Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  But as it is, I’m finding it hard to ignore the thumping of branches and the rushing of the wind through the husks of the trees, interrupted by the occasional distant screech or howl. There’s also a rhythmic, high-pitched hum that I’d assumed was coming from the ship, but now I’m no longer sure. “I never thought the Dead Zone would be so noisy,” I say to Robin. “From The City it sounds completely, well, dead.”

  “I don’t think we’re in a dead zone after all,” he says. “Did you see any signs of civilization when we flew overhead?”

  I think about this for a minute, then shake my head. “I wasn’t really looking, though.”

  “How about when you left Earth, could you see your city from high above it?”

  I nod. “When we first entered outer space I could still see the lights.”

  “That’s what I figured.” He inches closer to the opening, where a gust of wind has sent some broken twigs scuttling across the floor. He picks one up and brings it over. “I think we’re actually in the woods, like the living woods. With green trees and fresh soil that plants and vegetables can grow in. Maybe even animals live here.” I can hear the excitement in his voice.

  He places the twig in my hand. Soft triangular-shaped objects protrude from the sides in an uneven pattern. My eyes open wide as I realize what I’m feeling. Leaves! Living leaves, flexible and healthy, not stiff and charred like the ones that occasionally float into The City and crumble to bits under your fingers. Without thinking, I scramble to my feet and race toward the gap in the ship. Robin yanks me back before I get to the edge.

  “Not so fast,” he says, holding on to my sleeve. “You heard the part about the animals, right?”

  “I did — and Robin, if there’s vegetation, there could be bunnies! Bunnies!”

  He raises one eyebrow and tilts his head at me. “Bunnies?”

  I cup my hands like I’m holding and petting a small creature. “So soft and cute with those twitchy little noses.”

  “How do you know what their noses look like?” he asks, tilting his head at me.

  I give a small smile as the memory floats back to me. “Actually, it was King Richard. When I was little, he used to tell us stories about a family of bunny rabbits who lived in a hollow tree. Now I’ll get to see a real bunny AND a real tree!” I take another step toward the exit, but he holds firm. I sigh. “Yes?”

  “Do you know stories about any other animals?” he asks.

  I consider the question and shake my head. “Not really. The teachers aren’t supposed to tell us about nature. Prince John doesn’t want anyone to think life was any different than it is. But now …” I gesture to the opening in the ship. “Now we can find out for ourselves!” I start to pull away again, eager to explore.

  “Marian,” Robin says calmly, still holding me firmly. It’s starting to get a little annoying. “It’s the middle of the night. Not all animals are fluffy little bunnies. There are others who could outrun you, outclimb you, then tear you limb from limb and pick at your bones and you wouldn’t even see them coming.”

  My eyes widen. “Oh. Right.” I sit back down. “Perhaps we’ll stay here, then.”

  We take our mind off the situation by pointing out patterns of stars. My favorite is a constellation with especially bright stars in the shape of an arrow that Robin names Mister Pointy. Eventually our throats grow hoarse and our eyes droop. We slip off our shoes and wrap our cloaks around us like blankets.

  I awaken to the sunlight pressing against my eyes. I rub my eyelids, then open them. The gap in the ship reveals a mossy forest full of green leaves and brown tree trunks so spectacularly beautiful that I gasp. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that Robin is still asleep beside me, his cloak rising and falling with each shallow breath. He needs to see this. I reach over and shake him, but he just mutters, “Not time for school yet, Will. I’m having a really good dream.”

  I force myself to look away from the splendor outside to fully turn in his direction. I yank back my hand, jump up, and smack my head right on the ceiling.

  We’ve got company.

  My head contacting the ceiling is enough to finally wake Robin. He groans and throws his hands over his eyes. “So bright. Turn it off.”

  Like I can turn off the sun. “You have a bigger problem,” I reply in a whisper.

  “Why are you whispering?” he asks as he pulls his hood farther down over his eyes. “And why is my left foot wet?”

  “Um, I think you need to see for yourself,” I reply, not moving anything other than my lips.

  He groans again, but peels his hands from his eyes and leans up on his elbows. His whole body goes rigid with fear. I don’t blame him. If a wild beast was licking my foot I’m sure I’d have the same stunned look on my face.

  Although really, the beast is kind of cute. Long gangly limbs, big furry ears, and the deepest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. A random pattern of white dots run down its brown back and onto its swishing tail. No doubt sensing Robin’s fear, the animal looks up, right into his eyes. The two of them stare at each other for what feels like a really long time. Then the creature takes a step closer to Robin, bends his head down, and nuzzles Robin’s hand. I can’t take it anymore — I melt. “He likes you! You’ve made a friend!”

  Robin slowly moves his hand away from the animal’s nose. I guess he might not want an animal friend. But instead of pulling his hand back under his cloak, he reaches above the animal’s head and pets it! This goes on for so long that my stomach begins to grumble. It’s been a very long time since my last full meal.

  “Um, sorry to break up the start of a lovely friendship between you and the beast of the jungle, but we should find something to eat. And I need to, um, you know.” My face reddens.

  “It’s a deer,” he says, his voice full of awe. “Pretty sure it’s a girl deer, and those dots means she’s still a baby.” He clears his throat. “And yeah, I need to ‘you know,’ too.”

  We slip on our boots while the animal called a deer watches calmly, nudging Robin’s legs. Robin stretches out his other hand toward me. “Ready?”

  I sprint past him and jump through the hole out into the tall, glorious grass. “Ready!”

  He laughs and jumps out after me. The deer hops down after him, then curls up at the base of our ship. We run around in the grass like fools. It’s scratchy on my legs, but I don’t mind. We toss soft leaves into the air and at each other, and bend down to smell flowers growing wild on the bushes. Real bushes, not ones made of foam. Robin’s teeth are still chattering in the early morning chill, and his eyes are still watering from the sun, but he doesn’t seem to mind. “Look!” he shouts, pointing up in the air. “Birds!”

  My head flies back so fast I’ve likely done serious damage to my neck. I wait a few seconds for the medi-bots to go to work, but when the discomfort doesn’t subside, I decide that Robin is correct about there being no technology on this planet, or at least no medi-bots, which means if I get hurt, I have to heal the old-fashioned way. And no electricity also means no tracking grid! I’ll gladly put up with a sore neck for the freedom now afforded me!

  I turn in circles, staring up at the sky until I spot them myself. Birds! Three flying creatures swoop over our heads, wings flapping as they dart from branch to branch. Robin and I meet each other’s eyes and whoop as we run underneath them, flapping our arms. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun. Our deer looks up at us lazily, then seems to shrug as she rests her head again. Guess birds are nothing new to her.

  I finally tear my eyes away from their flight in time to see Robin yank a tiny blue ball from a bush. Before I can stop him, he pops it in his mouth. I hold my breath, afraid he’s going to keel over dead from eating something poisonous. But his face splits into one of his big, lopsided grins. He pulls more off the bush and runs over, holding his cupped hands up to my face. “You have to try this!”

  Between his excitement and my grumbling stomach, I can’t refuse. I take one in my hand, and immediately li