Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Finding Yourself, part 2

Finally I finished the other part of my story! I didn't expect this one to be so long, or so hard to write. Technically the story still needs a proper ending, but I'm thinking this can probably be a story I can work on much more in the future. I wrapped it up in a pretty good place, though, so tonight I'll be able to move on and start thinking about a brand new story.
OVER 10,000 WORDS IN TOTAL, YOU GUYS! I'm already 20% done with NaNoWriMo here! This is unbelievable. ^_^
Dinner ended up being hot-dogs roasted over the open fire and bowls of gross, thick mystery meat stew. The other kids ate up like it was Mac and Cheese, excited to be roughing it in the woods, while I just picked at the brownish lumps suspiciously.
I was still feeling pretty hungry as everyone else got ready for bed and slipped into their sleeping bags, so I attempted to sneak back onto the bus and try to grab an apple from Trent's apple crate. I hadn't seen him bring it out with him, so I figured he must have left it on board.
I should have realized that no one could open the bus door for me, so I couldn't get on that way... Unless I used the driver's door. I quickly went over to the other side of the bus and tried the door. Surprisingly, it wasn't locked. Well, it's not like anyone was going to try and steal this hunk of scrap on wheels. So I clambered on up into the driver's seat (the steps were surprisingly steep!) and looked around for the apple box in the relative darkness.
I'll admit, it was pretty cool checking out the part of the bus not everyone thinks about. It was like being in the cockpit of a spaceship or something. A really old and incredibly primitive spaceship, but still. For a moment I pretended I was driving the bus and made vroom-y noises like I was 2 years old. I noticed the lever thingy that the driver pulls on in order to let kids on the bus, which I didn't touch, but thought was interesting. No crate of apples, though.
Disappointed, I climbed down from the bus. I slammed the bus door shut, and suddenly found myself face to face with big old Barker himself, staring me down with fierce eyes and hands balled up in fists at his side, like he was gonna clobber me or something.
"Whoa!" I leaped back in alarm. When I saw it was only the driver, I relaxed. Kind of. "Sorry. I didn't do anything up in there, honest!" The scary way he looked at me made me nervous, so I quickly added, "sir."
Trent looked me up and down like he was sizing me up, figuring out whether I was some kind of trouble-maker. With a grunt, he nodded at me. I must have passed his test, because the next thing he did was open one of his giant fists and hold out an apple to me. It was big, red and uneaten. Probably he'd been just about to start it when he'd noticed that I was up to something on his bus.
Was he giving it to me? I bet he didn't offer them to just anybody. Cautiously I reached out to take the apple from him, and he didn't make any protest. "Thanks Mr. Barker. I didn't eat too much at dinner."
Trent nodded at me. "Dead food," he grumbled.
I looked at him with surprise. I hadn't heard him say a single word before now. "Yeah, not a big fan of mystery meat myself." I took a bite out of the apple, and it was perfect. Crunchy and juicy as anything. "Wow, this tastes great! Where do you get all your apples, Mr. B.?"
The big guy looked at me, but didn't say anything more. Probably it was a well kept secret.
I shrugged, taking another big crunch out of the fruit. "Well, thanks again, anyway. And thanks for not getting me in trouble, like with Ms. Nekromann or anyone."
At that, Trent worriedly glanced up, checking to the left and then to the right, to see if anyone else was around, watching us talk. What, was he scared of Nekromann too? Without looking at me, he pulled something out of his pocket and put it in my hand, closing my fingers around it. It felt small and smooth, like a little ring or something.
"What...?" I began to ask, but before he could explain anything to me, Ms. Nekromann appeared around the corner of the bus.
"What is going on back here, Mr. Barker?" She saw me and Trent. "There you are, boy. I thought someone was missing from the group. What are you doing here?"
Trent and I both jumped, and I quickly hid my hands behind my back. Not sure why I did that, it was just purely by instinct.
"Uh, nothing, Ms. Nekromann. Not doing anything back here. Just a couple of dudes chilling and doing nothing." I laughed nervously and nudged Trent in the side like we were longtime buddies. He just looked at me and grunted.
Liz peered at me suspiciously. "What are you hiding behind your back?"
I shrugged. "Nothing."
She didn't look like she believed me. "Show me."
I took one of my hands out from behind my back and showed her my half-eaten red apple.
"The other one?"
I slipped the mysterious little thing Trent had given me into my back jeans pocket before pulling it forward to reveal my empty palm to her. "See? Nothing important. I was just a little extra hungry, that's all."
Nekromann looked pretty sure I wasn't telling her everything, but she decided to let it go. "Well, dinner time is over now. Go back to the campsite with the other children and go to sleep."
"Yes ma'am," I said. I turned back up at Trent and gave him a look that silently said, "thank you." He gave me more of a look that said, "be careful of yourself." Then I ran back to the campsite, where the fire still burned bright.
I tiptoed when I got close to the already sleeping happy campers, pulled off my sneakers and wriggled into the remaining sleeping bag. When I was safe inside I dug into my back pocket, curious to know what the bus driver had given to me so secretly.
I was right, it was a ring. I had my back to the fire, so I was facing away from the glowing orange firelight, which threw strange shadows over everything. I couldn't make out too many details about the thing, just that it was smooth and cool to the touch, probably made of silver or something. It had a smooth little brown stone set in the middle of it, with a smooth carving or crack going right down the middle, sort of cutting it in half.
I examined it for a bit, then put it away again and turned onto my side, trying to find a comfortable position on the ground, but it was next to impossible. I finally ended up lying flat on my back, staring up at the star-studded heavens.
Why had Trent given me the ring? And why did it seem so important that Nekromann shouldn't know that I had it? Strange questions. Maybe I'd be able to get Trent to talk some more and give me some answers tomorrow, during the big hike. I grinned slightly, at the very least glad that I'd made an ally. Sort of.
Slowly, tiredly, I closed my eyes. Things were sure to look up in the morning.
Yeah. Right.

I immediately started shivering when I woke up. Blinking awake, I saw that a thick mist hung over the grass, making it hard to see anything. The grass, my sleeping bag, my clothes, and my hair were all damp with condensation. I sat up on the ground, rubbing my eyes tiredly. Strange, I didn’t know the woods could get so misty during the summer. Guess that shows how much I knew.
Everything was so gray and dim, I didn’t think the sun was even up yet. Glancing down at my watch, I had to wipe the fog off the clock face to see that the time was just a few minutes to 7 in the AM.
Wow, I didn’t remember the last time I’d woken up this early in the morning. Mom would’ve been impressed. Best not to tell her when I get back home, otherwise she’ll probably suggest I go camping more often.
I wriggled out of my damp sleeping bag like a bug breaking out of its cocoon. It felt so weird, sleeping in my clothes all night, and my whole body felt stiff and bruised all over, probably from tossing and turning on little pebbles or something. I stood up, stretching my legs to get the feeling back in them and massaging my shoulders and sides, when I froze, suddenly discovering something.
I was all alone in the misty forest.
Seriously, I began freaking out. None of the other campers were there anymore, and neither were their sleeping bags. There wasn’t even a sign of Ms. Nekromann, or Trent, or even the bus, or the campfire for that matter! In fact, when I slowly looked around and really took in my surroundings, I realized that I was completely surrounded by trees, more likely than not way deep in the middle of the Lost Woods.
I tried not to be scared, and laughed to myself nervously. “Ha ha ha, great joke, you guys. Very funny.” I was sure someone was playing a prank on me. Drag the geek far away from the campfire while he’s sleeping and make him think he’s totally lost. Hilarious.
But there was no answer, except for the buzz of cicadas ringing in the morning, creeping me out.
Just then, I felt something in my back pocket move slightly.
What? Quickly I patted my pocket, and remembered that I still had that ring. I pulled it out right away.
It hadn’t changed, really, just looked a little shinier in the daytime.
Had it really moved? I was probably imagining things.
I began wondering about the ring again. Whose was it? Why did Trent have it in the first place? His fingers were as thick as last night’s hot-dogs, so it couldn’t have belonged to him. Was it actually Liz’s? Had she been looking for it? Why hadn’t I told her that I had it?
Something about that ring got me really, really curious. So I tried it on my little finger.
For a second nothing happened, and I admired how it looked on my hand. I’m not exactly a ring-wearing kind of guy, but it looked pretty cool.
But then that little crack in the ring’s brown stone slowly started to split apart, and I suddenly saw a round white eye spinning around, rolling about in every direction before settling its sight on me, it’s emerald iris clear, fierce and unblinking.
“Yahh!” I yelled, my voice cracking embarrassingly. I flung the ring to the ground and jumped back a few steps from the thing. It was just about the freakiest thing I’d ever seen in my life! I stared at the ring lying in the grass, the sound of my racing heart beating in my ears like drums.
When nothing else happened, I approached the ring cautiously and picked it up again. Had that seriously happened? Did a disembodied green eyeball really fix its cold stare on me just now? The ring’s center had turned back into a plain, light brown again, but now I knew that the line going down the center wasn’t just a crack, but an eyelid that had no eye lashes. Looking at it closely, I could almost see the eye moving underneath it, like someone having a dream.
Taking a deep breath and telling myself not to flip out this time, I slowly slipped the ring back onto my ring finger.
Once again, the eyelid opened, and the green eye stared and blinked at me, creepy as all heck.
I tried not to be grossed out and awkwardly waved at the eye like it was a camera that was filming me. I couldn't decide whether I was making a statement or asking a question when I timidly said, "Hey?"
The eye blinked, and then darted forward like it was looking in the direction right in front of me.
I looked up and noticed that, while the mist still surrounded me, up ahead it wasn't as dense. I could see a clear dirt path cutting right through the trees.
Weird. I definitely hadn't noticed that path a minute ago. I looked back at the ring. Curious, I slipped it off my hand.
The eyelid closed up over the eye, and the path ahead of me vanished.
Interesting. Once I slipped the ring back on, the eye reopened, revealing the invisible path through the trees.
I had no idea how or why all this was happening to me, or what it all meant, but I knew how to put two and two together. I knew that this was the only way I was going to find my way through these woods without getting totally lost.
So, with the strange eye ring as my guide, I set off into the woods in search of the other campers, praying that this road would take me to Lake Indago, hoping that I would, in the very end, find myself.

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