© Copyright 2002
A double flash of lightning sets an eerie glow from behind the trees, at the edge of the marshland and Janet feels alarm at the sudden change in the day's temperament.
A scant half-hour earlier, the day had been hot and sunny with a light breeze. Then it became hazy and muggy. Now, as thunder grumbles in the distance, she decides that paddling her canoe to shore may be the wisest option. Although the grasses grow very tall on the bog, trees are scarce and this tends to make a person feel like a lightning target.
The canoe glides effortlessly down the narrow waterway that threads through Fifty-Acre Marsh and Janet focuses upon the daypack at her feet. She voices a sigh of resignation. Inside the pack are camera, a camcorder, a small audio recorder and a snack cake. An afternoon that she had hoped to record the sights and sounds of wildlife was being canceled because of weather.
An orphan gust of wind urges Janet's shoulder-length ebony curls to caress her cheeks as the oncoming tempest approaches from behind. She scans the shoreline, almost eighty yards distant, for a place to moor her small craft. Janet's dark chocolate eyes reflect her worry and her lower lip quivers the broadcast of her agitation. Janet moans a near silent sigh as she realizes that the nearby coast is densely wooded and without a sign of human occupation.
As Janet urges the canoe forward, through the thickening reeds, she decides to beach the dugout into the first suitable niche and hike her way to the nearest roadway. Janet is, after all, in Connecticut. She reasons that you can't go in a straight line for more than four miles anywhere in this little state without hitting a road.
Janet's thoughts momentarily return to yesterday. The seashore was toasty and her two girlfriends were always splendid company. She had garnered a bit of a tan, however, Janet had remained in her cut-off jeans all day. That is the price a shy girl might pay for wearing a thong bathing suit, then chickening out.
Her two girlfriends had met a couple of fellows at the beach yesterday and today they were on a double date with them. As good friends do, they expressed their concern that she would be spending a lonely day today. Janet set their worries to rest by telling them that she would return to the ocean today, and that she would wear her promiscuous thong as she strutted her stuff on the sandy shore. They giggled and instructed her to get photographs as proof of her exploit. Thus it came to pass, that she presently has on the thong bottom of her suit under her denim slacks.
The present regains Janet's attention. A large raindrop hits her pack with a thwapping sound. Ten more drops hit the canoe and the surrounding water, drawing streaks on the canoe and ripples in the water. A flash, a roar and the skies pour down.
Driving in torrents, the rain has agitated the surface of the stream to a boiling appearance and Janet is almost instantly drenched to the skin. Her T-shirt is pasted to her, and the jeans she is wearing are less tight, but heavier. Janet's long dark hair is slicked to her scalp and she momentarily stops paddling to brush a soggy tress from her face. Placing the paddle in the bottom of the canoe, Janet huddles over in her seat and tucks her head between her knees. She feels the wind buffet the slender boat and is relieved to see that it is pushing it over the reeds and toward land. The driving rain is lashing along her back as Janet shrinks further into a fetal huddle and clenches her eyes closed.
A brilliant flash penetrates the sanctuary of her hooded lids and it is followed immediately with an air-rending roar as something nearby falls victim to the squall's wrath. Janet's eyes flutter open and she is surprised by what she sees. It has been raining hard for less than five minutes there is already an inch of water in the bottom of the canoe.
Raising her head slowly and glancing to her left, Janet sees a large patch of darkness. It is trees, or rather an opening in trees. She must have been closer to shore than she had estimated. The darkness is a hollow in the woods, much like a mouth of a fifteen-foot high by thirty-foot wide cavern. To what depths it reached, Janet could only guess. It is not where she put in to the slough with her canoe. Yet, it offers a promise of shelter.
Janet retrieves the paddle, and guides the bow of the canoe towards gravel beached shoreline. A flash of lightning hits something nearby and the almost instantaneous crash of thunder causes her to cringe as the canoe sidles up to the beach. She steps out into mid-calf deep water and going to the bow of the canoe, proceeds to try to tug it up, onto shore.
An inch of water in a fifteen-foot canoe weighs a lot, yet she drags almost eight feet of the craft onto shore. The water in the canoe has settled in the stern and so has her pack. Sure that her equipment is being ruined, Janet rushes to rescue her gear.
A distant rumble shakes the ground. Janet, with pack in hand glances back at the canoe and the continuing cascade of rain as she walks hastily into the canopy of the forest. Witch Grass carpets the ground in the clearing and it undulates with the short gusts of wind as waves would on the ocean. The rain seems diminished in its onslaught beneath the canopy of the trees and Janet's eyes slowly adjust to the darkness of the forest. She stops and kneels to check her pack out. As she lifts the flap Janet notices a plastic liner she had forgotten about and a quick check shows the pack's cargo to be dry and secure.
Standing up again, Janet surveys the fringes of the covered clearing and shoulders the pack. Adjusting the thick straps of the daypack, Janet observes the hard nipples protruding from her pert breasts. They pull taut against the fabric of her thin T-shirt. The temperature has gone down a few degrees and the storm still rages across the swamps without relent. Janet knows that a better shelter, soon, may become a necessity and she clasps her upper arms as she shivers.
Peering into the shadowy edges of the clearing, she sees several voids in the shrub growth. The second one proves to be a path leading uphill through fairly open woods. A quick glance at her watch tells Janet it is already four o'clock in the afternoon.
She starts down the path, seeing that the open woods are better lit than the dense cover of the shoreline canopy. This benefit is balanced out by her increased exposure to the storm, which buffets bushes and pelts her once more with the large raindrops. The frequent flashes of lightning filtering through the treetops causes a strobe-like effect on the swaying underbrush, and it appears as if shadow-goblins are weaving through the forest about her.
The path ushers her to the base of a steep grade. Erosion has left the lane as a muddy gully, accented by exposed roots. Going up this section of trail may be closer to climbing than to hiking uphill.
Janet leans forward, grasping a thick root and finding a foothold for her raised boot, drawing herself upward. She progresses in this manner for about eight feet. The wind suddenly gusts, pasting a large fallen leaf to her face. Janet rears back from the hillside in fright and claws at the leaf, which is covering her eyes and nose. Her other hand slips off of the roots she had been gripping and she starts a slide, downhill, on her stomach.
Reaching out in desperation to purchase a handhold, Janet feels her T-shirt peeled up towards her armpits and the abrasive sting of her vulnerable flesh being scratched by soil. She yelps in dismay as she rides the hillside back to the bottom.
Clambering to her feet, she looks down to inspect the damages of her ride and sees a blushing patch of skin with a few light scratch marks. Janet's shirt is packed with muck. Muddy water runs down her tummy in rich brown rivulets.
Tears of frustration well up in Janet's eyes. She repels them and their accompanying thoughts of self-pity by embracing the concept that she is on an adventure. This is not a bland undertaking, like a day on a quiet marsh stalking wildlife with cameras. Janet realizes that she can remain the sniveling victim of this storm, or she can make her way through it like a goddess of the forest. Get going, get tough girl, she thinks with conviction. At least, Janet muses, if I relax and go with it, my judgment won't be clouded by panic.
She saunters up to a rain-drenched bush at the side of the path and gently brushes the chafed area of her sternum. Cool rainwater soothes her stinging flesh making her pleased with her new audacity. Then, sliding off her daypack, Janet eases her head and one arm out of her T-shirt. It slides down her other arm to her waiting grasp. Using another bush, she rolls and twists against it to effect a crude bathing. Janet pulls the thin, rain-soaked branches against her naked torso in a gentle scrubbing motion. The resourceful young lady uses several neck-high shrubs in this manner until she is satisfied that the small, brown rivulets of soil are washed away from her soft skin.
Gathering up her T-shirt, she thrusts it into the shrubbery to soak it and shakes it smartly to discard the loosened pieces of soil. Standing in the forest, with the storm surging around her and her exposure to it is exciting to a deep part of her. A facet she would always conceal with shyness. Janet stares down at her hardened nipples and watches with a detached fascination as a drop of rain-water rolls off one of them only to strike her belly and continue its journey towards her waist. The sensation of the thought makes her writhe saucily as she checks the damp shirt once more.
.... There is more of this story ...