“Come on, Jackie Boy, rise and shine.”
I was not in the mood to do either of those things. Turns out that even in nice cabins, camping involves an obligatory lack of sleep. “Five more minutes, Poppa.” I told my father as I pulled the pillow over my head.
“You said that an hour ago.” He told me as he began to shake my shoulder, “Come on now. Let’s get a move on.”
I knew it was a losing battle but I stubbornly hung on a moment m,ore before conceding defeat and sitting up. My father does not believe in sleeping past sun up. It’s a religion with him – no wasting of daylight in our house. I went through most of grade school with bags under my eyes. It didn’t matter what time I went to sleep; I am simply not a morning person.
But Poppa was still calling me ‘Jackie Boy’ knowing I hate it – which meant he was to the point of trying to annoy me into getting up. A glance at the clock told me the sun had been up a couple hours. I was not inclined to join it but I wasn’t getting a choice.
Before ten am and coffee, I’m not much of a person regardless but I stifled the urge to argue with my father as he insisted on me getting dressed and coming to the lodge. Evidently, he wasn’t convinced I could do that all by myself as he was still in the living room when I emerged from the bedroom, fully if not happily, dressed.
“Your Momma wants to talk to you.” Poppa informed me as we walked.
Great. Firing squad at dawn. She probably thought I really did hit that little idiot.
Entering the lodge improved my mood. It was still filled with the wonderful smell of breakfast. I knew I was probably too late for the cinnamon rolls but I also knew Momma wouldn’t kill me on an empty stomach.
I was wrong – Momma had saved me two rolls to go with Mrs. Abernathy’s French toast. I knew then I was doomed but I wasn’t sure I cared. At least my last meal was great.
Momma came and sat across from me as I finished the last of my toast. I looked at her expectantly – stalling only makes it worse with Momma. Besides, i hadn’t actually hit the little turkey.
“What did you see last night?” she asked, direct and to the point as usual.
It caught me a bit off guard. I was expecting a talking to about not bullying my youngest, most annoying brother. It took me a second to answer.
“I saw something big right outside the window but I didn’t get but a fraction of a second’s look at it, Momma. I can’t describe it – it was just a blur.”
“Your Crystal said none of you knew what it was but thought maybe a day creature under concealment?”
I nodded, “Yes, Momma, I know how dumb that is but we can’t sense anything and Clifton is sure it’s nothing natural – or Bigfoot, whatever that is, if it is.”
“So he said. Any sense at all?”
I shrugged, cleaning my plate, “I woke up because it felt like I was being watched – but it didn’t feel anything like a creature. Mike started yelling almost the second I woke so I could have been wrong – but I really don’t think so.”
“Tell me about it.”
I filled her in on what had happened, including how I woke up. Ever since she found out about the mess up regarding who my mentor is, Momma’s taken a rather keen interest in anything I might not understand. her own power is long gone but to be honest, her experience is invaluable. If she hadn’t asked, I’d planned to ask her later in the day – much later, of course.
“Day or indeterminate.” Momma told me. “Some day creatures stalk at night – a few even hunt at night. Were you concealed?”
I shook my head, “I practice every day but I haven’t gotten to where I can do it asleep yet.”
“Did your father tell you what happened this morning?”
I suddenly had a feeling of dread wash over me. Now that I thought about it, none of my usually boisterous and noisy family were present. I had just figured they were playing around the camp but I hadn’t seen anyone walking over here, either. “No, Momma.”
“A boy went missing. His parents and he were heading for the boathouse and he stopped to pick up a rock. they walked past and when they turned to call him to come along, he was gone. I spoke to the couple they are staying with – the woman saw the boy stop and turned to get something herself. She heard his mother call for him a second later – no more, she says she’s sure.”
I’m no woodsman, but you don’t need to be in this campsite – the trees are spread out and all the undergrowth has been cut – you have to walk at least a hundred yards in the opposite direction from the lake to get to where the undergrowth is. A kid couldn’t disappear that quickly.
“How old?” I asked.
Old enough to walk alone but no where near old enough to do a hundred yard dash without anyone seeing him.
Momma was already answering my next question, “I know several – four I can reach. Two can’t come, one can’t come until Wednesday and I’m waiting to hear back from the fourth.”
I nodded, getting to my feet. We wouldn’t have a day slayer to help today. “Where?”
“They were organizing a search from the main office. Donna is keeping the youngsters busy and I’m going to help with the kids so more people can volunteer.” Momma told me as I took my plate to the kitchen.
That meant she and my sister Donna would handle the nursery duties so available and willing adults could lend in the search. Logistics was Momma’s specialty – she’d probably already arranged for a lunch crew as well.
I gave her a kiss on the cheek as I left. I’m no woodsman, but I am a slayer. If nothing else, I’m an able bodied male who can beat bushes as well as the next guy. Since I couldn’t track whatever it was as a slayer, I could darn well provide the extra boots.
Four and a half hours later, I was cresting a hilltop alongside one of the park rangers when he got the call. Little David Withers had been found, safe and sound, ten miles away.
I only got that last bit because Bert, the ranger, couldn’t believe it when they told him on the radio where they had found the boy. He’d blurted out that it was ten miles away.
The good news is the boy is safe – that’s the important part. But there’s no way in heck a six year old walks ten miles in about six hours. At that age, they don’t have the stamina to keep walking like that. A grown man, sure, no problem in half that time or less. But a six year old kid? No way.
Whatever had taken him hadn’t decided to keep him – or hurt him. That ruled out every night creature I could think of and most of the few day creatures I’d read about. I didn’t like this. I hadn’t liked it before – I liked it a lot less now.
I tried not to show it when we reached the office – the crowd was understandably jubilant and there was no reason to ruin the mood. Same thing when I got back to our lodge, now full of volunteers along with our group. Momma was in the process of feeding them, of course. I got a ham sandwich and a soda and went to find Crystal.
I only got as far as the porch – she and Clifton were headed our way. We got them food, picked up my brothers Tim and Kevin along the way and set out for the pier in hopes of having a somewhat quieter place to eat.
Excepting that my sister Donna and her new friend Melissa had beat us to it, it was quieter – at least quieter than the madhouse our lodge had become. The girls chatted as we ate. Kevin made Tim fill him in on all he’d missed the night before. Clifton provided the official story – he just didn’t look like he believed it.
Neither did I. Those tracks weren’t human, that much even I knew but the official story had a stalker lurking around overnight and managing to spirit Little David away this morning. Made no sense – an adult couldn’t have disappeared with a kid that fast either – but that was the story they were sticking to ‘pending further investigation.’ Translation: they had no clue, either.
I suppose I can’t fault them for wanting to keep people calm. They were going to have extra rangers on hand for a few days and lock the park gates at night. They were doing their best and my sarcastic thoughts about how a locked gate with no fence was surely the best protection from a giant that can out sprint an Olympic gold medalist while carrying sixty pounds of dead weight weren’t going to help. I kept them to myself.
Donna and Melissa finished first and wandered back to help finish up whatever they had going with baby sitting duty. Kevin decided he’d better corral Mike and Marty before they got bored and started mischief. That left Tim, Clifton, Crystal and I, and none of us were doing much talking.
Tim, strangely enough given how quiet he usually is, finally spoke, “Not a dang bit of that makes sense. And neither of you killed anything, right?”
Crystal and I confirmed his suspicions. I went ahead and told him that Momma had called for back up.
Crystal then had to explain the difference in periods to her cousin – and my brother. Heck, I wouldn’t know either if I didn’t absolutely have to – weird and useless information unless you kill supernatural creatures as a hobby.
Clifton finally motioned for her to lean over. She did and he whispered in her ear. She shrugged, “I don’t know. Did anyone…?”
Clifton shook his head, “No, I’m sure they didn’t. No one talks about it but they always have the funny look about them. I was there for the debrief – none of them looked like they saw anything weird.
“I’ll ask the day slayer when they get here – otherwise, I’d have to see it.” Crystal told her cousin.
I didn’t ask. Whatever he was nervous about, Crystal was confident it wasn’t our troublemaker. I’d ask her later, if and when we were ever alone.
Which wasn’t going to be now. Kevin, Mike, Marty, Tina and Donna were on the shore hollering for us to come. I knew as i got up we were going to have a busy afternoon.
Normally, well, busy is normal for my large family, so it rarely bothers me. But now, I felt uneasy. I glanced around seeing only lake and trees but still, it felt like there was something in the air – something heavy and dark.