The Magic Beans – Page 37



Perilous Jack leaps across to the empty earthen mound, which swiftly begins to crumble under his weight.

Snatching a Beanstalk to brace himself, Jack climbs up the side of the mound and pauses to get his bearings.

It is nearly impossible to tell what may lie ahead. The Beanstalks grow so thick from both ceiling and floor that they form a nearly impenetrable wall before his sight. He pushes forward into the vegetation, aware of the rustling of leaves that will give away his position.

Hardly has he taken three steps before an answering rustle signals the approach of another through the Beanstalks. Judging by the way the jungle heaves and gives way, the creature that approaches is large indeed. Jack takes to the nearest Beanstalk, climbing the stout petioles like the rungs of a ladder, until he is well above the ground. Below, the Beanstalks part, revealing a giant humanoid creature apparently carved of solid wood. It is a Wood Golem, like that he encountered in the cavern above. The Beanstalks rustle again, and a second Golem emerges.

The vegetable creatures hesitate, their slow brains unable to encompass the disappearance of their prey, and Jack eyes the Beanstalks around him. In a sudden burst of motion, he leaps to the next, and the next, leaping and swinging away like an ape through the canopy of the forest. The Golems raise their heads and groan at his passing, but they cannot follow.

Jack continues in this way for a few moments longer, until a new threat looms before him – a cluster of Eye Fangs and Dark Eyes growing from the ceiling. He narrowly avoids losing his face to the first, and lets himself fall into the embrace of the Beanstalk foliage below. A Stinging Aster waits below, turning its blossom-face up at his approach, and beyond the flower he sees a pool of water, doubtless inhabited by Neochus or similar horrors.

For a moment he is trapped – Wood Golems behind, Eye Fangs and Dark Eyes above, a Stinging Aster below, water ahead – but a glimpse further down the cavern shows him a way out. A wooden block floats on the surface of the pool, large enough to accommodate him if he can make the jump. He pumps his legs and sets the Beanstalk to swinging, all the while fending off the poison petals of the Stinging Aster and the snapping teeth of the Eye Fangs – and when the Beanstalk reaches the end of its arc, he leaps off, landing square on the wooden block.

He lingers not an instant, for the far shore of the pool is in sight, a steep bank kept from slipping into the water by the roots of a Beanstalk. Even as the tentacles of a Neochu lift from the water, he leaps across and clings to the Beanstalk.

The poison stingers of a pair of Stinging Asters lash at him through the leaves of the Beanstalk, and he realizes there will be no solid earth for him here, either. He climbs and leaps to the next Beanstalk, all the while keeping barely above the stingers of the Asters and barely below the teeth of the Eye Fangs above. At last he reaches a quiet region, inhabited only by the peaceable Beanstalks. Winded by his acrobatics, he lingers for a moment to catch his breath.

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