“Wait, Aubs…I gotta rock in my shoe.”
Aubree stopped and turned around. Curtis sat on a rock next to the trail and took off his shoe. His coat was torn, his pants were covered in mud, and he had a blood stain on his cheek. She swallowed back the lump in her throat. She was scared and she knew Curtie was scared. Still, they both talked and acted like fear did not exist. Perhaps they each new they wouldn’t survive if they let the fear take control.
Aubree looked down the forest trail. On the right, Pine trees towered and blocked out the sunlight. On the left, a gray rocky mountain rose up past the tops of the trees.
“Ok,” Curtis said and stood up. He looked at her and smiled. “Do you want another granola bar?”
“How many are left?” She asked.
“Six.” Curtis told her. He paused, and then added, “We need to find a place to sleep before it gets dark. Maybe I can catch another rabbit for dinner!” He grinned.
She laughed. Yesterday he surprised her by catching a rabbit for dinner. It seemed like so long ago. “I’m so hungry I think I’d actually try and eat some this time,” she said.
Curtis reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a peanut butter granola bar. “How about a peanut butter granola bar?” he asked.
“Sure,” she replied. They sat down for a rest and snack.
“Do you think Mom and Dad are ok?” Curtis asked.
Aubree swallowed the lump again, “I don’t know Curtie.” There was an awkward silence. “I’m sure they are fine. We just have to hurry and get some help.”
“I’m worried about Mikayla,” Curtis said. “It won’t be easy to take care of them for a couple of days all by herself, especially with them both hurt so bad.”
Aubree nodded. “I know Curtie, I know.” She put her arm around her little brother and he leaned his head on her shoulder. They sat in silence and munched on the granola bar.
Mikayla looked at her mom and dad, both sleeping. They had been sleeping like this since the accident. She took a deep breath, took a log from the woodpile, and put it on the fire. Sparks flew up into the air and followed the smoke out of the cave.
She walked to the front of the cave and sat on a rock. She rested her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands and looked out over the forest.
The cave was up high enough on the mountain that she could see out over the trees. Somewhere out in those trees, she thought, were Aubree and Curtie. She wondered how far they had been able to hike today.
She noticed the sun was getting low and night wasn’t too far away. She decided to get some more firewood and water before nightfall.
She took the canteen and walked down the trail into the forest. She was alone in the forest, but she wasn’t scared. She knew that taking care of Mom and Dad was the most important thing, and she didn’t have time to be scared.
Several minutes later, she arrived at the stream and filled the canteen. The water was cold, and she took a big drink and filled it again before leaving. She hiked back through the forest, picked up several sticks for the fire, and climbed the mountain again.
The hike was tiring, but she still needed more wood. She walked back down the mountain and gathered more sticks. After several more trips, she was tired. The sun was going down. She put a few more sticks on the fire, took a drink of water, and snuggled up between her sleeping parents.
“We should start looking for a place to sleep,” Aubree said.
“I’ve been watching,” answered Curtis, “but I haven’t seen anything yet. I wish we could find a cave like we did yesterday.” He paused, “if you want a rabbit for dinner, I better get busy hunting too.”
“Yea, you’re right. I doubt we’ll find a cave so we might as well stay here. Let’s make camp. I’ll make a shelter while you catch a rabbit.”
Curtie smiled and reached for his pocketknife. “Bee Berry berry quiet….I’m hunting wabbit….hehehehe,” he said.
Aubree looked around. Not too far off the trail she saw a tree bent over sideways. Perfect, she thought. She hunted for long sticks and leaned them up against it. After she had a nice row of sticks forming a shelter, she covered the tops of them with leaves and pine bows. She also put leaves on the ground underneath to help keep them warm.
Curtis crept up the trail, listening and watching intently. In the distance, he heard the soft bubbling of a mountain stream. He ran a short distance and found a small stream that weaved through the forest. He filled his canteen and took a drink. He grabbed a long branch of willow tree and snapped it off. Using his pocketknife, he trimmed all the branches except for one at the bottom. This branch he cut into a point, which hooked up. He put the branch down and dug in the soft dirt next to the stream. He held the soil in his hands and pushed small amounts away with his thumb until he found a big fat worm.
“Ok Mr. Worm, get me a fish,” he said and stuck the worm onto his sharp barbed stick. He looked up and down the stream studying the flow of the water. He knelt on the ground and crawled down the stream for several yards. Laying flat on his chest, he inched his way towards the water and lowered his stick into a deep pool. Within seconds, the stick jerked hard and he yanked it out of the water along with a large brown trout hooked to the end.
Curtie walked back to camp and saw Aubree sitting by a crackling fire. “Look what I got!” he shouted. She looked at the fish. “Hey, I ordered rabbit!” she joked.
Curtie smiled, “I’m sorry maam, but we are completely out of rabbit this evening.”
Aubree laughed. “Oh, that’s ok. I’m hungry enough to eat fish too!”
They worked together to cook dinner. Aubree surprised Curtis with some wild raspberries she had gathered. They ate fish and berries until they couldn’t eat another bite.
“That was really good, Curtie,” Aubree said. “I didn’t know I liked fish so much.”
“I’m so full, “Curtie said. “I ate too fast.” He smiled at her, “It was too good.”
Suddenly, they each realized how tired and sore they were. Curtis looked at Aubree and yawned. “What a day.”
“Yup,” she answered, “what a day.”
They crawled into the little hut and snuggled together in the leaves.
“Goodnight Curtie,” Aubree said. But Curtis was already asleep.
The cave was bright when Mikayla opened her eyes. The sun shown directly into the opening and warmed her. She looked at her mom on one side of her. Her mom still slept peacefully. Mikayla carefully lifted the white bandages to look at the cuts on her mom’s forehead. The bleeding had stopped completely now. She took off the blood soaked cloth and threw it in the fire. The then took some clean wrapping from the First-Aid kit. She was glad Curtis had been able to save it before the plane had exploded. She gently wrapped her mother’s cuts in fresh bandages.
She looked at her Dad’s broken leg. The swelling had stopped, which was a relief. The cold water from the river must have kept the swelling down.
She stroked her fingers through her dad’s hair. “Wake up daddy, please wake up,” she said. She took a deep breath and stood up. Her stomach growled. She had three granola bars left and decided it was time to eat one. She tried to eat it slow, but she was too hungry. It seemed like it was gone before she had even started.
She put some sticks in the fire pit, which by now was only a few coals. She blew on the coals and within a few minutes, the fire was once again cracking and burning.
She heard a loud cough, which startled her. She turned around and looked at her parents. Another cough, which she realized was coming from her dad. She ran over to him. “Daddy?” It was quiet. She poured some water out of the canteen onto her hand and caressed his face and forehead. “Daddy, can you hear me.”
His face jerked, and he coughed again, and his head lifted slightly. “Daddy?” Her heart pounded with excitement. She picked up the canteen and began to pour the cold water on his face. He opened his eyes and rubbed his wet face with his hands. “Daddy!” she yelled and grabbed him tight around the neck.
It took a minute, but he started to wake up. “Mikayla?” He squeezed her tighter. “Where are we?” She sat up and looked at him with tears in her eyes. “Daddy, I’m so glad you are awake.” And she hugged him again.
“Our plane crashed,” she said.
His memory began to return. The family was flying for a weekend vacation to Disneyland. “How? What happened?”
“I don’t know,” she said. We were all asleep in the back when it started spinning. You yelled for us to hold on. Then there was a lot of bouncing and spinning. Then, it was quiet and still. Curtie, Aubree, and I….”
“Curtie and Aubree! Where are they? What happened to them?” he said in a panic.
“They went to get help dad. They are following the trail along the mountain. During the first night, we saw lights that way.” She pointed.
“The first night? How long have we been here?”
“Five nights,” she told him.
He looked over at Kim and tried to move over to her. A pain shot through his leg, “Ouch, my leg hurts.”
“Be careful, dad, your leg is broken.” Mikayla told him.
He looked at the splint the kids had made to hold his leg in place. “Who was my Doctor?”
“All of us.” She said. We used the first aid kit. We made a stretcher and dragged you both up to this cave so you’d be safe.”
“Wow! I can’t believe you did all that! That’s amazing,” he said.
“Well,” she said, “it took us a couple of days. It wasn’t easy.”
Warren reached over and looked at Kim. He checked her pulse, the wounds on her head, and caressed her soft skin.
“Is she ok?” asked Mikayla.
“Well, she has a bad bump on her head, but it looks like she is ok. How far away is the plane?” he asked.
“It’s a couple blocks away, but it burned up. We got out everything we could that wasn’t ruined.”
“So I guess the radio was destroyed?” he asked.
“Yea, Curtie tried it. It was melted.”
Warren took a deep breath and reached over and picked up his little girl. He held her tight. “I’m glad we are ok. I’m sure Curtis and Aubree will be here soon with some help.”
Aubree and Curtis slept under the cover of their shelter, snuggled together. As the sun climbed up over the distant mountain, a bright ray of light shined on Aubree’s face. She opened her eyes.
It was cold. It was warmer sleeping in the cave. They had also kept the fire burning all night in the cave too. Last night, however, they were both too exhausted to worry about the fire. She closed her eyes and smiled as the sunlight warmed her face.
Curtis was also awake and looking at the sun climbing over the mountains. He thought of Mikayla taking care of Mom and Dad. For a minute, he wondered why they ever decided to leave her there alone. It was a difficult choice, and one they had all discussed for hours. In fact, it was Mikayla who convinced them to finally proceed with the plan. She pointed out that if they all just stayed in the cave, they might never be found. Somebody had to go and search for help. Sending one person wasn’t safe. The two strongest and fastest must go, she said. Now, here they were; in the middle of the forest, not even sure where to go next. He rolled slightly to get up.
As Curtis rolled over, Aubree sat up. “You are awake,” she said. “I didn’t realize that.”
Curtis look around at her. “Good Morning,” he said. “Yea, I’ve been awake thinking about Mikayla and Mom and Dad.”
They both looked at each other for what seemed like hours. Aubree took a deep breath, “we better not waste any time.”
They both stood up and brushed off the leaves and dirt. They shoved their few supplies into Curtis’s backpack. He put it on and looked down the trail.
“Move it out Jack,” Curtis said, and they headed down the trail.
They walked in silence for several hours, mindlessly following the trail through the trees. Hiking was harder today. They were sore and tired from walking all day yesterday. Today was much slower. With each step, they felt the pains in their feet and legs. Curtis also had a stiff neck and back from the backpack. When they felt like stopping, they thought of Mom and Dad, unconscious in the cave with Mikayla.
“Hey Aubee,” Curtis said. “I’ll give you five bucks if you sing Row Row Row your boat all the way down the trail.”
“haha, very funny.” She replied. “How about $500?”
“Actually, now that I think about it, I’d rather you didn’t.”
Aubree laughed. “Yea, once is enough for me.”
“Are you hungry?” Mikayla asked, “do you want some lunch?”
“What are we having?” he replied, “Chicken or chicken.”
Mikayla laughed. “We have granola bars, berries, and, um….well, a rock if you want it.”
He laughed back at her. “Well, I’m trying to cut back on rocks, so I think I’ll take the berries.”
They ate berries and drank water from the canteen. “Are there lots of berries out there?” Dad asked.
“Yea, they are all over,” Mikayla told him. “There is a stream down there. You slept though a lot of fish dinners while Curtis was here.”
“Oh man!” he said. “I can’t believe I didn’t wake up when I smelled ‘em cookin’.”
“He showed me how to do it. I’ll try to catch one for dinner.”
He smiled at her. “How far away is it? Maybe I can go help you.”
“No,” she said. “It’s down the mountain and through the forest. I can do it. You better stay off your leg.”
Mikayla stood up and walked across the cave. She picked up a stick and walked back and sat by her dad. “Here is our fishing pole. Curtis found a hook and some line in the first aid kit. We catch worms by the stream and fish with them.”
He took the fishing pole from her. “Well, now that’s about the best looking fishing pole I ever saw! I’m going to have to get me one of these.”
She smiled at him. “Well, you are in luck dad, they are all over the place out there. They just don’t come with string or hooks.” She took it from him. “I’ll go see what I can catch for dinner!”
She walked to the front of the cave and turned around. There was her dad, sitting by the fire smiling at her. Her mom slept next to him. She waved and held up her hand in the secret “I love you” sign, thumb, forefinger, and pinky extended. He held his own hand up with an “I love you” to her, and she turned around and walked down the mountain.
“Aubree, I need to eat something, I’m starving.” Curtis said.
She kept walking, but looked down the trail. “There is a clearing up ahead, let’s eat there.”
They reached the clearing and Curtis dropped to his knees then laid in the grass. “I’m so tired,” he moaned. “Wake me up when we get home.”
Aubree began to respond but a loud nose silenced her. The forest echoed with a loud screaming wail. Curtis jumped to his knees and crawled up next to Aubree, who had dropped low to hide in the grass. They both started down the trail with eyes wide open, quiet and watching.
Curtis whispered, “Please tell me that isn’t what I think it is.”
Aubree looked back at him, “well, it ain’t Mickey Mouse if that’s what you were thinking.”
“I wish it was Mickey Mouse,” he said.
They stared ahead into the forest, waiting for another sound. It was quiet.
Curtis tugged her sleeve, “I can’t remember what to do if you come across a mountain lion,” he said.
Aubree looked at him, opened her mouth for a second, but then closed it again and shook her head as she shrugged her shoulders.
“Dang,” he said.
They sat in the grass for a half hour listening for another roar. “We can’t just sit here,” Curtis said. “We don’t have time to waste.”
“Well, we can try and go around that part of the forest,” Aubree said.
Curtis stood up. “I’m going through it. There isn’t time to go around.”
Aubree paused for a moment, considering the options. She looked at Curtis, her mouth in a slight tense frown. She shook her head. “Yea, you are right.” She picked up a few rocks and stood up. “Let’s do it.”
Mikayla laid in the grass and crawled forward toward the stream. As she came to the edge of the water, she flipped her stick and her line plopped into the water. Her worm sunk to the bottom. She lay quiet and still.
Once she had stayed with Curtis for over an hour as he waited for a fish to bite. She would wait however long it took. Her dad loved fish and she was excited to bring him one for supper.
Staying still and waiting wasn’t easy. When she went fishing back home she wouldn’t wait. She’d reel in her line and throw it again. It was more fun that way, but she hadn’t caught very many fish that way either. She thought about how they would go fishing at the lake by their house. They loved to camp and hike, and it’s a good thing. It’s lucky they new a few things about living in the wilderness, or they might all be dead by now. She was in the middle of dreaming of canoeing with Aubree when she heard a stick snap across the stream. Her heart pounded as she slowly raised her head to see what was across the water.
Twenty feet away from her was a black bear.
She opened her mouth slightly to breath more quietly. She was breathing very fast and could feel her heart banging against her chest. She felt wind against her face, and knew that at least the bear wouldn’t smell her. She laid still, watching the bear and tried to remain calm. It walked up to the water on the other side of the bank and began drinking. Just then she felt a slight tug on her pole.
“No!” She thought. “Not now…go away fishie” she thought. Her stick jerked again. Normally at this point she would jerk back on the stick to catch the fish. Now she only hoped the fish would pull the worm off and go away without getting hooked or breaking the line.
The bear continued to drink quietly when suddenly the pole almost shot out of her hand with a mighty jerk. She grabbed it with both hands and tried to keep it from flipping around madly. The fish began to jump and splash as it fought the line. Not only was it now hooked, it was a big fish. The bear looked up at the fish jumping in the water. She tried not to move as it pulled her stick in all sorts of directions. She thought of letting go of it, but didn’t want to lose their last fishing hook.
The bear looked confused. It stared at the fish flipping and splashing in the water. It took a step forward. “This is my fish, go away,” Mikayla thought. She decided she’d let go of the stick and crawl away if the bear moved any closer. It didn’t move for several minutes.
Just as Mikayla started to think maybe it would just walk away, it took another step towards the fish. Mikayla then surprised herself. She jumped up and began to scream and yell while holding tightly to the pole.
“AAAAAAHHHHH, Go away, go away bear. This is my fish….AAAHHHHHH.” As she yelled, she picked up a rock and threw it at the bear. It splashed in the water next to it. The bear looked at her and backed up a step, then at the fish splashing in the water.
Then the bear opened it’s mouth and roared loudly. Mikayla stopped yelling for a moment. She wanted to run, but couldn’t. She just stared at the bear while the fish pulled her arms right and left. She took a deep breath and looked right in the bears eyes. “Please leave me. I need this fish. My mom and dad are sick.” She was just about ready to turn around and run, when the bear took a step backwards, turned around, and then ran into the forest.
Aubree led the way as they walked in silence through the meadow. At the top of the hill, the grass was short and almost pleasant to walk on. As they moved towards the forest, the grass was longer and walking was difficult. Curtis was almost a foot shorter than Aubree, and the grass was nearly to his shoulders. Pushing their way forward was slow and difficult.
“I can’t see anymore,” he told Aubree. “Are we almost there?”
Aubree paused for a minute, “I think we are close. The trees aren’t far ahead.”
“If this grass gets any deeper, you won’t be able to see either. We’ll get lost out here.”
Aubree stopped. “I didn’t think of that.” She looked back. “We’ll be ok. Look.” She pointed behind him. A pathway of mashed grass clearly marked their trail through the heavy meadow. “If we have to, we can always find our way back.” She turned and continued forward.
Each step was slow and difficult. As they pushed forward the grass became taller. Before long, they were in the middle of grass that towered several feet above Aubree’s head.
Pushing through the grass was difficult. They used their hands to pull the long blades of grass aside before stepping forward. Their hands were covered with tiny cuts from the sharp blades and they moved slowly but steadily.
“Curtie, I see something” Aubree yelled. “I think we are coming out of the meadow!”
Curtis looked up and saw Aubree take another step forward into the light. The sunlight shined through. Then, to his horror, Aubree screamed and fell forward and out of his view.
He rushed forward and heard a loud splash. As he stepped forward to look down, the ground collapsed under his feet. He fell forward and down, tumbling down a steep dirt cliff and then free-falling through the air.
His hand hit water, followed by his face and chest. He splashed and sunk into the cold darkness while struggling to kick and swim. He opened his eyes. The world around him was spinning as the current of the river pushed him. He kicked and pulled at the water with his arms, fighting his way to the surface. He reached it and panted heavily while swimming towards shore.
His feet touched the ground and he stood. Spinning around, the water still up to his chest, he yelled, “Aubree!” and scanned the river. He listened, but the roar of the river was all he heard. He turned and ran out of the water and down the shoreline as he continued to yell, screaming frantically for his sister.
“Ta da!” Mikayla yelled.
She stood at the entrance to the cave and held up a large trout. It was bright outside and her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark cave, so she couldn’t see anything inside. From the darkness she heard her dad’s voice, “Wow! Wow, Mikayla! That is a huge fish!”
She walked inside. It was dark, but after several seconds she could see her dad sitting next to her sleeping mom. She took the fish to him.
“Man, that must be a 4 pound fish!” her dad said. He looked at her, “how did you catch it?”
She told him about the stream, sneaking up in the grass, and how the fish splashed and fought in the water. She left out the part about the bear. She knew it would worry him and he might not stay down and take it easy if he was worried. He might try to do too much.
“How about if I clean the fish while you put some wood on the fire? Then we’ll cook it up for lunch” he said.
She kissed him on the cheek and walked over to the fire, which was just a pile of glowing embers. She put several more pieces of wood on the fire.
“How’s mom?” she asked.
“I think she’s ok. In fact, she seems to be a bit more restless in her sleep now, so maybe she’s going to be waking up soon.”
“I hope so. I wonder if Curtis and Aubree are ok.”
It was quiet for a minute. Dad looked at Mikayla. “Me too, sweetie. Me too.”
The river was about thirty feet across and thundered as water splashed over rocks and fell over small waterfalls. Curtis continued to scream.
He could barely hear himself over the roar of the river. He ran further down the stream, stumbling several times along the way. He scrambled over rocks, slipped on wet moss, and even fell tumbling to the ground several times as ye yelled. Every ten yards or so he stopped and looked out over the river searching for his sister.
With each step his panic and terror increased. He climbed onto a large rock and yelled again. By now, tears were streaming down his face, “Aubree, please answer…” his sentence was interrupted as he began to cry. “Aubree….” He yelled again, through sobs. He jumped off the rock. His eyes were full of tears which made it hard to see and as he landed hard, he slipped and fell into the water. As he began to stand to scramble out of the water, he noticed something. He stood taller. He saw Aubree’s body floating lifelessly in the water.
He dove into the cold water. He kicked and swung his arms hard as he swam to her. He grabbed her arm and spun around, pulling her slowly back towards the shore. She was motionless and her face was white. He pulled her halfway out of the water and laid her on her back. He put his head to her chest and listened for several seconds. No breathing, no heartbeat. In a quick motion, he put his hand behind her neck, lifted her head back, opened her mouth, pressed his mouth against hers and blew air into her lungs. He then jumped up onto her chest and pressed hard three times with his fist onto her heart. Then, he dropped down again and blew more air into her. He repeated this motion several times without speaking, thinking, or even realizing what he was doing. Aubree didn’t seem to be responding.
He continued to breathe for her and pump her heart. As he pushed on her chest, he cried and pleaded, “Please, Aubree…please don’t die. Come on Aubs…” Tears were streaming down his face, but he didn’t slow in his life-saving attempt.
Then Aubree choked. Curtie jumped off her chest. She coughed again. “Come on, Aubs!” He grabbed her head and lifted her, first, to a sitting position and then leaned her forwards. She began to cough again and water poured out of her mouth. She coughed hard for several minutes while Curtis supported her. As she stopped coughing, she opened her eyes. She was confused. She turned her head and saw her little brother holding her. His face was bruised, bloody, and dirty. His eyes were red and full of tears, which also had streaked down his dirty cheeks. His shirt was ripped and he had a large cut on his right arm, which was covered in blood, and his pants were ripped in several places. He threw his arms around her and she put hers around him. Together they held each other and cried.
Mikayla normally didn’t like fish, but this fish was delicious. Maybe she was just hungry. Maybe it was because she was with her dad….or maybe she had never tasted fish this good. Whatever the reason, she filled her stomach with as much fish as it could hold.
“That was sure good,” dad said as he leaned back against a rock and patted his belly. “I am stuffed.”
“Me too.” Mikayla flashed a smile at him. “I don’t even have room for dessert. Guess we’ll have to have the berries for dinner.”
Suddenly, a loud scream echoed off the walls of the cave. The high pitched scream of a woman terrified for her life. It was such a frightening sound, that both Mikayla and dad jumped. The screaming didn’t stop. They looked frantically around the cave, confused and a bit scared.
“It’s mom.” Dad said, and awkwardly got to his feet. As he hobbled over to her side, Mikayla watched her. She was screaming and swinging her arms wildly.
“What’s wrong with her, dad?” she said, both scared and concerned.
“She’s having a nightmare.”
He reached her side and grabbed her arms and held them at her side. He struggled to keep her from thrashing about, and cradled her head in his arms. He began to whisper into her ear, “It’s ok. It’s just a dream. You are safe, I have you now…”
He stroked her head and her screams softened a bit. She stopped struggling in his arms and then went quiet once again…sleeping softly in his arms.
Mikayla looked at her Dad. His eyes became moist and a tear trickled down his cheek. She put her arms around his head, her head on his shoulder, and patted his cheek. They both began to cry. The shadows from the fire danced on the walls of the cave and they fell asleep.
Curtie and Aubree stood up. They were both bruised up and bleeding in several places. Fortunately the sun was hot, or they’d be cold as well.
“No more swimming in the river,” Curtis said to Aubree.
Aubree nodded. “No more swimming in the river,” she stated back to him.
She looked downstream. “Maybe we should just follow the river. I mean, it must lead somewhere.”
Curtis nodded and they began to walk. They had stumbled along for several hours when Aubree stopped. Curtis bumped into to her from behind.
She pointed to the river. On the shore was an empty lawn chair. They both looked around but couldn’t see anyone. They ran to the edge of the river. Next to the lawn chair was an open tackle box and a half empty bottle of Mountain Dew. Something moved near the water. It was a fishing pole, lying halfway in the water. It jerked again and moved farther in the water.
“They caught a fish!” Curtis yelled.
He ran forward and grabbed the pole and began to reel. The fish pulled forcefully and he stumbled forward a step into the water, almost slipping and falling. The reel began to buzz as the fish pulled the line. Curtis regained his balance and, again, began to reel the line.
“He must be huge.” Curtis yelled.
A strange deep voice answered from behind both of them. “That’s right, you got him.”
Curtis almost dropped the fishing pole as he spun around. Both Aubree and Curtis stared at an older man who stood several feet away.
“Catch the fish,” he said to Curtis as he pointed to the water. He paused as he took a closer look at them. Two kids; both bruised, clothes ripped, and blood stained.
“Oh my…” he said. He stepped forward and took the fishing pole from Curtis and yanked it hard, snapping the line and dropped the pole on the shore. He knelt next to them. They stood motionless and silent staring at him. He looked back and forth at them.
He put his hands on their shoulders. It’s ok. “I’ll help you. Tell me what happened. Where are your parents?”
They looked at each other, then back at the stranger and both began talking fast and loud. He looked back and forth as they told about the plane crash, their parents being hurt, and falling into the river. He stood and reached into his pocket.
“Don’t worry; you are going to be fine.”
He took out a cell phone and dialed 911.
Mikayla woke and slipped herself out of her father’s arms. She walked over and put a few more logs on the fire. The sun was low and ready to set.
The soft gentle voice of a woman broke the silence, “Mikayla.”
Mikayla stopped, thinking she was imagining things.
Again, she heard the voice of her mom, “Mikayla.”
Mikayla turned and looked at her mom and dad. Her dad was still sleeping and her mom rested on his shoulder. It was quiet. Then, as she looked closely, she saw the light of the fire reflected in her moms open eyes. She was awake!
Mikayla ran to her mom, “Mommy! Mommy!”
She put her arms around her mom and kissed her. Her dad moved and opened his eyes.
“Dad, she’s awake!”
He sat up and helped mom sit up. Her eyes were open, but she looked weak and sick.
“What happened?” she said.
He smiled and held her as his eyes filled with tears. “It’s a long story,” he said. “I’m so glad you are awake.”
“Mommy, I was so scared.” Mikayla began to cry.
Mom put her arm around Mikayla, still confused and now worried. “Where are Curtis and Mikayla?”
“They went to get help,” Dad replied.
“What do you mean, help? What is going on? Where are we? Why does my head hurt?”
“Stop…calm down,” dad said.
She looked at the splint on her husband’s leg. She looked at the blood stained clothes, the dirty faces, and the ripped clothing of her husband and daughter. Her memory began to return. The storm, the screaming as the plane crashing. She opened her mouth to speak, and covered it with her hand. She sobbed once, then began to cry. Her head fell on his shoulder again, and she bawled. Mikayla and dad both put their arms around her, holding her tight.
“Aubree and Curtis left before I woke up. I haven’t seen them,” dad said in her ear. He recounted the story to her as she laid sobbing on his chest. She put her arms around Dad and Mikayla. The three of them sat in silence as the sky darkened and the sun dropped behind the distant mountain.
“They are alone out there,” she said as she looked out of the cave into the night. “My kids…my babies.” She thought of Curtis. His raspy little voice. His short, stocky little body. His “…luv you mom” he’d frequently yell out. She thought of his messy room, toys scattered about. The frogs he’d catch in the stream behind the house, how he loved fishing, football, and soccer. Her eyes filled with tears and she longed to hold him in her arms…to feel his soft cheeks against hers. Her body quivered as she cried softly.
In her mind, she saw Aubree, her oldest child, sitting on the couch reading a book. She remembered how Aubree had packed eight books to bring on the trip. “Aubree, you can’t bring eight books!” she had said. Aubree loved to read. They had shared some great moments together reading books together. She thought when she held Aubree as a baby. She was such a sweet little baby. She pictured her first steps in their small two bedroom apartment when she was only seven months old. Aubree was always ahead of herself, doing and trying things meant for older children.
“My kids,” she cried. “I need my kids.” She began to cry and took Mikayla in her arms squeezing her tight. With her nose buried in Mikayla’s neck, she sobbed.
“I love you Mikayla,” she said.
Mikayla kissed her cheek and said, “I love you too, mom.”
After several minutes, she lifted her head and looked at her husband. His eyes too were filled with tears.
“I’m sorry” he said.
She took his hand and looked in his eyes. She squeezed his hand and smiled.
“Whatever happens,” she sobbed, “we will make it through this together.”
He put his head on her shoulder. The three of them sat in the flickering darkness.
A light flickered on the wall. They sat up and looked towards the cave opening. Several floating lights appeared.
“Mom, Dad!” The voices of Aubree and Curtis echoed off the walls of the cave.
They sat up. “Curtis?” mom yelled. “Aubree, is that you?”
In the darkness, two small dark figures ran across the cave while their shadows danced on the walls.
“Mommy…Daddy” they yelled again.
As they came into the light of the fire, Mom, Dad, and Mikayla saw them. They were bandaged, dirty, and their cloths ripped. They all met in a large embrace and held each other tightly. Dirty cheeks pressed together, they squeezed each other, frozen in time for a moment.
“We brought help,” Curtis said. “There is a Doctor…everything is going to be ok.”
The family sat again in silence for a moment. Hungry, tired, bruised, battered, and injured, the ordeal was over. They were going to be ok.
“We are all together again,” Dad said. He sat up and looked at his family. “Everything is already ok.”