“Today, it’s all going to change.”
The words felt like they held power in them, like so many time before, but muttering them as I watched the scenery roll past as our little impromptu caravan into the wilderness, sounded as hollow as my voice reverberated against the glass window of the Professor’s Ford Excursion.
“Was ist that, liebchen?” He asked in a mish-mash of his mother tongue and English, his eyes were intent on the disappearing asphalt as it transitioned into more mud and rock than serviceable road. We were about two miles outside of Gainesville, the small township that belonged more in literary fiction of the likes of Henry David Thoreau than the rural outskirts of our college town. Blue Colorado Rockies and evergreen foothills loomed ominously in the near background. We had only stopped in for a little bit, but the rustic charm of the townsfolk seemed only more awkward to me. Sylvia St. Claire, ever the fashion mogul, pointed out that nothing they wore came from after the turn of the millennium. It was eerie, like walking around in an old Ghost Town dedicated to the 80’s and 90’s, Canadian Tuxedos and Aquanet hairdos seemed as commonplace as the vintage Coca Cola and Wrigley chewing gum signs in the general store’s windows. It was like driving away from the state college that had dominated our lives so much recently was like going back in time and further away from modern reality.
“Nothing, sir. Sorry. Just talking to myself.” I replied, mindful of how the Professor had been nothing less than accommodating for this jaunt into the unknown. It was a bit cliche,if you thought about it, a bunch of students talking their friendly college teacher into loaning them the use of his country home. How Christine Angel, the life of the party and the heart of the college cheerleading squad, had talked me into going into the woods with so many strangers is beyond me. She’s my soulmate of sorts, being observant enough to have seen the stress building inside of me over all the drama in my life, and also caring and resourceful enough to cobble together a last minute adventure with some other friends (and friends of friends) to parts unknown. A cabin in the woods.
“A nice weekend out of town should be just what you need to find some lyrics, Regina.” Christina chirped beside me, probably assuming I was wording something to a song in my head. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had already planned to ditch my pseudo-career in music and change majors as soon as I got a chance to log into the school’s website. The infectious smile on her face and bouncing sparkle in her eyes were hard to resist though, and I found myself working a wan smile back.
“Those boys don’t look like they’re having a fun time out in the boonies.” Sylvia mentioned, finally giving up on her Dolce and Gabbana leopard print iPhone’s spotty reception and looked out at the dour looking men in dark matching jackets overtake our SUV and turn right at an unmarked dirt trail. The black Hummer they rode in didn’t look anything like my cousin’s H3, it wasn’t shiny or anything and it looked like it was built for cross country with those fat, knobby tires. Fun in the woods probably had more meanings than just camping and grilling in the woods.
“Some people take their hunting seriously.” The Professor explained, his accent thick. “Otherwise, this is a very nice place. Very relaxing. This should be our turn here.”
The road came to a pair of tall, roughly hewn totem poles. I knew enough about Colorado native history to know it was more than a little out of place here in the Rockies. But it seemed to serve a purpose as we slowed to come alongside a lowered Honda Civic with a ridiculous-looking tailpipe buzzing like a kazoo.
“Hey, hey.” A bleach-blond Asian kid with piercings almost everywhere on his face called out from his window to us. “Which way is it to the party?”
“Ew. I hope they’re not coming with us.” Sylvia blanched at the obvious raver kids in the riced-out import. How they made it up the dirt trail without bottoming out was a mystery.
“Which cabin are you looking for?” The Professor asked politely.
“Pasha’s. You know, DJ Blitz?” The younger man talked with his hands and the kind of pastel-colored candy jewelry that you got for kindergarteners clacked on his wrists. If I saw a Ringpop, I knew I was going to lose it.
“I know a little about Blitz, ja.” The Professor remarked, a wry grin on his lips. “I know there is a cabin down that road that is owned by a George Rasmussen. The other road down here is to mine and the one past it is a hunter’s lodge. I am guessing you are wanting the first trail, but I really don’t know too much, I don’t spend much time…”
“Thanks, peeps.” The Asian kid flashed a casual sign of gratitude with a smile full of gold in his mouth before his driver wheeled the small car in front of ours and hummed and vibrated down the trail on our right, terrible scraping sounds came from them as they navigated the ruined road.
Sylvia sighed, probably both out of exasperation and relief and Christina was most likely thinking of crashing the ravers’ party later tonight, but the Professor was all business. It didn’t take much more than a few minutes of his driving to get us in front of a small, single floor cabin with a small plot of fallow land around it. Weeds and ankle high grass bent under as the SUV parked alongside an already waiting Jeep Wrangler. I was momentarily distracted by the cawing of a large black bird on the cabin’s roof before it blinked sideways at us and took to flight out over the woods to our west.
“Was wondering what was taking you so long. Was just about to go back down the road and find you folks.” The country drawl of Zebediah McCoy was as iconic as his weathered Stetson, which he was wearing as he slipped out of his Jeep and approached the SUV’s driver’s side. “Everything okay?”
“There was no trouble. Just gave some directions to a lost camper.” The Professor replied as he stepped out. Sylvia was already pulling her purse and daybag out of the car and sizing up the cabin with dismay. Christina squealed in delight.
“This is going to be so wicked!” My friend squeezed me just as we got out on the grass. She certainly was enjoying this.
“Wicked would be an improvement.” Came the dry voice from the girl in black, who seemed to materialize from the shadows of the cabin. “This place is so hokey, I’m waiting for the children of the corn to visit.”
“Oh come on, this is going to be so awesome.” Christina enveloped an arm around the Goth-looking girl from our English class and raised her worn out Galaxy S4 toward us to take a group selfie. “Smile, Cait, I brought a Ouija board for later. It’ll be fun.”
It didn’t bring a smile to her face, but looking around at the tall, dark trees and rotten pumpkins in the back yard, I can see what attracted Christina’s friend to come. This place was creepy and it took all of my reserve to not cross my heart. Old habits are hard to break.
“Cervesas for the senoritas?” Came the latin accent along with a few bottles of domestic beers. Fernando was the Engineering major who obviously had a thing for Christina, who took both his attentions an offered alcohol with an unwitting smile.
“No thanks.” I gave him an apologetic look and gently eased myself out of the conversation that was sure to follow. He was a talker, and his accent gave him an advantage, Chrissy loved novelty.
Grabbing my bag from the back of the Excursion and stepping into the cabin, I almost plowed into the mass of muscle and bone that was Jin. The fitness nut had always intimidated me and the flat stare she gave made my mouth dry. Soo-Jin Park was every bit as hard and unyielding as a piece of iron and her rough Korean-accented English made me wonder if she was always angry at something.
“Sorry.” I apologized meekly as I stepped out of her way, glancing down and noticing she was dressed in camouflage and survival gear. She didn’t respond but marched out of the cabin like she was on a mission, taking a bit of my anxiety with her. Jin was bigger than some boys, and seemed to come as a set with Zebediah, though we never had the heart to ask if they were an item. It didn’t seem like it. But then again, roughing it out into the outdoors and blowing things up with guns was probably high romance for those two, the way they were. Christina invited them because it made sense to share a cabin with a couple of outdoorsmen, and she’s in their Pre-Calc class, but I don’t think she knew I’m deathly afraid of the overly-muscular Korean. Christina wasn’t there when Jin literally broke a grabby, mouthy Frat boy in half.
I put my bag down and caught a whiff of what Sylvia was reapplying in the small bathroom. Here we were, out in the boonies and she had the need to spray No. 5 like we were at Studio 47. The aspiring fashion designer stepped out in a totally new outfit, tight lycra that looked like denim and an overly expensive tailored flannel shirt that enhanced more than obscured a dark fur-trimmed bra from Victoria’s, with black fuzzy boots to match. I always wondered what went on in her head.
“How are we all going to fit in this cabin tonight?” I asked, mostly to myself. The main room centered around a fireplace and had a cottage layout of a combined living room, dining room, and kitchen. A door to a bedroom and another one to the bathroom with only a toilet, a sink, and a standup shower was all that was left. The prospect of sleeping on the musty wooden planking on the floor didn’t appeal to me as much as sharing a room with the other boys. My fundamental raising had never prepared me for this and I began to doubt my judgement in blindly following Chrissy into this ordeal.
Sylvia must have read my trepidation and slinked past, lightly brushing against me with a characteristic cheshire grin.
“Depends on how friendly we all get with each other.” The trace of an English dialect lightly adding some lilt, her true nature showing through. I hadn’t known her for very long, we only shared a few classes, but our college was small and she was a contemporary of Christina’s. She seemed always on the prowl and she hunted game of all genders. This outing must have been an irresistible buffet for her. “Who’s the goth chick?”
“Cait.” I replied, holding my expression in check. Last thing I wanted was to be on the menu. Poor Cait. “One of Christina’s many friends. I think they met when Chrissy got her palm read at the last State Fair.”
“How are you doing?” Sylvia asked the question I’ve been hating recently. “You seem… preoccupied.”
I sighed, lightly, and worked a weak smile on my face.
“I’m fine. Finals had me stressed out.” And when I saw that didn’t allay her suspicions, I lied some more, not that I’ve gotten any better at it. “All work and no play… y’know. I’m sure this trip is what I need to deflate.”
She ran hand through her highlighted hair and gave me a puckish grin.
“Then get out there and play, luv.” Sylvia hummed, her eyes loaning me some mischief. “You only live once.”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - To Be Continued – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -