|...... Please note - this item was written for a contest and as such has not been edited according to the reviewer's advice or any other edits.
CAMPING - or - if you go into the woods today.
Summer is here and we had planned all winter to go on this camping trip.
Getting back to nature, the early morning coffee from a pot of freshly brewed over an open fire. The freedom of nature's call behind a tree, the first sounds of a new day. These are the things why a person would come here. No smog or traffic noises, no radios, television or Twitter chatter .... oh no, only the calling of the birds in the trees and a gentle breeze through the tree tops. This is getting back to ones roots, back to Mother nature to where one originated from those many years ago.
Each one of us had decided to pool our resources and each of us had a claim to fame. Fisherman; hunter; mountaineer; photographer; nature-lovers all off us, to each his or her own We were going to do our thing, everyone had an agenda. Fun, fun, fun, at any and all cost. We had worked for this and we owed ourselves this break.
We rented a motor home with all the mod-cons as we did not have to suffer. It is one thing going back to nature and another to be stupid about it.
We had our spare tents and the motor home would be headquarters where we would gather at night to share our night- cap and yarns of the day. The plan was to hire a guide which would be able to help and assist us to where the best sights were and knew the movements of the game. Every one had their own plan and we would share in ventures where and when we felt like it, otherwise everyone would enjoy nature to their hearts delight.
After we had established the camp area, the guide called us together and gave us a few basic guidelines on the dos and donts about the rules of good house keeping in the woods.
Most of it was common sense which any serious camper should be aware of. The most important rule is to always have a roll of toilet paper in the backpack and wear good shoes or boots. If nothing else, always remember these two rules. And do wear bright clothing, the brighter, the better
Ash took his fishing gear with all other mod cons that he could carry. Dark assisted him by taking the much needed refreshments that a true fisherman requires, the food basket - well stocked for a few days fishing at the waterside. Ash's idea was to spend as much time down at the lakeside and, in his words, " just get away from it all".
On being asked if he had enough bait, Ash replied with this story,
"The last time I went fishing, I took every imaginable bait I could find. Also a generous supply of rye whiskey to keep me company as I went alone. After two days of offering all my different baits there was not one bite. There I was, thinking about what the fish would like, when a big, fat rattle-snake went by with a frog in his mouth. There and then I grabbed him behind the neck and removed the frog. I looked him in the eye and feeling a bit sorry for the snake, I poured a generous dose of rye whiskey down his throat and let him go. This was the one bait I did not have and I put the frog on the hook and cast the new bait in. Settling down, filling my glass again and waited for the 'big one' to take the bait. Just then I felt a tap on my shoulder and as I looked around, there was the rattle snake with another frog ..... Yes, I have every bait this time, even frogs."
When Dark returned from helping Ash with his gear, she got her stuff together for her evening's plan. She was going to rig a few insect funnels to attract moths and other night insects in the redwood forest. As an amateur entomologist, she was hoping to add a few new specimens to her collection. Insect funnels are a round, cloth cylinder, about three feet high and a foot in diameter with an infra-violet torch light on the inside to attract the insects to it. Dark planned on moving far enough into the redwoods where our campsite's lights would not interfere with the funnel's light. There she would spend all night and if need be, sleep in her one-man tent. A large thermos flask would suffice for the liquid refreshments.
Doc was planning on 'bagging' as many wildlife with his fancy new cameras as he could find. He was going to compile a new catalog for this type of rain-forest. He looked like a Japanese tourist with all his cameras around his neck, a big camera for the long shots and an array of sizes with the very big camera for the very close-up shots of butterflies and other small plants. Patience and quiet, with a keen eye and lightning reflexes are the requirements of a wildlife photographer. A tripod over the shoulder, with light-meters and all the paraphernalia, the rain-forest was his oyster.
Not everyone that comes out into nature is a nature-lover. Gary was looking at 'finding himself '. He had a few,long, hard years behind him as the top-dog in his company. Working like a slave to be the best at what he does, striving for perfection and somewhere in all of that dog-eats-dog world, he lost himself. He woke up one morning and nothing made sense anymore. There was no sense in being the best, in achieving his targets or the accolades and admiration of his peers. All had no meaning any more. He had lost IT, whatever IT was. A serious talking too by his boss and the with the suggestion of his shrink, Gary was taking a Sabbatical, a few days away from it all. Back to Mother Nature's healing power. Maybe he could find his drive, his purpose, again. By taking long walks and doing what the moment gave, Gary hoped to find his life back.
A birdwatcher is a strange bird in itself. As humans go, they are a strange lot. They will go miles and miles to see an eagle on its nest. A tit taking a bath in a birdbath, can make them go ooo and ah like no connoisseur of a fine wine could. Voyeurs of all their feathered friends, peeping Toms of the bird-world. That was Misty, with the binoculars and notebook, birding guide and tape recorder, even the latest in birdwatchers fashion, straight from Milan or somewhere. Nothing that money could not buy.
The seeker of the truth, looking for the story behind the story, a real amateur Sherlock Holmes. This was Red. Always with the probing questions, the asking and the weighing of every word. Seeker of the hidden facts, things are never as they seem. These are the ways of a freelance, crime investigator - reporter. Hoping to find a story in every little innocent event. Never satisfied with another persons story. They see themselves as the purveyors of the truth and sometimes, by betraying the very same truths they stand for. Red was looking for a story. Maybe the story would find him.
Every now and then, a parcel like these come this way. Spoiled brats that have it all. They have it all and do not know what it is to work for, or suffer, for anything, Daddy's little Drama Queens. They arrive with everything as new as can be, the latest of everything and the best brand names. All these fittings that after one tour means nothing anymore and will simply evaporate into nothingness. Expecting a luxury five star hotel. What a rude awakening awaits these two Barbie dolls, ZoŽly and Rhemny. Nothing like flies shooing at lunch and being the main mosquito feeding frenzy at night.
On the Tuesday morning, straight after breakfast, Red went to visit Ash at the fishing site. Not long after, Red came into the camp site, half running, out of breath and sweat running down his face.
"Ash is gone, there was something there, he's gone, just gone!"
After giving Red a drink and calming him, he again confirmed that Ash was gone and something must have taken him.
We all went down to the lake's shore to the fishing site. The guide started babbling about crocodiles and started pointing out where there were footprints and other marks that could be the sliding marks of a very big creature. By this time Red had composed himself enough to take photos and started, with the help of the guide, to sort the logic out of events. What they could eventually get to was the following; if it was a crocodile, which we suspect it was, he must have been massive. He came out of the water quite a way from where Ash was fishing, went into the grass and sneaked up behind Ash, where he must have been grabbed him in one swoop and took Ash into the water. Nothing else was gone, no sign of a struggle, only the massive footprints and a broken camp-chair was silent witnesses to the events. We left all the items as was and went back to the camp.
We agreed that there was no sense in rushing things and we would stay on awhile and send the guide to get the police.
Dark said that she wanted to set her insect funnels and she said she would prefer to go alone and there was no reason for concern as she was very far away from the lake. She stood up and went to her funnels in the woods.
Misty and Doc said they would like to get a day's worth in and would be out early in the morning.
Red said he wanted to go down to the lake again, to see if there was anything to see, where upon everybody tried to dissuade him and wait for the police. Red went on about that this was not the first reported case of this nature for this area and everybody should stay in groups.
Gary said he was tired from all the excitement and was turning in and the two brats insisted on sleeping in the motor-home which we agreed on.
In a short while, one of the brats shouted that there was no gas in the stove in the motor-home and they wanted to make coffee. I then informed the guide, Legger, to go and look at the situation. I excused myself and went behind a tree a bit away from the campfire for a nature call
There was a massive, big bang and the motor-home enveloped into a fireball. There was obviously no hope for the, well, will we be gracious and say, the two young ladies. The guide was nowhere to be seen either.
Again, in a short while, some of our party had departed. In silence, each with their thoughts, and nothing to do but wait for daylight.
We stayed around the campfire and slept almost as we were.
AND MORE STRANGE THINGS.
The next morning, at daybreak, Misty and Doc, re-affirmed their intention of a last day, Gary said he would walk around the parameter of the camp area and Red and me went to investigate the embers of the motor-home. There was nothing to be done except look. There was only a pile of nothing.
We waited a while longer, still no Dark. We had made breakfast with what we had salvaged from Ash's cache. We called Gary in, who took a bit of coffee and refused anything to eat. Red pecked at his food and I ate because the day was still long before it was done.
I said we should start to call everyone in as we should get going, it was still a long way from the nearest help.
Nobody answered, and I said to Red we should go and look for them and asked Gary to stay behind and wait for us or inform the others where we had gone.
I walked ahead and as soon as we were into the wooded area, I heard the sound of the click of a revolver's hammer being cocked. I stopped and turned around and looked at Red.
"What is the meaning of this?" I asked Red, who was standing with a revolver in his hand, his arm hanging next to him.
"Making sure of what?" I asked.
"That I am not next on the list."
"Meaning?" from me
"I have been sent to investigate your operation. This is not the first time people have disappeared around you on these camping trips. I know you have something to do with it. Now... it is only the how? Doc gave me this revolver, just in case ..."
"You are being stupid. I was with you all the time. Never mind, let's find Dark first and then you can play sleuth some more." I told him, turned and walked on.
I looked back and Red was following behind me at a respectable distance.
Around a few more off these massive trees, there she was, or what was left of her. Pieces of bloodied cloth all over and signs that there was a massacre if the death of one person could be described thus. Nothing else, blood and cloth everywhere.
At that moment, there was a rustling behind a bush and quick as you could, Red fired at the thick patch of scrubs. To my amazement and looking at Red, to his horror, Doc got half up and slumped down on his knees and keeled over. I went over to Doc and without much effort, confirmed him dead. We left Doc there and went back to the camp-site.
Red said over and over; "that wasn't supposed to be,"
"What do you mean, 'that was not supposed to be', it was an accident, was it not?" I said.
"Yes, that was an accident, he was my back-up."
I walked up to him and removed the revolver from his hand, in his shocked state, he let it go.
"Let us go back to the camp." I ordered. I pocketed the revolver after removing the shells.
Back at the camp, we informed Gary as to the incidents without too many detail, only enough to keep him informed. The silence was deafening, it seemed as if the even the birds went silent. Red was still too shocked to think clearly and my mind was moving at a fair pace as well. This is not how it was planned.
Then we started getting concerned about Misty out there. Although she was a tough and experienced ol' birdwatcher, we were getting concerned. Gary and Red said they would have a look and they walked into the trees, in the direction where Misty went to. I started clearing the camp site as best as I could, when the two returned in a short while. Their faces told a story.
They had all the equipment that adorned Misty like a Christmas tree on her birdwatching excursions, and no sign of her at all. She had vanished into thin air, Gary and Red told me. Red had taken photos of the area where they had found the gear strewn all around in the grass. As there was photographic evidence, they did not think it a good idea to leave the equipment there as other hikers may find and remove it all.
I poured them each mug of coffee laced with Ash's rye whiskey and we sat around, and then Red started with me about all the strange happenings. The more I assured him that I had nothing to do with all the disappearances, the more he was insistent that I knew something. Gary only looked on without a word.
Red was ranting and raving about how it was all the writers of mystery novel's fault that so many people were getting killed. He blamed all the writers for all the mayhem and deaths in the world. He said that everyone should write more love stories, then there would be less violence in the world. He was getting high on his crusade about how all the world needed was, more love, and more love stories.
Eventually he took a breather.
I said, taking the revolver out of my pocket and loading the bullets into it .....
"Is there no violence in you, is there no way you would resort to the baseness in you to resolve your problem or right a wrong? Do you think you are above all of us?" and with that, I took aim and shot Gary in the chest.
The big crimson stain spread over Garys already red and orange camouflage jacket and Gary crumpled into a heap just there where he was sitting. I got up, walked over to Red and placed the revolver in his hand, and I walked a few paces away and turned around. I put my hand into my jacket and from a shoulder holster took out my pistol and aimed it at Red.
Red stood there, the revolver hanging limply from in his hand, "Are you raving mad ..... what's wrong with you.....'' and he carried on and on and on .... "and shoot me if you want to, nothing will change, I will be dead and you will still be a lousy writer of violence.." and there I held my hand up and he shut up.
"Okay, if that is the way you want it, you will stand on your point, you would rather be a dead writer of love stories than defend yourself, so be it, then we will accept it."
Red's eyes widened as he could see my knuckles go white on the trigger and when the bang went off, his eyes went even bigger as a little flag shot out of the pistol and written there was 'BANG'.
"You're dead." I said.
Then Red started going all kinds of colors, and he heard Gary's laughter. He looked at Gary's 'corpse' who was in hysterical laughter with crimson paint-ball streaks all over his face, Red looked back at me and then we heard an ATV coming up the road and Red's eyes went to the road. There on the back, the whole gang was waving and Ash was on the hooter. Red's head turned back to me and then I started running, as I could clearly see murder in his eyes as his mind got everything into line.
The bet that I took with him in the office, "I will turn your mind, no matter what it takes, all your love poems will not stop you from wanting to kill someone."