The last shades of sunlight were fading away when I woke up. It was getting cold, and my clothes were still damp. I could see that Sophie, Anne and Isaac were already up and talking, sitting on rocks.
Isaac looked over to me. “So now you’re back!” he said. “Welcome back to Earth. Sophie, Anne and I just got back a few minutes ago.”
“It’s already dark”, I said, “so why aren’t we going back?”
Isaac snorted. “Look behind you. Someone’s still sleeping.”
Toby, the architect of the reason why we were still sitting near a river in the evening was still asleep. His shirt was still drying next to him.
“The problem right now is we’ve come so far, it’s easy to get lost.” Anne said. “Since it’s going to be dark soon, we can’t go back right now.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to work that out,” Isaac replied, “but there is another problem. We can’t stay here. All the wild animals are gonna come to the stream for a drink. I don’t really feel like meeting a tiger or a bear today, no thank you.”
Sophie said, “We need to get a move on, then. But where? I mean, like, we can’t just sleep anywhere.”
“How about we call Mr Ryan first, to let him know we’re here?” I suggested. “I’m sure Ms Laura is not going to be pleased if we just go missing the whole night.”
Isaac picked up his backpack, but he then stopped. “Shoot. The backpack is wet. I think I forget to pull it off before jumping into the water. The phone is probably not going to work, since this backpack isn’t waterproof.” He sighed. “Anne? Your phone?”
Anne took out her phone and tried to turn it on, but the battery had run out. I told Isaac that I didn’t bring my phone, and Sophie said that she didn’t. Toby jumped down with his whole backpack, so even if he brought his phone it would be ruined. Isaac groaned. “Well, we can’t stay here forever. It’s getting even darker. Wake Toby up. We have to get moving.”
Sophie went to tickle Toby, and he immediately woke up, although his eyes only half opened. “Woah, what? Where are we going?”
“Home,” Isaac muttered. “A temporary one. Someone explain everything to him.” Sophie didn’t hesitate to do that. I walked along with Anne and Isaac, with Sophie and the still-sleepy Toby in the rear. Our pace wasn’t too fast, as it was dark, and the woods was not a comforting place in darkness. No wonder why people in the past thought the forests would have enchanted and magical things.
“Where are we going, anyway?” Anne asked. “Don’t tell me you’re wandering in no real direction.”
“Meh.” Isaac snorted. “We’re going to go to the slope of the hill. Right at the foot it’s pretty rocky, so I think that should be a better place to sleep.”
The winds were blowing. Swish, swish. The darkness continued to rise, engulfing the woods and taking away the shadows of the trees. The moon was up.
“It’s…cold…” Sophie said. “I didn’t think we’d be out for so long, so I didn’t bother with any blankets.”
“No one expected this.” Anne said. “But I have blankets in my backpack anyway. Here you go.” She handed a blanket from her bag over to Sophie. Sophie looked at Anne gratefully.
We’d walked on for a few minutes before reaching the hill. I didn’t recall walking through any of this, perhaps because when I’d run from the bees my mind was fixed on the urgent topic of escaping the insects, and I hadn’t noticed the surroundings at all. Isaac certainly did have good memory. No wonder why he always got full scores on tests.
“Anyone have a match?” I asked. “We have to start a fire. The winds are pretty cold.”
“Don’t be silly. If we start a fire now, the smoke’s going to go up and we’ll get arrested for starting a fire in the forests.” Isaac said warily. “We’ll have to cope. I wish my clothes aren’t damp.”
“You could’ve dried them before, like what I did.” Toby said. He was chewing away on gum.
“Oh, and who brought us here in the first place?” Isaac shot back.
“Never mind about all of it.” Anne quickly said, extinguishing the conflict before it could take root.
“I’m going to sleep. I’m still sleepy.” Toby said. He lied down, and the rest of us were left standing. I followed his example, and soon silence followed, with only the sounds of the winds blowing against our bodies.
* * *
We decided to set off early when the sun had just risen, so that we could reach the camp while no activities had started yet and breakfast was still on. This time I was leading the way. I was very tired that morning, as I didn’t get much sleep that night. It was too cold, and I’d already slept the day before. My stomach was also empty; the last time food went down my throat was breakfast the day before. I kept shifting and turning around, until Toby groaned irritably. That one slept through nearly the whole night.
“You know, we could’ve had a pretty fun day yesterday if we were actually on our own, with enough supplies to camp for a day. Like, food, a tent, water, things like that.”
“We can do that next time.” Toby agreed.
We were walking pretty fast, as we were eager to get into the camp. Sophie had said that she needed lotion on her skin, Isaac had said he wanted to get some real sleep and he was sure that Ms Laura would excuse the group from activities that day to rest. Anne wanted to charge her phone and her camera, while Toby and I simply wanted some food.
The camp was sighted after a while.
“There it is.” I said quietly. I was delighted.
“Goodbye!” Toby said. He started running. Sophie followed, and then Isaac, and so Anne and I were left.
“I guess I’m off too!” Anne said with a grin. I had no choice but to start running. Where did Toby get all his energy from? Didn’t we do a lot of running already yesterday?
I was panting when I reached the camp, even hungrier than before. “Where’s the food?” I shouted, grinning.
Isaac came walking out from a cabin. “No,” he said, “where is everybody?”
“What do you mean?”
“No one’s here.” Isaac said, shaking his head. “This camp is deserted.”
Anne came walking out of the cabin. “Yeah. There’s no one here at all.”
Toby was next. “Where is everyone?” Sophie followed Toby out.
“You know, a lot of the belongings are still around. The camp probably wasn’t just abandoned or moved.” Anne said.
“No.” Isaac replied. “That’s not the point. The point is they knew we weren’t back to the camp. So why did they move away? Without a note, without a phone call, without anything?”
“Guess what”, Anne said. “I’ll go charge my phone and then call them.” She disappeared into our cabin.
“I’m going to go find something to eat first. My brain doesn’t work without food.” Toby smiled. He walked away.
Isaac was sitting on a chair near the cabin, his face grim. He stared out into the woods, his eyes not fixed on anything. I went over to him.
“It’s not so bad, Isaac.” I said. “Even if they don’t come back, we can walk out to town.”
Sophie agreed. “Here’s the plan. We’ll wait here for 3 days. If they don’t come back by the end of the third day, we will go to town on the fourth.”
Isaac looked up. “Fine. That’s the plan. Tell the others.” Anne and Toby came walking back at the same time. Toby’s hands were full of bags of chips and bread, while Anne came back carrying her phone.
“Why aren’t you charging it?” Toby demanded to Anne. “We need to know where the rest of the class went.”
“The electricity’s cut. I can’t charge.” Anne said. Her expression was certainly not one of joy, and joy was not an emotion I felt. The electricity was cut out. That meant that we were left alone in the middle of the woods, with no way to reach the outside world quickly. Sophie quickly told the plan to Toby and Anne. Anne nodded.
“It’s a good plan.” she said. “And, well, it’s the only thing we can do.”
“But listen,” I said, “We can’t just sit here. If there’s no electricity, how are we going to cook the food? How are we going to get out of town? Walk?”
“Well, we get a caveman-lifestyle for a while.” Toby grinned. “Except there’s no caves around here.”
I laughed. “Cabinman!”
Anne joined in. “So, we become cabinmen and cabinwomen for 3 days. Where’s the spears?”
“Good luck to you all.” Isaac said warily. “Thanks for the offers to become cabinmen and cabinwomen, I’ll stay civilized, no thank you.”
“You have no choice.” Toby replied. “This is an order. Now, first, the food. Wel, I checked the supplies. There were only marshmallows, chips, and some bread. I remember Ms Laura saying something about how the supplies come from a restaurant and food supplier in front of the national park, they have to drive to there to bring in fresh food.”
“Where’s that?” Isaac inquired.
“How am I supposed to know?”
Isaac sighed. “Well, I’m not going to live on marshmallows.”
“Don’t be picky.” I said. “Didn’t Toby say there was bread too?”
“Yes, John, there is bread. But I don’t know how we can keep it if the electricity’s out and both the microwave and the fridge isn’t working.” Toby turned around. “Isaac, Mr Genius, why don’t you help us come up with solutions?”
Isaac’s face immediately colored. “Don’t you dare mock me.”
Toby snorted. “Why not?”
“No.” Sophie said. “Not now. Go argue some other time, but not now when we might end up food-less.”
“I’m thinking that there must be fish in the stream that we went to hide in from the swarm of bees. I didn’t see any, but that’s probably only because we jumped in and scared all of them away. We need to go check.” I suggested.
Toby nodded. “How about this? Isaac can stay here in the cabin and check the supplies. John and I will go to the stream. Anne and Sophie can look around for fruit, although I doubt there’ll be any.” He looked hopefully at Isaac, probably wishing that he would agree. Toby cheered when Isaac nodded. This group can be funnily cooperative at times.
“Then there’s no more time to waste.” Toby said. “I’ll leave now. We should be back before night.”
“We must be back before night.” I said. “I’m not going to spend another night there.”
“Then let’s go!” Toby said cheerfully. He immediately walked towards the woods, and I had no choice but to follow him.
* * *
I was becoming very sleepy when I reached the stream again. I wasn’t sure if chewing on the bread that Toby brought for the trip would help, but it did relieve the pain of an empty stomach. I’d never knew that Toby was this thoughtful. At school, I was never close friends with him, and the only things he ever seemed to do was mess around. It was good to know that besides Isaac, there was another person that was good at planning.
And Toby was better than Isaac too, in some ways. Isaac was always a serious person and he didn’t command the respect of people, but he always seemed to think he was the person to give orders. Toby, on the other hand, was more cheerful and charismatic.
I thought of Anne and Sophie. I still didn’t know Sophie very well, I thought. Sophie had been unusually quiet on this trip, which was a contrast from the noisy party-animal she usually was at school. But I certainly knew Anne better. Anne seemed to be a person who was interested in everything. I still haven’t asked to look at her photos.
I got a better look at the stream that I had the day before. There were fish, I noticed with relief. They weren’t too big, and there wasn’t too many, but they looked big enough to eat. Now the problem of catching them remained. Toby had a small insect-net in his bag, and I suggested the idea of using it to him.
“Mhm.” he’d said. “That might work. We’ll try. We have time to experiment.”
Toby proceeded to crouch over the stream, trying to scoop up the fish. The fish always darted away, faster than Toby’s arms. On one try, he actually scooped up the fish, but we’d forgotten to bring any containers to keep the fish in. It managed to jump away, back into its aquatic home. Toby swore.
“Now how are we going to keep the fish?” he demanded from me.
Toby thought for a moment. “Maybe. Where would we keep the bread then?”
“I won’t care for the bread too much if we had fish.” I told him. Toby agreed. He emptied the contents of his bag. His water bottle and other belongings were laid out neatly on the ground.
“You have a go with the fish.” Toby said. He gave me the insect net before I could refuse.
It was hard. If the fish had darted away easily from Toby, they looked effortless against me. Finally, I tried reaching my hands out farther. The fish wouldn’t be so fast this time. There was one that I’d tried to catch a couple of times that always escaped. I was too intent on this one fish this time. I reached out too far and I fell into the water. My splash was followed by a roar of laughter from Toby.
“LOL,” Toby said, although he could have simply said “hahaha” instead of the internet phrase.
I swore and groaned. “The dampness from the last splash just dried. Here I am, wet again.”
“Go dry your shirt in the sun.” Toby said. “There’s a rock somewhere around that I dried mine on yesterday. Find it. I’ll get the fish.” I did what he said and I walked back. Toby was now back to trying to get the fish with his insect net. I took over the rock that he was sitting on, although my damp pants made sitting uncomfortable.
“Bingo!” Toby exclaimed. He swung his arm up, with the fish in the net. I quickly gave him his bag, and the fish was put in there, struggling to get out. The bag was zipped up.
“Finally!” I shouted.
“I’ll try to get 2 more. You and I can share the one we got. Anne and Sophie can eat another one, and we’ll give a full one to King Isaac.” He giggled to his own titling of Isaac. “Isaac thinks of himself too highly.”
An hour more passed before we’d got the two fish. I had another go, and although I didn’t catch any fish, I didn’t fall in. My shirt was starting to dry by the time we were going to leave. I had to help Toby carry back his own belongings, as the fish was in the bag and Toby didn’t like the idea of his stuff being mixed with three stinking fish.
We reached the cabins in the afternoon. Somehow, although our situation was worse than yesterday, I felt satisfied.