Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Finding Yourself

The visual prompt:
Our main characters are:
A Lich ~ This necromancer stored her soul in her staff to stave off mortality.
A Treant ~ This tree's bite is worse than it's bark!
The special object in this story is:
An Invisibility Ring ~ Nobody's ever seen this ring in action, but that probably means it's really effective.
Our story takes place in:
Lost Woods ~ The branching paths will leave you bushed.
It was a summer I'd never forget.
If it had been up to me, I would have spent the entire summer vacation up in my room playing video games, or reading comics, or going to my friend Liam's house to play Dungeons and Dragons in his basement with random buddies of his. But that year, apparently it wasn't up to me. It was up to my parents.
That's how I found myself at Lake Indago, the summer camp where, according to the pamphlets, you could "learn useful wilderness survival skills, get in touch with nature, and FIND yourself". 
Yeah. Right.
We were riding and bumping along, far, far away from any kind of proper civilization. It was just me and a dozen other kids riding in this rickety old bus along a woodsy road, thick with all kinds of trees on either side of us.
The camp bus was just a regular old school bus that been spray-painted purple, and it looked like it might fall apart at any time. I tried pointing this out to my dad, but he just said "Oh, I'm sure it's perfectly safe." I then tried to convince my mom that I couldn't go on the bus, "because there's already 12 people! I'll just make the group a baker's dozen, and you know how unlucky the number 13 is!" But she reminded me that I wasn't counting our 2 camp counselors, so really we had 15 on the bus. All my arguments were invalid.
Personally, I still wouldn't count the counselors. Trent Barkly, the fat, hairy guy driving the bus, barely said a word to anyone the entire way. He looked like someone you didn't want to mess with, but was, for the most part, harmless. He just grunted like an old caveman once in a while, munching noisily on an apple. He must have really liked eating apples, because he had a whole box of them right next to his chair. Once he'd eaten one apple down to its core, he'd start eating another one. He probably didn't do anything except drive this dumb bus and eat his dumb apples all day long. 
Our other counselor was Liz Nekromann. Liz just plain creeped me out, dude. She seemed really old, the kind of old where you shouldn't be working with kids anymore, because at your age you hate them anyway. She was really skinny, had this long, thin face that was as pale as a skeleton's (you'd think working at a summer camp out in the wild would give you more of a tan!) and she carried this old wooden walking stick everywhere. She claimed she only used it for hiking purposes, but who was she kidding? Obviously she used it to hide her stiff, zombie-like limp.
I leaned my forehead against the bus window, watching tree after tree after stinking tree flash across my vision, bored out of my mind. They didn't allow you to take along electronics of any kind for this camp, so there was no Pokemon or Angry Birds to distract me from my misery. No, I was forced to make a choice between suffering in silence, or at least attempting to socialize with my fellow campers.
Unfortunately, because there were only 2 people to a seat, and because I'd been the last one to get on the bus, I was the odd man out. Not that it made any difference to me. I was pretty used to being the lone wolf. It's not that I was a bad-looking guy, or particularly weird or anything. I was just a normal 15-year old. Maybe I was a little on the geeky, awkward side, and maybe I was slightly over-attached to technology, but hey, that's normal today, isn't it?
Apparently not. It looked like I was the only kid who didn't want to be here. Everyone else seemed really excited about camping out in a real forest, sleeping in real tents and having s'mores around a real campfire!
Yeah. Right.
"This is going to be so much fun!" said a girl sitting behind me to her "bus buddy", who was already her BFF.
"I know, right? I've alwayth wanted to go camping out in a real foretht!" said the other girl, lisping terribly through her braces.
"Yeah, me too!" Her blonde ponytail bounced as she nodded with excitement (or it could have been the rickety bus that was making it bounce like that. "I wonder when we're going to get to the lake. Why do you think they call it Lake Indago, anyway?"
"Oh, they probably meant to call it Indigo, but jutht mithpelled it. Why elthe would the buth and Liz and Trent'th shirth and everything be in purple?"
"Good theory, but you're actually wrong," I said in a bored voice. I turned around in my seat. "Indago isn't just Indigo misspelled. It's also a Latin verb that happens to mean 'to search', though it can also mean 'to track', 'to seek', or 'to explore'. Like the brochure says, obviously we're supposed to find ourselves. And besides, the color indigo is closer to being blue than being purple. It's certainly more blue than the purple our counselors are wearing."
The two of them exchanged a glance, and tried smiling politely, though I could tell inside they were thinking, "how rude!" "Is that so?" asked the first girl with the ponytail.
"Yeah. Unlike you, I did my research," I replied, and turned away from them, smirking.
"Okaaaay." Brace-face ignored me and looked back at Blondie. "I wonder when we're gonna get to the lake. It feelth like forever thinth we had that lunch thtop. How long have we been on this buth, do you think?"
"3 hours and 37 minutes," I announced. I turned around again, just to see the girls' reactions, and they both wore disgusted frowns that said "nobody asked you, nerd."
"You're not thuppothed to bring electronicth to camp," lisped the second girl. As if I needed reminding about that rule.
"I didn't." I lifted my arm and showed them my wristwatch. "See? It's analog. I've just been keeping track."
Girl number 1 rolled her eyes at me. "Whatever," she said. She waved her hand at me dismissively, like she'd made me invisible, and she and her friend went back to talking. Quieter this time, so I couldn't join in on their conversation again.
I sighed, and went back to leaning my head against the window and watching the trees pass us by. I didn't want to be friends with those girls anyway.

At long last, just before sunset, our long bus journey came to a stop. Trent parked in a clearing and waved us all off the bus.
Ms. Nekromann hobbled out after us stiffly with her staff. "Come along, children, and follow me while Mr. Barker sets up camp for us," she said, her voice creaking like her old bones. So we left the grunting driver to do the grunt work of setting up our new digs. Food, sleeping bags, fire, that sort of thing.
We found a perfect semi-circle of logs, to which Nekromann wordlessly directed everyone to sit down on while she leaned against an old stump, catching her breath. For a while everybody chatted away to their neighbors in excited whispers, waiting for something to happen, until they all realized that probably nothing was going to happen until everyone stopped talking, and so everyone fell silent.
The sun sank slowly in the distance, and the sky began changing from orange to indigo. The grass waved in the summer breeze, the first crickets started to chirp, and the crickets became that awkward kind of background noise you hear in cartoons when the character tries to make a funny joke, but no one is laughing or saying anything.
Finally Ms. Nekromann spoke, breaking the silence and making me jump in surprise. "Welcome, dear boys and girls, to the Lost Woods." She spoke in a low, dramatic voice.
"Aw, I thought we were going to Lake Indigo," whined some kid.
"In-DAH-go, child, not indigo. We will not be able to make it to the lake today, since night is quickly approaching, and Mr. Barker will be unable to see where he is going on this unlit road, so we are camping here for tonight. We are not very far from the camp, only a few more miles down the road." She waved her staff in the general direction of Trent and the purple bus. "There is also a shortcut path that cuts through these woods," she added, pointing at the trees behind me, "which we shall all hike together in the morning."
I wondered how Ms. Nekromann was going to manage hiking with us, with her bad leg and all.
"Tonight, however, let us take the opportunity to get in touch with all the nature around us. Listen to it. Feel it surround us. Draw energy from it. The air, the plants, the animals, and especially the trees..."
The girl with the annoying lisp interrupted. "Animalth? There aren't any bearth around, are there, Liz?"
Nekromann turned to her slowly. "Don't fret, dear girl. There are no animals about who would harm us. We were perfectly safe in this forest, I assure you." Our counselor paused, trying to remember what she was saying before Brace Face had interrupted her. "As you can see, there are many, many trees in the Lost Woods. These woods are said to hold the largest variety of tree species found anywhere in the country."
All the kids oohed in amazement.
"There are stories that say that those who have been foolish enough to wander too far alone into the Lost Woods have never found their way back, perhaps becoming trees themselves. This is why it's important to always travel with a friend."
If that was so, then why the heck did we have an odd amount of people in our camp group? Everyone was already partnered up except for me. Who was going to be my friend? Trent the driver? Not very likely. Ms. Nekromann? I shuddered at the very thought.
"Now then. We shall have a nice dinner by the fire and, as soon as Mr. Barker has all your sleeping bags ready, we will be straight off to bed and enjoy sleeping under the stars.
Oh, great. We were going to be a fantastic feast for all the mosquitoes and other insects as we slept. I sure hoped Trent kept the bug spray handy.

To be continued...

Edit: November 6, 2013, Saturday
Here's part 2 of the story! Hope you FIND it enjoyable. ^,~

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