Lost [Alien Kids, #3]

“Hold on!” Francisco shouted.

Katie was leaning out nearly sideways over the steep drop, her toes digging into the edge of the cliff. She looked up, her eyes wide with fear. Francisco had his hand around the sleeve of her all-weather suit, but the material was slick. He felt his fingers slipping.

“Don’t let go!” she cried.

“Give me your other hand!” he told her, trying to sound calm.

Her free hand was waving in the air as she tried to regain her balance.

“I can’t!”

He leaned back, trying to pull her up, but his fingers slipped a little more. “Try!”

She twisted, trying to bring her free hand up to Francisco, but the movement yanked her sleeve free from his grip. For a split second it was as if she hung in the air. She looked surprised and scared. Then she dropped.

“Katie!” Francisco screamed. He lunged out to grab her again but all he grabbed was air.

He was leaning too far out. The ground at the edge of the cliff crumbled and he lost his footing. He had a strange feeling that everything was in slow motion. Then he was falling, tumbling, trying to dig his hands into the hard, orange dirt and rocks of the cliff.

It wasn’t a straight drop. He was rolling, head over heels, bouncing off the hillside. He tried to stop himself again, but something cut him, and he stopped trying. He could hear Katie yelling but he didn’t know where she was. Finally, he stopped rolling and found himself sliding on his back. The soil was loose, and he managed to dig the heels of his boots in and come to a stop. He lay there catching his breath, then felt a tug on his arm.

“Hey! Are you okay?”

It was Katie. She was on her knees, crouching over him with a worried look. Her hair and face were covered with dirt and dust, and her protective sunglasses were broken. Luckily, they were shaded from the powerful sun by the cliff, so her glasses weren’t necessary. One less thing to worry about.

“Yeah, I think so,” he told her. Then he tried to sit up and a pain went through his arm.


“Hold still,” she told him, and took his right arm in her hands. “There’s a big splinter here, it went right through your suit.”

“Is it bleeding?”

“Just a little. Hold on.”

She reached into the big pouch at the front of her suit and took out a first aid kit.

“I’m going to peel back the fabric,” she said. “It’s just a twig. It’s not very far under the skin. I can pull it out.”

“Well, do it!” he told her, squeezing his eyes shut and turning away.

“I already did,” she replied.

“You did? Oh.”

“I’m going to put some disinfectant on it. This is going to sting.”

“Yeow!” he winced.

“Don’t be such a baby,” she told him. She put a small bandage on the cut. “There!”

Francisco’s arm didn’t feel so bad. He sat up and they both looked around. They were near the bottom of the slope, where it began to level off. In front of them was an unbroken line of trees and bushes. Francisco got to his feet and looked up to the top of the cliff.

“Do you think we can climb it?” he asked.

“Only one way to find out,” Katie said, and she began to half crawl, half climb up the hill. After two steps, the loose soil gave way and she slid back. Francisco tried climbing, too, but the same thing happened to him. “Well, that won’t work,” he muttered. “We’re stuck. The way home is up that cliff. We could try to walk around but that will take till after dark.” He sighed. “What a mess. I’m sorry, Katie, I guess there’s only one thing to do—call our parents to come get us. Don’t worry,” he told her. “I’ll say I made you come with me.”

She laughed. “Thanks, but I don’t think that will work. We’ll just have to take our punishment. It was worth it, though.”

Then he said, as if talking to someone who wasn’t there, “Call home.”

They waited a few moments. Nothing happened. “It’s not working,” he said.

“Try it again,” Katie told him.

He stood up straight and said as clearly as he could, “Call home!”

Nothing happened. He shook his head. “Maybe it got damaged in the fall. Try yours.”

Now Katie did the same thing. “Call home,” she commanded, followed by silence.

Francisco unzipped his suit and looked inside. “The communicator has power,” he said.

“It’s the cliff,” Katie told him, looking up. “It’s blocking our signal. What do we do now?”

He shrugged. “I guess we’ll have to walk.”

“It’s getting dark,” she replied.

“I know. But we still have power, so we’ll be warm in our suits, and we’ll have lights. Maybe if we just walk a little, we’ll get to a spot with better reception.”

They looked at each other, each trying not to seem scared.

“Nothing else to do,” Katie agreed. “We can follow the cliff face. That will take us back to the colony. At least we don’t have to go into the forest.”

They began walking, keeping the cliff on their right. They’d only gone a few feet when a bright pair of wings fluttered around their heads. “Rosie!” Katie cried.

A second later, Francisco’s pet arteta flew up and landed on his shoulder. “Hey, Spot,” he said. “Do you know the way home?

As if in answer, the two artetas flapped their wings and flew off. But instead of following the cliff, they flew straight into the trees.

“Rosie! Come back!” Katie shouted.

“They’ll come when they want,” Francisco told her. “You know that. We have to keep going.”

They walked a few more feet and the two flying pets reappeared, circled around their heads, then flew off. They landed together on a branch at the edge of the forest.

“I think they want us to follow them,” Katie said.

Francisco shook his head. “Spot never did anything like that before.”

The two artetas sat on the branch and flapped their wings at the same time.

“He never did that before, either,” Francisco said. “Do you really think we should follow them?”

“Maybe a little,” Katie replied. She started to walk towards the forest and Francisco followed her. When they got up to the treeline, the two artetas flew away and landed on another tree a little further in the forest. The two creatures sat on a branch and flapped their wings again.

“Well, that’s pretty clear,” Francisco said. Suddenly seized by curiosity, he stepped into the thick brush. “Come on.”

A loud growling noise cut through the air.

“Very funny,” he said, turning towards Katie. “Cut it out. You scared me once already.”

Katie shook her head, her eyes wide. “That wasn’t me.”

“Oh, right,” he scoffed. “Then what was it?”

Katie pointed toward the line of the trees at the edge of the forest. “There,” she whispered, her voice trembling.

The growling noise began again, much louder than before. Francisco looked where Katie was pointing. At the edge of the forest stood a large, six-legged animal, taller than either of them, with shaggy dark blue fur and a long, pointed snout. As the two kids watched, it bared its teeth, revealing a mouth full of hundreds of white, needle-sharp teeth.

They were face to face with a needle dog.

Ed. : The tale continues in Part 4, “Surrounded.”