Danger in Deep Woods

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LOST. Christy knew she was in trouble. Nothing around her looked familiar, and she knew the park covered several thousand acres-not counting tens of thousands of acres of regular forest that stretched for miles and miles in every direction around the park itself...

"HELLO!?" she cried out at the top of her lungs, her friends, or anyone for that matter, would hear her, "DAWN!? BOBBIE!? JACKIE!? ANYONE, CAN YOU HEAR ME!?"

There was no response but the rustling of the leaves in the trees above her in the wind, which seemed to be picking up. Christy hastily dug her cell phone out of her backpack and tried to dial Dawn's cell's number, but was disheartened when the words NO SERVICE appeared on the screen. "Come on, please!" she begged her mind, walking desperately around trying to get a signal, but it was no good; there was no service in the area at all.

"What to do, what to do!?" she started pacing in circles, "Well, don't panic, Bryant, that's one thing; you'll never find your way back if you panic."

She came to a stop and thought hard. "Better to just keep going back the way I ran-or at least the way I thought I ran," she decided, "Sooner or later, I've got to find the trail again-I hope."

She bustled back down the way she presumed she'd run. Around her, the wind started blowing more strongly, and dark clouds were starting to form on the horizon. It looked like maybe that chance of a thunderstorm wasn't so minute after all, she thought. So the quicker she found the trail again, the better.

The trail, however, was still nowhere to be found when she stopped ten minutes later to catch a breather. There were still no markings on the trees at all, and none of the surrounding area looked familiar. Christy growled in frustration. "Why'd I have to stay longer to take a rest!?" she kicked herself mentally, "Curse you, Bryant; there was plenty of time to take that next rest when the others wanted to stop again!"

She glanced around. There was a small ridge to her right. Perhaps cell phone service would be better at a higher elevation. She bustled up the ridge, stepping onto the log at the very top and dialed Dawn's number again. "Come on, give me a connection!" she half-snarled, half-begged the phone. But it was the words NO SERVICE that popped up again, taunting her. "Come on!" Christy snapped at it, "You've got to find a...!"

Suddenly, the log gave way beneath her with a low rumble, and Christy went toppling head over heels down an embankment, the cell phone flying out of her hands and out of sight. She landed with a thud in the ravine below-but before she could get up, the log crashed down on top of her leg, pinning it painfully underneath. Christy gritted her teeth hard to avoid screaming in agony, for the pain was horrible. She jerked her leg hard to try and pull it out, but it was lodged tightly under the log . Through the trees above, Christy could make out very dark clouds streaming across the sky. There was no doubt about it, a thunderstorm was coming. She couldn't very well stay stuck here.

"Come on!" she roared out loud, hoping someone would hear her, pulling at her leg for all it was worth. Nothing happened. A low rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. She looked around for something to leverage the log up. A large rock within arm's reach seemed reasonable enough. She reached for it as the first raindrops started falling. Straining with all her might, she managed to grab hold of it. She positioned it underneath the log as the rain abruptly became torrential and pushed it upwards into the log as hard as she could. That did the trick; the log jerked up just enough for Christy to slide her leg out. She almost toppled forward in agony, however, when she tried to put weight on it. Her ankle was clearly sprained, no doubt about it. She'd never make it back to the trail now. Her best option was to find shelter, any shelter until the storm blew over.

A loud crash of thunder rang out dangerously close. Christy looked desperately for her cell phone, but it was nowhere to be seen in the maelstrom. Rats. she thought glumly, hobbling towards a grove of sturdy hemlocks as fast as her injured ankle would allow; now she was totally on her own. Something had to go right for her soon, given how badly things had gone in the last hour...

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted it: a small cave partially obscured by overgrowth to the left. Yes, she thought to herself, the cave would do nicely for shelter. She desperately ran towards it despite the searing pain in her sprained ankle and all but dove out of the rain into the dry cavern interior. Wringing her hair dry, she dug her flashlight out of her backpack, turned it on, and aimed the beam all over the cave, hoping nothing dangerous was waiting inside with her. Fortunately, the cave was deserted. Christy breathed a sign of relief; finally a break since her ordeal had begun.

The best thing to do was to just take it easy, she figured. Taking off her backpack, she unrolled the sleeping bag she'd packed just in case of an emergency that would have stranded her and her friends on the mountain-which was looking more and more like a smart move-hobbled to the back corner of the cave, around the bend from the entrance and several yards down, and laid it down. Plopping down on it, she pulled out the ice pack she'd also packed and taped it to her ankle. Hopefully it would bring the swelling down enough for her to manage a reasonable walk once the storm cleared and she could try to find civilization again.

She laid the flashlight on the ground next to her with the beam pointing up at the ceiling and lay down on her back, listening to the sound of the rain pounding outside. By now her friends had to have known something was wrong, and hopefully they'd be able to retrace her steps-providing, that was, she acknowledged, there was any way she had left a trail. More likely, she hoped, they'd go all the way back down to the ranger station and get help. A full-scale search would probably be the best option at this point, she knew, given she had no clue at all where she was.

The pounding of the rain must have made her doze off as she lay there, for the next thing Christy realized, there was the sound of voices abruptly outside. Rescue, she thought with her spirits rising. She jerked upright and glanced around the corner. Two silhouettes could be seen coming right towards the entrance of the cave. Delighted, she opened her mouth to call for their assistance...

...when suddenly there was a flash of lightning, and Christy saw all too clearly what one of the men was carrying...a large, definitely bloody knife...

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