Episode 14 – The Tempest

As I walk to my hideaway, I realize ominous gloom has settled over everything…plus eerie stillness. Even the birds sound like evening, and it’s only one o’clock. Under the pines, it’s like night…thunder rumbles far off. The air’s oppressive, like a thousand-pound weight’s about to crash on us.

I detour to Hadley’s empty cabin. Lock up the shutters just in case. Duck inside and sniff her clothes. Smell that wonderful familiar scent. Not sure what it is, but I’m definitely gonna buy her a gallon!

Sprint to my place and close it up. It’s so dark, I lie on my bunk and doze. Jesus, the air’s totally still and stagnant! More rumbles…louder this time, then suddenly, an ear-splitting crack, like a tree split from top to bottom. A major wind gust suddenly hits the cabin and it sways and creaks. The trees overhead come alive, whipping around. More thunder claps, then blobs of rain start pelting the roof. Outside, I hear screaming and yelling as the panicked campers run for their bunks. A wave of heavy rain sweeps by. Jesus, what a fucking storm! The hooked shutters are flapping and dazzling flashes show in every crack. I get up and peek outside. It’s a wild scene…sheets of rain sweeping the camp with hail mixing in.

Maybe because I’m from the city, I’ve like never seen such a violent storm…worse than a hurricane! The thunder’s deafening and I hear trees snapping…branches thudding to the ground. I realize the situation’s serious and worry about a tornado or something. Outside, it’s like a wind tunnel with leaves, branches and shingles flying by. I worry about Hadley, wonder if she got to her bunk, pull on my poncho and race outside. The winds so strong, I can hardly see, much less walk. Devastation’s everywhere…limbs driven into cabins, roofs blown off, debris, water gushing in torrents.

One of the shutters on Hadley’s cabin is loose and flying up and down. I grab it, secure the hook, and run inside. The girls are huddled, wide-eyed, in a corner.

“Jesse, thank god!” Hadley cries. “Why were you out there?”

The girls look relieved to see another human being…look around in a daze.

“I wanted to make sure you were okay. It’s wicked out there!”

“No kidding. It’s really freaky,” Courtney says. “The storm came up so fast, we didn’t have time to secure all the boats.”

I open the cabin door. “I’m okay in my poncho. I’ll go check.”

“No!” Hadley pleads. “It’s dangerous out there…and it could get worse!”

“Yeah, maybe,” I agree. Outside it’s horrific….pines are whipping back and forth, and more branches are snapping. The air’s a froth of rain, needles and flying debris.

Hadley’s freaked “Wait a few minutes at least!”

Courtney rushes to the door. “We can’t! I never thought it’d get this bad. If we don’t go down now, they’ll be no boats left!”

“Okay, let’s go,” I say, not relishing the idea, but I like Courtney and want to help.

She slips on her poncho and we head outside. It’s a bitch! The wind’s howling like mad and the rain’s fucking blinding. “Take my hand,” I tell her. “We gotta take it slow.” She squeezes my fingers so tight it hurts. A branch crashes down nearby.

“This is scary!” She yells. “Let’s go back!”

“We’re okay,” I assure her. “Look!” Out on the lake, the waves are amazing and the boats are bouncing like corks, some in pieces.

Out of nowhere, a figure in a poncho runs up to us. It’s Ben, frantic. “I can’t find one of my campers! Dean Vance left our group and now I can’t find him.”

“How long ago?”

“Maybe twenty minutes…down by the dock, before the storm.”

We make our way to the shoreline. “One of the canoes is missing,” Courtney says. “Spread out. We gotta find it.”

Even though I’m limping like an old fucker, I’m worried, look everywhere…picture Dean, a spunky little Eurasian kid….pray he didn’t get knocked into the thrashing water.

“I can’t believe I’m so incompetent!” Ben screams.

“We’ll find him!” I yell in the screeching wind. “Who’d have predicted a storm like this?”

We walk back and forth along the lake…nothing, then I hear a faint cry. Alert the others: “You hear that?”

We squint into the mist and rain. “I can’t see a fucking thing,” Ben yells.

Suddenly Courtney points. “There!” There’s an overturned canoe in the waves about twenty yards past the raft.

“Shit!” Ben cries. “How’ll we reach him. Can we row out there?”

“Maybe,” Courtney says, “but it could take a while.”

“Fuck it!” I say stripping down to my shorts. “He could drown in no time!”

“What are you doing?” Courtney asks. “It’s rough and the water’s filled with debris.”

I ignore her and dive off the dock. Surprisingly, it’s not that bad. The water’s warmer because of the rain…warm on top, cold underneath. I’m getting tossed around, but make progress. Reach the raft and circle behind. See the canoe ahead, bobbing in the waves, but don’t see Dean. Fuck! Wonder if he went under. Stroke harder…touch the blue hull of the canoe…still no sign of life. I scream as loud as I can: “Dean! Where are you!?” Thankfully, a voice answers…see the top of a head hugging the far end of the canoe. Dive under and surface beside him. “You okay, buddy?” He barely nods…face deathly pale, eyes wide, lips pressed tight. I slip my arm around his tiny waist, and guide him, and the canoe, toward the raft. It’s slow going, but we finally make it. I help Dean up, then climb on myself. He’s totally freaked and sobbing.

“Hey! it’s okay! You did great,” I tell him, give him a hug. Amazingly the rain eases…there are bright spots in the clouds. “Thank god,” I whisper. I’m whipped and my leg’s throbbing. We lie on our backs and don’t say a word.

To be continued…