When they returned to the Burrow that evening, Redtail seemed to have recovered significantly. He was still hopping about instead of flying, but his wing was now tucked into his torso as the other one was. When Winni saw him, she remembered that they hadn’t fed him since breakfast and began to fluster. She took Terri and Theo with her and the three scurried outside to find the bird some food. Just as they’d left however, Jenna noticed that the bird had a mouse hanging from his beak, the way it had when Bren had found him earlier.
Someone must have already fed him. There was no way that he could have caught a mouse in his condition. Who could this mystery bird-sitter be? Everyone who knew about Redtail and The Burrow had left them to look after Jon. The mouse was still half alive in the bird’s beaky mouth. It was wriggling and struggling to free itself, so he had not found the mouse; it would have run away from him – someone must have fed him.
Just as Bren was trying to figure out how this might have happened Redtail dropped the mouse and it ran off. Remarkably the bird leapt into the air, spread his wings and took off. He soared as if unhurt, swooped down and caught the mouse once again with his talons, flicked it back up into the air and caught it in his gullet, swallowing it whole. Once he’d finished this extraordinary routine he placed himself on Bren’s shoulder with such panache, you would have scarcely believed he was injured at all. How did he recover so quickly?
The room was stunned. Jenna was blank with disbelief. Rebecca – having not seen Redtail before – was in awe. But Jon – Jon seemed unfazed. He did not seem as if he were unaware of what had happened, but rather, disinterested. As if he had seen this before.
“He’s a drama queen, this one” Jon observed. “He came with me on my journey here from my world. Always looking for some attention”.
“You know Redtail?” asked Jenna.
Bren was less than certain. “He doesn’t know Redtail and he doesn’t come from another world!”
As Redtail hopped down to the floor Rocket edged closer to take a sniff at him, only to stumble back, startled as the bird took flight once again. He circled the very top of the cave and then disappeared as if he’d flown straight through the side of the cave – the innermost side, which backed into the cliff.
Jon could sense the others’ confusion. “Oh, he’s not going anywhere. Like I said, he’s a drama queen. He just wants you to notice him.” They still weren’t with him. They were bewildered. Incredulous. There was no way the bird could have just vanished, or passed through the wall. “The opening, the tunnel the bird just went through, it leads to my world. Right up there at the top of the cave.”
Bren squinted and stared at the spot where Redtail had vanished. It was difficult to see the top of the cave as it was so dark up there, but after a long hard stare the outline of the tunnel started to reveal itself. And if it was dark at the top of the cave, it was dark in there.
Wordless, Bren moved towards the opening and the others followed cautiously. He looked for a way to climb the rock that formed the back wall of The Burrow, pressing himself against the wall and then withdrawing when he could find no way to climb it. Jon stepped forward, crouched and leapt at the wall. He hung and swung, drifted and shifted, and lifted himself up on to the ledge where the opening was.
The others followed, one by one, easing their way up the wall. Bren was first, followed by Jenna, who was carrying Rocket. She passed him up to Bren, who passed him to Jon as he approached the top. They spread themselves across the wall so they could help Rebecca up and soon they were all standing at the opening where the bird had disappeared. As they entered the tunnel they were immersed in darkness. Jon casually wandered in as if the tunnel were a second home – it could have been his home for all anyone knew about him. It was more plausible that he lived in a cave than came from another world – and was out of sight in seconds. The rest followed warily.
They had been walking for what seemed like an eternity – three minutes seems a lot longer in complete darkness – and it started to appear as though they could walk in the darkness forever without ever reaching the end of the tunnel. Soon enough though, a light emerged as if from around a corner, some distance away. As they grew more confident their strides became bolder and their paces quickened, hastily moving for the light. As they emerged out of the tunnel, they found themselves in peculiar surroundings.
Jon had been out of the tunnel for several minutes by the time the others arrived. He turned round to greet them as they stepped out of the shadows into a concealed sunlight, obscured by trees. It was a strong sunlight though, considering it was evening on the other side of the tunnel. “Welcome to my home land.” He extended a hand and invited them, one by one, from the tunnel onto the forest floor. “Elysium.”
It was like another world. The Bump had been left completely barren, following The War and as far as Bren knew, so had everywhere else. Trees were scarcely heard of, yet they’d found themselves in a forest!