The sky above seemed to be darkening fast as Isaac and I navigated our way through the thick concentration of trees and low hanging branches ahead of us. Silently, at first...as we didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves for any reason whatsoever...but we soon picked up the pace. Virgil warned us to get out of that place and try our best to get away from Rainbow’s End before dark...and the evening’s shadow seemed to be spreading a lot quicker than either one of us could have ever expected. I still wasn’t quite sure how far we had left to go before we even reached the beach, but I was sure that we were going to have to move a lot faster than we were if we had any hopes of getting there before nightfall.
“Wesley? Wes...wait...” Isaac said, breathlessly. He was hurrying along a step or two behind me, but he was practically gasping for oxygen. Maybe it was my transformation that kept me from tiring myself out so fast, and I had forgotten that I was working with quite an advantage over my companion here...especially when you consider the intense amount of trauma that he had been going through since he came home with me and I got him all mixed up in this mess.
“You alright?” I asked, slowing down until we were both forced to stop for a moment so he could lean up against a tree and try to get his heartbeat back under control. “Take a few seconds, k?”
Wheezing, Isaac asked me, “How much further?”
I stared out ahead of us, and I said, “It looks like the lake is less than a quarter mile in the distance. Over there, where the trees all come to a stop. I can practically hear the ripple of the water. Do you think you can make it that far before we take a break?”
“Hold on. I’m...I just...I need to...” He could barely get the words out, and I lightly patted him on the shoulder, giving him permission to take a seat and rest his feet while he caught his breath.
“It’s ok. We’ll stop, but just for a minute or two. When we get to Rainbow’s End, I’ll be able to find my way back to the cabin and we can probably rest for longer and possibly even get something to eat.”
Isaac began to rub his legs and he leaned his head back to close his eyes for an extended blink. I needed him in good shape, but I didn’t want him to get too comfortable. At least not yet. The sky was even darker than it was a few minutes ago, and I never found the courage to reach deep enough into the calling to figure out whether Cyrus and my brethren were close or still far away. Virgil giving us a ride might have bought us some time, but it wasn’t going to last. Once it’s dark enough for the pack to move through these woods without being detected, they’ll be picking up the pace. And there’s no way that Isaac was going to be able to outrun them. Hell...I’m not even sure that I’d be able to outrun them at this point.
Hopefully, my father won’t need a whole lot of explanation to just pack up a few necessities and get us as far away from this blasted Bible camp as fast as he can. I’m just going to have to keep my fingers crossed on that one.
When Isaac opened his eyes again, he looked up at me with a concerned expression. I didn’t even realize that I was nervously pacing back and forth until he caught sight of me doing so. “Are you sure that they won’t be able to find us here?” He asked.
“I don’t know.”
“But thy can’t track us by our scent anymore, can they?”
“I don’t know that either. Once we started walking and sweating...he may be able to pick it up all over again.”
“So what do we do, Wesley?” He whimpered softly.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t KNOW! Ok? Are you happy now?” When I told him that, he brought his hands up to his eyes and began to tremble with fear. I needed him on my side right now. It was the only way that either one of us was going to have a shot at making it out of this alive. So I tried to be as honest and sincere with him as I could without causing him to panic. That would only tire him out even faster than before. “Look, I never really had to...hide from them before. I’m just as lost as you are about this whole thing. But this is the best plan that I’ve got for right now, and even if it isn’t fool proof when it comes to keeping us safe...at least it can get us some help.”
“No war with demons is ever fool proof...” He said, closing his eyes and whispering a few desperate prayers to himself.
Getting impatient, I started to pace again. “Isaac...dude, I know you’re tired. I’m tired too. But we need to keep moving, ok?”
“I don’t know if I can take much more of this.”
“We just need to go a little bit further. Once we make it to the lake, I should be able to see the bonfire in the distance. It’ll let me know exactly how much further we have left to walk, and then we’ll find somewhere ‘safe’ to cool our heels. But right now? It’s dangerous for us to be out here all alone like this. It’ll be dark soon...and then we’re screwed.”
It seemed to ache Isaac all over to even turn his head in the right direction, but he did it anyway. He asked, “Over that way? Where the trees stop?”
“Right over there where the trees stop.” I said. “Do you need help getting back on your feet?”
“I’ve got it.” He managed to stand again after a short period of swaying and stumbling, and he brushed his hair back out of his face as he took a couple of limping steps forward. “Slower this time, k?”
“Slow and steady. Got it.” I told him, and put his arm over my shoulder to help him move until he was able to find a balance again on his weak and wobbly legs. And then...we just kept walking. What else could we possibly do?
I think that short rest helped Isaac to breathe again, but his legs seemed to be sore and numb all of a sudden. The sudden stop of motion gave his body enough time to asses the level of fatigue that he was feeling, and now it didn’t seem to be in any hurry to help him go back to putting his body through that same level of punishment. He was slowing us both down now...but at least we weren’t sitting still.
Keep walking. Almost there.
Now we could both hear the calm motion of the lake’s waters in the distance, and just as we began to travel downhill...we were actually able to see it with our own eyes. Hopefully, Rainbow’s End wouldn’t be too far away once we emerged from the trees.
“The lake?” He asked.
“Yep! We made it.” I smiled, and we moved down to the edge of the water so I could take a good look around. Unfortunately...I did see the burning flames of the beach bonfire in the distance, and it still looked like it was a little over a mile away. There was no way we’d make it that far by dark. And I was still going to have to cut through the woods to make the lengthy trek back to the camp from there. Still, I didn’t want to discourage Isaac, so I just told him, “This way. I see the fire. Once we get there, we’re pretty much home free. K?”
“What fire? Where?”
“You see it? It’s right there. We’ll be there in no time at all.”
“That looks like it’s a long way away, Wesley...”
“What? Nah. It’s not nearly as far away as it seems.” I lied. He was soooo tired. Even I was starting to run out of energy now, and I was way more enhanced than he was.
“I don’t know if I can make it that far. Can we stop again? Just for a second or two?”
“No, no, no, Isaac. Don’t sit down. We’re almost there, k? I need you to stay with me. C’mon.”
“Shhh! We’ve gotta stay quiet, remember? Let’s go.” I did everything that I could to keep him from talking himself out of a hasty escape, but it wasn’t easy. His muscles were going to burn something awful when he wakes up in the morning, but...we’re just going to have to let that be tomorrow’s problem. For now, the faster we get around a bunch of people and these woods start to look familiar to me again, the better.
There were a few more times when Isaac’s legs gave out on him, his ankles began to swell and ache, his knees wearing out as he was forced to work slightly harder to walk his way through the sand, but I just kept encouraging him to keep going. Partially through the promise of better things up ahead, and partially through the fear of what might be lurking in the darkening path behind us. But it worked. Soon we got closer, the bonfire got brighter, and I could hear the music blasting all over the beach as more and more local teens showed up for a good time. I swear, this place never looked so fucking GOOD to my tired eyes before.
“What...what is this place?” Isaac asked me, with me practically dragging him forward as we approached that part of the beach.
“Let’s just say that it’s our much smaller, less religious, version of Rumspringa.” I said, a sigh of relief escaping my lips as we were now close enough to actually declare our long journey over and done with.
Just as we were illuminated by the giant flames ahead...I happened to notice a younger boy’s silhouette stopping dead in his tracks as he caught sight of us. He was carrying some more wood for the fire in his wiry arms, and at a closer look, I recognized him as Dallas from before. The night before everything in my life began going downhill.
His big bright eyes widened immensely, and he suddenly dropped the wood down at his feet, running back to the party. “Jack! JACK!!!” He squeaked, and he ran over to his cousin to frantically point us out to him. Jack seemed a bit confused at first, but as he lowered his drink and tried to get a closer look at me...he turned and walked in the other direction, heading towards the cliff overlooking Rainbow’s End.
Isaac and I were nearing the point of collapse, but I kept moving forward, hoping to get something from the drink table before my dry throat and lips became too much for me to bear. I finally helped to lower Isaac down to the sand, where he fell over on his side and just hugged the ground, thankful to have finally found an opportunity to stop ripping his muscles over and over again. “You did it. You made it.” I said with a smirk, and he just gave me a lazy thumbs up, his eyes half closed and coughing a bit as he was probably even more parched than I was. “Stay here, ok? Don’t go to sleep! Just rest for a bit. I’m gonna find us a way out of here. I’ll bring you something to drink.” He just nodded, and laid there in the peace and comfort of the dirt. Thank God he didn’t give out on me before now.
Just as I stood back up, I noticed that there were some stares and whispers coming from the rest of the partying crowd. They were all moving away from me as I headed towards the drink table to grab something that would recharge our batteries. Not a single one of them would speak to me directly, or say anything out loud. So I did my best to just ignore them and get the important stuff out of the way first. The keg was still ice cold, so I got a couple of cups and filled them up...but I made sure to snatch up a few cold offerings of bottled water too, and shoved them into my front pockets. When I took a sip, it tasted soooo good that I almost became lightheaded from the relief. And then...I turned around.
Standing there...was Quinn. He had this sadly sour expression on full display, and was standing there silently with his two friends that he always came out here with. However, what was obviously different about him were the very ‘visible’ scars on one side of his face. Scratches and bruises that had not only failed to heal since we had our run in here on this beach...but some of them looked permanent. Especially his eye, which seemed to be still blackened and scraped over from me hitting him in the side of his head with that liquor bottle. It looked pretty bad, and I know that everybody at Rainbow’s End had to notice it. His life was probably just as full of whispers and rumors as mine was now...and I won’t lie...I felt pretty bad about that.
One moment of me losing my self control...and I did a level of damage to Quinn that I’d never be able to apologize for or make up to him ever again. This is what letting go of the wolf inside does. It destroys everything in a matter of seconds...and leaves a wake of pain and suffering behind it.
My god...the things I’ve done...
“Wesley?!?!” Came a voice over my shoulder just as Quinn turned his back on me and walked away. I turned to see Kyla running past Jack and Dallas to suddenly charge forward and leap into my arms, wrapping herself around me until I was almost knocked back to the ground. “Omigod! Omigod omigod omigod!!! Is this even REAL right now???”
“Hehehe, take it easy, Kyla! You’re spilling my drinks!” I said, just as happy to see her too.
“Where the fuck have you been??? Wesley, what happened to you?”
Jack said, “Dude, we thought you were DEAD or somethin’!”
Getting a bit more serious, I told her, “Listen, that’s a super long story and I know that I’ve got a lot to explain for...but right now, it’s already dark out here. I need to get out of this place. Like...right now.”
“Dark out here? Get out of this place? I’m so totally lost, Wes. What the hell are you talking about?”
I lowered my voice, looking around to make sure that nobody was listening. “I’m in trouble, Kyla. Like...serious trouble. I need to get back home and get my family out of here and back to the city. I need...” Just then, I noticed that Isaac was nearly passed out and needed my attention. “...Hold on a second. Let me take care of this really quick.” I rushed back to where he was, and had to put some real work into waking him back up, and as soon as he was conscious and able to sit up on his own, I grabbed one of the cold bottles of water and opened it, pressing it to his lips so he could get a few refreshing sips and revive himself. He immediately took a hold of the bottle and tilted his head back to gulp down half the bottle so fast that the bubbles inside were constant, and the suction caused the plastic to implode and crinkle in his hands. “Hey, hey...not so fast. I know you’re thirsty, but I don’t want to have you cramp up on me, ok? Slow it down just a little bit.”
“What is going ON with you, Wes??? What trouble? What about your family?” Kyla demanded.
“I’m being...’followed’, Kyla. Maybe even hunted. It’s not safe for me to be out here. Especially after dark.”
She seemed to find the revelation being reflected in the fear in my eyes, and she whispered, “Oh shit...it’s Cyrus, isn’t it? Cyrus and his goons.”
Jack frowned his face up. “Fuck, Wes! We TOLD you not to get mixed up with the likes of Cyrus and his crew! What part of ‘bad news’ did you not understand when the rest of us were staying away from him?”
“I KNOW, ok? I know!” I said. “But right now I just want to go home. And the only way that I knew how to find my way back was by coming back here.”
“But...this is the first place that Cyrus will come looking for you.” Jack said.
“Exactly. Which is why I can’t be here when my brethren come here looking to sniff me out.”
“Your brethren?” Kyla was so confused, but trying to give her enough details for any of this to make sense was going to take more time than I had to giver her.
“Jack, can you help me get him on his feet?” I asked. “This is my friend, Isaac. He’s ummm...he’s been through a lot. Ok? I’m going to take him back home with me and we’re going to try to figure something out from there. But I need to get as far away from this place as possible. Maybe you guys should stay away too. You, Jack, Dallas...even Quinn. You have no idea what they’re capable of. They might try to hurt you if they think it’ll give them some kind of leverage against me.”
“This is insane!”
“I know. And I’m so SO sorry about all of this! I just need to keep a low profile for now. Then, once I’m gone, things will probably go back to normal after a while...”
“A low profile???” She asked with a certain level of shock. “Wesley...the whole camp has been searching for you for over a week and a half, two weeks, now! The whole TOWN has been trying to find you!”
“Me?” I asked. “But...but why?”
“Your dad has been a complete MESS since you ran away from the cabin that first night. Your mom and little brother, Nick, have been scouring every inch of this place. You’ve been on the news and everything. Police got involved...it’s been crazy.”
“You...you mean my dad didn’t pick up and...leave me behind?” I asked, sincerely surprised at the idea.
“What the hell would make you think something like that? Of COURSE your family didn’t just leave you behind. They’ve been covering every inch of these woods hoping to find you before it was too late. Even law enforcement was beginning to give up on finding you alive and figured that it was just going to be a matter of retrieving your ‘body’ at this point.” She said, and I just...I couldn’t really imagine having my dad be so worried about me. I know it seems like that’s a silly conclusion to come to for most...but when most of your teenage life is just traveling back and forth from being totally ignored and constantly yelled at and emotionally dismantled at every turn...without a single ‘I love you’ or decent compliment or vote of encouragement in between...what else was I supposed to think?
“I didn’t know...” I said, more to myself than to anyone else.
Kyla straightened up, and she gave me a kiss on the cheek before taking on a leadership role. “Alright, how good is you friend here to walk?”
“Pretty good, I guess. He’s really worn out though.”
“Alright, well we’ll grab some more water to keep him moving along the way. Guzzle what’s left of your beer, hon. We’re gonna get you out of here!”
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