Mineral King by Caroline Gerardo (Lucent Dreaming Issue 1)

Mineral King

by Caroline Gerardo

They pack snowshoes, cross-country skis and climbing gear in the Subaru with their Golden Retriever. Dan wears mirrored glasses while driving.
“My blue eyes need protection,” Dan says smirking.
“Did you hear Kaweah River’s full?” Lisa asks her boyfriend.
His sneer turns smile, his wire-rimmed reflectors poised on the road. “Every creek and braided channel pour. We should get to the lodge soon—what’s the GPS say?”
“A mile.”
The puppy whimpers and looks at her.
“I think the pup needs a break,” she says.
With the invitation, the dog inserts her muzzle on the console towards the driver. Lisa sneaks a piece of bacon from a baggy to the dog.
Finally at the inn, they park. Lisa’s fingers brush back auburn hair loose from her French braid.
“I’ll check in and pay,” Dan says. “Take Heidi with a bag.” Dan hops as a whooping crane might up to the inn’s wooden doors.
“Poop patrol is all I’m good for, hmm?” Lisa rustles in the rear of the SUV searching for the leash. She kisses the blond puppy’s paw for waiting. “Heidi, the Lodge allows dogs,” Lisa speaks in a high tone. She pulls Dan’s windbreaker over her small frame, looking like a fawn in a Casablanca trench coat.
Dan returns waving the room key. “Room with fridge, I’ll unpack the food.” Lisa knows. He has warned her before. Bears tear apart a vehicle for rations.
“Supper in the Gateway?” he asks.
“But we’ll have to put Heidi in the room.” Lisa frowns.
“She’ll be fine.”
After unloading, Lisa peeks through curtains from the room. Soon they walk hand in hand across the gravel to the roadside restaurant. Dan thinks of the love mittens his grandmother knit when he was a child, the fingers of two people’s hands in one. Cumulonimbus dense anvil-shaped clouds cover the sky, the sounds of river flows, and a road to forest whistles. Restaurant candlelight shines, revealing the red checkered tablecloths from the windows. Once inside, Dan gestures to sit at the bar. Lisa climbs a stool next to two men with beardso—one grey, the other white with yellow stains.
“What’ll you have?” The bartender shows a gap in her teeth.
Dan looks at Lisa. He gave up alcohol for Lent. “A chardonnay and a ginger ale,” Dan says.
“Sure.” The bartender shoots the soda gun into a tumbler. No questions who gets the wine.
The old men chat about plans for demolition of a local bridge.
“It’s a historical monument, how can they do that!” Greybeard says.
They describe the California Environmental Quality Act evaluations.
“County, State, Feds won’t spend money on the upkeep. Demo’s easier.” Whitebeard mumbles.
“These autocrats messing with nature should be eaten alive!” Greybeard says.
“I agree, it’s a crime to destroy it,” Lisa speaks to Dan.
“Right, little lady,” Whitebeard says.
“Can’t they re-route Mineral King Road, build another bridge upstream and leave a walking bridge?” Dan asks Whitebeard.
“There’s an idea!”
Dan whispers in her ear. “Are you sure? You want to have dinner at the bar, sweetie?”
“It’s great,” she says.
The bartender noses in and recommends Little Kern Golden Trout pan-roasted in bay leaves. A rare catch of pink flesh before the days of trail mix.
After dinner, they take the puppy for a stroll. They wander into some nearby scrub. An owl watches from an oak tree. Coyotes howl nearby. The pup wriggles out of her collar. Dan grabs the dog before she runs away.
“Heel!”
Later Dan and Lisa settle in their room, rust stains in the toilet bowl, but the sheets are clean.
Lights out, under a polyester bedspread.
“Chilly tonight,” she says.
“Snuggle, stay warm.” His arm lifts exposing his wing tattoo.
She giggles. He surrounds Lisa’s body. Music of the river rumbles through the crack in the window. No traffic passes. Under cover of the lodge he falls asleep and snores. She rolls over , her back to him.
Later, Lisa dreams. She’s a native woman swimming in a hole, a slippery-sided pond worn by a thousand years of runoff. Boulders rub her feet. Former creek water, now stagnant, stirs with bits of the honey-colored bridge. A cumulous thunderstorm molds heaven into a mushroom storm throwing hail. Her legs shake. Dynamite jumps her mind to awaken.
She tip-toes around the bed and checks the perimeter outside the window. No rain, nor snowfall, secret storms pray towards the mountain. Breaks in the sky reveal stars reflecting in the windshield glass of their car.
In the morning, they re-load the SUV. The vehicle winds up a blacktop road. Their goal is to be first to buy permits and gate codes from the Ranger station. Landscape changes from mossy rocks to blue oak savannah, then incense cedar and ponderosa pine crop through tectonic forces. Graupel opaque grits melt on the windshield wipers.
“Driver-assist intelligence is wasted on off-the-grid roads,” he frowns.
“Should we play the book on tape now?” Lisa asks.
“Sure. Who do you think is the killer?” he asks.
She says nothing. She doesn’t want to tell him any spoilers.
No cars ride up or down the road. A solid white line reveals and disappears into the black. Fog returns. Mist covers morning sun, a good omen.
The turns of the road sharpen as they reach the Visitor Center. A sign ahead reads: Permits required for overnight trips into Sequoia and Kings National Parks. Past here: no cell service, no emergency roadside boxes. Do not enter quarantine areas.
They get out and walk up.
“Your name’s on the reservation?” Dan asks.
She nods. “I paid ten dollars.”
A woman in a drab uniform and lemon squeezed flat hat leans her elbows on the counter. She’s not a tidy Smokey Bear, her body’s square. She peers in a three-ring binder.
“Fifteen dollars more is due for off-season permits,” she says.
Dan feels his pockets for his wallet. First the jacket, then the wind pants, he pats his body down.
Lisa says, “I got cash, it’s covered.”
“Here are the codes and brochures about the hazards. Do not go into restricted areas.” The ranger hands papers to Lisa.
“Why?” Dan asks.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph killed up there.”
Dan doesn’t press the ranger , he thinks it sacrilegious or kooky. Lisa keeps quiet. Back at the car, Heidi sits at the wheel.
“Bad dog,” Dan says. “Woo!” Dan’s hoots imitate the Great Owl they spotted the night before. It frightens Heidi, and he feels bad.
“Let’s go!” he shouts.
He drives hyperactive. In the curves accelerates when approaching wet holes. As they climb, gravel shoulders turn from brown to white. Alabaster tops the asphalt. Lisa squeezes the armrest. Fir trees and sugar pine spin past the passenger window. She’s careful not to spoil his inner world joy. Pieces of valley reveal for seconds, then a gesso canvas.
“A bear!” Lisa points.
He applies the brakes with precision and stops the car. A huddled figure scurries. Dan jumps out, following the animal up the hillside. She remains inside, locking the door. Soon he returns with a wide grin on his narrow face.
“Bears aren’t dangerous, that’s a myth.”
She bites the corner of her lip, bargains peace.
“Honey- bears are afraid of humans.”
“Garbage bins have metal traps to protect someone,” Lisa says.
“Because of drought,” Dan explains.
She nods. They continue driving to the first gate. All three get out. Lisa holds the dog. Dan opens the iron-gate box. Below the double leafs of the metal arms, are combination padlocks. Dan plays the combo on each one. He’s on his back underneath the assembly. Meanwhile, the puppy gobbles ice crystals like beef jerky, her first experience of snow. After a few tries, the clang of one long arm of the padlock releases.
Dan hops up. He gathers translucent flakes without gloves, and compacts the substance into a ball. He tosses high for the dog to catch. She leaps. A blizzard spatters. Lisa gets into the driver’s seat of the SUV, brings the car through the barrier. Dan and the dog wait behind the open gate. Dan locks the padlock, then switches places with Lisa.
The road narrows. Dan turns off the book on tape. Crunching tyres and the roar of wheel arches make the dog cower. Lisa pats her. The car skids on the ice below the surface. Four-wheel drive of the engine in low balances the ride.
“Time for chains,” he says.
“There’s the second gate ahead.” Lisa points.
On the opposite side of the barrier, a thin man kneels at the gate padlock. A Chevy Silverado is parked on the opposite side. Exhaust fills the air behind the truck. A massive dog circles. Black streaking lines of the animal’s tail are a Japanese literati painting. Another dog owner gains their trust.
“You drive, honey?”
“Sure. Maybe that guy will open the gate?”
“I’ll talk to him.” Dan walks over to the man who bangs the lock against the post of the gate. Echoes of bells ring. Birds copy the sound.
“What’s up?” Dan asks.
“I can’t get this damn thing to open. I hate to tell you, but there are fallen trees ahead. You ain’t gonna be able to get through.”
“Parks Code is 1776.”
“I know, man, and I gotta get out of here ASAP.”
They struggle with spinning the dial. The young man wears a wool plaid shirt. His dog runs loose. Now Lisa and Heidi move closer.
“Your dog, is he a Shepherd Alaskan Malamute mix?” Lisa asks the stranger.
“Max is a special mutt.”
The erect eared dog circles Heidi. The canines lower their heads in playful greeting. Lisa returns to the car to grab a leash.
The plaid man stomps his foot on the lock.
“This is not gonna open, and I really gotta get to town. I’m just gonna leave my truck here.” Out of breath, the stranger spits in the snow. His head bobs as if to assess them. “Where you all headed?” he asks.
“Hiking over to Whitney…” Dan says.
“Camping?” The plaid man lifts his eyebrows.
“Yes.”
“Good luck. My brother’s fixing damage to our store. We had wild animals tear up the place,” the plaid man says.
“Animals trying to find food?” Dan asks.
“Somethin’ like that. I don’t really have time to get into it.” The eyes of the stranger in plaid point to the heavens. He lowers his eyes, red from exposure or drinking, and looks straight at Dan. “Don’t go to the left at the fork. Rangers closed the area for a bad emergency.”
“What kind?”
“Just don’t go there.” His lips turn down; he huffs impatiently. Chestnut eyes, almond shaped like Heidi’s.
“I’m walkin’ to town. It’s too far for my dog, so I’m leavin’ Max in the cab. I don’t have booties for hounds like folks in the city got. Well, I gotta beat the sun.”
“Twenty miles, it’s too far,” Dan says, “Take my car. We’ll unload gear and walk to the trailhead. When you return, leave the keys under the back driver side wheel.”
Dan tries to hand the man his keys.
“I just can’t ask that, mister.”
“I offered, you didn’t ask. Take ‘em,” Dan says. The stranger does.
“Now go.”
Backpacks, dog booties, snow-shoes, poles, and crampons are removed from the car. Dan and Lisa start the hike. Without looking back, the couple walks up the cloaked cotton road. Hoarfrost interlocks fine tinsel. Blades of needles freeze dry. As they walk, pine leaves and bits of vapor flash to solid , sigh and moan. Within minutes they come upon a tree fallen in the road. It’s cut with a chain-saw to allow a vehicle with a high clearance through. Odors of cedar escape fresh wounds. Though cedar wards off moths, flurries seem to fly out from the felled timber.
Dan leads the way. His breath floats back. The pup is distracted by the discovery of snow. Their unleashed animal explores farther than Lisa feels comfortable. Large scat droppings stand out like crows on a Wolf Moon. Heidi sniffs to pick it up.
“Heel, girl,” Dan says.
The dog leaps.
“I’ll take her?” Dan asks. “Yell if I go too fast.”
Lisa tucks her bangs in the brim of her hat. Dan is fourteen inches taller than she. His footsteps in the snow are too broad apart for her to fit into his stride. She sweats to keep pace. She alternates hopping in his prints and walking the balance beam of a tire track. For now, she steps in a straight line in the tire tracks. Snow on the road is three feet deep and rising. They pass old-growth coniferous forest. The canopy above tangles as they climb. Light rays pop through, bouncing off the fang white of snow. Dan turns back to her and pushes up his sunglasses. She keeps up, with shiny beads of moisture on her nose.
“I’ll carry your camera if it’s too heavy?” Dan asks.
“I’m good. Okay if I take some shots from here?”
“Sure.” He shifts his weight while she unsnaps the case.
“Why did you let that stranger take your car?”
“He’s okay. His family owns the summer store in Silver City.” Dan says.
Dan gets out a water bottle as she takes the cover off the camera lens. She kneels to steady her arms. Giant sequoias line up on a diagonal, crowded by white fir. An ancient tree fell here. Its trunk provides nutrients to the forest. In the distance, dark clouds accordion climb their fingers over lower peaks. Dan and Lisa share a drink and tighten the backpack back to order. He takes command of the dog.
“Heel, Heidi.”
The dog listens. Dan leads with the dog at his side and continues uphill. A posted sign reads: Danger. Closed for winter. U.S. Federal Lands No entrance to the LEFT. Quarantine.
The map to High Sierra Trail is to the right. They route around Silver City to the Western Divide to set camp. Lisa’s footprints display her right heel is first with toes outward but left is light on the toes. The compression makes the positive space turn blood red in white feathers.
“Dan!”
She looks down. Dan’s prints appear on the ground, exposing blood.
“It’s carotenoid algae.”
She touches the print. It doesn’t melt in her glove. The foot engraving in the drift is as if plaster of Paris stained with iron oxide, a slight red. Lisa shrugs and continues uphill. Her eyes dart around, alternating between the horizon and the ground . Her boots squeak on fresh crystals. Heidi remains enamored with everything fluffy and white. The sound of a gunshot interrupts.
“Did you hear that?”
“Snow mobile backfire, or a tree fell,” Dan says. “Keep your head up, Lisa.”
“Snow-shoes?” she asks.
He nods. They assist each other, snap balls of boots in and tighten the nylon straps down. The dog has snow boots that they practiced with, now walking upon the surface of the dusty snow moves faster. The foot loses a fraction of the sense of balance in toes but gains a floating, less effort stride.
Lisa moves her floppy hat to her chest. Trees laden with snow shade the sun. Her right-hand pats the folding knife in her thigh pocket. The fabric rumples, hard surface reassures. The trail width allows only single file. They climb over granite covered in downy marshmallow cream. A sigh of breath and snap of snow are sounds that join them now.
Lisa concentrates on floating on top of the thin, variable pack that’s spongy as peat. It’s cold, but a body core creates warmth. Hiking, like sex, is a journey. Fire held in by thin outer wind layers, alpaca, and manmade fibers. She concentrates on how Dan’s back moves in time with the wind through the nearby pines.
“Dan, I love you,” she says softly.
He doesn’t hear it. She breathes deeply. Her shoulders relax.  A gloved thumb goes up. She demonstrates inner kick by speeding her climbing pace.
She stops. There are tracks in the snow. Where the mountain had few bunny prints, watermelon stains, and windswept drifts, new prints loom much more massive than Heidi’s. She examines since Dan’s head has been up, not down.
“Dan,” she says. He comes back to her.
“Bears have five toes, this is four claws,” Dan says.
“Wild dog?” She looks at their puppy.
“No wolves this far south of Oregon. It’s a huge animal.”
Heidi barks.
“Three times her footprint. Quiet, girl.” He stands between Heidi and the direction of her nose. The dog hides behind Lisa, growling.
“Something is following us,” Lisa says.
“Keep moving, you lead now.”
Lisa quivers—not from the icy wind, but from Dan’s unusual gesture of protection. Her legs stride wide. No complaints that her left arch shoots pain signals. Picking her knees up higher, she moves faster.
“Hustle to the rocks ahead.” His voice waivers. He shouts, “Move!”
She jogs. Heidi heels at her side. The tone of Dan’s voice behind her encourages her. The crampon catches her pants repeatedly, cutting her calf muscle. She stumbles. Dan lifts her by the armpit.
“You can do it.” His hand is on the small of her back.
At the crest, a group of boulders peek through the snow. With a wall of stone behind, Dan and Lisa turn to face whatever stalks up the forest, as if the sun rises to witness the disaster. Dan holds a survival knife, and in her glove is the foldable blade. Wild below carries no scent. New snow kicks in a whirl. All three pant. Steam rises from their mound. Then silence. The stalker doesn’t strike. A wind drift sends glassy snow.
Dan digs up rocks, throwing them down. Stones bounce off trees, creating shatter sounds as icicles fall and pierce the cover of dove white . At his feet, a snow flower reaches up like a maroon fiddle fern. He steps on another crimson hemorrhage asparagus.
“What’s that scaly thing?” Lisa asks.
“Sarcodes sanguine . We need to get to Silver City. Let’s set a fire before dark.”
“People don’t live there in the winter. The sign said not to go there,” Lisa says.
Dan repeats his plan, “We need shelter.”
The dog barks. They move upwards. The trail is steep; Lisa raises an arm to allow oxygen into her lungs. Whiffs of a carcass and wet weeds rise.
“Stitches.” She pants the word.
A sharp stab between the ribs, Lisa leans forward while jogging. Dan’s behind. Kindness pushes her soul.
“Shout aggressively.” Dan raises his arms as well. He scans the area, seeing Sequoias, rocks and flour snow. No tracks. A burned cabin is in the ankle of the mountain below. The roof is half caved in. One tree rises through the center. Nature takes back her own.
“This is Silver City. Start the fire,” Dan says.
Sweat drenches. Steam flows as if a train engine rolls, coal smoke behind. Icicles fall from the trees. Whistling surrounds. He swings the sheath knife, fumbles it while running behind. Both of his climbing poles transfer to one hand, as he picks up the blade. She jogs ahead.
“Cabin!” she screams.
They head to the log structure. Boarded for the winter, because the road has become unpassable.
A cottage painted Kelly green with brown plywood boards secured to the windows waits ahead. Dan takes the lead. Prying the window panel, then shoving a blade into the corner of the wood crux, he loosens the nails. Pieces of the green frame and track fall to blanket white, the glass exposed.
“Good they didn’t use bolts.”
“Climb in; you’re small. Be careful.” He takes the dog leash. Tether hooks to the corner of the window. She drops her pack. Then he boosts her into the darkness. A spider’s web grabs. She swats fibers. Clanging attracts the wolves. A crack of light from a rectangle ahead, space around the door illuminates the path.
“Hurry, they’re here.”
Wolves chase prey for miles. They wait for panic. Heart pounding in her neck; the odor of fear is a bitter pill. She prays that she doesn’t emit that smell. The mob outside sends in the big males. The animals squeal as Dan fights them. He fights two, protecting his neck with one arm while swinging a knife. One beast hangs on the arm with fangs deep in his muscle as he stabs another. She opens the door. Dan and the pup rush in, Lisa slams the door shut while Dan tosses his backpack and poles.
“Fire!”
He rummages. Wood stacks in a bin. The owner set the cabin up for spring thaw long ago. He locates long, stick matches and newspapers . He examines the flue from inside the smooth, rock fireplace. A clanking noise announces when he opens the metal flap. The sky above is a dusky hour before the billowy mass smothers the black sea. Outside, rustling, panting and vast paws scrape. Wolves howl.
Newsprint accepts the spark. A slow flicker flashes. It fails to catch the log. Hasty, Dan adds tight crumpled papers. Smoke ensues. With his pole, he removes the smoldering wad to allow air flow. The wolves circle the house. Black paws jump at the window Lisa climbed through. She slams the fire iron at the claws. Darkness hides the well-oiled locomotive outside.
Whooshing sounds of brooms clean the foundation . Wolves leap like flames that climb up shrubbery or ivy clinging to a house. They want the eves. They eat at the roof. Dan tosses a log at the open window. A whelp calls out in response.
“Block it up!”
Dan fans the paper again and blows upon the embers. She turns a table on its side and faces it to the hole. Next she drags a mattress, rummages with her LED light. Heidi trembles. When the fire in the hearth begins to build, the light exposes blood oozing from his torn sleeve and pouring down his shirt and waist.
“God, we need to bandage that!”
“Secure the cabin first,” he says.
Fire blazes inside the river rock chimney. Billowing smoke ought to scare off wild animals, but panting sounds continue to circle the cabin. The wolves work together to find a way inside the structure. Wolf families bond for life. Hunting practiced and played.
Dan puts his good arm under himself to rise, but he can’t stand.
“Look around for candles, knives, weapons. Those wolves aren’t going anywhere for a long while.”
The cabin’s one room. Lisa pulls out knives, forks, tape, matches from disheveled drawers and boxes. She rummages through a fishing gear bag and locates a battery powered lantern. Dan knows his cell phone has no bars, but he stays on the floor and checks just in case.
“Nothing useful.”
Lisa can’t shake the sight of Dan’s blood.
“There’s a video cam in the center of town that broadcasts a live stream on a website. In the morning, Dan, we have to go out there and write ‘help’ on the snow.”
“I’ve seen the feed. People contact Rangers…”
Rapid clawing and digging rattle the broken window. Lisa moves to Dan with dish towels and a first aid box. His knees are up and head between his legs.
“Not much in here but gauze and what’s in my pack.” She realizes her backpack is on the ground outside.
She eases off his jacket. He groans. The arm’s torn, exposing muscle and bone. She pulls a para-cord tie from her coat to tighten off above the tear.
“Not a tourniquet, just slow the bleeding down,” Lisa says softly.
Blood flows from the wound. He doesn’t argue. Heidi licks his palm.

A gauze ring winds around the open gash. She covers the thin layer with the dish towels and duct tape. The bleeding doesn’t stop.
“Rest your heart rate. Like yoga,” she says. His neck’s bouncing . “This needs sewing.”
Dan’s brows lower., He trembles. She kisses his forehead, but he doesn’t respond.
“The fire’s catching,” she says, stroking his hair.
The scratching at the door repeats. Heidi growls. Lisa spots an andiron. “Good as a weapon,” she says, mostly to herself.
The tool isn’t solid iron, she holds it above the fire. In the cabin, and with Dan stabilized but weak, they hunker down for the night. They may run out of fuel. Wolves don’t rest. They’re a tornado at bay.
Lisa plans. Morning light she’ll make a sign at the web-cam in Silver City. Dan passes out. A puddle of blood makes a D shape around his frame. The wolves howl. She refuels the fire and jumps when the clawing restarts. Heidi hides under her legs. With a swift swing the fire iron snaps against the window frame. Chairs propped against the opening shudder. Lisa knows she must draw a Save Our Ship code on the ground in the square.
“You stay. Protect Dan,” she tells Heidi before the sun arrives.
Heidi turns her head. Lisa places knife in Dan’s hand, though he’s unconscious now. An image of using Dan’s blood to write SOS flashes in her mind.
She heads out the cabin with knives, poles and a flaming log. Once outside she secures the door , but realizes the lumber is cumbersome. She leaves it near the broken window. The wind stills. A crystal Christmas morning greets her . Uncertain the distance, she hustles in the snowshoes. Prayers come to mind , but are unspoken for fear the wolves will hear. Running impossible, she hurries. Town square looks like an island on a lake of bridal veils.
Beyond the clearing, the wolves wait under spruce trees. Her fist grips the knife. She cuts fir branches and moves fire logs from a pile into letters. Females of the pack crawl towards her project, waiting for an opportunity when she drops her guard. Lisa sees them stalk, but gestures to the camera now that two letters are complete, invoking a human to notify officials.
As she drags firewood to the camera front, the female pack surrounds. She hazes them with the branches on her shoulders like a scarecrow. The alpha girl outweighs Lisa. Lisa yells. Daylight doesn’t scare the girls.
Six wolves move low to the pale blue cold and begin an attack. Two animals charge from north and south. Lisa hits one with the knife, but skin deep, and not enough to intimidate the others. They see her as a bunny rabbit. As the alpha charges Lisa, she hears steel pans banging and a man scream. Her arms bitten, she protects her head and neck. A second passes as she realizes the big female runs. Her head spins. A man bundled in furs motions for her to come forward. With his make-shift crutch, he bumbles towards her in the drift.
“Get up. The mongrels regroup.” He holds a rifle. Silver pan lids sit on the snow. Reflections of light scatter over the surface of the frozen angel white . She trips behind his ragged figure into a burrow that leads to a house cellar. He lights a lantern.
“How many of you?” He asks.
“My boyfriend’s gravely injured,” Lisa says.
“Where?”
“Green cabin,” Lisa says.
“Slope side?”
“Yes.” She nods her head.
“Stefansson place is abandoned. The males are out here hunting. The females stick closer to the lab next to here.”
“What’s your name?” she asks.
“Frank. Biomed Corp cross bred wolves with dogs, for experiments, for drugs, skinned the sick animals alive for pelts while the pack watched.”
“What?” She checks the bleeding on her arm. The laceration is not deep, just superficial bites.
“They shut down the lab. We came to find the truth; my family ran the store here for four generations.”
Frank’s veins and arteries bulge at every surface, a volcano of blood pressure must release. His Adam’s apple pounds a blow signal. Seismologists are palm readers with statistics. Lisa is no expert; she fears Frank, in his loose, animal skin coat, is near death.
“It’s a good thing my brother come back.”
“What’s that?” Lisa asks.
“Otherwise, you might have been dinner for those she-wolves .”
“The Silverado. And Max the dog.”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“How’d he beat us up here?”
“He knows this whole place,” Frank said.
The sound of a helicopter blows harder above than the owl from the night before, interrupting the discussion. When a cauldron of buzzards circle, the music is the same. She waves, no longer fearing the wolves.
The helicopter announces on a loudspeaker, “Station got your message.”
“Prayers answered, we’re saved.” Lisa squeezes Frank’s hand.
When the helicopter lands, the wolves hang back in the brush, allowing the sheriff to load Lisa and Frank. Then the helicopter circles down to the green cottage with the tree in the center to rescue Dan. When the team pulls Dan out of the green cabin, he is pale. He grabs Lisa’s wrist and doesn’t let go. Knowing he and Heidi are alive, Lisa cries tears that freeze on her cheeks.

 

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