You probably don't think this is remarkable. But if you knew the jungle, you would find it hard to believe me, because an open space in the jungle is not possible. Something, anything, will occupy any space where it can find light to live and grow. Yet here was this clearing, and it was covered in grass. Yes, grass. Short grass. Turf. Impossible. Absolutely impossible. I walked out onto this grass very slowly, far more alarmed by this clearing than by any plant or creature I had met in the jungle itself. . . .
I was in a space that was about one hundred yards long and maybe half as wide, and I had walked out of the forest at a point about halfway down its length. I looked at first to my left and saw how the clearing ended in a dense, shadowy wall of trees. Then I looked to my right. And froze.
Standing there, with its back to the trees, was a goal. A soccer goal. Two uprights and a crossbar. With a net. A net fixed up like the old-fashioned ones, pulled back and tied to two poles behind the goal. My brain stood still in my head. I could hear the thumping of my blood. I must have looked like an idiot, my eyes mad and staring, my mouth hanging open. Eventually I found the nerve to take a few steps toward this goal, this quite impossible goal. The woodwork was a silvery gray, and the grain of the wood was open and rough. Weathered, like the timber of old boats left for years on the beach. It shone slightly. The net had the same color, like cobwebs, and thin green plant tendrils grew up the two poles that supported it.
It seemed to take an age, my whole life, to walk into that goalmouth. When I got there, I put out my hands and held the net. It was sound and strong, despite its great age. I was completely baffled and stood there, my fingers in the mesh of the net and my back to the clearing, trying, and failing, to make sense of all this.
And then my fingers began to tremble, and then my legs, because I was suddenly certain that I was not alone.
KEEPER by Mal Peet. Copyright (c) 2005 by Mal Peet. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Excerpted from Keeper by Mal Peet. Copyright © 2007 by Mal Peet. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.