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Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #2044286
Are the Legends of The Forest of the Dark Shadows true?
The Secrets of Horse Meadows

Part - One

The Gathering

Malcom woke up before the sun appeared that morning. The excitement he already felt began to heighten, causing his stomach to tighten, with anticipation for the up-coming events. Today was not only Friday but also a very special day for Malcom. He respectfully withddrew his clean, blue Cub Scout uniform from the closet and dressed himself. He stood in front the mirror admiring his uniform that displayed the many badges that he had earned, including the Cast Iron Chef, First Responder, and Earth Rocks. He felt his pride mushroom as he loyally placed the gold double-strand Denner cord over his left shoulder.

The Denner cord signified the most important Leadership position in the Cub Scouts and that was Malcom's position. His training in the Denner position was preparing him for a Patrol Leader position when he advanced into the Boy Scouts. He knew that next year, after he had his eleventh birthday, he would be eligible for the position of a Patrol Leader. His current responsibilities as a Denner was to assist the Den Leader with the opening, closing, and activities of the Den meetings. Being elected twice by his troop for the position of Denner, made him feel like he was a rocket to the moon.

He couldn't wait to get to school and meet with his friends Nicky, Johnny, Mark, and Frankie. They too, were members of Troop 466 along with Malcom. Yesterday, the five of them agreed to meet today at The Wall before school, to discuss the Den meeting and the camping trip.

He left his room and came to a sudden halt at the top of the stairs. He stood there for a few minutes and took several deep breaths. He could smell the sweet aroma of spicy cinnamon, radiating from the kitchen. The rich aroma lingered as it infiltrated the entire room. His mouth began to water at the prospect of his mother making his favorite breakfast—Cinnamon Pancakes.

Malcom bolted down the stairs and into the kitchen. His dad and younger sister, by two years, were already seated at the oval mahogany table in the Dinning Room located through the opened double doors on the far side of the kitchen. His mom was hovered over the stove, cooking mouth-watering cinnamon pancakes.

"Good morning, Mom and Dad," he said cheerfully as he grunted and nodded at Kelly. "Are you ready for today, Dad?" I sure am! I can't wait to help you with the camping activity, but most of all I can't wait to go camping tomorrow!" he exclaimed, bursting with excitement.

"Yes I am, Malcom, but I need you to listen carefully. There is something I need to prepare you for." he answered, looking into his confused face.

"What, Dad? What is it? Is it about the camping trip? We're still going, right?"

"Yes, Son, we're still going, but we are going to have an addition. Kelly will be going with us."

"Nooo...Dad, she can't! It's just for us guys! Can't she stay with Mrs. Hawkins?" Malcom protested.

"No, she can't, and your mother has to go out of town on business!" he said in a low voice.

"But—Dad—she's a GIRL!"

"Malcom Rodgers! This conversation is over!" he said in a firm, deep voice followed by a pound of his fist to the table as he stood up and abruptly left the room.

Malcom knew that when his father used that tone of voice, he had better be quiet and not push the issue, or he would be the one not to go camping. Girls, ugh! They ruin everything! he thought, staring at Kelly.

Malcom looked over his shoulder to see if his mother was watching and back at Kelly again with disgust. He wrinkled up his nose, curled his upper lip, and stuck out his tongue. Kelly grinned and danced her head side-to-side as she softy taunted him by chanting, "I getta go-oh, I getta go-oh, Nanner! Nanner! Nanner! I getta go-oh!"

Loosing his appetite, Malcom stood up from the table and silently left for school. Shutting the chain-link gate behind him, he turned and faced the large, yellow two-story house and shook his head. What am I going to tell the guys? he thought.

He felt puzzled by his dad's behavior. He seemed different and very short-tempered, ever since Mr. Nichols, the Scout Master, told him that he was to take the troop camping at Horse Meadows. Malcom had asked his mother about his dad's behavior, but all she would tell him was that he went to Horse Meadows as a young boy with his father, and he didn't like it there.

He looked up at the middle second story window and stared. He should have told me that he wasn't taking anyone to Horse Meadows, instead of telling me that we had take Kelly too? Or why didn't he just shoot me? he wondered, and he knew better than to go back inside and try to talk to him.

Slowly, he made his way to school. Along the way, he spied a small pebble on the ground. Pretending that was Kelly, he kicked it all the way down the street with the toe of his shoe.

His spirits lifted when he arrived at school and saw his friends standing over by The Wall. He waved and ran towards them. When he reached them, he joined their laugher and he high-fived them all.

"Hey, Malcom, what's up? Are you and your dad ready for the meeting today and the camping trip this weekend?" asked Frankie.

He studied their eager-looking faces, and he could see the excitement shining in their eyes.

"Yea, Guys, but I have some bad news too." replied Malcom, casting his eyes towards the ground.

"What do you mean? We're still going, right?" asked Mark.

Malcom looked up and saw the confusion on their faces and the fear in their eyes. "Yes, we're still going, but... we... have... to take Kelly too." he finally managed to say.

"What!" gasped all four boys in unison.

"Why!" barked Johnny.

"I don't know. I tried to get him to change his mind, but he says that she can't stay with Mrs. Hawkins, and my mother will be out of town for her job and—"

"Look, Malcom. Look, Guys. There is nothing we can do about it but go, have fun, and earn our badges. Besides, she will have to stay with your dad and not us, right?" said Mark.

Malcom nodded his head along with the others, and he felt relieved to see them looking relaxed and excited again. He was so afraid that they would refuse to go.

The five boys formed a circle and put their hands in the middle. Piling them on top of one another, they yelled, "All for one and one for all," breaking the circle as they threw their hands up high above their heads. At that time, the school bell sounded, calling everyone to class.

* * * * *

The presentation on Safe Camping Skills and the Rules for Safe Scouting was being given by the Den Leader, Mr. Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers opened the cafeteria door to see Malcom standing with a single-file line of Cub Scouts behind him. He motioned to Malcom to proceed. Without saying a word, the Cub Scouts entered the cafeteria and took a seat in one of the chairs that Mr. Rodgers had placed in a circle.

"Okay, Scouts, you all know that we have a really fun activity planned for this weekend. We are going camping at Horse Meadows, but there are a few things I want to go over." It is important that we all work as a team. That means we will be responsible for putting the camp up, keeping it clean, and taking it down again. You have all earned your Cast Iron Chef badges, so you will work in shifts preparing the meals. We have already have put together our first-aide kits and made our packing list. It will be the Denner's responsibility to pick the safetest spot for an open fire away from low tree branches, can anyone tell me why?"

Mark quickly raised his hand, "So the trees don't catch on fire and burn the rest of the forest and hurt the animals that live in the forest."

"Very good, Mark," replied Mr. Rodgers.

"Okay, it is also going to important to keep all our food in plastic containers, can anyone tell me why, Johnny?"

"Because it will help keep the bears and raccoons out of it," responded Johnny.

"Very good!

"Malcom, as Denner, you will need to pick a scout to carry and mount our troop flag, and I want all of you to remember to bring your handbooks, so I can sign off your completed requirements. Remember, this camping trip will satisfy the requirements for four badges, the Webelos Walkabout, Into the Wild, Castaway, and Into the Woods
." After the presentation, Mr. Rodgers helped the scouts plan their meals, fishing trips, and hiking to help them earn their new badges.

"Before we have closing ceremonies are their any questions?"

Nicky thrust his arm high over his head and vigorously waved his hand, "Mr. Rodgers, after we get set up and the fire started, can we sit around the fire tonight and tell ghost stories?" Mr. Rodgers heard the sounds of OOh's and AWE's echoed throughout the cafeteria.

"Yea, Dad!" Malcom blurted out, "We can have hot chocolate and roast marshmallows too, okay?"

The cub scouts began clapping their hands. Mr. Rodgers shared their enthusiasm as he listened to OH's and Awe's that filled the room. He felt himself begin to relax with the choice of camping sites.

Mr. Rodgers looked at the beaming faces, huge grins, and nodding heads of Malcom and the troop.

"Okay, then, that will be our first activity. So tell me! Who wants to go camping?"

"Hoooray!" they shouted, waving their hands and high-fiving each other. They were so excited that none of them could sleep that night.

Early the next morning, the troop gathered at Mr. Rodgers' house. Together, they helped Malcom and Mr. Rodgers pack everything they needed for their camping trip into the white Webelos Scout SUV.

"I get dibs on a window seat!" yelled Frankie.

"Me too!" blurted Malcom and Joey in unison.

"Malcom, you and Kelly will sit in front with me, and the rest of you will sit in the back seat. Don't worry, everybody will be able to see everything just fine," said Mr. Rodgers

Without hesitation, Kelly and the boys darted for the SUV and climbed in and their journey to Horse Meadows began.

* * * * *

Malcom felt the SUV began to slow and come to a stop. He looked up from from his Tablet and noticed that they were on the side of the road in front of a sign that read You are Now Entering The Dark Forest of Shadows. He leaned forward and saw his dad, gripping the steering wheel so tight that his knuckles were white. He was just sitting and staring at the road ahead.

"Dad, anything wrong? Can we get out for awhile and get something to eat?"

"Dad, Dad, are you ok? Can we stop and get out for awhile?" repeated Malcom.

"Huh? Oh yea, of course. Your mom packed us a lunch and there is a... nice spot... ahead with a picnic table, we can have lunch there. " he replied.

Malcom felt mystified over his father's odd behavior. He acted not only annoyed but also afraid to come to this place. That is impossible! he thought. My dad isn't afraid of anything!

"How far is the picnic area, Dad?" asked Malcom. The other boys leaned forward so that they also could hear the answer.

"Just around the bend." answered Mr. Rodgers. He made the final turn, pulled over and stopped the SUV. He turned around to face Kelly, Malcom, and the troop.

"Okay, we are at our first stop, Cannula meadows. Whose hungry?" he asked? "Me!" the kids all uttered with glee. "Okay, you get out and look around. I will be quizzing you on the trees that you see and don't forget to take pictures for your tree report at next week's Den meeting." With enthusiasm, Kelly, Malcom, and the boys dashed from the SUV. Malcom couldn't wait to explore the picnic area. Running to a fence made from logs, Malcom climbed up and stood on the bottom railing. Malcom watched as the others followed him. Soon, all of them were standing side-by-side on the bottom rail and looking in the direction that Malcom was pointing— out over the large meadow that seemed to forever.

Cannula Meadows was an abandoned forest ranger station located between two mountain ridges covered with trees.
The meadow with it's tall grass was as long as one could see, with a creek running through the middle of it. The old log cabin still stood along with a useable open fire pit. Its' circled wall was built of rocks that had been cemented together.

Leaving the fence railing, Malcom stopped and gazed upward in awe at the Giant Redwood Forest Tree. Bending his head back as far as he could, trying to see the top.

"WOW! Look how big they are," he gasped.

"Yea, look how big they are," echoed the other boys behind him.

"I know, lets join hands and try to form a circle around it," said Frankie, holding out his hands. The rest of the boys ran up to him and joined hands.

"C'mon Kelly, here grab my hand." yelled Malcom. Unable to complete a circle because of its size, Malcom blurted out, "I know, lets take turns taking pictures of the troop in front of it."

When the last picture was taken, Mr. Rodgers announced that lunch was ready.
The time soon came for the troop to finish their journey. Mr. Rodgers pulled away from Cannula Meadows and began the driving up the steep and windy road called Sherman Pass. Higher and higher they went. Staring out the windows, Malcom saw the giant trees grow smaller and smaller.

"WOW! They sure don't look so big now!" remarked Malcom.

"I know, huh!" exclaimed Mark.

Mr. Rodgers pulled to side of the road and stopped again. "What's this place Dad?" asked Malcom.

"This is called the Summit. This is the very top of the mountain. If we go over to the railing, we can see the area where we were. Do you want to that?"

"I do! I do!" chanted Kelly along with Malcom and the troop.

Mr. Rodgers met the boys on the other side of the SUV. One-by-one, they emerged, and together they walked over to the railing located along the edge of the cliff. Looking down, all Malcom could were the very tops of the Giant Redwood Trees they had tried to huddle around near the entrance to the forest.

Mr. Rodgers gave each scout a chance to take some pictures before announcing that it was time to go. "It is getting late boys, we had better reach the camp site before dark," he said. Kelly and the boys filed back into the SVU and Mr. Rodgers started down the other side of the mountain.

The road was bumpy, steep, and full of sharp curves. The boys swayed first this way and then back again. Laughing and giggling and singing songs all the way, Malcom shared their obvious excitement and couldn't wait to reach Horse Meadows. After the final turn from the mountain leading into Bear Mountain Valley, Malcom pointed out the Forest Ranger Station up ahead.

"Look, Dad, there it is, the Ranger Station!" he said. Nicky, Johnnie, Mark, and Frankie leaned forward with their heads between Mr. Rodgers, Kelly, and Malcom so that they could see too.

"Look, the Ranger is coming out!" said Frankie.

Malcom saw the Ranger come out, stand in the road, and motion for Mr. Rodgers to stop. Mr. Rodgers pulled the SUV over and rolled down the window.

"Hi, which road do we take to Horse Meadows?" asked Mr. Rodgers. Malcom saw the Forest Ranger look over his dad's shoulder. Smiling at Malcom and the rest of the troop; he turned back to Mr. Rodgers. Malcom leaned forward so he could see the Ranger speak. He noticed that strange look on his face as he looked back at his dad. It was the same look that he had been noticing on his father's face for the past week.

"You want to go there?"

Mr. Rodgers replied, "Yes, I have an over anxious Cub Scout troop and this their is first camping trip, is there a problem?"

"Well, there has been some strange stories about that place, coming from other campers."

"We'll be alright," he replied, and he started the van.

"Yea, but—"

"Yea, but what!" replied Mr. Rodgers, sounding rather annoyed.

The Forest Ranger told the stories of huge brown bears and big black wolves, with mouths large enough to swallow a man whole, gathering around camp sites just waiting for something to eat. He also warned of the rumors about The Horse Meadow Ghost that rides his horse only at night and the reports of strange things lurking in the bushes at night, not animals— but things with eyes that glowed bright fluorescent green.

"No one ever stays more than one night, if that, and some were never seen again."

"Oh those stories! My dad use to tell me those stories every time he took me fishing when I was a boy. Personally, I think it is hogwash and stems from overactive imaginations. People are the ones who get weird when they go camping and are not use to it. They will see and hear everything."

"Why do you think people call this place The Dark Forest of Shadows?" asked the Forest Ranger.

Mr. Rodgers chuckled again, "We'll be alright," he replied and drove away.

Malcom saw that funny look on his dad's face again, and thought his chuckle seemed forced.

What could be upsetting him? he wondered.

After reaching their camp site, the camp was set up, the SVU unloaded, and the tents were pitched. Placing the camp stoves on the picnic table side-by-side, Mr. Rodgers showed the boys how to make an semi-oven out of one.
Soon, the smell of Campfire chili beans , sweet corn bread, fried potatoes, and fresh Cherrie pie filled the air.

They gathered—one-by-one—until the camp was surrounded.

Word Count: 3085

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