“Bullshit,” exclaimed Dean to his friend Todd. “You’re too damn much of a coward to spend the weekend camped alone at the Spook light and you know it.”
“The hell I am. I told you its just superstition, an old wives tale, and besides, I have a date with Bethany this weekend. It’s a sure thing with her and you know it.”
“Yeah, yeah. Backwater coward. I knew you would find a reason to not do it.”
“Look, I’ve said it before, it’s just a natural phenomenon. We’ve all seen and heard the various theories. It’s marsh gas, light reflecting off the clouds from the city, the moon breaking through the clouds and reflecting on the fog, someone out there with a diffused light. Heck, some idiots even say its ball lightening. It’s all easily explainable. Some idiots even say it’s headlights reflecting from the highway even if it is several miles away.”
“Okay then, why won’t you stay? I think you’re scared and won’t admit it.” The group of boys and a few girls standing around listening to the argument murmured their agreement.
Finally, in disgust, Todd said, “Okay, you win. I’ll cut my dates short with Bethany and camp out, but it’s going to cost you. If I do this, you have to foot all the expenses for our week long canoe trip the week after we graduate.”
Dean looked around and smiled then said, “Done, but If you don’t spend the entire weekend from Friday night until Monday morning, you have to do the same and admit publically that its real and not some natural phenomenon.”
“Okay, deal, but I get to take all my gear with me. If I have to do this, I get to do it in comfort.”
“No problem. You can take anything you want with you except for your truck. When you get scared and take off, you’ll have to run for it like Dottie and I did. You’ll see what it feels like when the shoe’s on the other foot.”
Before school was out that day, Bethany heard through the grapevine that Todd planned to cut their date for Friday short and cancel Saturday night’s date. To say she was pissed off would be an understatement. Todd had relentlessly pursued her for months until she broke down and agreed to date him, and now he was going to ignore her just to camp out and show what a macho man he was.
Bethany and two of her friends were standing beside Todd’s truck when he walked up to it after classes that afternoon. He could tell from a distance that Bethany was pissed. Her face was already red and she looked like a thundercloud. He was pretty sure this wasn’t going to end well.
When he was about ten feet away from her, Bethany started in on him. She yelled, “What’s this I hear about you cutting our dates short so you can go camping this weekend? If I’m not more important to you than camping at the Spook light, you can just forget our dates.” She turned and flounced off before Todd could make a reply.
He watched open mouthed as Twilah turned and looked at him before giving him a satisfied smirk. After she was sure he saw her smirk, she turned away and said loudly, “You’re better off without that loser anyway, Bethany. He can’t even afford a good car. He has to drive around in a damn old pick up truck. Come on. I think I can still get you a date with Darren. Have you seen his new car? GOD, it’s gorgeous!”
Todd stood still for another moment, then shrugged. He wasn’t at all heartbroken by the breakup, but he was sorry it happened now. They were one of the few couples over 18 in the whole graduating class, and the pussy was damn fine. He was careful since he turned 18 not to screw anyone under 18 so his date choices were limited. His cousin hadn’t considered his girlfriend’s age after he turned 18 and ended up in a lot of trouble when her parent’s found out he was banging her. He just barely managed to keep out of jail long term, and he was now listed as a sex offender. Todd damn sure didn’t want that to happen to him.
Dean walked up just as he was getting into his truck and said, “Hey man. What’s up? I just saw Twilah and Bethany talking to that douche bag Darren.”
“I’ll give you two guesses, and the first one doesn’t count. She found out we were going to have short dates because of our bet and dumped me.”
“Aw shit, man. I’m sorry. Want me to talk to her? Maybe I can smooth things over.”
“Naw, forget it. She was pretty damn high maintenance, anyway. I mean, it’s not like we were engaged or something. We were going to different colleges this fall so the break up just came earlier than I thought it would. Now I’ll have to find some temporary pussy for the summer, though.”
“Well, if you’re sure. Let’s get your gear loaded and I’ll help you set up camp before I take your truck back home.”
“Oh, come on, man. At least let me keep my truck there. It’s stupid to have to unload everything when I could just leave it in the truck and get what I needed, then put it back.”
“Nope. You thought it was so damn funny when we ran off and left our truck. Now you get to see what it feels like to be stranded without wheels when the light comes for you. I’m telling you, if we hadn’t ran like scared rabbits it would have gotten us. That’s some strange shit, man. You’ll see. And don’t think you can run off then sneak back when the light’s gone. A bunch of us are going to keep our eyes on you and if the light doesn’t show up, you’ll have to come back next weekend.”
“Whoa, wait a minute there. I never said anything about another weekend.”
“Yeah, you sorta did. You said you wouldn’t be scared and would stay in place if the light showed up. If it doesn’t, you can’t complete the bet now, can you?”
“Okay, okay. I suppose you have a point.”
Dean opened the passenger door, got into Todd’s truck and said, “Well, come on. Let’s get this show on the road. I have a date tonight.”
The two young men made a quick trip to Todd’s house so he could pick up the items not already in his truck. All his camping gear was kept in the bed under a locked cover. His canoe was always in a rack built over the cab and bed of the vehicle. All Todd had to pick up at home was his cooler with his cold food for the weekend, and a couple of odds and ends he didn’t keep in his truck, like his weapons. He even kept the majority of his ammunition in the truck, along with his fishing gear.
Within an hour and a half, the boys were at the agreed on site and had the gear unloaded. Todd hadn’t planned to unload his fishing gear and canoe, but Dean had it all in a pile before Todd could tell him to leave it in the truck. Dean was in a hurry, it seemed. Just before Dean got into Todd’s truck and prepared to drive away, he grinned and said, “Have fun, Dude. We’ll be watching. Talk to you Monday.”
Todd watched Dean drive away, and then began setting up his camp. This wouldn’t be as pleasant as his camping trips normally were. He usually set up alongside a stream somewhere so he could swim and fish, in season. The nearest stream was almost three miles away so he had a dry camp. Instead of relying on the forgetful Dean, Todd had eight-gallon jugs of water with him for drinking and the small amount of washing he planned to do. Instead of using his normal metal camping eating utensils, he had some plastic ware and plastic plates to eat with. He hated to do so, but since there was no water nearby for washing dishes, he opted to do so this time.
Just at dusk, the cars began arriving, carrying the kids who came in good weather to park and make out while waiting and hoping for a sight of the Spook light. Perhaps, there were a few extra’s this evening because they wanted to see Todd. Many vehicles were filled with friends. Others were filled with people who heard about the bet. Curious bystanders who wanted to see if Todd ran from the light like everyone else did when it began to approach them.
For some reason the light didn’t appear that evening, and after 2 AM, Todd was alone. He sat watching the last set of taillights disappear, and went into his tent. He was still asleep at ten the next morning when Dean appeared yelling and woke him up.
Todd staggered around building a fire and getting his coffee on. After a couple of cups of coffee, he made his breakfast while Dean watched. Dean sat and said, “Hey man, what about me? You’re only cooking one meal, looks like.”
“Yep, you can eat at home or in town. I have to stay here, and I didn’t bring enough to feed anyone besides myself.”
The two friends talked for a while, and then Dean took off for town to get lunch. He came back about three hours later and brought the hamburgers Todd talked him into getting for him. About 4 PM, Dean stood and headed for his truck. As he opened the door he said, “Well, gotta go. I have a date again tonight. You’d better hope it shows tonight or tomorrow night, or you’ll be here again next weekend. Or do you want to just quit and admit I’m right and pay for our trip?”
“Forget that noise.”
Once again the cars and trucks showed up, beginning about 8 PM. Dean and his date arrived and parked near Todd. They talked to him for a moment, and then got into Dean’s truck. Todd could see their silhouettes when another vehicle came or went. Finally, everyone was gone except Dean and his date. Todd sat and watched as finally, Dean started his truck and backed it up beside his tent to turn around.
Dean looked over at Todd and opened his mouth to make a teasing comment. All at once, his eyes enlarged and he got a scared look on his face. Instead of teasing Todd about staying out alone again he said, “Shit!” He quickly turned his head forward and floored his accelerator. He threw dirt, grass and gravel from under the spinning wheels as he barreled onto the road and took off.
Todd laughed and yelled, “Good one, asshole. It didn’t work though.”
Todd stood with a grin on his face as he watched the tail lights disappear. All at once, he noticed a glow in the air and he felt cool, almost cold. He turned around to look behind him and stood, fear coursing through his veins as he saw the Spook light up close and personal. He was rooted to the spot, his heart racing, as the glowing ball enveloped him and his camp. It was so dark that all he could see was the pale glow of the light. He almost had to feel his way to his tent.
The light seemed to hover over his camp and follow his movements while Todd moved toward his tent. All the time it was present, he never left its interior. The feeling of disquiet, of something being slightly Ôoff,’ remained until the light finally moved away from him. It took several minutes for him to warm back up again. After the ball disappeared from sight, Todd slowly regained his normal attitude. He took a deep, slightly raspy breath and crawled into his tent. He was shaking badly but felt a slight exhilaration, also. He had survived being enveloped by the Spook light. He grinned as he crawled into his sleeping bag and thought, I hope whoever is watching got a picture of that. No one can say I chickened out then, and I’ll have proof I stayed when the light appeared.
Todd woke the next morning to a burning sun and chirping birds flitting around. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something felt different. He was more energetic and the air just smelled better, somehow. He crawled out of his tent with the intention of making a pot of coffee and his breakfast. He was famished for some reason. After the fire was burning nicely, he stood to walk back into the woods to relieve himself. All at once, he almost stumbled.
Todd stood still and looked around. His stomach tightened in fear once again. The trees were wrong. They were huge and the road was gone. He quickly turned in a circle hoping he was just turned around or something. Nope. Big, big trees and no road. All his gear was still here, but where the hell was here?
The urgency of his need to piss reasserted itself and was even greater than before. He felt a dampness in his shorts as he almost lost control. He quickly unzipped and pulled his cock out. It began spewing piss almost before it cleared his pants. He didn’t care at all that he was urinating inside the perimeter of his camp. He had to go! Waiting was not on the agenda.
After he pissed, Todd began exploring the nearby woods, the thought of coffee and breakfast out of his mind. After about 30 minutes, he had to admit there was no road and no indication there had ever been one. He was tired, mostly from the adrenaline rush rather than the short exploration trip. Throughout his investigation, his head turned constantly as he peered around, trying desperately to find a familiar sight.
Finally, with a deep sense of fear, he returned to his camp. Now he was super glad Dean insisted on unloading all his gear. He didn’t really know why he did so, but before he did anything else, Todd dug out his pistol and rifle, made sure they were loaded then put the shoulder holster containing his .357 Ruger revolver on. He picked up his rifle and walked to the fire circle to check his coffee pot. The fire had died down and the pot was almost boiled dry. The coffee inside was a black viscous mess. He quickly put more water in the pot and when it was perking once more, he poured his first cup of really terrible coffee.
Todd grimaced and said to himself, “Shit, I should have dumped this crap and started over.” While he was drinking his first cup of coffee, Todd began cooking his breakfast. As he worked, he tried to decide on a course of action.
Todd knew he would need water soon, and he only had enough food to last until Monday morning, so he was in need of food also. He had a really good cooler, but the ice would be all melted by the end of the day or sometime during the night. He laughed sickly and thought it was probably a long way to some kind of store.
Monday morning, just before 7 AM, Dean arrived at Todd’s campsite to pick him up for the trip to school. Of course, when he arrived, Todd and all his gear were gone. Dean laughed and decided Todd had been as scared as he and his date was, and took off for home Saturday night when he saw the spook light. He never wondered why he hadn’t called him Sunday and asked for his truck, or how he managed to walk ten miles pulling his canoe and camping gear on the small wheels used for moving the canoe around.
Dean got back into the truck and drove to school. He was surprised to find Todd was not in school that day, but shrugged it off. He grinned to himself when he figured Todd was too sore from his long walk to attend.
That evening, about 7 PM, Todd’s mother called Dean and asked where Todd was. Dean felt an immediate surge of fear. He asked, “You mean he didn’t come home Sunday? He wasn’t in school either. When I went to pick him up this morning, he and all his camping gear were gone so I decided he walked home and was just too sore to come to school. He was fine Saturday night when I left him about 10:30 PM.”
“No, he didn’t come home,” Todd’s mother said, with fear in her voice. “Are you sure all his gear was gone? Where did he camp?”
“Uh, at the Spook light.”
Mrs. Sinclair laughed tightly and said, “You mean you young folks still go out there to look at the light? Who was with him there?”
“Uh, no one, Mrs. Sinclair. The light came and started toward us and we all took off. The last I saw Todd he was surrounded by the light.”
Mrs. Sinclair hung up the phone and immediately called the sheriff’s office to see if they had anything on Todd. Of course they didn’t, so she made a missing person report. They began a search for him. A deputy went to Dean’s home and had him show them exactly where Todd camped. They didn’t believe Dean when he showed them, because the alleged camping site was not only posted ÔNo Trespassing’ but there was no indication there had ever been a camp there. There was no fire ring, no beaten down grass, nothing.
The deputy with Dean said, “Son, is this some sort of a joke? A prank set up by you seniors?”
“No. I swear. He was camped right here. You can ask anyone that was here Friday or Saturday night. They’ll all tell you he was here.”
“Son, why don’t you tell us what really happened to Todd? Did he run off or did something else happen to him?”
“No! I tell you he camped right here.”
“I think you had better come to the station with me and we’ll let the detectives figure this one out.” Dean was taken into custody for questioning. He gave a factual account as he knew it but, of course, wasn’t believed. Everyone knew the Spook light was some stupid teen rumor, a way to scare their girls and a place to park with them. Heck, some of the men and women at the Sheriff’s office had done the same thing when they were young. Dean insisted the last time he saw Todd he was standing completely surrounded by the ethereal glow of the Spook light, just before he sort of faded out. Finally, the police were forced to let Dean go due to lack of evidence he was involved in anything wrong. Too many people had supposedly seen Todd’s camp, and Dean’s girlfriend swore Todd was there alone when they left but was surrounded by the strange light.
The morning paper Tuesday had a full front-page headline “HIGH SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN DISAPPEARS AT SPOOK LIGHT”. The article gave all the facts as relayed by Todd and some of the other young people who were at the Spook light Friday or Saturday.
Todd, at the time the investigation was being undertaken, was doggedly pulling his possessions toward what he hoped was town. He knew about how far out of town he was and the direction, so he used his compass to head as directly there as he could, considering the forest he was walking in. He knew what length pace he took on hard surfaces and in the wild, so he could estimate the distance travelled.
When he got to the location of his hometown, there was nothing there except more forest and the river that ran through. There was no evidence a town had ever been there. In fact, there was no indication any human had ever been there, either. He was forced to admit to himself he was alone, terribly alone.
He was exhausted and set about making a camp in what he thought of as the city park. It was at a bend in the stream where it turned away from a limestone cliff. The south side of the stream had a nice gravel bar, the north one, a cliff about 75 feet high. Part way up the cliff was a pretty nice cave that had been privately owned. The owner had his house west of the cave and a path cut to the cave. Supposedly, over the years, several arrowheads and other signs of habitation were found inside the cave. There was a 20-foot deep hole of the river along the cliff. The deep water along the bluff was almost 200 feet long and was about 60 feet wide. During the summer, the gravel bar was almost wall to wall people picnicking, camping and swimming.
As soon as he dropped his load, Todd pulled some fishing gear from his canoe, found some grub worms and threw the line out to catch his supper. While waiting for a fish to bite, he planned to pitch his tent and set up his camp. Before he was done with the tent, he looked toward his fishing pole and saw it bent sharply and bouncing. He rushed to it and caught it just before the fish broke it free from the rocks he had wedged it between. He fought the fish and slowly brought it to the gravel bar. When he pulled it in, he saw he had a catfish nearly two feet long. That would feed him at least two meals. He quickly dressed the fish, built a fire, and put it on to cook while he finished setting up his camp.
After he had eaten his fish and a fried potato, Todd leaned back against a large log that had washed up on the gravel bar to think about his situation. He really had no idea what happened to him or civilization. He was just happy he had all his gear with him. Now he was again glad Dean insisted he unload it all when he camped at the Spook light.
Todd was an avid outdoorsman and reader of science fiction. As he sat, listening to the peaceful evening and occasional fish jumping in the river, his gaze wandered around his location. Even as worried as he was, he couldn’t help but relax and enjoy the evening. As much as he didn’t want to believe, he now had to admit to himself that the Spook light must have had something to do with his situation. It was the only explanation he could come up with. Now, he just had to decide what to do next. He wasn’t inclined to travel far from his current location, because even though the area as he knew it was gone, he was positive he was in the same place on earth, or at least on an earth-like planet. He was as near home as he could get, in any event.
The next morning after a great night’s sleep, Todd fixed his breakfast, cleaned up and secured his gear. He took his rifle and pistol and began exploring the area to see if he could find anything at all to either help him with his daily living, or to explain whatever happened to him.
Todd took the entire day for his exploration, stopping only to eat a quick lunch he brought with him, or to look at something he found interesting. On his way back to camp, he shot a small deer for his next few meals. He knew it was out of season and almost hoped a game warden would come along and arrest him for it. During the day, as he walked about, he harvested several plants he knew to be edible, including wild onions and a few mushrooms.
The late afternoon and evening were spent dressing the deer, putting much of it on to cook over his fire and beginning to dry the remainder. In spite of his strange situation, Todd was strangely happy as he worked.
Meanwhile, Sally, his next-door neighbor, was sitting on her porch crying. Her mother came out and found her. She sat in the swing beside her daughter and wrapped her arm around her shoulders. “What’s wrong sweetheart,” she asked.
“Todd’s been gone now for three days, and I miss him. No one’s even looking for him any longer. Oh, Mom, what if something awful happened to him?”
“Oh, honey. I’m sure they’re still looking for him, but there just doesn’t seem to be much evidence to go on. They think now he ran away or something.”
“No, Mom. He didn’t. I just know it. Something bad happened to him, or maybe the Spook light got him. I don’t know, but I bet he needs help. What can I do? I can’t just sit here.”
“Look honey, I know you have a crush on him but that’s no reason to go off half-cocked like this. Everyone’s doing all they can do to find him, I’m sure.”
Sally jumped up from the swing and ran into the house. As she was leaving she said, “I have to help. I’m going to go out there and wait for the light and see if I can figure something out. No one else has done that.”
Sally’s mother followed her into the house and said, “Now you wait a minute there, missy. You’re not going anywhere. You just sit tight and let the police handle this. It’s their job anyway.”
Sally continued packing things in her large camping backpack until her mother took it from her and put it back into her closet. “Listen to me, young lady. You’re not going anywhere. Now, come on and help me finish supper. Your father and brother will be back from the field soon, and they expect to eat.”
That night, it rained and the wind blew strongly. Todd’s tent didn’t stand up to the wind well, and he had a miserable wet night. The next morning, he crawled out of his nearly blown down tent and spent several minutes trying to get a fire started. He finally succeeded and made a pot of coffee, which he drank before preparing a venison and fried wild onion breakfast. While he was eating, he decided, as pleasant as the gravel bar was in nice weather, he needed to move his camp so weather and storms didn’t have as great an impact. He worried if the rain had continued and river rose, he would have lost everything, maybe even his life.
His first order of business after laying out his wet things to dry in the sun was to cross the river and check out the cave. He had never been inside because the owner, at least in the world Todd seemed to have left behind, had his entire acreage posted ÔNo Trespassing,’ and was a fanatical asshole when faced with trespassers. All he knew about the cave was hearsay.
Todd walked downstream about three hundred feet where he could wade across the water that, at its deepest point, came to his waist. He then walked back upstream to the bluff in which the cave sat. He looked at the narrow ledge that led to the opening of the cave with a little fear. Its width varied from about two feet near the center to nearly three feet near the cave opening. Finally, he decided to suck it up and moved slowly and carefully out onto the ledge. He might not have attempted the walk, except he knew If he fell he would land in the deep water and could swim out. He didn’t relish the thought of the nearly 20-foot drop if he did fall, however.
When he got to the wider part of the ledge, Todd let out a relieved sigh and moved faster to get to the cave floor. He slowly entered the cavern and stood in the opening as he looked around. The floor was dry, and it appeared as if the cave was about 20 feet deep and maybe that wide. The entrance was maybe fifteen feet wide and not as high as the roof of the cave. There was an overhang over the mouth of the cave that hung over the river a few feet.
While he stood in the cave entrance, he heard some mewing coming from a pile of rocks near the rear wall. When he got there, he saw an adult Bobcat laying partly out of the pile. Its hide was torn in several places, and he could see flesh of open wounds. The female cat was dead and the three kits in the nest were mewing, from hunger, he assumed. They were nuzzling at the dead mother’s teats, trying to suckle. Todd didn’t know much about bobcats, but he thought the kits looked old enough to eat solid food. There was evidence nearby that either they or the mother had eaten several rabbits and rats.
After he handled the spitting kits for a moment, Todd stood and completed his exploration of the cave. There was some indication humans used it occasionally, as there was a place that clearly showed a fire had burned, and there was a small pile of dry wood nearby.
The back of the cave had a pile of rock that had obviously fallen from the ceiling, but the part of the cave nearer the river showed no sign of cracks or falling rock. Todd decided he would move into the cave and unless he was rescued, or found a way home, he would close off the front to make it more weather tight and warmer during the winter.
When he left the cave, he took the dead bobcat and threw her into the woods on his way back to the more shallow area where he crossed the river. Todd spent the rest of the day moving his gear into the cave and catching some fish for his days food. He also fed some of the fish to the small bobcats. They were tentative at first, but finally ate most of what he put in their nest. He even used one of his camping cups to put some water out for them, but they didn’t drink as far as he could tell.
The next day, Todd began making the cave more homelike. He moved all the rocks he could lift from the rear of the cave to a spot near the front. He was exhausted when he got all the rocks he was strong enough to move placed where he could use them for his wall. He took his largest pot down to the stream and filled it with clay to use as a mortar for his rock wall. He knew it wouldn’t stand up to rain very well, but he was building the wall about four feet inside of the mouth of the cave at its narrowest point. There was no indication that rain came in that far, with the nearly ten-foot overhang above the cave mouth, and the direction of the opening (to the southeast). This part of the country very rarely had an east or southeast wind, and when they did come, they were not very strong.
It took over a month for him to complete his wall and a stone fireplace he built in it. The cave was very dark now, but more secure and weather tight. By the time he was finished with the wall, the bobcat kits had tamed down and appeared nearly half grown. They played around and got underfoot almost as domestic cats did. They even followed Todd when he went hunting or foraging for edible plants, or more rocks for his wall. Nearly half of the rocks in the wall came from outside the cave, and were a stone cold bitch to get into the cave. He used his rope and built a small basket to use to lower them from above, and then used another piece of rope to pull the basket back under the overhang so he could unload it.
Todd left two small window openings and the door opening in the wall. He planned to make shutters and cover the tied branches with hide to make them airtight, or more nearly so. He didn’t look forward to staying in darkness, but at least he would be warmer that way in the winter.
In all the time he had been there, Todd had never seen or heard another human. He had wandered several miles around what he now considered his home, foraging, hunting, and just exploring, looking for another human. Once, he walked the four miles to where his parent’s farmhouse stood in what he was now calling Ôanother time’. He was strangely content, but did miss someone to talk to and be with, especially on the rainy days when he couldn’t be outside as much. At least his cats kept him company then.
During this time, Sally moped around, missing Todd. She had been almost throwing herself at him for two years, but he treated her like a younger sister. She just knew if she persevered, he would see her as wife material. After all, she was only a year younger than he was, and they had many of the same interests.
Her family kept a close eye on her for several days after she initially said she was going to leave and search for Todd, but by late summer, they stopped watching her as closely. Sally began to gather things together she thought she might need if she found Todd. She put some nails and small tools in her pack, a couple of smaller tarps, fishing gear and ammunition for her .40 caliber Glock. She also packed clothes and cooking and dining utensils, along with her sleeping bag.
Finally, the perfect opportunity for her to take off hunting Todd arrived. Her family went to the county fair and left her home alone, so she took the opportunity to leave. She shouldered her pack, wrote a note to her parents and headed out. On her way past the garage, she stopped and grabbed an axe, hatchet, some penicillin kept for sick animals and a couple of bow saws. Her pack was almost too heavy for her to carry, but she managed.
It took her almost four hours to walk to the Spook light. When she got there, she dropped her pack and leaned back against a tree to rest. She drank a large amount of water from one of her two canteens and closed her eyes. Strangely, there was no one there this evening. She supposed they were all at the fair. She closed her eyes to rest a moment and drifted off to sleep. She awakened when she felt a strangely cold feeling come over her. She opened her eyes and found herself surrounded by the light.
Sally almost peed her pants when she saw the light. She grabbed her pistol and sat with it in her hand, but saw nothing besides the light to scare her. Soon, the light moved on and she relaxed and drifted back into a restful slumber. She never heard her mother and father yelling at her as they watched in horror while the light surrounded her and she slowly faded from view. For years to come, they berated themselves for not making her go to the fair with them or for not coming home earlier to find her note.
Sally woke the next morning to birds singing and the sun hitting her in the face. She stood to move away to piss when she noticed a change. The road was gone. The trees were larger and the fence was missing, as were the no trespassing signs.
Sally felt fear course through her body for the first time. Well, not really, she had been scared the night before, too, but this was different. This fear continued. Where was she? Was this what happened to Todd, too? What should she do now?
When Sally’s family got home from the Spook light, they rushed into the house. Once again, a frantic family called the Sherriff to report a missing child. Again, a search was started, but met with no success. Of course, when they showed the deputy the note and told him what they witnessed at the spook light he totally disbelieved them.
The next morning, once again, the paper had a frontpage headline: “ANOTHER YOUNG PERSON DISAPPEARS AT SPOOK LIGHT”. This time, the tabloids picked up the story and had a field day using the family’s description of the light and Sally fading from view. Crank phone calls became so bad they had to change their phone number.
The first morning Sally was “gone,” after eating some of her food, she made the same decision Todd made and began a trek toward where she hoped to find her hometown. She took nearly the entire day to make the walk because she wasn’t as comfortable using a compass as was Todd, and because she was already scavenging for food.
She was just coming into sight of the bluff in what, to her, also, was the city park when she heard a shot nearby. She took off toward the sound of the gun, not even thinking what might happen to her if it wasn’t Todd.
Todd heard Sally crashing through the brush and turned from dressing the deer he had just killed. He held his rifle ready to shoot if the crashing was a danger to him, or another animal to preserve for the upcoming winter. He wasn’t having much luck tanning leather, but he thought he had smoking/drying meat down pat.
Todd shook his head. He was sure he heard someone calling his name. His heart leaped at the thought, but he discarded the feeling. There was no one here. He was just hearing things. All at once, he saw a girl moving toward him at a fast walk or slow trot.
Sally saw him standing with his rifle and again called, “Todd! I found you. I knew you weren’t dead or a run away. We’ve all missed you so much. Are you okay?”
Todd stood in shock for a moment, and then moved to meet Sally. When she got close to him she almost leaped into his arms and gave him a tight hug. She clung to him as he tried to push her away so he could look at her.
“Sally, what are you doing here? How did you get here? Do you know the way home?”
“I went to the Spook light just like you did, Todd. I just had to find you. I don’t know if we can get back or not. Do you?”
Todd sighed and said, “No, Sal. I don’t know how many times I’ve been back to where I think the light is, but I’ve never seen it. I have no idea how to get back. Don’t you think I would have come home if I could?”
Just then, one of the bobcats came out of the woods and saw Sally. It snarled and began stalking toward her. Sally stepped back in fright and grabbed her pistol as she said, “Oh, God, there’s a bobcat.”
She was trying to aim for a shot when Todd grabbed her pistol and said, “Don’t. She’s just protecting me. She doesn’t know you. As far as I can tell, we’re the only people in the world now. I’m the only human she’s seen, for sure. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
Todd took Sally’s hand and led her over to the spitting bobcat. He squatted down and Sally did the same. He held his hand out and said, “Come on, sweetie. I want you to meet Sally. She’s good people too.” He handed Sally a small piece of fat that had stuck to his hand from the deer and said, “Here, give her this.”
Slowly, the bobcat inched toward Sally and took the meat from her hand. After it swallowed the small offering, it carefully sniffed Sally’s hand looking for more, and then licked her fingers.
Todd stood and headed back to the deer. As he walked he said, “Well, come on. I need to get this deer back and begin working it up.”
“Where are we going, Todd?”
“Back to the bluff. I’m living in the cave now. That’s where I found the cats. Their mother was dead and I finished raising them.”
“Yes, there are two more around here somewhere. They go about everywhere with me now except swimming. They don’t like the water. I have to carry them across the river when I come to this side or they yowl enough to wake the dead. They seem to think my canoe is their personal ferry now.”
When they came in sight of the bluff, Sally saw the wall Todd built across the front of the cave and said, “Wow. Did you build the wall across the front of the cave, or was it already there? I don’t remember a wall or the remains of one back home.”
“Yes, I built the wall. I don’t even know if we are back in our time stream or somewhere else. I think I heard years ago that there were the remains of a wall in the cave and they even found some human remains there. Supposedly, several bones were unearthed when Jackson built his little picnic area there. He cleaned up the mess in and around the cave, too, from what I heard.”
As soon as they got across the river, Todd walked up to a banked fire with drying racks over it. He put the deer down and began slicing it thinly and hanging the meat over the smoke to dry. He also put on a large pot filled with water and cut meat up in it. After that was done, he threw in some wild onions and what looked like potatoes.
Sally quickly shed her pack and moved to begin helping Todd with the work. As they worked, they talked. Sally told him of the uproar when he turned up missing and gave him the up to date news on his family and the happenings in their little community. She said his parents were holding up well after his disappearance, but had tightened the reins on his siblings in reaction to it. She said many of the local parents kept better track of their children because of his disappearance.
The young couple worked well into the night on the deer, giving the three cats the bones after they got most of the meat off them. After the last of the meat was on the drying racks, they cleaned up and ate their supper.
After cleaning up from the meal, Todd sat beside a large log and pulled a long hickory stick from beside it. He was using a piece of flint to smooth and shape the wood. Sally watched him for a moment and then asked, “What are you doing, Todd?”
“I’m trying to make a bow and arrows. I have knapped some poorly shaped arrowheads and hope to do a good enough job with this to use it hunting.”
“Why? I see you have your rifle and pistol.”