When Bo Bimble Went Elsewhere

 
 

CHAPTER ONE

Somewhere deep in a hidden valley, close to the very ends of the Earth, live the bimbles.

Their valley is known as a sound, which is strange because it is a silent place. Only birdsong and the wind in the trees disturb its peace. Shh, shh, say the waves.

Bo Bimble is sitting alone by the water watching Venus growing brighter in the sky. It is still summer-warm, but the air is cooling as twilight deepens. The little waves that today jumped and danced have grown tired and quietened, and in their place are reflections of the mountains that soar straight up out of the water.

Bo sighs, and the green fur-feathers around her beak flutter. She’s wondering again. It’s been happening a lot. Each time she pauses in her typical bimble day (collecting moss, playing with the younger bimbles, and watching out overhead), the lump of wondering pushes itself into her thoughts. And the trouble is, she can’t turn the lump into words. It’s more of a feeling. Or a question mark. A great big wondering made up of lots of little wonderings.

The smaller wonderings she can find words for.

How far away is the bright star that hangs over Mighty Peak at twilight?

Why is it always first to appear?

Does anyone live there?

What’s it made of?

What lies beyond the Tall Mountains, further even than the kea fly?

And all the small wonderings join to make a longing she can’t understand, which worries Bo, because she loves her home and her life in Bimble Sound, so why does she feel so restless?

As Bo lets out another long sigh, there’s a noise behind her, and Bo’s heart leaps and the rest of her isn’t far behind.

The haastbird!

But it’s only Tui, a handsome bird who often rustles around in the trees at dusk.

“What are you doing, Bo?” he says.

“I’m wondering.” Bo sits down again. It’s only a small movement, like a hovercraft letting out its air, as bimbles have short legs and the roundest and softest of bodies.

“About what?” says Tui.

“Everything.”

“That’s a silly place to start,” says Tui. “Nobody knows everything. Most people just know something. I know about some things. I can tell you about those.”

Bo wonders if a few something answers would help her feel less restless. “Do you know if the white ghost trees are real, deep down in the Sound?”

“Don’t be silly. Do I look like a diving bird?” says Tui, who is often quite rude.

“Oh. No. Well, do you know if the Fence is real?”

The kea have been spreading rumours of an enormous fence rising up between the mountains and Elsewhere (where no bimble ever goes). Although you never can trust the word of a mountain parrot. They’re calling it a predator fence, which to Bo sounds troubling. Isn’t a predator something that wants to eat you?

“Have you been listening to the kea?” says Tui.

“Yes, but the Fence could be true.”

“So what if it is?”

“Well, you could fly over it, so it wouldn’t matter to you,” says Bo. “But what if a bimble wanted to visit Elsewhere?”

Long ago, bimbles could fly. But when things aren’t used very much, they sometimes change into something else. Like typewriters going and computers coming.

Bimbles stopped using their wings, because there was nowhere left to fly to, and nothing to fly away from – apart from the fearsome haastbird, which was best avoided by hiding under trees. Over time, their wings shrank down into little arms, and their wingtip feathers changed into fingers, which, as you will know, are very useful.

“Why would a bimble want to go to Elsewhere?” asks Tui. “This is your home, and you won’t find a better one.”

“How do you know? Have you been there?”

“No, but we all know that where there are people, it never works out well for the rest of us. That’s why the bimbles ran away to Bimble Sound.”

Bo doesn’t answer. Perhaps Tui’s right.

“You know your problem?” says Tui. “Curiosity. Too much wondering. It’s never a good thing.”

A small voice floats out from the darkening forest. “Nonsense, Tui!”

Bo sees a soft yellow glow in a nearby bush. “Hello, Tom!”

“Don’t listen to Tui,” says the little tomtit. “Curiosity is a good thing. You just need to decide which questions you can find answers to, and which ones we will never know.”

“What would a never-know question be, Tom?” asks Bo.

“Perhaps, Where does the sky finish?

“That’s not a never-know – the sky finishes at the ground!” says Tui.

“No, the other end of the sky, silly,” says Tom.

“How do I know which questions have answers I can find?” says Bo. “And where do I look?”

“You start off small, and get bigger. You can ask Tui and me, and when we don’t know we can send you to someone who does. And when there are no more someones-who-do, you’ll have to find out for yourself.”

“Where should I start?” says Bo.

“With a list,” says Tom.


Bernie’s holiday diary

Tuesday

I’m lying on my bed in the campervan. Mum and Dad are washing up in the fun-sized sink, and Mum’s saying (again) that sometimes holidays are more work than normal life.

I’ve been making a list in the “Notes” section of my “Young Spotter’s Guide to New Zealand Birds”, as well as ticking off the birds I’ve seen. You get points, depending on how rare each bird is.

I like lists. The one I’ve been working on tonight is “Favourite New Zealand Birds.” I’ve also started writing this holiday diary on the blank pages at the back.

We’ve been travelling around New Zealand for nearly a week now. When Mum told me we were coming here, she said, “New Zealand’s quite a lot like Scotland,” which made me wonder why we’d fly to the other side of the world (practically two whole days on planes) for a holiday in a place that was apparently just like home. But sometimes the things grown-ups do don’t make a lot of sense.

    It is quite like Scotland. There are mountains and lakes, and places beginning with Glen and Ben, and the people say “wee” when they mean something’s small. And just like in Scotland, you can drive for miles without seeing another car. Or anything much, actually, unless you count scenery. My parents are keen on scenery. But it’s warmer here than in Scotland, and there seem to be quite a lot of days with blue sky. That’s definitely different to home.

Everything here is upside down. If you looked at the people in New Zealand from space, I think they’d actually be upside down. The seasons are upside down, that’s for sure.

Fun Fact: summer here is in January, and it snows in July. Mad! The stars are upside down, too. More on that later.

We’re here for another two weeks. That’s a long time to spend in a campervan, even if it does have a toilet and a shower. Mum and Dad made a big deal of it having a bathroom, but it’s crazy-small, and, ew, when you flush the loo *it* all goes into this thing that looks like a giant water bottle that you have to tip into a hole in the ground when you get to a campsite. Dis. Gus. Ting. Especially when there’s blowback.

My bed is up a ladder on top of the driver’s cabin, so that’s cool. There’s a small cupboard for my stuff up here too, and a window by my head so I can look out while I’m in bed. It’s a good spot to watch birds from.

I love to bird-watch. It’s my hobby. The kids in my class call me Bird Nerd, Bernie for short. Even Mum and Dad call me Bernie now, though my real name’s Hamish.

I can identify ALL the birds that live near me at home. Sometimes Mum and Dad take me to the coast so we can watch the seabirds flying around the cliffs. But there’s only so long a grown-up will stand around on a windy Scottish cliff before saying, “Shall we find a nice cup of tea?” So those visits are usually quite short. I’m expecting – hoping – that New Zealand cliffs will be less bracing. And I’m really hoping we’ll see an albatross.

Top of my “Favourite New Zealand Birds” list so far is the fantail (it has to be birds I’ve seen). Best of all would be a kakapo, but they’re almost extinct and only live on predator-free islands now.

Gotta go – Dad’s asked me to do the putting away. It was only a matter of time. There’s no escape in a campervan.