There are three writers (John Dusenberry, Ben Tuller, and myself) on the "Meet Me At The Falls" series. In preparation for Part 2 - Reclamation coming out this winter, we are each releasing sample chapters from Part 1 - The End! My story follows two of the Murphy Family's kids, Edwin and Tricia, who are lost in the woods when they hear the most unearthly roar... Enjoy...
MEET ME AT THE FALLS
Part 1 "The End"
Perched atop a moss-covered rock, Tricia, a wiry teenage girl surveyed the forest. Florae dripped and bowed low from a persistent, clinging mist — watery ghosts of a passing deluge. Her older brother, Edwin, dressed in ragged jeans and a ski-jacket, crouched beneath the sagging boughs of a fern that spared him from less of the rain than he would have liked.
“Do you think they’re okay?” Tricia asked him.
“I really don't want to think about them right now,” Edwin mumbled.
“No, tell me.”
Edwin clutched his constricting stomach. It had given up asking for food days ago and no longer growled. All it did was hurt. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had gone to the bathroom. But he remembered that had hurt too.
“Mom and Dad are fine,” Edwin said, silencing his sister. "They’re always fine. Nothing ever changes with them.”
“What about Seymour?”
“I’m sure he’s fine too,” Edwin replied. "Dogs always find food."
“Yeah, I bet they’re all together somewhere eating a big, meaty burger. And since we’re not there, they’re eating ours too.”
“Hey! No fair!” said Tricia.
Edwin knew he shouldn’t talk about food, but right now that was almost as good as actually eating. His stomach whined its disagreement.
“They better not be eating mine,” Tricia whispered to herself. She studied the thick grove of redwoods sprouting tall amidst boulders slick with dew. Shaggy moss clung to the tree trunks giving them the appearance of huge legs supporting woolly green beasts swaying all around her. The woods smelled of wet earth. Creeping clouds of moisture whipped up along the forest floor. Somehow, plant-life still flourished here, but the two kids came to the unsettling realization that they hadn't seen a single animal in days.
They were all gone.
Edwin tried to remember his Boy Scout training: how to tell North, how to start a fire, but all that knowledge had been wiped clean after years of staring blankly at a glowing screen.
"Shit," Edwin said. A drop splashed onto his neck and down the inside of his jacket, making him shiver.
They were lost, and he knew it.
The kids remembered that if the family ever got split up they were supposed to head North — to the Falls where they had always gone camping. That's what their parents had told them.
When they first started their journey it was by car — some traveler going the same way. He took them as far as the County Station where they stowed away in a box car until a band of hijackers de-railed the train. The two kids escaped, fleeing on foot along the rusted tracks that wound through a hollow of endless woods. It was only a few days before a mountain swallowed the steel scars inside an arched tunnel.
Cupping hands to his mouth, Edwin stood defiantly in the center of the tracks and bellowed a loud yell.
His voice carried far into the darkness before the tunnel answered back: Echo! Echo!… Echo… then the voice disappeared forever. Edwin smiled.
“Cool. C’mon, Trish, you try," said Edwin. She approached the archway of the train tunnel beneath the mountain, but not a step further.
After a deep inhale she shouted, "ECHO!" Her expectant smile vanished after the reply came: an ear-splitting roar like metal and monster fused together. The kids's eyes shot wide when a blast of wind rushed out of the tunnel, ripping at their clothes.
"It's a train!" Tricia exclaimed, ducking away. The roar somehow opened the clouds sending the first drops of rain hissing into the dirt.
“There aren't any trains anymore,” Edwin said. "Those're all gone. So's just about everything else."
The sound came again, shaking the ground.
It rose to an even louder roar that vibrated the tracks like a tuning fork. Brother and sister stood frozen facing the dark maw of the tunnel, hands clapped over their ears, until the sound faded to just the heavy, machine-gun rain.
Neither dared to move.
"Edwin… what was that?"
Edwin ventured a step forward.
"Are you crazy!? What're you doing?" Tricia grabbed her brother's arm. "That sounded like a monster."
"Don't be stupid. It was a jet-engine or something. Probably military." Edwin peered into the tunnel. "That means there's people through here."
Before Tricia could voice her concern, Edwin dashed into the tunnel. Stunned, Tricia hardly felt the hard rain pouring down and soaking through her clothes.
"Tricia!" Edwin's voice echoed within the tunnel. "Come on!Where there's people there's food!"
Tricia feared entering the foreboding tunnel but her gnawing hunger pains made her take the first step. Like a curtain being lifted, she felt the rain cross her body then fall off behind. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and focused on Edwin standing impatiently a few steps ahead.
"Hurry up, Trish."
"K, coming. Jeez."
Tricia trotted alongside her brother down the narrow passage that squeezed in around them. Looked above her, she noticed that the only thing holding back a million pounds of rock was a thin layer of rotting bricks. The tunnel had just enough room for the two kids to walk side by side along the tracks; if a train appeared there would be no escape.
Though Edwin was quickly regretting his decision to brave the tunnel, he knew they had to move forward. There was no going back now. Not to the forest. Not to the city. Not to the lives they had once known.
There was no going back. Not anymore.