I have continued a fictional story about two brothers lost in the forest and trying to find their way home. I had started it in May and this is the third installment:
Lost in the Woods Part 3
Josh and his younger brother Timothy have been lost in the forest for days. Due to a flooded campsite and other mishaps, they have lost much of their camping gear and supplies. Now, each brother wears a backpack of dwindling supplies with attached bedrolls. They’ve been wandering through a thick forest trying to find their way back home. At a recent stop by a creek to fill their water canisters, Josh discovered a secret message hidden in a hollowed out tree. Now they have spotted a cabin in the distance situated by a tranquil lake of softly lapping in the gentle breeze.
As they walked along, Josh sniffed the air and studied the rippling lake. He also listened to an occasional meadowlark, a hoot owl, and the chirping chorus of nearby crickets, “Aside from the nature sounds it is quiet and peaceful here. I wouldn’t mind, having a home out here myself. You know, like a vacation house to visit on weekends and escape the busy life.”
Timothy smiled as he pushed his way through the tall grass, “I thought that was why you brought me camping; to get away from everyday life in the big city.”
“Well, it is partly true but I also wanted it to be a special trip for you.”
“I wish you would stop worrying about me so much. Just because I don’t run, play sports, or go camping like most other boys, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me.”
“I never said anything was wrong in what you do. I just wanted you to get out more and expand your horizons. You spend far too much time hiding indoors especially in the summer.”
Timothy sighed and shifted his backpack as he plodded along, “Well, that’s how I like it. That’s how I feel safe.”
“Yes I know,” Josh frowned as he led the way through swishing blades of grass.
After traveling for some time in silence, they finally approached the lone cabin by the lake. Josh was first to reach the steps which ascended to a small porch in disrepair. Josh noted the peeled painting along the doorframe and the loose railing, “Be careful when you come up the steps. I don’t think anyone has been here for a while. It really looks run down.”
Timothy hurried up the steps to catch up, “Have you knocked or tried the door yet?”
“Not yet, but here we go,” Josh replied as he wrapped three times on the door. Both brothers waited and strained to hear an answer.
Timothy finally surmised, “I guess no one is home.”
“Or no one lives here anymore,’ returned Josh as he tried turning the knob and after he heard a click, the door opened, “That doorknob sticks, I almost didn’t get it open,”
They stepped inside and looked around the small, dark interior. Timothy felt along the wall, “I found a light switch.” In an instant, the tiny room was illuminated. Both boys glanced around surveying the walls, windows, and various items of furniture.
Josh gazed at the tidy coffee table in front of a deep green, three sectioned sofa which displayed some magazines, blank paper, and writing utensils. On a nearby end table was a lamp and a photograph, “Well, my first observation here is that someone is using this place. That table is neatly arranged and not terribly dusty. Also whoever is frequenting here is obviously paying an electric bill.” He picked up the photograph studying it, “This photo is old though; just look at this man in uniform with a very happy young woman.”
Timothy peered closer to gaze at the fading picture, “The soldier looks very happy too. I bet they just got married.” He continued to stare at the photo, “You know, there is something familiar about that lady but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Are you playing detective now?” Josh teased.
Timothy tossed his head of wavy light brown hair and shrugged his shoulders as he placed the photograph back on the end table, “Well, we do have a mystery to solve with that old note we found. I’m just considering possible clues. Why just look at this blank paper. It is not entirely blank. Along the top, it reads in navy blue calligraphy, ‘From the Desk of Mary Beth’.”
“I see,” Josh tried to hide his smile as removed his backpack setting it on the couch.
In the meantime, Timothy walked around and gazed at one of the shorter walls running perpendicular to the front porch, “Look there’s an old stone fireplace with kerosene lanterns on each side of the mantle. If it gets too cold we could build a fire there and roast marshmallows. We still have some of those; and graham crackers.”
“No,” replied the older brother with a stern look, “We don’t know the last time that fireplace was used. So we also don’t know the last time, it has been cleaned out. There could be a nest near the top of the chimney or too much soot built up along its inner walls. We’d be risking a fire if we try to use the fireplace.”
“Then how will we cook supper?”
“Same as we’ve been doing. We dig a pit and build a campfire outside,” answered Josh as he opened a nearby door. He looked in and then turned to look at Timothy with a smile, “I guess we don’t have to build a campfire tonight.”
Timothy looked puzzled, “Why not?”
“I just found a kitchen complete with a modern humming refrigerator and matching stove. Yep, someone is definitely using this place.”
Timothy now curious followed his brother through the doorway, further in the kitchen; they opened the refrigerator and some of the cupboards. Timothy also looked in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, “Hey, there’s pizza here. Perhaps we could have that tonight? I’m really tired of beans and hotdogs. But what if the owner shows up?”
Josh shrugged, “We’ll apologize for trespassing and using their supplies then explain our predicament. Hopefully, the owner will be kind enough to help us. I will also offer to repay them for any supplies we use up.”
“I am really getting hungry again.”
“I know, I know. Okay, I will put some supper together. It shouldn’t take long. While I’m heating the pizza and open some canned peaches, why don’t you see if there are any beverages, plates, and glasses?”
After supper, while Josh washed dishes and tidied the kitchen, Timothy went searching through the rest of the cabin as he had noted more doorways to explore. While wiping the table, Josh suddenly heard his little brother cry out, “Oh, you won’t believe what I found.”
Worried that something could be wrong, he hurriedly followed Timothy’s voice back through the living room area and through another doorway leading into a small and tidy bedroom. He looked in dismay and disbelief, “Oh no.”
“Oh yes,” Timothy’s bright eyes lit up like sparkling stars in the deep night sky. “Look at this wall just full of books from the floor to the ceiling. And some of them are mystery books just like the ones I have at home. Look what I found so far: Tommy Brighton and the Haunted Lighthouse Mystery written by M.B. Peters, Tommy Brighton and the Missing Cowboy Mystery, Tommy Brighton and the Midnight Cave Mystery, and there’s more. I want to sleep in here tonight.”
“Yeah and stay up all night reading.”
“There’s nothing wrong with reading.”
Josh sank on the quilted bed and sighed, “No there isn’t but you read all the time. You hide in your room and read to the point of ignoring everyone around you. I brought you on this camping trip to get you away from your books. You are not living your own life and you’re not living in this world; instead, you are living your life through your favorite characters and the world they live in.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are and I can prove it. Which of those books have you already read?”
Timothy picked one book off the shelf, “This one, Tommy Brighton and the Haunted Lighthouse Mystery.”
“Okay then, tell me about it.”
With book in hand, Timothy sat beside his brother, “well, it starts with this boy about the same age as me going on a family camping trip and he invites his best friend, Harry, to come with. They go hiking and exploring along different trails through the dark forest. In the meantime, there are old stories floating around about a lighthouse nearby being haunted. A strange accident happened there long ago and someone who used to live in the old lighthouse died. People who’ve walked near it insist they’ve seen lights turn on, including the huge warning beacon on top. And some have heard voices and strange music coming from it. No one is brave enough to ever enter.” Timothy paused to take a deep breath.
“Oh, sounds very interesting. I take it, your hero Tommy and his pal find this mysterious lighthouse?”
Timothy became deflated but in his excitement to share the familiar story, he was determined to continue, “Well, yes because one day they explored a different trail that wound around the forest along a rocky seashore and up a steep hill. And there on that hill was an old lighthouse completely empty of life. Or so that is what everyone thought.” He finished in a hushed, suspenseful tone.
Looking like a student sitting in a classroom, Josh raised one hand, “Okay, you can stop right there. Now, I have a few questions. First, you are very animated and seem to enjoy telling me this story. And you know the story very well. So, I take it that you really like this story, right?”
At this inquiry, Timothy sounded exasperated, “Yes, I think I already told you that.”
“Okay, then why do you like this story so well?”
Taking another quick breath, he answered, “Because it is about these two friends going on an adventure together. Whenever I read one of these stories, I feel like they are my friends and I am going on the adventure with them. And I like to try to solve the mystery before they do.”
“So, you would rather read and go on an adventure in a book, than get together with a friend of your own and embark on your own journey of discovery.”
As if struck by his brother’s words, Timothy became silent but after a few moments he finally answered, “I don’t have any friends. Not in this new school. I don’t know my way around this new town. Before I knew where the parks, the library, and the zoo were located. I knew how to get around. I wish we had never moved. I miss the old house and the friends I used to have; everything is different. And it doesn’t help that you’re gone most of the time attending college.”
“I’m sorry this move has been hard on you. Mom and dad are sorry too. They are very worried about you especially as you keep hiding in your bedroom. That’s why they let me bring you on this little camping trip which has turned into one mishap after another.”
“Well, right now I just feel safe in my room. And don’t please don’t feel bad about this trip. For the first time, I feel like I am living my own adventure.”
“Why haven’t you made any friends in the new school?”
Timothy groaned with impatience, “We moved into the new house at the end of April. I was only in the new school for one month before it closed for the summer. It takes me a long time to make new friends. I’m not an instantly popular classmate. I’m too quiet for that.”
“In another words, the timing of this move couldn’t have been worse for you,” Josh observed and after a pause, “Well, give me some time to think about this. I have an idea but don’t know if it is going to work out yet.”
Timothy looked at his elder brother intently studying his face, “What is your idea?”
Josh winked with a sly smile, “That is my secret. You will just have to wait. In the meantime, we’ll spend the night here and then decide in the morning on our next plan of action.”
“Then I can have the bedroom?”
With a deep sigh, Josh agreed, “Oh, alright. I will sleep on the couch near the front door and keep a lookout in case the owner of this cabin returns.”