Both of the boys could feel it.
Maybe it was the lack of a good night’s sleep on a warm, comfortable bed. Maybe it was the lack of a tasty meal cooked with care by their mom. Or maybe it was the fact that they seemed to be climbing upwards and not gaining much ground as they tried to journey back on course.
Whatever it was, their spirits were being sapped of energy at a rapid pace. They were tired, cranky and sick of walking with no end in sight.
It had been three days since the cave worm ate them and they escaped using Bombadore’s Teleporting Explosive Devices. Three days since they speculated that they only needed to walk north for a bit to get back on track. Three days since they last saw the sunlight, because the rain had been pouring with unrelenting strength. Three days had taken both of the boys to the breaking point.
How much worse could this all get?
“We need to find some shelter,” Caleb said.
“I’m not taking any more chances on being eaten by some gigantic worm or anything else that might live in one of these caves. I’d rather freeze to death.”
They continued on in silence, still climbing upwards. The ground had been level just days before. Since jumping through the portal created by the grenades, everything seemed so much harder. The smart thing to do would be to stop moving and reassess where they might be. The map didn’t offer much in the way of landmarks and terrain features to help them orientate themselves to where they were at, so it would have all been a guessing game anyways. They just had to continue on walking. At least by keeping their legs moving, they would be able to stay warmer than if they just sat down and rested on the cold, wet ground.
“What if we actually ended up on the other side of the mountain range? What if we are in the southern part of Carsonia?” Lucas asked.
“Then we are in for one hell of a long walk.”
They moved on through the rain. The leaves of the trees laughed at them as they shook the water off and rained down on the boys harder. The birds seemed to be jumping from tree to tree, watching them as they worked their way through the woods. Perhaps they knew an easy meal when they saw one. The entire world seemed to be against them as they ventured forward.
“I miss home,” Lucas said. “I’d probably be sitting in the deer stand right now. I don’t mind the rain when I’m in the deer stand because I know that whenever I’m ready, I can climb out and go back to the warm house and Mom’s chocolate chip cookies.”
Caleb smiled with that thought. That actually sent a warm feeling through his tired body. “I’d probably be coming home from football practice. We’d be gearing up for the state tournament. Some cookies and milk would definitely be in order.”
“You think we’ll get back to that life again?”
Caleb didn’t answer right away. He wanted to say yes, but what chance did they truly have? Two teenage boys in a world where things were much different and even more dangerous? How long could they really last out here without some sort of help?
“We need to keep moving. We don’t give up and we keep on moving. At some point we will get out of this.”
The two of them put their heads down and charged on. The terrain continued to bend upwards and soon they realized a clearing was forming up ahead. Could it be the road?
“Do you see it?” Caleb asked.
“I see it!” Lucas darted off ahead of Caleb and charged up. Whatever energy he had left deep inside was now being used to move him up to the top of the hill with great speed. He was excited to see if their gamble had paid off.
Caleb picked up the pace. He wasn’t in a hurry to stumble through the wet woods and kill himself on a mossy covered rock or half rotten log lying on the forest floor. He took careful and calculated steps as he moved towards the clearing with a growing sense of peace washing over him. At last they would be on the right path and they could afford stopping for a real rest.
Lucas burst into the clearing and came to a dead stop, looking off into the vast area beyond. Caleb wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. He quickened his pace and then watched in horror as Lucas fell to his knees, still staring off into whatever the clearing was showing him. “Lucas!” he shouted, worried that something had happened to his brother.
Caleb stumbled over a low branch and nearly did a full plunge into the ground but he reached out just in time and caught himself from falling and straightened back up. He raced to the top of the hill and then collapsed next to his brother. His eyes were fixated into the distant landscape just like his brother. He couldn’t catch his breath as the cold rain washed over his face and poured into his mouth like a rushing river. The sky seemed to be trying to drown him with its onslaught.
Caleb felt the last bit of resolve drain out of him and tears mixed in with the water running off his face and he threw his arm over his brother’s shoulder and pulled him in tight. Before them were mountains that rose up into the clouds. Peaks and valleys were found in every direction that they could see. They had absolutely no idea where they were anymore. No idea on how to get out. No idea if they would ever see their mom and dad again.
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