|Codey’s World||Story Collections||Best of Friends||Ending by DesDownUnder|
The mini-van pulled into the parking area at the trail head and three excited teens piled out and began unloading their gear for the three day hike and camping trip. The three had been camping alone before but their parents had never let them be too far from home on previous camp outs. Now, at fifteen, their parents had agreed to a three day, two night hiking trip through the national forest. They would be on their own in an isolated area and even though their parents had some misgivings, all had agreed that the boys were mature enough to take this trip.
Jason and Jared Turner were identical twins and Logan Matthews was one of the few people, outside their family, who could tell them apart. The three lived on the same cul-de-sac in Circle City and had lived their entire lives there. When they were five and in kindergarten, something had clicked in Logan's brain and he just knew which twin was which.
When they reached seventh grade and were no longer in a single classroom all day, Jason, who was a math wiz, and Jared, who found History and other Social Studies to be no problem, would change clothes in the boys room and take tests for the other in the classes they were good at. As far as they knew, Logan was the only person on to their little scam and, since they were all so close, he'd never said anything. In fact he thought it was cool that they were able to fool the teachers like that. Logan was no slouch in school either and all three got decent grades.
The twin’s dad watched as the boys unloaded the car and piled their gear on the grass. “Have you got everything? You won't want to be out in the woods and find that you've forgotten something crucial.”
“Yeah, Dad. We're sure. We've triple checked the list and packed everything.”
“Okay boys, have fun and remember the rules. Stay together and stick to the route you marked out on the map for us. Remember, there's a lot of bears out there and they're filling up for the winter. We don't want any of you to become bear chow.”
“Awww Dad, we’re not little kids anymore.”
“I know,” he said grabbing the twins into a hug, “but you’ll always be my little boys no matter how big or old you get.” Then he reached over and grabbed Logan pulling him into what became a group hug. “You’ll all always be my little boys.”
Jared was the first to pull away. “So, Dad, don’t you think it’s about time for you to leave?” he asked with a grin.
“Ha ha ha. Okay, I can take a hint. You boys have fun and stay safe. Logan’s dad will pick you up the day after tomorrow at the Willow Lake trail head at four pm.” As he was pulling out of the parking area, he gave the boys a honk and a wave.
“Jeez! I thought he’d never leave.” Jared said. “Come on dudes, the wild is calling us.” The first couple hours were an easy climb but then the trail became steeper. The easy chatter and joking that had passed the time away in the beginning were replaced by heavy breathing and an occasional grunt as the trail wound its way to the top of the ridge. As they passed a milepost, Jared pulled out the trail guide and looked at it. “Just about a mile left to the ridge, guys. We can have lunch there.”
“A mile?” Jason moaned. “Oh God, why did I let you guys talk me into this? I can’t go any farther until I rest some.”
“Come on Jase, it’s only a mile and then it’s an easy hike to the trail fork for Devils Canyon. We can rest awhile after we have lunch.” Logan said.
“No way! I’m not moving another step until I rest some. Why aren’t you guys as wasted as I am? I know I’m in as good condition as you are.” Jared never answered, he just smiled. Jason frowned at his brother, “Okay dickhead, what’s in my pack?”
“Just regular camping stuff.”
“Regular camping stuff like what?”
Jared shrugged his shoulders. “You know just regular stuff. Toilet paper, ground cloth, some dried food, a couple bricks, canned food…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. A couple bricks? You put a couple bricks in my pack?”
“Well, actually it was three.”
Jason glared at his brother and dropped his bag on the ground and started unpacking it. “Why the hell did you put bricks in my pack?”
“It just seemed like the right thing to do.” Jared said, shrugging his shoulders.
“You are such an ass sometimes.”
Logan was sitting on his pack and laughing at the twins antics. What made it even funnier was that he knew, if Jason had packed the bags, he would have done the same thing to Jared. For over ten years he’d been watching the twins pull dirty tricks on each other. They’d fight about it and, as soon as they calmed down, they’d just go on like nothing had happened.
He envied them for the closeness they shared. He had a younger sister and they were close but it was a different kind of closeness. It was more of a protector closeness and not a companion/confidant closeness. He and the twins were the best of friends but even that paled next to the relationship the two of them shared. He often wondered what it would be like to be so close to someone you could share secrets without worrying that they’d tell someone else. His laughing stopped as soon as the word secret manifested itself. He couldn’t laugh anymore.
Neither of the twins noticed he wasn’t laughing as they continued to bicker. “Look at all this canned stuff.” Jason complained. “This is way more than I could eat. You’ve given me two of everything.” The realization hit Jason like a slap at the back of the head, “You turd breath! I’ve been carrying your food too! You are so gonna die!” Jared just smiled a sheepish smile and then started ducking the cans being thrown at him, “If you’re gonna eat it, you can carry it!”
Jason carefully replaced the gear from his pack while Jared picked up cans and dumped them in his. Although the twins were so much alike physically that few could tell them apart, there were differences in their personalities that were very pronounced. Jared was more impatient and tended to just jump into things as well as being on the hot head side and was a poor loser. Jason was more reserved and tended to be calmer in his reactions to new or unusual situations. Jason also tended to defer to his brother nearly all the time. It wasn't that Jason was a follower as much as he disliked confrontation.
Jason put his pack back on and fastened the belly strap but Jared was kicking through the weeds beside the trail like he'd lost something. “Come on, Jared, Let's get moving.”
“I can't yet. I can't find my fruit cocktail. You know I like it...where the hell did you throw it?”
“How am I supposed to know where it is? If it'd been in your pack, where it belonged, you wouldn't have lost it.”
“Damn!” Jared said pulling his own pack on, “what kind of camping trip will this be with no fruit cocktail?”
“Hello, Earth to Logan. Anyone in there?”
Logan was still lost in his own thoughts when he realized Jared was talking to him. He looked up into the smiling face of Jared. “Sorry, I guess I was day dreaming.”
“Well, wake up then, dude, and let's get a move on.”
Jared started up the trail, and Logan fell in a few paces behind him, with Jason bringing up the rear. They'd gone a couple of hundred yards when Logan noticed Jason now walking beside him.
“Hey,” Jason said.
“You okay dude?”
“Yea, I'm doing okay. Why?”
“Well, you just seem a little out of it today. If something's bothering you, you can talk it over with us, you know.”
“No...I'm fine. I've just been thinking about some things lately.”
“Well, when or if you need to talk, we're here to listen.”
“I know, dude. Thanks.”
It took them a half hour to reach the ridge and they stopped to eat the sandwiches their mothers had fixed for their first lunch.
“What did you get?”
“Peanut butter and jelly and a ham and cheese. What about you?”
“She made me the opposite.”
“Yea, ham and cheese and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“You guys are so whacked!” laughed Logan.
“Yea? Well at least we have some variety in our lives Mr. roast beef sandwiches.”
“I don't always have roast beef.”
“Oh yea? What have you got then?”
“I haven't looked yet.”
“Well then, look.”
Logan was laughing inside because he knew what he'd find. His mom always made him roast beef sandwiches when he needed a packed lunch. He pulled a sandwich out, unwrapped it, and took a bite. “Well, what is it?” Jared asked.
“I’m tasting it to see right now.”
“You don’t have to taste it, just look at it and you can tell.”
“It looks like a piece of meat in-between two slices of bread.”
“Quit stalling, asshole. What is it?”
“Okay, okay, it’s roast beef,” Logan said, laughing.
“YES! Jared is right once again! When will you losers learn not to disagree with me? I’m not wrong very often and, even when I’m wrong, I’m more right than either of you.”
Logan just rolled his eyes and continued eating his sandwich but Jason was giving Jared an angry look. “You know, your crap gets really old these days. Why don't you grow up?”
“What the hell are you taking about?”
“Your attitude. Jeez, Jared, you act like a two year old. If you're right about something or win a bet, you gloat. If you're wrong or lose a bet, you go berserk and accuse people of cheating just to make you look bad. You, seriously, need to grow up.”
“It's called self confidence, Lil Bro.”
“No, it's called arrogance, and being five minutes older doesn't make you my big brother. We're the same size and those five minutes don't count because you used them to tell the doctor what you think he did wrong in delivering you. You're a 'know it all' that can't stand to be wrong about anything.”
Logan listened to the two brothers arguing but didn't say anything. He'd heard them argue about this before and he wasn't about to take sides, although he did agree with what Jason was saying. Jared's temper was legendary at school and in the neighborhood and had landed him in detention more times than he could count.
When they were eleven, and in fifth grade, Jared had gotten angry over a lost dollar bet on the World Series and had broken Jonny Walker's nose. Jon's nose still has a crook in it and Jared ended up in anger management counseling before they would let him back in school. After only three or four sessions, he'd convinced the therapist it was just two boys fighting and the therapist gave him a clean bill of health and allowed him to return to school. This incident had given Jared a “bad ass” reputation and, although he wasn't a bully, most kids steered clear of antagonizing him.
The twins finished their argument and sandwiches and the three boys put on their packs and started up the trail along the ridge. “Only about an hour to the Devils canyon trail spur so we should get to our campsite for the night with plenty of time to spare.” Jared said.
The boys made sure to make plenty of noise, as they walked, to warn bears and other wild animals they were there. It wouldn't be much fun to surprise a bear eating berries along the trail. Jared was in the lead and was singing “99 Bottles of Beer” over and over. Logan was next in line and he'd, occasionally, join in the song but mostly was quiet. Jason brought up the rear and nervously kept checking the trail behind them. He wasn't so worried about bears but he knew cats were curious and was afraid some cougar would decide to see what all the commotion was about. He was last in line so if the cougar decided it needed a teen for dinner, he would be the most likely target. The fact that no cougars had been seen in this area for twenty five years, didn't impress him. Cats are sneaky and are only seen when they want to be seen.
“Looking for cougars?” Jason hadn't realized Jared and Logan had stopped and was startled to hear his brother's voice so close. Jared knew of his brother's fear of cougars and delighted in teasing him when they were camping. Jared was standing there smirking at him and even Logan looked amused.
“Screw you, Jared.”
“Come on guys.” Logan said. “You can argue later. We're at the cut-off and still have an hour to go to get to the camping area.”
“Cut-off?” Jason asked.
“The Devils Canyon Trail.” Jared told him.
“We're not supposed to take that trail. We told our parents we'd stay on the main trail.”
“The main trail's for little kids and old people.” Jared snorted. “We took a vote and decided to take the Devil's Canyon Trail.”
“No one asked me to vote.”
“You weren't there when we voted and it wouldn't have mattered if you were because you'd have lost since we both voted yes. That's how democracy works lil bro. The majority rules.” Jared told him.
“I don't like this guys. Our asses will be in the wringer if our parents find out.”
“They won't find out.”
“What if something happens to one of us? If the rangers have to come rescue us, they'll find out.”
“The only thing that might happen is that you'll get eaten by a cougar and Logan and I can just say it carried you up there to eat you.” Jared said with a laugh.
“Come on, Jason.” Logan spoke up. “It'll be okay. That trail's shorter and has more to look at. All the main trail has is trees.”
“Okay, but I want it clear that I'm only going under protest and because Dad told us to stay together.”
“Gotcha, Bro. Your protest is noted and your ass duly covered.” Jared laughed.
“If we get there before it's to late, we can pick some berries for desert with our dinner.” Logan said.
Jason looked at him in shock, “You have got to be kidding! You want us picking berries in bear country? We might as well print some signs in bear talk, and hang them on our backs. 'Today's special meat, teen boys to go along with your naturally sweet berries'.”
“We'll sing while we pick.” Jared laughed. “Come on guys, the devil awaits us.”
“God, I hope not.” Jason said.
Then he added flippantly, “and what do you suggest we sing, The Teddy Bears’ Picnic?”
Jared and Logan looked at Jason and then winked at each other, as they danced and pranced menacingly, bursting into song,
“Enough already,” shouted Jason and all three laughed out loud at their own antics.
They picked up their gear and marched onto the Devil’s Canyon Trail.
“Hey look there’s some berries on that bush,” said Logan as they walked, “they’re almost big enough to be small apples.” Jared rushed over and picked one. “It’s quite sweet,” he said.
“It might be poisonous,” said Jason.
“Don’t be silly;” said Logan, “this is a National Nature Reserve. They wouldn’t leave poisonous berry bushes growing for people to pick.”
He picked one and popped it into his mouth. “Hey it’s not bad,” he said, “try one Jason.”
Jason looked at the berries, picked one and bit into it.
“Your right, it is quite sweet, with just a touch of a bitter after taste.”
“Quite the connoisseur, our Jason isn’t he?” said Logan as he munched on a berry.
“Come on,” said Jared, “grab a handful of berries and let’s keep moving.”
The boys walked on up the Devil’s Canyon Trail. It was just like the other trail except it was steeper for a few hundred feet before it veered sharply to the right to avoid a large round boulder.
The boys walked around the big rock, turned and looked at it. “It’s huge. It must be fifteen feet in diameter,” said Jared.
“It’s called The Devil’s Marble,” explained Logan.
“Wow!” said Jason, “It is so smooth, almost like it is polished.”
“Close Sesame!” said Jared, but the boulder remained still.
“It will take more than a few words to shift the brute,” said a little old lady as she rode around the boulder passing the boys on her bicycle.
“Where did she come from?” asked Jason. They turned and looked as she disappeared down the path from where they had just come.
“I don’t know,” said Jared.
In the distance they heard the old lady laughing an evil sounding cackle as dark clouds rolled across the sky.
“I’ve never seen her before,” said Logan, “but she was ugly enough to be the Witch of Devil’s Canyon.”
“Stop it; I’ll never be able to sleep tonight,” said Jason, “What with the bears and the cougars and now the Witch. I wish you hadn’t said that.”
Jared snuck up behind them both and let loose with an evil laugh that made them both jump. “You don’t really have to worry about cougars you know, they’re more frightened of us than we are of them. Just don’t get in their way. Come on you too. We’re way behind time and it will get dark soon.”
“Hey,” said Jason, “the path is going down hill. I thought we would be going up toward the Canyon cliffs.”
“It goes down as the canyon wall forms then it widens up and out as it approaches a stream up ahead. At least that’s what the map shows,” said Logan.
“Map? What map? None of this stuff is on the trail guide I brought. Anyhow, I thought you said you had been up here before,” queried Jared.
“I have,” Logan replied, “with my dad.”
“So what’s with the map?” asked Jared.
“Well Dad and I took the Willow Lake Trail. He said this one was too dangerous, so when we got home I got a map to see why.”
“Okay then, lets have a look at it then,” said Jason.
“We can’t,” said Logan.
“Why not?” asked Jason.
“I forgot to fetch it.”
“You did what?” Jason and Jared chorused together.
“Oh that’s just great dude,” said Jason, “I’m going back the other way.”
“You really are an idiot at times Logan,” Jared said, trying to hold back his temper.
The clouds blocked the sun light as a gust of wind rattled down the path. A distant flash of lightning was followed by a crack of thunder that rumbled the very ground on which they stood. They rushed and stood under a tree to the side of the trail.
“Let’s just rest here for a moment. I’m feeling exhausted,” said Jason.
“Okay, I’m a bit tired too,” said Jared, “we’ll take a break for five minutes and then hurry on.”
The boys sat down around the base of a tree. They sat and looked at the canyon cliff wall opposite them.
Jared said, “You know we could climb up that cliff face and…”
“No way,” shouted Jason and Logan together. A fierce wind blew down the canyon entrance bending the tree branches until an old branch above them cracked and splintered and fell on top of them.
Jared and Logan crawled out from underneath the fallen branch. “Are you okay?” asked Jared.
“Fine,” said Logan, “where is Jase?”
“I’m here,” Jason called out from under the tree branch.
“Hang on Jase,” Logan said, “Jared, give me a hand to lever this branch up so he can get out.”
“Why don’t we leave him here and pick him up on the way back. It will be less trouble?” said Jared.
“Asshole,” said Jason.
“Come on Jared, lift.”
Jason scuttled out from under the branch as the boys lifted it up.
“Thanks dudes,” said Jason as another almighty clap of thunder shuddered through the air. The boys stood silent for a few seconds and then turned to run back the way they had come until they arrived at the boulder. The boys looked at it with their mouths agape. The Devil’s Marble had rolled across the path blocking their exit from the Devil’s Canyon Trail.
“The boulder has moved,” screamed Jason.
“Looks like it,” said Logan.
“Can we climb over it?” asked Jared.
More lightning followed by more thunder and then the sky opened up with a deluge of rain.
“It’s too wet and slippery now,” said Logan, “We’ll never climb it. Come on, we’ll have to go back down the trail till we get to the stream and set up camp there.”
They turned around and ran as fast as they could, the rain beating down upon them. The sky had turned a dark greeny-blue-gray as swirls of water and wind twisted high above them. The dark clouds above were exchanging lightning bolts.
Down the path they ran as trees branches broke off and hurled behind them and then flew off again in the wind. It was as if their path back was being blocked by a force unseen.
Not that they cared by this time. They were cold, wet and just looking forward to getting the camp set up so they could get out of the storm.
“Stop,” Yelled Logan, “Look up there. There’s a cave up the side of the cliff. We could sit the storm out up there.”
“You’re seriously nuts!” shouted Jason, “There’s probably a cougar or even bears in it.”
“Nah!” said Logan, “They’d never get up there.”
“I’ll run up ahead and see how far it is to the stream,” said Jared. Quickly he came running back down shouting, “Run, run.”
“What is it,” called Logan.
“You know that stream you told us about?”
“Yes?” answered Logan.
“Well it’s in flood and belting down the canyon towards us at a hundred miles an hour.”
“Oh Crap,” said Logan, though he meant to say something worse. “Well we can’t go back the way we came, the wind is too strong we’d never make it.”
“It’s not the wind that worries me…look,” Jason said as he pointed back down the path. “Quick climb up cliff face to that cave, NOW!”
“Why,” they asked him.
“Remember that boulder? Well check it out, dudes. It’s rolling down towards us as fast as it can.”
The boys practically grew suction caps on their feet as they scaled the rocky canyon wall till they reached the cave. Breathlessly they were about to fall upon the ground when they heard it. A low groaning hiss came from within the cave.
A lightning flash from above revealed two large cat’s eyes Looking as astonished as the boys felt.
“Back up!” whispered Jared “back up to the sides of the cave entrance and do exactly as I say. Stand up as tall as you can. Pull your back packs up over your neck and head as high as you can and stay near the side of the cave mouth. Leave a path for it to get out and whatever you do, don’t-lean-down.”
Logan and Jason did exactly as Jared said. For once they appreciated his authoritarian manner.
The cougar crouched down; its ears bent forward. It was very confused because it could see two of the one boy. It had never seen twin human boys before.
“Wait for the next thunder clap and then start yelling and waving your arms. Keep looking at it in the eye, but don’t get in its way,” Jared told them.
Seconds later lightning filled the sky followed by an almighty roll of thunder. “Now,” yelled Jared and all three started screaming and waving their arms above their heads.
Below them a torrent of water rushed towards the rolling boulder as if on a suicide mission of its own. Just as the water collided with the boulder, the big cat sprang out of the cave to escape past the boys. The cougar went flying out the mouth of the cave trying to jump to the opposite canyon wall some twenty feet away but it got caught in the gigantic rush of water that splashed up from the boulder colliding with the flood stream. When the water subsided the cougar was gone.
“Did I see what I thought I just saw?” asked Jason.
“Yeah, dude, pretty much, I’d have to say yes. That is right, yes, you saw what you thought you saw,” said Logan in a bit of a daze.
“No doubt about it Jase, I saw it too,” said Jared as he crawled into the cave.
Whether it was the wet and cold or the terror of the threats around them did not really matter; the boys were shivering and shuddering from it all.
“I’m cold and wet,” said Jason.
“Me too,” said Jared.
“Do I need to say, me three?” asked Logan.
“Do you think it is safe in here?” said Jason “Are there anymore cougars in the cave?”
“They are very solitary animals she was probably alone,” said Jared.
“How did you know all this cougar stuff?” asked Jason.
“Unlike some people, I stayed awake in nature studies,” replied Jared with a smirk, “Cougars won’t usually attack humans unless they are protecting their young or you get in the way of their food.”
Logan pulled off his back pack and pulled out a torch. He shone it quickly around the cave. “It seems empty,” he said as he lay his pack down on the ground “Let’s get out of these wet clothes. Thank heavens we got these waterproof backpacks. I’ll start the portable gas burner to get a bit of warmth going.”
The boys started to strip down. Outside, lightning and rain danced to the sound of the wind and thunder.
Inside the cave the boys dried off their soaking wet bodies.
Jared was looking at Logan who caught his eye, “What?” he asked. He turned to see Jason eyeing his well defined body. “What is it with you two?”
Jason and Jared blushed but no one could see that in the cave.
A little while later Logan announced, “I’ve heated up some tinned soup guys. Give me your cups.”
Jason and Jared had spread out the ground sheet onto the floor of the cave. As Logan handed them the cups of soup they sat down and wrapped one of the other sleeping bags around themselves. Logan perched himself in between them.
“We might be safe here till morning,” said Jason.
“That is unless the water rises,” said Jared.
“Not likely,” said Logan.
“Yeah well none of this was likely a few hours ago,” Jason said, shivering. “Did either of you geniuses bring a mobile phone with you?”
“No point,” said Logan “there is no coverage out here.”
“Oh that’s great,” said Jason, as his teeth started to chatter from the cold.
“Okay,” said Logan, “zip up the other two sleeping bags, we’ll need to sleep together naked to keep our body heat up.”
“Naked? You have got to be joking,” shouted Jared.
“It’s the only way to keep warm dude. We are going to need all our strength in the morning.”
Jason had already got the bags joined together and had crawled in.
“I think your Lil bro is asleep anyway dude,” said Logan.
Reluctantly, Jared got into the sleeping bags as Logan turned off the gas cooker. He had slept naked with his brother before, but he was not expecting the closeness of their skin to be so warming to his body.
Logan stumbled in the dark until he found the opening to the sleeping bags. “Move over,” he said to Jared as he climbed in behind Jason.
“My li’l bro better still be a virgin in the morning,” whispered Jared in a low voice.
“What makes you think he is still one now?” Logan said with a chuckle.
“Asshole,” said Jared.
“Who thinks I’m still a virgin?” asked a sleepy Jason
“Go to sleep you two,” ordered Logan.
“Yes Dad,” the twins said together.
A lightning flash lit up the cave followed by another violent thunder clap. The boys huddled closer in the warmth of the sleeping bags.
The gray light of a wet and rainy day that comes just before dawn had awoken Jared before the others. He could see the rain still belting down outside. This was easily the most ferocious rain storm he could remember. He crawled out of the sleeping bag and shivered momentarily until he grabbed some dry clothes from his backpack. He silently blessed his mom for making him take a spare set of jeans and t-shirt. The jumper he had been wearing was still damp but at least his Parka would keep him warm.
He walked to the edge of the cave and looked down at the strongly flowing stream of water. The boulder, the Devil’s Marble was no where to be seen. He looked back into the cave. Jared was amused by the closeness of the sleeping embrace of his two companions. Normally he would have been jealous of anyone showing affection towards his brother, but somehow Logan seemed exempt from such feelings.
A little over an hour later Logan stirred and sat up rubbing his eyes. He looked around and saw Jason asleep alongside him. He loved the way Jason had been cuddling into him in his sleep. If only he could tell him how much he loved it, but he didn’t dare. Logan loved both the twins, but he thought he must never reveal how he felt about Jason. Better he told himself to just be friends with them both.
He looked around the cave for Jared, but he was not there. Hurriedly, he got up and went to the front of the cave. He looked out through the rain at the flooded stream still rushing, now only a half an arm’s length below the cave entrance. The water looked like it was still rising. A fear gripped his heart as he thought of Jared falling into the stream during the night.
‘Where is he?’ he thought to himself.
Then he saw it. At the back of the cave a darkness emerged out of the floor of the cave. The figure grew as if expanding from the very dirt itself. Then it turned, looked at him and said “Hi Logan. How are ya, dude?”
“Jared? Is that you?”
“Who do you think it is?” asked Jared.
Logan rushed over to him and threw his arms around him.
“I missed you too Logan,” said Jared, “perhaps not quite so much as you, though, as he looked down at Logan’s morning wood.”
“Jeez you two should get your own cave,” said Jason as he got out of the sleeping bag rubbing his eyes. The three of them were use to seeing each other naked; teasing each other first thing in the morning after a sleepover.
“Look who’s talking,” said Jared as pointed at Jason’s naked state.
“Um, Oh, err,” said Jason with great clarity whilst covering himself with his hands.
“Listen you two get dressed while I get us something to eat and then I will tell you what I have found,” said Jared.
A few minutes later the boys sat around eating a makeshift breakfast of cookies, dried fruit and water.
Jared began telling them of his discovery.
“There’s a small hole in the floor at the back of the cave, just big enough for us to get through. I can see light at the end of a tunnel about forty feet away so that should take us to the other side of this cliff and hopefully out of here to the other trail,” he told them.
“Not so, Jared,” said Logan, “the Willow Lake Trail is the other side of the canyon over the stream of flood water.”
“Are you sure?” asked Jared.
“Yeah it is,” confirmed Jason because we had to turn to the right not left after the boulder.”
“That’s another thing,” said Jared, “the boulder is gone.”
Jason went to see. Logan said, “I noticed that when I was looking for you earlier. I suppose the water pushed it back down the track.”
“Or the Devil came to pick up his marble,” said Jared.
“Don’t start making suggestions like that. We have enough to worry about now as it is,” yelled Jason as he walked back from the mouth of the cave. “We could have been killed last night.”
“Yes,” said Logan, “Yes you are right, but we weren’t and Jared seems to have found a way out of this cave.”
“What, through a tunnel, that leads we don’t know where?” said Jason, “It might be better to stay here and wait to be rescued.”
“No one knows where we are and I bet they won’t look in this cave. No I think we should move on or at least have a look at where the tunnel goes,” Logan said.
“All right let’s vote on going through the tunnel,” said Jared “I’m for it.”
“Me too,” said Logan.
“Me three,” said Jason.
“You too?” said Jared and Logan together.
“Yeah well my vote doesn’t count and as we’ll probably never see Mom and Dad again it doesn’t matter how I vote, so I vote yes too. Besides which, I am not staying here by myself and in case you haven’t noticed the water is lapping at the cave entrance.”
The three teenagers looked at the water lipping the ledge and then quickly packed up their things and moved to the back of the cave.
“We better get a move on,” said Logan.
“I’ll go first,’ said Jared, “as I know which way the tunnel goes. You two can hand me the back packs and then come down afterwards.
Soon the three found themselves in a darkened space under the cave. Logan shone his flashlight around. “That’s good,” said Logan.
“What’s good?” said the twins at the same time.
“Well I can’t see any bats,”
“Or snakes,” he added.
“And no spiders, scorpions or molten lava,” Logan finished.
“I think I am going to faint,” said Jason.
“Oh no you don’t.” said Jared, “Just stop it Logan. You’re scaring him into an early grave.’
“Early grave?” exclaimed Jason, but they couldn’t see his eyes widen in the dark shadows.
“Give me the torch,” snapped Jared, “Just follow me you two.” He picked up his backpack and began walking down the narrow tunnel. Logan and Jason were close behind.
“I just had a thought,” said Jason, “what if there is no way out of here and the water from the stream floods the cave? We would be trapped down here and drown as it fills up with water.”
“Yes that’s a possibility,” said Logan, “but we would have drowned anyway if we had stayed in the cave.”
“I suppose so,” replied Jason.
“Stop worrying you two. We will be out of the tunnel before that happens, if it happens.”
After some thirty feet, Jared stopped.
“What did you stop for?’” asked Logan who was last in line.
“Houston, we have a problem,” said Jared, “there is a break in the tunnel of about eight feet. I can’t get across it.”
“We’re all going to die,” said Jason.
“Thanks for the news update, Jase.” said Logan.
Logan and Jason watched as Jared shone the flashlight into the chasm in front of him. Then he flashed it on and off a couple of times.
“I have an idea,” said Jared.
“God help us,” said Jason.
“The hole drops down about six feet then sort of levels out before it slopes down into another tunnel. I can make out another opening about maybe twenty feet away I think,” Jared explained.
“You think?” Jason said, “And how do we get down there? We forgot to pack the parachutes you know.”
“Its only six feet down or so. If we throw the backpacks down first they will cushion our landing when we jump down onto them.”
“Jump down?” exclaimed Jason and Logan together.
“Come on guys we don’t have a lot of choices here, just pass me the backpacks and I’ll drop them down and go first.”
Jared did as he said, but Jason and Logan heard nothing after Jared jumped except for a dull thud.
“Are you okay Jared?”
“Hang on guys. I’m rearranging the backpacks for you. I missed them,” Jared yelled back.
‘”Are you okay?” Jason called out with some concern for his twin.
“Just my pride, Jason, nothing to worry about.”
“He landed on his butt,” laughed Logan.
“It’s a wonder he hasn’t got a concussion, then,” giggled Jason.
“What are you two waiting for, stop carrying on up there and jump… wait a minute.”
“Make up your mind Jared,” said Logan.
“He can’t. It’s too sore for him to think with,” said Jason.
“If you two have quite finished, listen to me. I will turn the flashlight on so you can see where to land. Don’t jump till you see the light. Okay?”
“Gotcha dude,” yelled Jason.
“You go first,” said Logan.
“Ready,” Jared called out.
Jason looked down. He could see the light. It seemed further away than six feet.
“Come on jump,” said Jared.
“Here I come.” Jason leapt and landed on the packs.
“I did it.”
“My turn,” yelled Logan.
“Perhaps you should stay there Logan. We’ll tell the rescue rangers where your body is.”
“Oh very funny,” said Logan “Now shine that torch.”
Logan jumped and landed almost on top of Jared.
“Watch it,” said Jared.
“Jared,” said Jason, “the tunnel floor slopes away pretty steeply.”
“I noticed that,” said Jared, “we might have trouble not falling down the incline.”
After a few moments examining the tunnel, Jason announced, “I think I know how we can make it. Get the ground sheet out of the backpack.”
Jared unfolded the ground sheet and then Jason spread it on to the floor of the tunnel.
“Right now I will sit at the front holding the front corners of the groundsheet tied to my backpack. You two grab your back packs and sit behind me. Logan you go last because you weigh more than Jason or I. Do you understand?”
“Yes thanks very much,” said Logan “What you are saying is that you think I need to go on a diet. I’ll have you know it is all muscle.”
“Whatever,” said the twins.
So Logan sat at the rear grabbing hold of Jared with his backpack in between them. Then Jared and his backpack between himself and his twin who was holding the front of the ground sheet tied and looped around his backpack.
“All right,” said Jason “Now all we have to do is move our legs and pull ourselves along the slope. The weight will slow us down from going to fast.”
“The weight,” said Jared “that would be Logan?”
“Just remember I’m sitting behind you Jared.”
Slowly the boys moved along the sloping tunnel like an awkward six legged insect.
“It’s working,” said Jason, “Take it steady the floor is quite smooth.”
“It must have been a water way at one time,” said Jared “The flow of water would have worn the floor smooth.”
“Just go slow,” said Jason.
“Dudes, I hate to tell you this,” said Logan “but I think that cave must have filled up with water. My butt is getting wet.”
Before anyone could make a smartass reply there was a gush of water rushing from behind them which turned the whole tunnel floor into a slippery slide that accelerated their movement forwards just as if they were on a wet-slide.
If they had been at a seaside amusement park they would have played on this slide all day long, but here in the dark interior of the cliff, the terror of the unknown was real and all three screamed, very loudly. Faster and faster they moved at a blistering speed as the water propelled them forward as if they were in a water cannon.
Their ears seemed to pop at the sudden silence as they exited the tunnel and glided through the air to a splashdown that would have made NASA envious. They had landed in a pool of water inside the cliff. Eerie light seemed to illuminate the black water and shiny dark walls.
They stood up in the pool it was only a few feet deep, just enough to cushion their fall.
“Is everyone all right?” asked Logan.
“Except for being wet again, yes I’m okay.”
“So am I,” said Jason, “where are we?’
They waded through the water, testing to make sure there were no sudden holes in the bottom of the pool.
“There’s light over this way,” Jared said as he waded around a wall of rock.
“Look,” said Logan as he pointed to a curtain of water falling from above. It shimmered in sunlight from outside. “It’s a waterfall and we’re behind it.”
They climbed up onto a rocky ledge and peered around the waterfall as they stretched and took deep breathes of the fresh air.
“Where do you think we are?” asked Jason.
“On the other side of the canyon,” said Jared.
Logan and Jason just looked at him.
“What?” he snapped at them.
“Nothing,” said Jason and Logan.
The leaned around the edge of the waterfall and looked out into a perfect sunlit day. Their breath was taken away by an unexpected sight.
“What the hell is going on down there,” said Jason.
Spread out below them was a huge camping ground of crisp green grass, surrounding a small but picturesque lagoon type lake fed by the clear liquid crystals of the waterfall. The sun was shining white as wispy cotton clouds floated lazily across the pale blue sky.
What really surprised them however were the motorbikes everywhere.
“There must be a hundred or more motorbikes on the grounds,” said Logan.
“Hmmm, more like three hundred,” Jason told him.
The boys saw little tables of food and kegs of beer around the edge of the lake. Off to one side just a little distance from the waterfall was a campervan with smoke coming from an exhaust in its roof. Under an annex on the side of the van was a portable barbecue. The smell of sausages and hamburgers cooking wafted up to the boys.
“I’m hungry,” said Jason.
“Me too,” said Jared.
“Me three,” said Logan.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Jared, “follow me dudes.”
The boys followed Jared as he slipped out from behind the waterfall.
“Look there is a whole plate full of sausages and a bottle of tomato sauce on that table by the campervan. Come on.” Jared ran off and after a few moments came back over to his companions with the plate of food. “Dig in,” Jared told his companions.
Jason looked and then said to Jared, “You forgot the sauce.”
“And something to drink,” added Logan.
With that Logan and Jason ran off towards the table followed by Jared who was carrying the plate of sausages. Logan had three bottles of soda and Jason had the tomato sauce. The three of them went around to the other side of the campervan where they sat on the green grass with their backs against the van. “I knocked over a jug of beer,” said Jason
“Don’t worry about it dude, that stuff tastes foul anyway.”
As they finished eating they heard a gruff voice yell out, “Who’s pinched my plate of sausages?”
A younger voice yelled out, “And where did the sauce go?”
“Stuff the sauce, Someone’s spilt my beer,” a big mean looking hairy man called out, “I’ll kill ‘em!”
The boys got up and peered around the edge of the van. All the men had gathered around the tables looking at each other with suspicion.
“Look there!” said one of the men as he pointed to the boys.
Three hundred pairs of eyes peered out from their bearded faces, blazing with a rage that only spilt beer can cause.
“Look three twinkie-cubs, get ‘em.”
“What the hell is a twinkie-cub?” asked Jason.
“I think they mean us, yes that would be my guess who they mean, us,” said Logan.
“Oh great!” said Jared as he jumped up, “We better get out of here.”
The three boys ran across the open grass area into a forest of trees and thickets, ignoring a sign that read “Private property do not enter.”
“Did you see that sign?” asked Jason, “We shouldn’t be in here.”
“Yeah, right.” said Jared, “Well it looks like the gorillas on bikes aren’t going to chase us in here.”
“Oh they aren’t gorillas,” said a voice from above them, “they call themselves ‘bears’, Bears on Bikes to be precise.”
The boys stopped and looked up as a youth with jet black hair jumped down from one of the trees. The three boys stared at him. He was wearing white jeans and a flowing white shirt with a gold belt around it Cossack style. The shafts of sunlight filtering through the trees seemed to make him glow against his perfectly tanned skin.
“You can stop running they won’t come in here. They’re all afraid of my grandmother.”
Jared just stood there just looking at the apparition before him. He had never seen anyone so devastatingly handsome, so graceful, so…so, yet so masculine. Jason and Logan were likewise impressed with the boy who was bout their age, but it was Jared who was drooling out of the side of his mouth.
“Who, who are you?” asked Jared.
“I am Siegfried,” he said as he his long curly eyelashes waved their own greeting to Jared, “and can I ask for your names?”
“I’m sorry, I’m Jared and this is my twin brother Jason and our friend Logan.”
Logan and Jason were shocked. They had never heard Jared apologize to anyone before, without him being threatened to life without fruit cocktail.
“Well, I am pleased to met you all and let me welcome you to my forest,” said Siegfried.
“Were pleased to meet you too,” said Jared, “Sorry we trespassed onto your forest.”
Jason and Logan just looked at each other.
“Oh, it isn’t really mine. It belongs to my grandmother. She wouldn’t mind you walking through it. It is just the Bears on Bikes she can’t stand.”
“Why?” asked Jason.
“Come with me, back to her house and she will tell you herself.”
Siegfried walked on. The boys shrugged at each other and then followed him along a slim path between the bushes.
“We don’t get many visitors out here. In fact not many people even know about this place.”
“Where exactly are we?” asked Logan, “We’re kind of lost. We have to get to the head of Willow Lake Trail by Sunday afternoon.
“Yes, I understand,” said Siegfried, “plenty of time, don’t worry I’ll help you.”
Further into the woods they walked with Siegfried leading the way.
“Something’s not right,” Jason whispered to Logan.
“I feel it too,” said Logan, “let’s just go along for the moment and see what happens.”
“Okay,” said Jason, but he was feeling somewhat apprehensive and could sense that Logan was as well.
Deeper and deeper they went into the thick of the forest, until the trees suddenly became sparse and in the middle of a clearing they saw a small cottage in a picturesque garden. An old lady was bending over pulling some weeds out of the ground. As she stood up Logan, Jared and Jason gasped a horrified breathe. It was the old lady they saw riding the bicycle yesterday around the Devil’s marble.
“This is my grandmother, Esmeralda.”
“Oh hello boys, I see you made it through Devil’s Canyon all right,” she said with a bit of a laugh, “You must be thirsty, come inside and I will get you something to drink.”
They all followed her into the cottage, where she poured them some homemade lemonade.
“Where did you find them Ziggy,” she asked Siegfried.
“Ziggy?” asked Jared.
“Oh Grandma calls me Ziggy, you can too,” he said to Jared. He turned to answer his grandmother’s question, “they were running away from the Bikie Bears and escaped into the forest.”
“I’m sorry we trespassed on your land,” said Jared to her.
Logan and Jason looked at each other; Jared’s apologies were getting tedious.
“It’s quite all right. Those pesky bears are everywhere today,” she said. “I’m glad Ziggy was there to show you the way here. Now fetch your lemonade outside and drink it in the garden.”
As they walked out into the garden, Jason screamed.
Logan rushed to his side, “What’s wrong?” he asked.
Jared grabbed Ziggy’s arm as he saw what had caused Jason’s alarm.
“Look! There are cougars out there.”
“It’s okay,” said Ziggy, “they are only kittens. They won’t hurt you.”
“But, but,” said Jason, “They’re just walking around.”
Ziggy lifted Jared’s hand off his arm and led him over to the kittens.
“See, they’re quite tame,” he said patting one of the kittens, “Grandma, tell the boys how you stopped the Bears form coming into the forest.”
“Oh, it was nothing,” said the old Lady, “every year the Bears came up to the Waterfall Park for their picnic and would then ride around on their bikes in the forest ripping up the bushes and paths.”
“I had been raising the kitten’s mother and after a couple of years, when she had grown up, she went into the forest and scared some of the Bears by chasing them on their bikes. She thought they were playing with her. They’ve never come back into the forest.
“I didn’t see her that much after that and thought she must have gone off into the mountains. But then one day about three months ago she turned up in the garden rock shelter over there.” She pointed to a little rock garden built into an embankment. “Elsa, that’s what I called her, gave birth to these three kittens.”
“Where is she now?” asked Jason, looking around still nervous.
“We haven’t seen her since yesterday,” said Ziggy, “We hope she is all right. The kittens won’t survive without her.”
“Oh. No.” said Jared, “I think we saw her yesterday during the storm.”
“Storm? What storm?” Ziggy and his Grandmother said together.
“There was a big storm,” cried Jason, “It came on suddenly just as after we ate those berries.”
“You didn’t eat the apple-berries at Devil’s Canyon did you?” asked the old lady, “You shouldn’t have done that. They aren’t good for you.”
Suddenly the boys all felt woozy and giddy. Their vision seemed to wane and lose focus.
“The storm almost killed us. We almost drowned. Help, we have to get help, we have to help the cougar get back to her kittens.”
“Help, yes we need to get help,” said Logan.
“Help, help us,” said Jared as he opened his eyes and looked straight into a very handsome face, “Oh. Hi, you must be Ziggy?” said Jared.
“Yes I am but how did you know?”
“He must have heard me talking to you,” said an old lady standing near him.”
“How are feeling dear?” she said, “You ate some of the apple-berries didn’t you?”
“Yes I did,” said Jared, “We all did. Are we poisoned? Will we be all right?”
“Yes you will be fine. The berries just make you sleepy and cause dreams. Did you have a dream?”
“Yes I suppose I did.” Jared went to stand up but was still a little groggy. Ziggy put his arm around him to stop him from falling down. Jason looked at the tree where they had stopped to have a rest, yesterday. Was that yesterday or is it still today? Then he realised they had fallen asleep and he had dreamed up the storm.
“Are Jason and Logan okay?” asked Jared.
“You mean your two friends? Yes, they are fine but still asleep. They look so cute cuddling each other like that under the tree,” said the old lady as she pointed towards them. Are they boyfriends? My Ziggy is looking for a nice boy friend.”
“Awww Grandma, please. You’ll scare him away.”
Just then a big man roared up the path on his motor bike.
Jason and Logan woke up to the sound of the bikes exhaust and looked at him in fear.
“Damn! The Bikie-Bears have captured us,” said a startled Jason.
“Bikie bears?” said the ranger on the trail bike as he looked at the old lady, “Are those bikies giving trouble again Esmeralda?”
“No, no they are behaving themselves. The boys ate some of the berries though and had the dreams.”
“Dreams?” said Logan and Jason.
“I’ll explain later,” Jared told them.
“I see,” said the Ranger, “any side effects?”
“No, they will be fine, but we have lost Elsa.” She said.
“No you haven’t.” said the ranger, “I found her up on the ridge all wet and half drowned. She must have fallen into the stream, but she’s ok. I was just coming to tell you I’ll drive her over to your place tonight in my van.”
“Oh thank you Ted,” said Esmeralda, “I was quite worried about her.”
“So were we,” said Logan.
“Are the kittens okay?” asked Jason.
“Yes they are,” said Ziggy, “but how did you know about them?”
“It’s the berries; they all had the same dream. It’s not all that unusual for people to have the same dreams you know,” said Esmeralda, “especially when you are the best of friends.”
Jared spoke quietly to Jason and Logan. They blushed a crimson red. Then he turned to Ziggy.
“What did you say to them, Jared? They have turned scarlet,” said Ziggy.
“I told them they should be boyfriends. Look at them will you, they’re made for each other.” Jason was looking coyly at Logan who was flexing his muscles seductively at Jason.
“What about you Jared? Do you have a friend?”
“Are you offering Ziggy? I would like it if you were.”
Ziggy took hold of Jared’s hand, “So would I Jared,” he said as he looked into his eyes.
Logan whispered to Jason, “I think Jared has found his Prince Charming.”
“So have I,” Jason whispered back to him clasping his hand.
“Do you want to go on our camping trip with us Ziggy?” asked Jared.
Ziggy turned to his grandmother, but before he could say anything she said, “Of course you can go. I was wondering when you would ask. Is that all right with you boys?”
“Yes,” all three said at once.
“Well I better get back home to the kittens. Ted, I’ll wait there for you, to bring Elsa home. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
“Thanks,” said Ted, “I love your home made cooking.” Ted rode off down the trail as Esmeralda got onto her bicycle, “Have fun boys and watch out for snakes,” she said with a wicked laugh as she rode away.
“Where are we going to set up camp,” asked Ziggy, quickly trying to avoid his grandmother’s remarks about snakes.
“Down the Willow Lake Trail!” the three boys shouted together.
They set off walking down the trail, while off in the distance the sun sprayed sunbeams up into the sky making the clouds glow with the warmth of a golden autumn late afternoon.
And they all lived and played happily together as the best of friends should.
* 1. Teddy Bear Picnic, words by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932, music by John W. Bratton in 1907 Cougar research via net. The rest is fictional fantasy.