“Suddenly, there was a piercing scream coming from the fire, a platform was lowering Delilah underground!!! We ran over to the platform and jumped in just as the door closed.”
I went to sleep as a normal 15-year-old and I woke up this morning as a professional adventurer. Well, not exactly.
All I remember is my parents saying goodbye to me and my little sister, sitting down on the padded airplane seats, closing my eyes, and falling asleep.
I woke up to Scarlett whispering in my ear and doing anything to wake me up.
“Lila, there’s a little kid next to me. She looks about three years old and she’s crying. Right after you fell asleep some lady came by and dropped this kid off. She said that we had to take care of this kid, Elizabeth. I don’t know what’s wrong!!!”
“Hi, sweetie,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
“I want to go see Mommy.” Elizabeth said.
“You just saw your mom.”
“That’s not my mommy.”
“Then you’re going to see your mom after the plane ride.”
“Okay,” she said and just like that she went to sleep. She was obviously very tired.
* * *
When the plane landed, Elizabeth was still asleep. I unfolded her stroller and strapped her in. I pushed her out and saw her mom holding a sign that said Elizabeth on it.
“Mommy!” she said.
“Hi, honey,” her mom answered.
Her mom thanked us for our help and left the airport. Scarlett and I started looking for the sign that would take us to our destination, The Hawi Trails. Soon we saw a sign that said “Partner Backpacking On The Hawi Trails.”
“Hello girls, you must be Scarlett and Lila,” said a man who clearly thought we were hot girly girls.
“Um, are you pretty ladies single?”
“Of course… not,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Ryan’s so adorable. I keep a picture of him in my locker at school. Every single girl at school liked him until he asked me to the dance. My enemy, Ashley Von Bullymeyer, practically had steam coming out of her ears when she heard the news. On the other hand, I was smiling so hard my cheeks hurt, because for once, I got better privileges than my enemy!
“Oh, okay.” He said, looking disappointed, “How about you Scarlett, single?”
“Nope,” she said giving him the same impression I gave him. He looked like he had lost a family member as he let us by.
“The bus is outside. You’ll be able to tell it’s our bus by all the teenagers inside it.”
When we piled onto the bus, all the teens looked at us as if we were aliens. We were soon stopped by the man whose name turned out to be Jack Fost, the bus driver. “Why are you kids on this bus? You don’t look like teenagers to me!”
“Well,” I replied, “that’s because you’re like, seven feet tall!”
We walked to the back of the bus and sat down. Suddenly, the bus lurched into motion, I felt a kick, and Jack started speaking. “This is going to be a long ride, so make yourselves as comfortable as possible,” he said. We sat down and managed to get through the ride by eating and sleeping and reading.
I woke up to the sound of Jack holding a megaphone in front of my face and screaming, “Get up!” I guess he thought I was like any other teenager who sleeps too long. I got off the bus, dazed, and the noise of the megaphone was still ringing in my ears. We had arrived at the safety house. It was green and brown and all the camouflage colors, so that the wild animals couldn’t get us. We thought about running away and going on our own, but then Jack said, “First, before you go, we have to go over safety tips and drills so you all know what to do if anything happens to you. The first safety drill is going to be swinging on ropes over lethal waters.” We climbed up a ladder above a tank of water with snakes springing up to try to bite us. Jack held onto the rope and swung. He almost got bitten by the snakes but he managed to avoid them. “Everybody, if you were watching, you would have seen how I did that.” He pointed to Scarlett. “How did I do that?” he asked her.
“You jumped onto the higher part of the rope and the snakes were too short to bite you so you were able to land on the platform on the other side.” I thought about it for a second and realized that Scarlett was right. He had jumped off the higher part of the rope. Then Jack pointed to Scarlett and said, “You try.” We all froze.
“Uh… ok…?” Scarlett questioned. She slowly climbed up the ladder and grabbed the rope. She shimmied up to the top like a monkey.
“Three… two… one… Go!” we all shouted.
She let go and hung on for dear life like she was a bull rider. She slowly started sliding to the bottom of the rope and at the very last second when the snakes were about to bite her, she landed on the platform with a smooth finish. And then everyone clapped and cheered.
“Who wants to go next?” asked Jack. Everyone was jumping and yelling saying, “Me! Me! Me!”
Jack said, “I’ll let Scarlett pick.”
She pointed to me.
“Okay,” I said. I stepped out onto the platform and I felt like everyone’s eyes were burning holes in my back. Here I go, I thought. I jumped down and started shimmying up to the top. A snake bit my sneaker but I tore away. I couldn’t believe I had avoided that snake. I landed on the other side and the whole place erupted in cheers once again. Everyone was eager to go and by the time we were done, we were practically professionals. By the time we had finished all the safety drills we had learned how to beat up gorillas, how to cook dead bat, and how to figure out which herbs were poisonous and which weren’t.
“Now it’s time for bed everyone,” said Jack. “But tomorrow morning we’ll get you up bright and early so that we can grab our supplies and get going.”
As we headed unto the bunks, one girl came up and asked us, “Do you two want to join a group with me and my buddy?”
“Um, I guess, why?” I said.
“See, we wanted to do this because it sounded fun but we know nothing about adventuring and survival, so we saw you were really good and we wanted you to help us.”
“Sure,” said Scarlett, always eager to help others.
After we spoke to the girl we went to bed. Right when I was falling asleep, I heard (a wail) Scarlett say something. “What did you say?” I asked.
“How are we going to survive?”
“We’ll make it,” I said, calmly.
Scarlett sounded scared. “You think when we go home, we’ll be professional adventurers.”
“Yeah, definitely,” I said, just as I was drifting off to sleep.
* * *
The next morning the girl we met the other night, who we had found out was named Sarah, met us at the trail that said, “If you are a professional, go on this trail.”
“Are you sure you want to do this one?” I asked Sarah and her buddy, Delilah.
“Yeah, we’re sure,” they said. “We knew you were good and we want a challenge.”
“Okay,” said Scarlett, looking nervously towards me. “Let’s go!”
But as soon as we stepped on the trail, we all came to halt and we heard someone’s phone ringing. I looked into my backpack and picked up my phone and checked it. It was my best friend, Emily. “Hi, Em,” I said. “How are you?”
“Good,” she answered.
Then I said, “I wish I could talk to you, but we’re about to start going on the adventure, so I can’t. I’ll be able to call you in a couple weeks when we get back to the safety house.”
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll say hi to everybody at home for you.”
“Okay, thanks! Bye!”
I got off the phone. “Ok, everybody! Let’s do this thing!” I said. And everyone cheered, “Yay!”
As we stepped into the woods, I saw our first obstacle. It was a pile of dead bats; it had a sign taped onto it. “Take these dead bats and cook them when you need it.” And at the bottom it said, “Bat Jack.”
So we picked up a pile of smelly, dead bats and stuffed them into plastic bags that were next to the pile. As we continued along, I heard Sarah say, “Look! There’s a lake full of rattlesnakes and a vine hanging down!”
We walked over there and decided we would go two at a time. First Scarlett and I went and shimmied up to the top, and she shimmied right below me. We started swinging and almost landed in the water but luckily we just avoided it. Then, when Delilah and Sarah went, Delilah’s shoe got bitten off by a snake, so we had to take turns giving her piggyback rides until we got to the campsite.
They had all of the supplies a professional adventurer would need. They had extra clothes, extra shoes and extra food. I took out the pot so we could make bat stew for dinner, and saw a slip of paper sticking out from under the cookbook. I assumed it was another note from Jack and opened it up. It said,
Dear Delilah, Sarah, Scarlett, and Lila,
I know you don’t think you’re good enough to do the professional trail, but you are.
Under the note there was another note but it was sealed with a wax sealer and it obviously wasn’t from Jack. I opened it and the first sentence I saw was, “If you don’t leave this trail I will kill you.”
“What’s that?” asked Sarah
“It’s some stupid note from Jack.” I said, trying to change the subject. After all I was basically the caretaker of these girls. I was 15 and Sarah, Delilah and Scarlett were 13.
As I went to bed that night I picked up the letter and studied it. I opened it up and started reading.
This trail belongs to me not you. If you do not leave this trail, I will kill you. In order to avoid me you must
Wow, I thought, feeling more scared than a 15-year-old should.
“Mommy, is it already time for school? I don’t want to go.”
I blinked and opened my eyes to see Sarah moaning like it was Monday morning. I crawled over to Sarah and shook her awake.
“ Wake up, sleepy head it’s time for — ”
“School?” cried Sarah, sitting up straight. “I don’t wanna go to school!”
“No. I was going to say wake up, sleepy head. It’s time to go.”
As we walked away from the campsite we came to a fork in the road. There were two signs. The first one said, “Long Way to treetop course.” The second one said, “Short Way to treetop course.”
“Guys, let’s take the long way there,” I said.
“Why?” asked Delilah.
I decided to tell all of them right away.
“So, this guy sent me a letter that said we had to take the long way every time, do each task twice, and use every material ten times. I don’t know who this is but the letter was signed The Trapper…”
I noticed Delilah standing away from us, reading a book.
“Wow. That’s really freaky!” said Scarlett, “How do you think he knows your name?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s been watching us from above. Who cares? Let’s go to the treetop course!” I said, changing the subject.
“Okay,” said Sarah, rolling her eyes. I could tell that she was annoyed that we had to go the long way.
As we climbed up the tree, I noticed a rustling in the bushes and stopped. Is that The Trapper? I thought.
“Move it, Lila. We’re waiting.” Delilah’s harsh words interrupted my fantasy. She was right under me and Sarah and Scarlett were right under her.
“Sorry. I was spacing out. I’ll move.” I climbed up to the top of the tree and was past the tree wire, when I heard a scream. I turned around and saw Scarlett hanging on to the tree wire by just her hands.
“Help! Somebody!” shrieked Scarlett. “I don’t want to die young!”
Suddenly, someone scurried up the tree and pulled Scarlett to safety. I breathed a sigh of relief, not realizing I was holding my breath and stared at the man who had saved my younger sister. I heard my sister gasp and when he turned his head I gasped too.
It was Jack Fost! The man I had underestimated two days ago was so much braver and stronger than I would’ve believed!
“Jack, it’s you!” my sister breathed, “You’re my hero!”
“Thank you Scarlett. I would stay for the party but I must go spy on the other teams.” We all giggled.
“Come on Scarlett, let’s finish the treetop course.”
“I don’t want to. It’s too scary. You help me,” Scarlett said to Sarah.
“Umm, okay?” Sarah said as if she was talking to a little kid who was very needy.
As Sarah and Scarlett worked their way across the course, I shouted back to them, “Since two of us have to do the course again, Delilah and I will do it because you both look exhausted and a little freaked out.”
“I definitely am,” said Scarlett. “I don’t know about you, but you look freaked too.”
“Yup,” said Sarah.
When Delilah and I went up for a second time we looked down to see Scarlett and Sarah cheering for us. I liked it but it was getting annoying so I called down to them, “Please stop cheering. I can’t concentrate when you cheer, but thanks.”
“Okay!” they shouted. They continued to cheer for us but silently.
As I ziplined down to the bottom of the course, I heard a voice coming from the bushes and listened closely and heard bits and pieces of their conversation.
“That goody two shoes… I’m gonna get her… totally, she’s such an idiot…”
I froze. I never thought it was possible to freeze in midair but I guess it was. Maybe they were talking about Delilah (she was a goody two shoes). Sarah had told me when Delilah was told she couldn’t bring her suitcase filled with makeup and shoes, she cried for 30 minutes straight.
I snapped out of my vision just to hear a breaking noise and a crash. I opened my eyes to see the platform in front of me crashing down to the ground. Suddenly, I felt a lurch. I fell a few feet and landed safely on the ground.
“Tada!” I shouted, smiling at everyone’s worried faces. “What’s wrong?”
“Look up,” said Scarlett. I looked up and screamed. Quick as a flash we got into our formation and caught Delilah safely.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where does it hurt?” We were firing questions at her like speeding bullets.
“I’m okay, I’m okay!” said Delilah, clearly exasperated by our continuous questioning, “Leave me alone you guys. I’m okay! And you know, YOU GUYS DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ME!!! YOU ALWAYS LEAVE ME OUT OF YOUR CONVERSATIONS!! I DON’T EVEN WANT TO BE WITH YOU!! GOODBYE!!!”
I stared as Delilah stomped out of the clearing. She walked back towards the campsite before turning around and yelling, “I DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR SISTER ANYMORE, SARAH KATE ANDERSSON!!!
Sarah turned and started crying in my arms. She started blubbering about how she was the best big sister ever and how she wanted Delilah back.
I turned to Scarlett and she understood the look in my eyes. She started towards the path and turned around just to smile at Sarah with a sad but hopeful look in her eyes. Sarah smiled slightly but just when I thought she was going stop crying, she burst into tears once again.
“Come on, Sarah,” I said. “Let’s go sit down and we can talk.”
After a half-hour long conversation, Scarlett came back, covered in bristles and leaves but pulling a grumbling Delilah behind her.
“She tried to run away from me so I had to tie some rope around her hands.”
After we untied the ropes from her hands, I noticed two more letters on the ground, covered with leaves.
“Guys, I’m a little tired so I’m gonna go inside and read a little bit.”
I picked up the letters, brought them inside, and opened them up. The first one said,
Dear Sarah, Delilah, Scarlett, and Lila,
You guys are doing really well so far. I heard about the pole that fell and we’re going to get it fixed.
I noticed the other letter had a wax sealer on it. I opened it up to see another letter from the Trapper. It read:
Hello my name is Jack Fost and I hate you.
I gasped. Could Jack, the hero I used to know, be evil? All those thoughts whirled around in my head until I couldn’t stand it anymore and the whole world went black.
When I came to, all my friends were standing over me.
“Lila, are you OK? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” said Scarlett.
“I‘m okay. I just heard the craziest news. Jack is The Trapper!”
“OMG!!! Omg, omg, omg! Is it really true? No, it can’t be. I don’t know. AAHHH!” shouted Sarah.
“Listen, guys. I have a new plan. Our new goal is to go off the path and live in the wild to avoid Jack, and we’ll do the obstacles if they end up in our path,” said Delilah, finally in on the conversation.
“Good idea,” I said, and smiled happily at my friends. “But still, we should try to destroy him or kill him so we can get home safely instead of being killed by the person who once cared about my sister and life.” I heard a laugh and it sounded like Nicki Minaj from Anaconda. I said to my friends, “Does anyone hear a Nicki Minaj laugh?”
“Huh?” said Scarlett.
“What are you talking about? Don’t you understand what I’m saying about Jack?”
“You said, ‘Does anyone hear a Nicki Minaj laugh?’”
Then it was my turn to say, “Huh?”
I sat down and started to cry. Sitting there, pouring out all my feelings to my friends, I could feel their warmth inside of me, running through my veins.
Suddenly, I felt heat, not caring heat but real heat like something was on fire. I looked down to see the fire that had been cracking moments ago form a circle around us as if it was made by a human, not nature. On the other side of the clearing, written in a scrawled handwriting, words started to appear in fire! Suddenly, a man in black rushed through the bushes and then disappeared.
“Guys!!! Look, there’s some words over there!!! I’m going to read them. ‘Hello. It’s me. I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do before you kill me. Hahahahaha!!!’”
“Oh god,” said Scarlett, shuddering. “That’s creepy.”
“It’s not the time to think about that! We have to get out of here!” shouted Sarah. Delilah and I nodded our heads.
“I got an idea,” said Delilah. “Let’s have Lila jump out and then we’ll throw everyone else over and she can catch them.”
“Okay,” I said, a little nervously. I jumped over and had just turned around, when Sarah came flying in my arms. I teetered a little bit and almost fell into the flames. Luckily, I kept my balance and held Sarah for a second. She felt as light as Mia, my sister way back home in Maine, where I wanted to be right now.
Maine was my home for my whole life. I had always wanted a sister and when Scarlett came along I acted as if it was the happiest thing that had ever happened to me. But after I realized what it was like to have a little sister, another one came along. That time I was unhappy to have another sister but realized, being 13 made it better. I got to play with her and put her to bed. It was amazing for me.
Suddenly, Scarlett connected with my arms and we went toppling to the ground. I stood up and helped Scarlett up, staring at her knotted ponytail.
Delilah jumped over the fire and we continued on our way. I stopped for a second, realizing something.
“Where’s Delilah?” I asked.
“She was just here a minu — ”
Suddenly, there was a piercing scream coming from the fire, a platform was lowering Delilah underground!!! We ran over to the platform and jumped in just as the door closed.
We ended up in a white chamber so bright it burned my eyes. Everything went white, then black, then white again. Finally, it went pitch black and I fainted.
* * *
I woke up and tried to stand but I toppled for the fact that I was tied up. I managed to turn around and saw my sister and two friends tied up next to me. Suddenly, I heard a booming voice that woke them up and Delilah screamed and started to cry.
I noticed Jack standing in a corner of the room. He noticed me and walked over.
“So, you thought you could fool me, eh?”
“I did. But I think you don’t know what’s going on,” I said, my voice as cold and hard as ice. I stared into his eyes. That gray color in his eyes staring at me coldly, like a popsicle on a winter day.
I tried to stand again, but my feet and hands were tied with a metal rope. I remembered the steel nail file I had in my pocket and slowly reached in, being careful not to get a rope burn. I transfered it from my right hand to my left hand and started filing the rope down.
After about twenty minutes of filing, both my hands and feet were free. I could see that Jack was just going up to his room and assumed it was nighttime. The girls noticed me and sat up. I first went over to Sarah, then Scarlett, then Delilah, filing their ropes down to the point that they could just pull them apart.
We ran to the circular elevator in the middle of the room and shut the doors, setting off an alarm. Luckily the elevator was quick and we made it up to earth, managing to jump into the bushes as Jack and his troops jumped out of the elevator. They looked around the area expecting us to have not gone far.
Not knowing where we had gone, they retreated. I climbed out of the bushes and Elizabeth was sitting there, crying!!
“Hi, Elizabeth. Are you OK!?!”
“No. I want Lila now!” she said.
“I’m Lila, silly,” I said, with a little giggle to go along with my words.
Elizabeth grinned and jumped into my arms.
“I missed you.”
I stared at my friends in bewilderment. How could she have gotten here!?! I guess Delilah was thinking the same thing because she said, “How’d she get here!?!”
After I put her down I heard sudden little whimper, like a miserable puppy. I turned to see Elizabeth crying in the corner of our tent, comforted by Scarlett. I could tell that she was asking for me even though I was listening to music.
“Hi, Elizabeth. You okay?”
“Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Okay… Mommy is going with Jack and they put me here because I was in time out and they said that I had to lure (I was surprised she knew what the word meant) you in and make him kidnap you but I want to stay with you and I stole a paper with the the stuff about me when I was born. Here.”
I looked at the names of her parents and gasped. Her parents’ names were my parents’ names!!! I had just realized that Elizabeth was my sister when Delilah dived into the tent and started screaming,
“Jack is here and he says he’s here to pick up his daughter, Elizabeth!!”
“I have an idea. Go find Sarah and then you guys can distract Jack and his henchmen. Elizabeth and I will run away and you can call us when they leave so I can tell you where we are,” I said, trying to sound calm.
“Good idea,” said Sarah, just appearing as if out of nowhere.
“Okay,” I said, grinning at my friends happily. “Let’s blow this popsicle stick!”
“Elizabeth, honey. Are you okay going in a backpack?” I questioned. As she nodded I lifted her in, zipped the backpack up, and opened it a little bit for air.
As we ran through the woods, I sat down and said to Elizabeth,
“Let’s go home.”
Suddenly, I heard a rumble. “Is that an earthquake?” I asked. I heard another rumble and then a shrill voice.
“We’re going to California in five minutes,” squealed Scarlett as the plane prepared for the runway.
“I’m going to sleep in two seconds,” I answered sarcastically, and fell asleep.
I woke up to Scarlett shaking me awake.
“Lila, there’s a three-year-old next to me and her mom dropped her off and said to take care of her girl, Elizabeth, and that she’ll be picked up after the flight.”
Suddenly, I knew what this was about. I said, “Oh no…”