Early one Sunday morning, Fritz put his boat into the rushing water and let it carry him away.
He told no one where he was going. He didn’t want to worry them. Instead, he wrapped up food, an empty bottle for water, and some dry clothes in a big bundle, tied it all to his back, and set off alone. He knew nothing about sailing a boat, of course, so he had no way to steer, no way to stop, no way to control his own fate. He just stepped into the boat, tipped it off the edge into the flood and held on tight.
It was exhilarating. Wind whipped past his face as the water sped him along. The boat rocked back and forth but stayed afloat, and gradually Fritz loosened his tight grip on its sides. The moon and stars gave just enough light for him to see that he was all alone, a tiny, bobbing speck on a vast gurgling sea of water. A feeling of such loneliness overcame him that he almost regretted his decision. It was too late now, and anyway, the feeling of complete freedom that came from speeding along in the darkness soon overcame his fear.
The sun came up, and Fritz sailed on. Now he could see the distant mountains on either side of the great plain filled with water. Behind, the mountains were just a smudge, too far away to see. The village of Burgh was out of sight. Ahead, water stretched on to the horizon. Fritz sailed on all day. He ate some food. He slept a bit. He filled his bottles with water, reaching very carefully over the side of the boat. The sun went down. The boat moved on. Fritz sailed through the darkness again.
With no stilted houses to measure the height of the water, Fritz didn’t even notice when the level began to drop. He did eventually sense that the boat was going a bit slower than before. Then he felt a tiny bump. Then a scrape. Then the boat jerked to a halt, throwing him forward a bit. The bottom had hit mud and stuck tight. A foot of water still flowed around Fritz’s feet as he got out to investigate. Then just a few inches. Then just a trickle. Then nothing. It was hard to see much by moonlight, but as far as Fritz could tell, mud was on every side. Nothing but mud, exactly like at home. A flash of intense disappointment struck him. He sat down in his boat to wait for daylight and the long walk home. Emptiness eventually buried him in sleep.
As often happens, daylight brought many changes. The first thing Fritz saw when he woke up was that the mud did not continue in every direction. To the left, yes. To the right, yes. Behind him, mud as far as he could see. But ahead was something strange. Ahead some stones seemed to be sticking up out of the ground. It seemed like only a few minutes walk away. Fritz went eagerly to investigate.
What he found was the most incredible thing he had ever seen. After walking about twenty minutes, he reached the series of rocks. They were about as tall as he was and spaced out through the mud, each several feet away from the others. They were perfectly rectangular, looking like they had been cut out by some giant hand. This was not the incredible part, though. What truly amazed Fritz was what was on the other side of the rocks. Just where the rocks stood, the mud came to an abrupt end. In fact, the whole ground came to an abrupt end. It just fell away below him. Fritz stood, one hand on a huge stone block and looked down and down and down to the bottom so far away that it made him dizzy.
This answered the question of where the water went. Fritz could see it down at the bottom of this immense cliff. The sun was sparkling off its surface. Water stretched out as far as Fritz could see, bigger than a sea, bigger than anything Fritz had ever seen. He had a sudden thought that if his boat had gone any faster, he could have passed right between these stone blocks and poured with all that water over the edge of this terrible drop, falling and falling into that vast stretching water below. Fritz didn’t need to know about distances and height and impact to understand that he would have died from such a fall. He backed up a few steps. What he felt was fear, but also triumph. His journey hadn’t been a waste. He had found the answer to at least one question. Now, what to do next? Would he have to walk all the way home? Could he even do that in a week before the waters washed him away again? Did he have any other choice?
Fritz was pondering these new questions when a a strange sound reached him. A shrieking sound. And was it coming from the sky?
Fritz looked up. A huge animal with flying through the air overhead! Fritz had never seen a bird. There were no birds in Burgh because there was no place for them to live and eat. You can imagine, then, how terrifying this giant flying thing seemed to him. It swooped past again and again, crying out in its loud voice. After a moment, Fritz made the horrifying discovery that it had two heads! Then one of the heads dipped down for a moment and yelled, “You there!”
Fritz’s heart stopped. The animal could talk? It swooped by again. “You there!” This time Fritz saw that it wasn’t one animal with two heads. It was an animal with a person on its back. Instantly Fritz’s fear was matched by longing. What would it be like to climb on such a creature and fly through the sky? It would be even better than rushing along in a boat!
No sooner had he thought this than the creature darted toward him and in one motion wrapped its talons around his middle and lifted him into the air. Up, up, Fritz went into the air, leaving his stomach behind on the ground. He was sure he was going to be sick. And yet. And yet, it was wonderful. Horrible and sickening and wonderful.
He opened his eyes, which had squeezed shut at first out of sheer instinct, and saw the world stretch out beneath him. He closed them again and tried to steady his insides. Before he could open the up again, his feet bumped into something solid and he was set down. A moment later, a rustling thump sounded next to him, and he looked up again.
The creature had set him down on top of one of the rectangular rocks, and now it had landed next to him. A girl just about his age was sliding off it’s back, holding a short rope in one gloved hand.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?,” she asked.
TO BE CONTINUED….