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Despite their worries about the shabby state of their grandfather's boat, he leaves on a fishing trip-only ...
Despite their worries about the shabby state of their grandfather's boat, he leaves on a fishing trip-only to radio home a short time later to say that his boat has capsized in a secluded bay. With her grandfather and his friend lost and injured, Sarah and Meagan have no choice but to venture deep into an unfamiliar forest to find the men. Accompanied by their friends Brad and Ali, the experienced hikers soon discover they are not at all prepared for a challenging quest of rescue and survival.
Already in the midst of a fast-paced race against time, the girls soon realize they are surrounded by something much worse than anything they have ever encountered. Only time will tell if everyone will be able to escape from the forest-before it is too late.
Hot tears slowly trickled down my face as I tried to hide from an unknown predator that had me trapped in a panic of fear. I punched at the blanket of heaviness that hovered over me and kicked at the hidden substance that threatened to paralyze my legs. I heard Meagan call my name and then suddenly something grabbed my arm and shook me forcefully. I screamed and jerked forward as her voice penetrated my ears.
"Sarah? Sarah, wake up. You're dreaming."
I opened my eyes and stared into the worried face of my cousin as she continued to ask me if I was all right. The room was darkened by heavy pink drapes that covered the large bedroom window and allowed only select waves of morning air to filter through. Meagan rubbed my arm gently and pulled away the long brown strands of hair that were wrapped around my face.
"Yeah, I was dreaming that something was chasing me and it was smothering me. There was a voice telling me how to escape but I couldn't understand it. Really scary."
"Well, what was chasing you?"
"I don't know and now I can't remember much except that it was smothering me. Thanks for waking me up and getting me away from it."
Meagan leaned back on the single bed that was right beside mine and grabbed her big green hairbrush from the adjoining night table. She listened to me as she pinned her long, curly auburn hair up on top of her head, and then smirked as she stood up and stretched.
"Well, I'm glad you're awake and not screaming any more. You were scaring me, too."
"Sorry. This was one of those dreams that seemed really real, you know? Anyway, the details are fading away fast and I'm glad I didn't get Nana and Grandpa up here."
"I don't think they heard you, Sarah. I mean, who can hear anything through that horrible country whining they're listening to downstairs. We really have to work on getting them some better music when they move back home with us."
Meagan laughed as she opened the drapes and leaned her petite body against the windowsill.
"It's so beautiful here, Sarah, so peaceful and serene. I'm going to miss coming here for our summer holidays, but on the other hand, it's going to be great having them live so close to us again."
I massaged my face slowly and wiped the sleep from my eyes as I sauntered over to the window. Nana's gardens have always been her pride and joy, and just looking down at all the colorful flowers and uniquely shaped bushes that ranged from every shade of green to deep red told me that she and Grandpa had put a lot of work into getting them to look so beautiful.
"I know, and their new yard is so small compared to this. But I'm sure it won't be long before they've turned it into a little paradise, as well."
Meagan sighed heavily as she watched several bright red cardinals feeding on the large tiffany bird feeder below.
"Yeah, well I just hope they don't try to change our yards. They're going to be living right across from both of us and my mom's really happy, but she was telling my dad that they better not try to change her front garden. You know how stubborn Nana is and how her way is always the only way."
We laughed and got dressed as we reminisced about our visits here over the years. It had always been the highlight of our summers to come to British Columbia and visit our grandparents, but this would be the last visit here. They were moving back home to Bearsfield, Idaho with us in a few weeks, and we were heading into the next phase of our own lives.
"Meg, I can hardly believe that we're starting college next month and that this will be our last holiday here, not that this has really been a holiday so far. All we've done is pack and clean. But then there is tonight and that will change everything."
Meagan stretched out her left arm and wiggled her fingers that flashed her lavender-colored nails and showed off her small, purple amethyst ring.
"I know. The guys will be here tonight and it's going to be great. Geez, a whole week without seeing or hearing from Ali and I miss him so much. You know, I really wish Nana and Grandpa had some form of communication here besides a phone that's out of order because the little town transmitter is being repaired. How do they live like this?"
"They have each other, Meg, and they like the solitude – well, Grandpa does, anyway. Besides, they have friends from the church in town that they visit on Sundays and that's all the company they really want. I know my dad is glad they're moving back."
Meagan picked up a brochure and giggled.
"Yeah, mine, too. Meanwhile, I can't wait to get to Pembroke to go mountain gliding tomorrow. It's going to be great."
My insides tingled as she talked, and not only because I loved mountain gliding that would allow us to see the color and majesty of the falls and scenic view around it, but because Brad was going to come and join us. We had gone to the same high school and he had liked me all year but I didn't realize how great he was until the end of the year when we were on our class trip.
"Who'd have guessed that Brad and I would ever be together? I really like him, you know, and I really like being with him."
Meagan smiled as she threw the heavy pink comforter over her bed.
"I know. And you have no idea how glad I am that you finally stopped chasing football heroes and saw this guy who's been madly in love with you all through high school. Okay, bed is done and I'm ready to have another fattening country breakfast and then get those boxes packed today. I can't wait until we're done."
When I opened the bedroom door, we were greeted by the smell of fried bacon that filtered through the room and almost overpowered us as we stepped carefully down the narrow stairwell that led to the kitchen. We ambled passed the wooden door just as Nana was pouring Grandpa a cup of coffee, and when he saw us his face burst into a wide grin through his heavy grey beard.
Nana and Papa were the perfect candidates for Santa and Mrs. Clause in both their appearance and personalities. Nana was full-figured and analyzed everything to pieces and Grandpa was chubby and always saw the light side of every situation.
"There's my twin girls. Come on, Nana has our breakfast all ready for us and maybe we can get some meat on your bones yet. My friend, Don, will be here any second to join us."
Meagan and I looked at each other inquisitively as we pulled out the heavy colonial chairs and sat at the round oak table. She smiled at Grandpa as she filled her glass with orange juice.
"Who's Don, Grandpa?"
"He's my friend who lives about a mile up the way. We go fishing together every Saturday morning in the summer and today's no different. We bring our catch home and clean them, and then I cook them on the barbeque outside. All these years and Nana has never come with us so it's just always been a guy's day out."
Nana slapped the bacon onto Grandpa's plate and growled at him under her breath.
"He's a grumpy old man and he doesn't like anyone. What do you see in that old geezer anyway?"
Grandpa smiled at us as he looked up at Nana.
"Now Martha, you know you like Don. Tell the girls the truth. It's the boat you really don't like."
Nana glared at Grandpa and raised her voice, almost as if she was angry with him.
"I'm not going to miss that people hater when we move, not one bit. And you shouldn't be listening to him and using that boat, either. It's not safe and you know it. I don't know why you'd rather listen to him than to me."
Grandpa poured ketchup onto his plate as he winked at us.
"Boat's fine, Martha. It has a little hole and we plugged it. Works fine. Heck, we're leaving here in a couple of weeks and fixing it now would just be a waste of good money. Besides, I told Don he could have it so let him fix it."
"Just like the old truck that sits rotting outside, Lucas. You said all it needs is a new battery and you're too lazy and too cheap to put in a new one, so now we don't even have a vehicle to get around in."
"We're moving, Martha, and I'm giving that to Don, too, so he can fix the truck when he fixes the boat. Anyway, you don't even know how to drive so what do you care?"
Nana huffed at Grandpa as she brought the frying pan over to Meagan's plate.
"I've never had an interest in driving and I'm too old to learn now. Anyway, when we're back in the city I'll get a taxi when I want to go out."
Grandpa looked over his shoulder to the kitchen window and waved his hand.
"I never liked that truck anyway, but my boat; well that's a different thing."
"That boat is going to be the death of you yet, Lucas Davies. It's not safe and it makes me nervous when you go out in it."
Grandpa shook his head as he bit into his fresh toast. I guess the worry on my face must have shown more than I realized and he stopped eating and leaned forward.
"It's safe, girls. It's got a tiny hole, nothing to worry about. I misjudged the rocks and one of them punctured it a bit, and I've used it a dozen times since then and it floats just the same as always."
Meagan licked the bacon grease from her fingers and looked up at Grandpa.
"Why do you need a boat when the lake is right at the back of your property and you've got a dock? Can't you just fish there? We used to when we were kids."
"Nah, there aren't any real fish this close. You have to go down stream a couple of miles to where they are. We don't have a motor on our boat, so it's a nice quiet trip, and me and Don have this really great spot set in a ways where we do well. It's kind of out of the way and hidden so some of the other fishing neighbors don't bother us there."
While we were still talking, a thin, elderly gentleman tapped on the back door and poked his head in as he greeted us with a big smile.
"Good morning, Davies family."
"Hey, Don. Come on in and meet my girls from the big city."
Don seemed like a friendly gentleman at first, but after a few minutes I could see how Nana thought he was not nice, just from his put-down gestures and cold remarks.
"Well, I hope you girls aren't like those other unmannered know-it-all young people that have an answer for everything. But then you're from the city so I suspect you do things the same as everyone else there."
Meagan and I smiled at each other and for Nana's sake, neither of us responded to his remarks. We weren't planning on spending any time with this man so it wasn't worth the effort of starting an argument with him.
We continued eating our breakfast and listening to Grandpa and Don talk about their big catches from other Saturday expeditions. We could see the excitement in Grandpa's face and we knew he was enjoying his time fishing with Don. When breakfast was over, Meagan and I helped Nana clean up the kitchen, and then we brought in a pile of folded boxes from the back porch so we could get them ready to pack.
Don looked at us as he stuffed some of Nana's sandwiches in Grandpa's duffle bag.
"I'm taking these 'cause your grandma makes the best tuna sandwiches in the world. Besides, I live alone and I don't make food as good as I get here."
Nana forced a smile at Don and then gave Grandpa a long hug.
"When will you be home today?"
"I don't know, Martha, same as usual, around four. You're not going to miss me with all the help you have here so there's no point in me cutting my fishing time short."
"But Lucas, it's so hot and dry out there. Maybe you should come back early."
Grandpa growled as he pulled on his boots.
"Geez Martha, you worry too much. We're in a drought on land here but it's not that dry where we're going. Last time I looked, the river was still wet. I wouldn't recommend anyone hiking in this weather, but fishing is no problem. The dry heat doesn't bother us at all.
"Meagan and I took turns giving Grandpa a hug, but the second he touched me icy chills shot up my back and curled the hairs on the nape of my neck. For a split second I felt as if this was our final goodbye, but I shook it off as me just reacting like Nana and worrying about the hole in the boat. She tapped his shoulder and the feeling left me.
"Have you got the walkie-talkie, Lucas? You need to take it just in case."
Grandpa huffed as he snatched one of the handsets from the kitchen counter.
"Yes, Martha. I'll take it just to make you happy. Now stop worrying and have fun with our girls. I'll see you at supper."
Meagan and I walked with Grandpa and Don down to the lake where the small wooden boat was tied to the dock. When I saw it I understood why Nana was worried, and so Meagan and I helped them bale out about six inches of water from the bottom before they could get in.
"Geez, Grandpa. This isn't just a tiny hole. Are you sure you want to go out in this? I mean, do you really feel that safe in it?"
"Sarah, we do this all the time. And don't forget I'm a good swimmer and so is Don so even if it did have problems, we can swim to land. Now, you two go back and help Nana finish packing up those last closets. And when I get back, I'll meet those two knights in shining armor that you both keep talking about."
We returned to the house and spent the next several hours packing up some closets that were filled with linens and boxes of Christmas decorations. By one o'clock a large grey van from the storage company arrived and it took the many boxes that we had packed over the last week.
Meagan collapsed onto a kitchen chair and drank a small bottle of water.
"Nana, I don't understand why you're sending all this to the storage unit. The moving van is coming here to get your furniture anyway."
"I don't know why either. Grandpa thinks it's foolish but we have a lot of things we saved over the years and I don't want to lose them. Besides, we're having a big open house next weekend to sell most of the furniture because I want all new when we move."
Just then the front door bell rang and both Meagan and I jumped up and shouted at the same time.
"It's the guys!"
I raced her to the front door and when we opened it we stared into the faces of two handsome and well-tanned guys, both dressed in blue jean shorts and t-shirts. Ali pushed his shades onto his head easily since his dark wavy hair was short, and a second later Meagan dove into his arms and he spun her in circles on the front doorstep.
Brad stood there with a big smile on his face as pushed his glasses onto his head, as well. I'd only ever seen him with long, messy dark brown hair but now he had a new look with it really short, and he looked even better. He opened his arms to me but I wasn't quite as free as Meagan, and yet I knew I didn't want to miss this moment. I stepped up to Brad and put my arms around him and the alluring fragrance of amber and musk filled my nostrils as a warm, loving sensation flooded my body.
I knew Brad was the love of my life, and I loved being with him. It's just that he still made me nervous because we'd only been together since the last hike at Snake River. I had a mad crush all year on our school's football icon while Brad had spent the entire year trying to get my attention. It wasn't until he helped me through the horrors of that hike that I realized what a wonderful and caring guy he really is. We spent a lot of time together in the weeks that followed, right up until last week when Meagan and I came here. And that's when I really knew how much I cared for him.
We introduced the guys to Nana and then sat around the kitchen table telling her all about the horrific experience with the mudslide. It was a wonderful hour that we shared with Nana and she made the guys feel very welcomed. But when the clock struck four o'clock she became edgy that Grandpa wasn't back yet.
"Well, I'm sure he'll be along shortly. He's probably just taking his time today because he knows you're here to keep me company."
Then around 4:30 there was a loud crackling from the walkie-talkie on the kitchen counter. Nana grabbed it right away.
"Lucas? Lucas, is that you?"
There was more crackling and then a few seconds later his voice came through but it was breaking up and hard to understand. Nana shoved the handset into my hand.
"What's he saying? Sarah, you talk to him."
A second later we heard Grandpa again.
"Ole ... boat ... king ... elf bite ... leading."
Nana gasped loudly as she put her hand over her mouth.
"Oh no, he's saying something about the hole in the boat."
A second later there was more crackling and then it went dead.
My insides became jittery as I turned to Meagan.
"What do you think he means?"
"I'm not sure. Let's go outside."
She opened the back door and we ran down the back yard towards the lake, while Ali caught up with us and Brad walked with Nana. When we got to the water, everything was so quiet. No birds chirped. Nothing moved.
Excerpted from Firestorm by Ronnie Dauber Copyright © 2011 by Ronnie Dauber. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted May 15, 2013