Excerpt – It has not yet undergone final editing, so please don’t mind if there’s any mistakes 🙂
Wes’s finger’s had no mercy for the sides of the canoe he currently held in a death grip. It was either permanently imprint his identity to his current mode of transportation, or throw a fit.
He decided to go with both.
“What the hell am I doing in a friggin’ canoe going down a friggin’ river?”
“It’s called having fun, Wes.”
If he wasn’t worried about tipping the canoe over, Wes would have turned around and smacked Toni. The man knew Wes didn’t like to get wet; he knew Wes didn’t like the woods; and he knew Wes didn’t like camping.
Who wants to be out in the middle of the nowhere, sleeping on the hard ground, while wishing you had clear – pond scum free – water to wash your hair? Houses were made for a reason, were they not?
“You said we’d be staying in a cabin, Toni. You said I’d be sleeping on a nice comfy mattress, not a sleeping bag. You said the most I’d have to worry about would be to help collect fire wood, which I still don’t even like that.” Wes shot an annoyed glance over his shoulder at Toni. “I could get a splinter.”
“We will be on a mattress, an air mattress to be exact, which is more than the others get. And don’t worry your pretty little fingers about the firewood, I’ll get it.”
“What about the cabin?”
“Okay, so I lied about the cabin. But don’t worry so much, it’ll be fun.”
“Fun? You think being out here, where it’s dirty and there are bugs bigger than my hand, is fun? I don’t think so. And don’t think I didn’t catch that little bit about us sleeping on the air mattress. You think, after pulling this crap on me, we’re sleeping together? I think the suns starting to fry your brain.”
“Wesley.” Toni’s voice held plenty of warning but Wes didn’t care. If Toni thought he could get away with this without repercussion, he could think again.
Wes had only been dating Toni for two months, but that was a month and three weeks longer than needed for Toni to figure out Wes didn’t do nature – plain and simple. But he should have seen it coming. With all the times Toni and his friends went on hikes and bike rides through the mountain side, Wes should have known Toni would try to drag him along at some point.
Why would he want to go hiking? It would only make his feet hurt. And why would he go bike riding? He’d get all sweaty and gross.
Why was he even dating Toni?
Because he’s hot and great in bed?
Well, he was seriously going to have to rethink his relationship with Toni after they got back to the normal, modern technology, twenty-first century world.
“Hey, Chris?” Toni’s booming voice startled Wes out of his thoughts. “Isn’t the river supposed to split?”
Across the river in another canoe with his girlfriend, Chris rested his paddle across his lap as he shuffled through his back pack. Pulling out a map, he studied it with his brows pulled together. “It shouldn’t, no. But this doesn’t look right either.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t look right?” Wes snapped out. “Aren’t you nature boys supposed to know how to read a map? Oh, please tell me we’re not lost? How can you get lost on a friggin’ river?”
“Enough, Wes, we’re not lost,” Toni growled. “We’ve just never been down this one before and aren’t used to it. He knows where we’re going. Right, Chris?”
“Uh… give me a second.”
“That’s comforting,” Wes said sarcastically.
“Oh, just shut up already, Wesley.”
“Excuse me?” Wes shot Jessie – or Jackie, or Jamie, or whatever the hell Chris’ girlfriend’s name was – a venomous look. He really didn’t like the bitch. She always gave off this persona like she was better than him. She was always talking as if he wasn’t there, like he was just a shadow in the background.
“Don’t start, you two,” Toni ordered.
“No,” nature-bitch protested. “I’m sorry, Toni, but I can’t stand it anymore. All he does is bitch and whine and complain about every little thing. It’s been nonstop since we got here.”
“Well excuse me,” Wes returned with a vicious glare. “It’s not like I want to be here, I was tricked.” Wes’s grip on the canoe tightened as his anger started to rise. “I don’t like the woods. I don’t like sweating under this blazing sun, with no signs of relief, because I’m stuck floating down this damn river. I hate bugs, I hate dirt, and I hate this stupid trip. Trust me. I don’t want to be here!”
“Good! Because no one want’s you here!”
That made him pause. Sure, he knew he was being bitchy so far, and he knew that… whatever her name was… didn’t like him, but did the others really feel the same?
Why did Toni take him on this stupid trip?
Wes looked at Chris to gauge his reaction of his girlfriend’s statement, only to find him staring wide-eyed and straight ahead.
“Uh, guy’s?” Chris threw the map to the floor of his canoe and grabbed his paddle. “I think I figured out why the river on the map didn’t look right.”
“Why?” Toni asked.
“Because we’re on the wrong river.”
“What?” Wes looked forward to see the rough waters up ahead. “Oh my God.”
“Hurry, we’ve got to get to shore!” Toni shouted. “Wes, grab your paddle and help me.”
With shaking hands, Wes reached down between his feet and got his paddle. Fumbling with it, he finally managed to get it in the water.
“No, not that side, Wes, put the paddle on the other side, we want to go right.”
The waves of the river were becoming violent as he paddled with everything he had.
“Harder, Wes!” Toni’s voice was drowned out by the sounds of the waves crashing against the huge rocks that littered their path down the river. “Hold on!”
He barely managed to get his paddle in the canoe when they dropped five feet. Water splashed over the sides completely soaking him. As much as he hated water, right now he could care less. All he cared about was the very large rock that was in their path. Before they could try to change their path they crashed into it, the impact making Wes sliding off his seat. He choked on the water he inhaled from getting splashed while screaming. Scrabbling to get the paddle out from under him, he sat up just in time to see Toni’s head go under the water next to the canoe.
The man resurfaced, arms flailing as he cried out.
Quickly, Wes grabbed his paddle and tried to make his way back to Toni, only to be swept further away. His heart raced and his muscles burned, but he kept going. An odd noise caught his attention and he turned to see Chris yelling as he and his girlfriend made their way towards Toni.
Wes’s canoe sideswiped another rock, knocking him off balance and to the bottom of the canoe again. Pain shot through his hand as he felt it scrape against the cold stone, making him let go of his paddle. “No!” Wes sat up and watched his paddle get pulled further and further away from him by the roaring rapids.
Rolling onto his stomach Wes looked behind him with hope that Toni had dropped his paddle there before he went overboard.
No such luck.
Wes sat back up and saw Toni being pulled over the side of the other canoe. He was coughing, but otherwise appeared to be okay.
Looking ahead again, Wes began to panic. Okay, Toni was safe now, but what about him?
“Help!” Wes screamed, but he could barely hear himself over the water crashing against the rocks. Frantically, he looked around for something else to paddle with. Toni had some things stuffed at the back end of the canoe and he prayed there was something useful there.
Sliding on his stomach, he made his way under his bench seat and along the bottom of the canoe to Toni’s end. On his knee’s he leaned over Toni’s seat and dug through, what was right now, useless junk.
Hearing the other’s yelling again, he looked over at them to find them almost to shore and Toni pointing ahead. Turning around he looked to where Toni was pointing. Straight ahead about ten yards – and closing in fast – Wes saw mist coming up from the water.
His breath caught and his heart stopped as he went over the top of the waterfall. Wes screamed as the canoe was swept out from under him and he dropped the hundred or so feet to the water below.
Wes gasped as the cold water surrounded him, only to succeed in inhaling it. While choking, he kicked his legs with all his might, trying to find his way to the surface, but kept getting pulled under. His lungs were screaming for air and everything around him was getting dark.
This is it, I’m going to die! But he didn’t want to die! This couldn’t be the end. He was too young to die.
He felt himself fading. His panic surged higher as the fear of dying wracked his body.
His body jerked, still trying to fight for air. Numbness began to set in as the freezing water chilled him to the bone.
Then everything went dark.
Wes became aware of the sensation of free-falling just before he slammed into the ground. Like a large slap to the back, he coughed up the water in his lungs and took in the heavenly bliss of the air around him. Rolling to his side, he lay there for a while, coughing and trying to catch his breath.
He was alive!
The hard ground beneath him never felt so good. Never in a million years did he think that he’d be happy to be lying in the dirt. Wes had never been more scared in his entire life. The pressure in his lungs felt like his body was going to implode. To feel his body jerk around as it did before, fighting for air. To slowly feel himself slip away into the darkness…
Wes shivered, his soaked clothes clinging to his body. His teeth chattered and he felt an icy chill course through him. He curled up in to a ball and wrapped his arms around his legs. Every ounce of energy was drained from his body. He just wanted to lay there and wait for Toni and his friends to come down and find him.
Wes lay there, just listening to the sounds of the forest around him. His body began to relax as he listened to the wind flow through the trees. The leaves rustling as the breeze passed over them. The lullaby of the bugs chirping around him was surprisingly comforting. The air was crisp and fresh. Everything seemed at peace.
It was the sound of twigs snapping that had him opening his eyes. Lifting his head he looked around in the darkness.
Night time? That can’t be right. I couldn’t have been lying here for that long.
Slowly he sat up and tried to take in his surroundings. The clouds covering the moon made it almost pitch black, and he could barely see two feet in front of him. He jumped at the sound of another twig snapping. His breath quickened as his heart pounded in his chest.
He swallowed past the lump in his throat and managed a shaky whisper, “Toni?” On his hands and knees now, Wes slowly stood up slowly, shaking as he looked out into the darkness.
Where was he? Where were the others? They should have found him by now. Wes felt the warmth of his tears as they rolled down his cheeks.
Whirling around to a sound behind him, his heart lodged in his throat and he feared he might hyperventilate. Squinting, he scanned what little area he could see around him.
The clouds above him parted, and the light from not one – but two – moons shone down.
Wes froze in place at the sound of heavy breathing a little ways behind him. The animalistic snort and rumbling of a low growl had Wes shaking from head to toe; his heart two beats away from pounding right out of his chest.
Slowly turning around, Wes raised his head and looked up, and up, and up, and took in the sight of the very large, and very terrifying, monster.
Its red slanted eyes glowed in the night. Saliva dripped from the sharp white teeth that protruded from its mouth. The monsters long thick neck, body, and tail, were covered in green scales as its black veiny wings rested against its sides. A row of blood-red curved spikes ran along its spine and tail, surrounding the tip.
Mouth wide open and lungs full of air, Wes was ready to let out a bloodcurdling scream when a large hand covered his mouth.
“Shh.” The warm breath of air against his ear made him shudder. The tears fell harder and his shoulders shook from the sobs he was so desperately trying to keep at bay. As his knees began to give out, a body pressed up against him from behind and an arm reached around his waist, holding him up.
The grip over his mouth and waist tightened. “Shh.” Wes sucked in deep breaths through his nose and nodded. The hand covering his mouth rose above them and made a ‘forward’ gesture, then returned to cover his mouth.
Out of the corner of his eye on his right he saw figures move through the trees, then the same on the left. Slowly, four men came out of the shadows with bows and arrows drawn. They crept along silently, stealth like, not making a single noise while taking aim at their prey.
With a light whoosh sound, one man on his right let the first arrow fly. Even with not being able to see where it went, he knew it hit its target by the ear-piercing shriek.
Wes’s whole body shook as he screamed against the hand covering his mouth. The sounds of the arrows flying through the air and the monster’s cries of pain, was nothing compared to the furious roar of the second monster that flew in from above.
He was spun around and shoved up against a tree, a large hand against his chest holding him there.
“If you want to stay alive, then stay here.” Saying nothing more, the stranger released him and ran towards the others. Wes turned and hugged the tree as he watched the man draw his bow and arrow.
The roars of both the men and the monsters filled the night. Wes caught glimpses of arrows flying through the air and large clawed feet swiping at them. One man was knocked back about thirty feet by a tail, slamming into a tree. Wes stared in amazement as he stood up and headed back to the fight.
Another lurid roar had Wes covering his ears.
“Fall back!” The man that was with him before, turned towards him. “Run!”
He didn’t need to be told twice. Releasing the tree he turned and ran as fast as he could. Feeling a rush of heat behind him, he looked back to see five extremely large men barreling towards him, all narrowly escaping the rain of fire that was let loose by one of the monsters.
Tripping over a root from a tree, Wes hit the ground hard. Scrambling to get back up, he ignored the pain and continued to run. Tree branches slapped against him, stinging his skin. A hand took his and pulled him along as they all ran away. Wes felt like his arm was going to be ripped out of its socket, and he cried out when he stumbled again, pain slicing through his shoulder.
Quickly stopping, the man lifted Wes up and threw him over his shoulder. The sudden pressure against his stomach pushed the air from his lungs. But it was seeing everything behind them disappearing at an unreal speed that made it impossible to breathe again. The monsters and fires faded away within seconds.