to report back to base.
Her journey out of the Park was more treacherous than the journey in. Birds were fully awake, so she tried to stay hidden amongst leaves, but that meant she couldn’t see around her very well. The fungi on bark seemed to swell and leer menacingly at her. Then suddenly she found herself overcome by fumes and plummeting six feet downwards on her emergency thread. Dancer came to an abrupt halt just inches above a serrated leaf which seemed to use the breeze to swipe at her and threatened to cut through her thread. Pulling up urgently, she rose two feet and dived into the top leaves of a bush.
“Ooooh,” said a voice.
Dancer twirled round and came face to face with a creature with beautiful eyes.
“Where did you come from?” asked the creature.
Dancer looked closely. Although its eyes were beautiful, its body was the colour of slime green with patches of blood red. Yet Dancer thought she recognised the shape and soft hairiness.
“Are you a caterpillar?” she asked.
There was a fluttering of eyelashes and a nod of the head in reply.
“What’s your name?” asked Dancer.
“Edward. And I’m poisonous, so don’t eat me,” was the answer.
“I don’t want to eat you, Edward,” stated Dancer. “I’m trying to get out of Parsnip Park.”
“Then climb on board. I can take you to the gates. Sit on a green bit, though, not a red patch,” recommended Edward.
So Dancer climbed on to Edward’s back and held on tightly. They went down the bush and on to the next one, up one side and down the other, up the next then down. At last they came to the gates of Parsnip Park.
“It’s still a long climb up and over. Good luck,” said Edward.
“Thank you,” replied Dancer sincerely as she started the long haul upwards.
Gregory and Caroline were relieved see her reappear at the top of the gates.