The sun rose high above the canyon as streams of light trickle through deep cracks in the sturdy wall of rock. She stumbles out of the claustrophobic cave, over the loose rocks, to the edge. She gazed down at the crystal clear water and the lush green shrubs beneath her. It was a breath-taking view and to think she was there by accident. It all started when she picked up the wrong suitcase at the airportâ€¦
Audrey raced through the vast, empty corridor, occasionally glancing at the crumpled ticket she strangled in her hand. Her plane to Australia was leaving in a few minutes and it was likely she was going to miss it. This was her chance to see her twin sister, Charlotte, and she wasn’t taking any chances. Well, she wasn’t intending to at least. After tripping down a flight of stairs, Audrey skidded to a stop and hurriedly held out her ticket. Catching her breath as she sank into the soft seat of the crowded, noisy plane, she relished in finally having a moment to relax.
After what felt like a lifetime, she had arrived at her destination.
Once again Audrey found herself running through a bustling airport, bumping and shoving her way through the amplifying crowd.
With her small red suitcase in hand, and trusty blue backpack in the other, she sprinted out of the huge doors and out in to the car park, her eyes fixed on an arriving bus.
Collapsing into an old, worn chair, she reached in to the front pocket of her suitcase, expecting a book, but her hand returned empty handed. Her brow furrowed and she nervously unzipped the suitcase. Using all of her will-power not to scream when what she saw were not the things she remembered packing, but ropes, climbing gear, camping equipment and a very tattered notebook. Her eyes brimmed with hot tears of frustration. If she had just slowed down she would have noticed and this would not be happening.
Suddenly, a static voice rang through the bus, “Last stop, everybody off!” it announced.
Remembering that Charlotte had instructed Audrey to meet her at the park where the last stop was, she begun to panic: She didn’t know what to do with the suitcase. Finally deciding to keep it, she bolted out of the doors and onto the edge of a sprawling park. Despite being in the middle of winter, warm rays of sunshine peeked through the dark clouds and a refreshing breeze rippled the puddles of water that dotted the quiet path. Barely able to finish the thought, a small, silver car rolled up next to her. A wide grin spread across her face as a young woman with a head of copper curls and a smiling face of freckles gracefully stepped out of the car.
After a long, exhausting journey, Audrey finally felt at home flopping onto the plush, cushiony couch.
“I can help you unpack your stuff.” Charlotte offered after showing Audrey the small, empty room she’d be sleeping in.
Audrey’s smile faltered as her gaze fell upon the suitcase,
“Um, about thatâ€¦”
While she explaining what happened, Charlotte busily rummaged through the suitcase, flinging random objects across the apartment.
“You know these aren’t mine, right?” Audrey reminded her as she caught a notebook hurtling toward her head.
She was answered by silence, but something in the notebook caught her eye. Ignoring the chaotic mess blanketing the floor, she gaped at a beautifully sketched image, until she caught her sister staring at her.
“I haven’t heard you so quiet my whole life, you’ve clearly found something!” joked Charlotte.
Rolling her eyes, Audrey pointed to the drawing, which was of a winged serpent.
“This,” she excitedly announced, “is a water dragon!”
“Ok?” pressed Charlotte.
An exasperated sigh escaped Audrey’s mouth.
“Water dragons were thought to be extinct millions of years ago,” she explained breathlessly, “But the owner of this suitcase thinks there’s still one out there and has the maps to show where to find it!”
Charlotte still didn’t look impressed.
“I need to go.”
“WHAT! Don’t tell me you want to travel to remote Australia to go on some wild goose chase to find an extinct animal? You’re really going to put all your trust into a notebook? And what if it’s wrong?”
Coincidentally being a zoologist herself, Audrey was determined to complete the expedition the owner of the suitcase started.
So now she stood at the edge of the canyon, gazing out at the rising ball of flames ascending the purple sky. Inhaling the crisp, fresh air, she took a moment to enjoy the incredible sight, before continuing along the invisible path. Crimson dirt billowing behind her, as she once again buried her head in the tattered notebook. Flicking to the next page, she halted. She had reached the last page of the notebook and it only had one word: Down.
Her heart pounded in her chest as she contemplated her options. Peering over the edge, she stumbled back. She was way higher than she thought. And what if the notebook was wrong? Was she really about to risk her life for a mistake? But she had followed the notebook this far and she was willing to do so until the end. So with a shaky breath, she hauled the endless rope out of her backpack and fastened it around a sturdy looking rock and after a few reassuring tugs, she took her first small steps down the rock wall.
Willing herself not to look down, Audrey eventually did the inevitable. But all she saw wasâ€¦ rock? A small ledge was right below her and she hurried to reach it. A small stop couldn’t hurt. Temporarily untying the uncomfortable rope around her waist, she breathed few quivering breaths and leaned against the rock. She tried to regain her calm as she soaked in the rocks warmth. It only lasted a fleeting second. Springing out from a thin crevice, a large, scarlet-backed spider found its way on to her shoulder. Absentmindedly brushing it off, Audrey leapt to her feet as her eyes met the aggravated arachnid. Slowly backing away from it, another three crept out of the opening. Nervously edging closer to the tip of the ledge, she kept her eyes locked on the spiders, until
The end of the ledge crumbled beneath her feet. Time slowed as she plummeted toward the beautiful river. She had no idea how long she’d been falling, but all she knew was that it definitely felt longer. Audrey felt peaceful and calm up there, feeling the wind flow around her. But then
She hit the water with so much force; every bone in her body was on fire as the icy depths engulfed her helpless form.
Kicking and flailing, she desperately tried to reach the surface as her lungs screamed for air. But everything she was doing was just making worse. The bulking load on her back was dragging her down at an alarming rate so, jerking and thrashing, she came free and fought her way to the surface.
No words could describe how incredible the fresh, cool air felt in her dry, scratchy throat as she rasped it into her weary lungs. She longed to glide over to the small island she was near, but she was going nowhere without her backpack. So, filling her lungs with a huge breath, she dove beneath the rippling surface, kicking deeper and deeper, searching the seabed for anything that could lead her to her bag.
But possibly, a small flame of hope inside her burned for something bigger, in size and significance.
Then, dragging along the sandy floor, a soggy, tattered notebook caught her eye. Snatching it from the sand, she swam harder than ever, ignoring the blazing inferno in her lungs. Scrounging the endless floor of sand, she spotted a hint of blue from the corner of her eye. Fighting toward it, she heaved a gigantic fan-like tail off her backpack and her body loosened in relief to find everything still inside. As her head was bobbed above the surface, her brow creased as she realized something.
Her heart drumming rapidly, she wrestled her way through the water and clambered atop the tiny island. As she turned and peered back into the crystal clear depths of the expansive canyon, she longed with everything she had to see what she hoped to see. With a heavy heart, she was moments away from giving up, until something enormous regained her focus. Stumbling back into the shallows of the water, her breath caught in her chest. And then she spotted it, more majestic than she could have ever imagined. Everything was a blur as she sank to her knees and let the water slosh around her.
“I’ve found it,” she croaked, “I’ve found the water dragon!”