Raven's Mountain

Raven's Mountain by Orr Wendy

Book: Raven's Mountain by Orr Wendy Read Free Book Online
Authors: Orr Wendy
Tags: JUV000000, JUV001000
prey.
    The hairs on my arms are standing up straight; my teeth are chattering, and my heart is thumping so hard it hurts. Every animal on the mountain must be able to hear it. I can feel them coming through the shadows, circling around me; closing in on me with sharp fangs and claws.
    With my left hand I grab a stick, a branch as thick as my wrist and as tall as me. Now I’ve got the fence on my right side and a stick on my left.
    The fence turns a corner, and so do I. Three posts along, it hits a wall.
    That’s what Jess was trying to tell me! If there are horses or cows, there’s got to be a barn somewhere.
    In the middle of the wall there’s a door with a sliding wooden bolt. I slide the bolt and push the door open. It’s pitch dark inside and smells like hay. I don’t even bother saying hello; I can tell there’s no one here.
    I bolt the door behind me and scuff across the floor till my foot touches hay.
    The hay smells of summer dreams; when it prickles my face I only wake enough to turn and snuggle in again like a mouse in a tissue paper nest. I don’t know how many times I do that; I don’t know which dreams are dreams and which ones really happened. I just know I’m safe and want to go on sleeping.
    But even in my dreams I know it’s morning, and when I open my eyes and see the dust dancing sunbeams through the hayloft window, I remember where I am.
    I’m very tired. I’m exhausted, worn out, dog-tired, all in, wrung like a dishcloth. I’m thirsty and starving, my mosquito bites itch, my bee stings burn, my cuts hurt, my muscles are sprained and my bones ache.
    But across from my hay-bale bed I can see an open door to a tack room. And inside that tack room is a big tub labelled OATS.
    I stagger across the barn floor as fast as my spaghetti legs will carry me. It takes a second to knock the tight lid off the tub, but then I’m leaning over it and digging in, cramming fistfuls of oats into my mouth.
    They’re not smooth like the rolled oats Mum cooks for porridge; they’re the whole hard little seed kernel hammered flat, so they’re nubbly and hard to chew. Trying to swallow them without chewing is worse, scratching all the way down my throat. I cough like a sick dog. The oats spray disgustingly across my front but I choke another handful down anyway.
    Now I really need water. There’s got to be a tap around here somewhere. Maybe outside.
    I shove the bolt across to open the barn door. The bright sun is blinding, but I don’t care because the tap is right there beside me, and I’ve already turned it on and am crouching over it, guzzling in that clear cold water. Water’s running out of my mouth and down my chin but more of it is going in, washing those nubbly oats down my throat, filling up my thirsty body. I don’t stand up till my belly feels fat and gurgly.
    I’d almost feel sick except that my eyes have got used to the brightness now and what I can see is too exciting for sick. Because I’ve just realised the other half of what Jess was trying to tell me last night.
    She’s right: you can’t have a barn without a house. It’s funny that I didn’t see the lights last night, because there it is, set back amongst the trees on the other side of the corral. This is what my beautiful fence was leading me to: a house, with people, and help.
    I try to run. The water in my stomach sloshes and gurgles, churns and rumbles. Then it explodes. The unchewed oats spew out. I didn’t think they’d even been in there long enough to turn into vomit, but it’s real, stinky, yellow, cramp-in-the-guts throw-up. And it keeps on going till stars and black holes dance in front of my eyes.
    My legs have turned back into soggy noodles. My head’s as floaty as a birthday balloon. I’m going to fall down.
    So walk against the fence, says the dad voice. The corral fence is wood, not barbed-wire. I veer towards

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