“Hello?!” I called out into the endless stretch of wilderness around me. “Is anybody there? I think I’m lost! Hello?!”
Let me back track a little and explain to you exactly how I ended up getting lost by myself in the woods in the middle of the night. I started working at a new hospital in Willow Creek where my sisters live and as part of a new employee orientation, somebody in management thought it was a good idea to send a group of us out to Granite Falls on a wilderness retreat to get to know each other and learn how to work together. In theory, it was a great idea. In practice, it didn’t turn out so well.
I arrived with my new coworkers, none of whom had the faintest idea of how to function in the great outdoors. As much as I love nature and being outside, I’ll admit I lived kind of a cushy life as a child celebrity in Starlight Shores. Most of my life was spent at expensive lounges and parties hosted by rich people I barely knew when I wasn’t shut up in the lab working on getting my medical degree. I’d never been camping in my life. My experience in the wilderness was pretty much non-existent.
As it turned out, none of my coworkers had any wilderness experience either and I ended up getting separated from them when our group was attacked by a hive of angry bees. We scattered like cockroaches and now here I was, in the dark, wandering the woods with no supplies, trying to find some sign of civilization before I starved to death. Or froze to death. My toes were starting to go numb.
“Oh thank the Sea Gods!” I sighed with relief when I came across an abandoned fire pit out in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Maybe I wouldn’t freeze to death after all. I bent over the leftover wood and searched my pockets. Matches. I needed matches. I at least had matches somewhere, right? Yes! Thankfully I stored at least that much. I pulled one out of the box and struck it, trying to get a fire going. Er… how do you get a fire going again? Weren’t you supposed to… blow on it or… something? For a genius, I felt pretty stupid out here outside of my element.
I had almost managed to get a tiny flame to ignite when I heard a rustling in the trees behind me. It wasn’t the good kind of rustling of a rescue team coming to find me, either. It was the scary rustling of a very big creature lumbering towards me. I turned around and ended up coming face to face with a massive grizzly bear!
I’m going to die, I thought as it loomed over me and roared while I cowered in fear of its razor-sharp teeth. I’m going to die here and I’m never going to see Ruby or my children again. I’m not going to get to see Nereus grow up or watch Leander get married someday.
“WHOAH THERE ANGRY BEAR DUDE, LEAVE THAT GUY ALONE!”
The sudden shout scared the bear as much as it scared me. I yelled in surprise and fell forward into the dirt while the bear jumped and stopped getting ready to eat me. Scrambling onto my back and scuttling backwards away from the bear like a crab, I saw a man with a baseball cap and blue hair that I had never seen before jump out of the thick trees and confront the big grizzly. Blue hair? Did he dye it or was it natural like mine? Was he some kind of distant relative of mine? My grandmother had a lot of kids in her lifetime, it was entirely possible I had extended family I didn’t know about running around in the world.
The bear swung a giant paw at him and I thought it might knock the guy out but he actually caught it with both hands and used it as leverage to leap on top of the bear. I couldn’t believe it! This guy was actually fighting a bear with his bare hands! I got to my feet and grabbed a large branch I saw lying on the ground nearby. I had no idea what I was doing and I definitely didn’t want to become this bear’s evening snack but I couldn’t just let it kill the person who was trying to help me. I didn’t have any bandages or medical supplies on me, if this person got injured, I wouldn’t be able to treat him very well.
I took a large swing at what I hoped was the bear; the fight going on was kicking up so much dust, I couldn’t tell who was the man and who was the bear unless I was squinting. Thankfully it was the bear that let out a roar of pain when I felt my branch make contact with something and not the man who had helped me. I guess between me hitting it with the branch and the other guy punching it, it decided we were too much trouble and ran off back into the trees. The guy who helped me fight it off put a fist in the air and shouted a victory cheer. He didn’t even look fazed by the fact that he was nearly killed by a vicious grizzly bear. I, on the other hand, was trying not to sink back down to the ground, my knees were shaking so bad.
“WOO YEAH! Totally wicked, bro, am I right?!” the man grinned at me. I think my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline. Come again?
“Well if your definition of wicked is narrowly escaping death by grizzly bear, then I guess…” I told him, bewildered. I extended a hand with a small smile. He did still save my life after all, I had to thank him. “Thanks for helping me out. I thought I was done for,” I admitted. “I’m Sebastian Sword. Most people just call me Seb.”
“It’s all cool, man. Name’s David Fox,” the guy grinned. “I’m diggin’ the whole blue thing you got going on, bro!” he winked, tapping his blue beard. “Say… where’s all your camping gear?”
“Ha, thanks. I was sort of… born with it,” I told him. I can’t even tell you how relieved I was that David didn’t seem to know who I was, already. Apparently neither the Waverunner name or the Sword name had spread all the way out here to Granite Falls. “The camping gear is a long story,” I sighed.
“Don’t tell me… you’re lost,” David laughed. I nodded, embarrassed.
“Lost would be an understatement, but yeah.”
“No sweat, man! Come chill with me at my campsite! I’m all set up with the works and it’s just me, I got plenty of space, bro!” David offered immediately with no hesitation.
“Really?” I asked. After spending most of my life in Starlight Shores where everyone was out to get you, I wasn’t used to this kind of friendliness from strangers. “I wouldn’t want to impose…” but the truth was, I was starving and freezing and exhausted. I’d be grateful for a tent with a sleeping bag, a warm fire and some food.
“No way! Camping’s more fun with friends, man! Come on, I’ll take you to my campsite. I know these woods like the back of my hand, bro, it’s all chill.”