This is my first attempt at writing a chapter book for teenagers.
The funeral for Katy was held a week later. The casket was closed, and her parents were reserved throughout the service, then retreated back home quickly. The report from the police said that she had fallen from the bridge high above the valley. The bridge was old and wooden, at least 200 feet high and used exclusively by the railroad. There wasn’t even a place for walking and it would have been quite a climb to even get up there. This left a million questions in the minds of Katy’s friends and family about how and why she had been there. No one had ever even seen her around that area before. It was a dangerous, restricted place.
Ivy’s own parents kept a close eye on her after that and were especially patient with her quiet moods. Every time she asked to go out, one of them would volunteer to accompany her, even if she wasn’t going far. This was tolerable only for a short while.
“I can go by myself,” Ivy argued one day a few weeks later as she prepared for a school trip on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t even a fun trip – it was a community service project that she was required to attend with the rest of her honors class. They were picking up trash along the highway.
“Just let one of us drive you to meet up with the group,” said her dad, grabbing his keys.
“Dad it’s a ten-minute walk. I can do it alone.”
“It’s no problem for me to take you.”
“How about if I get someone to pick me up?” she countered as she was already texting her classmate Jake.
“Still prefer to drive you. You’re only 15 you know,” her dad persisted. Ivy picked at her muffin without saying much more until the doorbell rang.
“That’s Jake. We’ll stick together. Don’t worry,” she called over her shoulder as she rushed out the door. Jake was on his bike and he rode slowly so Ivy could walk alongside. They reached the meetup point and piled into the school vans with the other students.
The ride to the highway site was long and quiet; too early for chatter. The van slowed down and a couple students hopped out, grabbed some bags and gloves and worked their way along the grass between the highway and the trees. A little further down the road and a few more kids got out to work that area. Finally, Ivy and Jake got out and gathered their supplies. They started making their way along the grassy embankment, slowly picking up abandoned bottles and empty wrappers as they went.
The sun was bright that day and the chirping of the birds was interrupted only briefly by the whoosh of a passing vehicle or the loud steady engine of a train running along the tracks. Ivy had picked up more cigarette butts than she’d ever seen in her life, and after about an hour she wished she had rationed her water better.
“I’m going to work closer to the trees,” she called to Jake who was several feet in front of her wearing his headphones.
She shifted her path to take her closer to the shade of the forest. It was cooler in there, and still full of trash. She continued picking up ripped cardboard and plastic straws every few steps until she had filled yet another bright orange garbage bag. She knotted the top and left it to pick up on the way back, opening a fresh bag as she continued walking. It was quieter the further she meandered into the woods, though she kept an ear out for highway noise so she could find her way back.
After a while she found herself at the edge of shallow creek that she crossed by hopping on the stones in the middle. On the opposite edge she noticed an old wooden sign that had been beaten down by the weather. Ivy could just make out the engraved words on the discolored boards: Deerwood Valley Park East Entrance.
She had never been on this side of the park before, so deep in the woods. She knew she was supposed to be picking up garbage, but she was enjoying the time alone in the cool shade, looking at all the different plants and small animals. Various bushes with berries on them, some shimmering insects hovering nearby, a few birds and squirrels - it felt peaceful in here. Ivy continue picking up small bits of trash as she walked along, though this area seemed less of a litter haven. She bent over to pick up a shiny bottle cap when something shinier caught her eye. It was halfway buried in the dirt and hidden beneath the long leaves of a flowering bush.
It was a cell phone. Dirt was settling in the cracks of the screen and it had a gold and black case. An eerie feeling washed over her as she held it in her hand. She wondered who it might belong to when suddenly the silence was interrupted by the rush of a train shooting across the wooden tracks built up high overhead. And Ivy’s stomach dropped.
Surely not, she thought. She had never been to this part of the park and couldn’t imagine that Katy had either. She looked up above the trees at the rickety train tracks running from one mountain ledge to another, held up by buttresses and an intricate latticework of lumber. The tracks were several hundred feet above her head, and she couldn’t see a way to them except for scaling the side of the mountain which looked impossible. Besides, train tracks crossed the park in a few different places and she was sure Katy’s phone had a pink case.
She shoved the lifeless phone into her pocket and decided to make her way back out to the highway as she was now feeling chilly. Highly alert, she traced her steps back across the pebbled creek and through the woods. She picked up her first filled orange trash bag and slung it over her shoulder. The sun became brighter as she neared the highway. Jake was nowhere in sight. In fact, she couldn’t see any of her classmates anywhere along the shoulder. Ivy trudged back toward where the van had originally dropped her off.
She felt a little numb and was beginning to worry about getting home when the van pulled up. Everyone was inside. Jake jumped out and grabbed the trash bag from her.
“Where were you? We finished over half an hour ago. No one could find you!” he almost shouted at her.
“I just… I walked further into the woods. I told you!” Ivy nearly shouted back though her voice was trembling just a little bit.
“Never mind, just get in,” he said, noticing that she seemed slightly paler than before. Ivy was silent the entire ride back.
“You ok?” Jake prodded as he rode his bike along next to her up the street to her house.
“Yeah,” she muttered, “just don’t feel that great. Too much sun probably.”
As soon as she was home, Ivy took a quick shower and then lay down in her bed, thinking about the phone. She got up and retrieved it from the pocket of her jeans. It was still giving her the chills. She should probably show it to her parents or maybe even the police.
On an impulse, she plugged it into her charging cord to see if she could revive it. Nothing happened, the battery had probably been dead for a while.
Feeling both exhausted and uneasy, she laid back down and hugged her pillow. She fell asleep quickly, but her nap was restless. She dreamed of something that felt distressing, but when she jerked awake many hours later, she couldn’t recall what the dream had been about. She just knew she felt anxious. The sun had set and her room was dark.
Ivy rubbed her eyes and sat up. She was hungry. She kicked her feet over the side of the bed and shuffled toward the door.
At that moment, the green light of the phone screen lit up her room and a chime rang from the once-dead device. Ivy froze and then moved slowly toward the phone. She picked it up and stared at the locked screen. It was an alert.
BirdsEye :: You have a video waiting to be posted.
Under the message was a video. Ivy’s whole body was filled with dread, but she couldn’t stop herself from tapping the PLAY icon. It took a few seconds to load and then she saw the rocky side of the cliff. The person holding the camera panned around until they were looking straight out into open air. A quick shot down showed that whoever was recording was standing on the precariously elevated tracks in the park with the ground hundreds of feet below. Ivy could hear quick breathing. And then the camera started moving as whoever was filming started walking out further onto the tracks. The camera faltered just a little bit and scanned down toward the ground again. On the view back up, the camera caught a glimpse of the turquoise Converse that she knew were Katy’s favorite pair. Ivy’s stomach dropped like a piano out of a third story window.
The camera continued to move along the tracks. A crow flew by, its caw jarringly shrill on the recording. Ivy imagined Katy trying to keep her balance as she walked holding the phone up against her forehead for the shot. Ivy’s throat felt dry and she sat lightly on her bed, eyes glued to the screen.
Then the camera stopped moving forward. Katy had paused on the tracks. And suddenly, a low rumble began and the camera started to shake. Ivy heard Katy suck in a quick breath, and then the camera was falling. It was a blur of green as it plummeted through a dense canopy of leaves, and then total darkness. Seconds later, a dull thud sounded in the distance and the video ended. A banner flashed across the screen.
BirdsEye :: Posted
Followed quickly by a second one.
BirdsEye :: Congratulations User number one
If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here: https://letterpile.com/serializations/Congratulations-User-Number-One-a-teen-fiction-book__Chapter-1
© 2020 M Butler Stone