Nothing like 'escaping death' can make life feel so full of promise.
|898 word entry for "The Prompt Me Contest" September prompt: It was a perfectly pitched tent, taut guylines anchored with metal pegs, green and blue fabric unwrinkled, the doors zipped shut. At 250 feet under the surface of the sea.
Jake Randy climbed over the fence with the no trespassing sign like it wasn’t even there. “Camped here since I was a kid. Come on.” He lived and breathed the great outdoors, wanted to show off his favorite childhood haunt, and Maddy Pane was the perfect girl to share it with.
“What if we get caught? Aren’t they building something here soon?” Maddy didn’t let her worries stop her. She’d never seen so many stars and comets in the sky. The two were becoming more than friends and she didn’t want to spoil it.
Jake set his camping gear down to take hers. He made the pack seem weightless lifting it over his head and down into the sweet smelling meadow flowers and grass. “Yep. That’s why we need to do it now before the place becomes a mass of rich people’s cabins. A private out-of-state conglomerate bought it. My environmentalist group did all it could but the tide of development money given to the city council drowned us out.”
“Pity. Mill Hollow is everything you said it was. Look. There are deer coming out to greet us. They aren’t even afraid.” Maddy moved into the warmth of Jake’s arm cuddling close. The stars in his eyes matched those in heaven.
“The hollow has been off limits to hunting for years. My group networked with the ‘Nature Conservancy Of Utah’ to pay a yearly licensing fee to keep it that way. Watch.” Jake pulled out a plastic bag of apple and sweet potato pieces bulging in his pocket. “Don’t look directly at them. That’s predatory behavior. Lay some on the ground around us.”
Soon, two fawns and their mother took turns eating out of Maddy’s hand while Jake set up one tent in the middle of the hollow. When Maddy shot him a troubled look, he laughed. “Don’t worry. This is just for emergencies. You never know when it’s going to rain up here. We’ll be sleeping outside by the warm coals of a campfire.”
She couldn’t help laughing herself at the mischievous and hopeful sound of his voice. The deer jumped, springing their feet off the ground at the noise and took off, white tails bobbing, like a shot. “You may get all wet tonight, my friend. I think I just heard the sound of thunder.”
Jake scanned the sky, shrugged his shoulders and winked. The Milky Way winked back down in all its majesty. My bad luck. Crews must be working overnight up over the ridge. “This is the only Dark Sky Park in the area. Come lay down on your sleeping bag, get warm and let’s stargaze.”
They lay with heads next to each other, talking in whispers. With no light pollution the constellations marching across the summer sky were sparkling jewels. The long hike brought sleepy eyed slumber before its time.
The roar of an enraged beast woke her from her dream. The deer so calm and at home in the glen leaped over her. Maddened by the unknown threat they raced on. The mother’s back left hoof struck Jake’s rising head. “Jake? We’ve gotta get out of here.”
He was too heavy, knocked unconscious, he couldn’t help. Pine trees cracked, roots torn from the earth. A wall of water rushed towards Maddy churning up and destroying the meadow. Running was too late.
The deep hollow Jake pitched the tent in saved them from being hammered to death. It free’d and floated Jake upward with Manny swimming and guiding him to the surface, gasping for a lungful of air. “You got all wet, after all, my friend.” Maddy kicked into a long practiced swimmer’s backward crawl, one fist caught in Jake’s hair.
The water was rising turning what had been a small lake into what appeared to be as wide as the sea. A whistling sound caught her exhausted attention. It was the mother deer standing on the edge of a new rocky shore. “Thanks,” Maddy changed direction, riding the current.
Chilled to the bone, it was hard enough dragging herself into the pile of granite boulders. Minutes later the water rose enough to float Jake over them to an isolated island. “It’s O.K.” Maddy felt Jake’s pulse. “We made it.”
One of the fawn’s came over to lick the back of Maddy’s neck for the salty sweat. Mom deer whistled again, showing the shallow path off the island to higher ground. “Jake? Can you hear me?”
“You saved my life.”
“Here. Let me help you stand up.”
They leaned against each other, grateful to be alive. “Guess we won’t need that after all.” Jake pointed down where their camp had been as the moon came out. The reflection off the water parted for a clear view.
Maddy searched for a hug and a kiss. “I thought I lost you. I’d rather have you near me any day than that.”
Jake hugged her as they both stared down into the hollow where their past which brought them together stared back at them. It was a perfectly pitched tent, taut guylines anchored with metal pegs, green and blue fabric unwrinkled, the doors zipped shut. At 250 feet under the surface of the sea.