by Tina Stone
My attempt at an action-adventure story
The huge waste truck slowed as it came to large ruts carved into the dirt road. The stowaways snatched the moment and climbed down the back and jumped. Lark darted east while Nelson and Cassy sped south and took the incline of the mountain straight on. Nelson and Cassy did not stop as they dodged fallen trees and thick brush. The team did not head in a straight line, they turned and zig-zagged every few feet. Cassy lost track of how many times Nelson changed their direction altogether. She was getting winded and her breathing was laborious as they ran higher and higher up the mountain. The thick underbrush snagged at her feet and caused her to stumble several times as they raced into the heart of the woods. Finally, Nelson came to such a sudden stop, Cassy nearly ran right into him.
He put his finger to his lips prompting her to stay quiet. Cassy knew he was listening and getting his bearings, and observing their surroundings. To Cassy, it looked like they were really lost in a deep, dense forest. Everything looked the same to her, but she knew Nelson was not lost. Motioning to her, he had her follow him a few feet further up and through a narrow shallow gorge that led to a natural cave carved in the side of the mountain. He had her wait while he inspected in inside of the cave, then, when he was sure it was secure and safe, he signaled for her to enter.
The cave was cold, damp and an unpleasant reminder of where she had just come from. They moved as deep into the space as possible, and Nelson slid his pack off his back.
“There is a blanket in there, “He said to Cassy. “Rest while I scout out the area.” He didn’t wait for her to respond, he simply left. Nelson went back through the gorge they had entered and methodically erased all traces of their having come through there. He gathered large branches and camouflaged the entrance to the small gorge. Along the gorge floor, he covered all traces of their tracks.
Back in the cave, he found Cassy fast asleep curled in a tight ball against the back wall. He knew he had pushed her hard and that she had to be hurting and exhausted. He opened his pack and withdrew both compact slender packages that contained insulated high tech blankets used in very cold climates to ward off hypothermia. A fire tonight was out of the question. He spread one of the blankets over the sleeping woman and opened one for himself. He went closer to the entrance of the cave and settled on the floor, back to the natural wall formation. He’d keep watch through much of the night. As he sat there, Nelson thought about the mission that the church had sent this woman on. Were they really this stupid? Did they not care one bit about safety, logic, or was human life expendable when it came to pushing their religious agenda? How did his buddy get sucked up into something like this? He of all people should have known this mission was destined to fail from the start. Yet he still went along with it? That wasn't like the man Nelson had known when they first met.
Sometime in the predawn hours, a loud thunderstorm ragged through the area. The cave was freezing cold and Nelson was stiff and the thought that he was getting old crossed his mind. He glanced over at Cassy but it was too dark to see her. He clicked his small flashlight and his beam of light found her still curled in the same position as he had seen her before he’d slept. He’d pushed her hard the night before. With her injuries and harsh climb, the night before Nelson saw no reason not to allow her a bit of extra rest while the weather made it near impossible to hike. Thunder cracked and the sound of heavy sleet filled the cave. Content all was as it should be, Nelson shifted position and allowed himself to go back to a light sleep.
The next time Nelson woke, he found it was light and he could see Cassy had sat up at some point and snuggled under her blanket. He forced his stiff body to rise and poked his head out of the cave. The sleet had eased and soft flaky snow was starting to blanket the ground, and the temperature had dropped considerably. Though he was tempted to hold their position and let Cassy rest, he walked over to Cassy and gently tapped her shoulder and called her name. She scrunched up her nose and burrowed deeper into her blanket.
“Rise and shine girl,” He called to her as he tapped her shoulder a bit more insistently. She groaned softly and opened her eyes. Nelson squatted in front of her. “It’s time to get ready to move out soldier lady.” He held out a protein-packed energy bar and she took it. This time, she ate slowly, chewing before she swallowed. He polished off his bar and took a long drink from the water bottle then held it out to her. She drank and replaced the cap.
“I need to go outside,” Cassy said. “Alone.” Nelson gave a single nod, knowing she wouldn’t wander far. When she returned, he had everything packed up, and all traces of their ever being there gone.