In all honesty, I think the game, if it can even be called that, began the moment we piled out of the church’s van and onto the soaked parking lot of the Colorado Youth Missions Camp.
We stacked our suitcases, pillows, and sleeping bags against the wall inside of one of the large gyms that was a part of the lovely campus. Perky volunteers told us that our things would be taken to the other gym, all the way on the other side of the CYMC property. If I had known then what was coming later, I sure wouldn’t have parted with my suitcase so readily. I mean, my flashlight was in that thing and so were my gloves. Speaking of gloves, I guess I should probably mention that it was, in fact, around the middle of November when this happened, and rather cold.
The volunteers - I would have to guess that they were all still in college - got us to sit in little groups on the gym floor. I, of course, started to mutter about the obvious and unacceptable lack of chairs. Julian, the bearded guy who’s in charge of our youth group, gave me a side-ways glance and told me to shut up, only his exact words were nicer than that. Julian is a nice guy and, let’s face it folks, that’s pretty much all you’re ever going to know about him. Poor you.
But I digress. After being hushed by Julian, I proceed to make faces at Aoife Marcim. When I first met her, I about killed myself trying to pronounce her name, before I had a brilliant ah-ha moment and realized that it was simply "ee-fa". But the best part is that her twin’s name is also a killer. Lorelei, go figure, to this day I’m still not a hundred percent sure that I’m pronouncing it correctly. I bet you saw this coming, but as it happens, they’re not only twins, they’re identical twins with matching thin faces and narrow chins, not to mention their oh-so-bouncy red curls, although I’ve never figured out whether it curls naturally like that, or if those two get up at the crack of dawn to curl it. I don’t understand why they’d want to do that, but I guess that just shows you how weird girls really are.
There was one other girl in our youth group and she wasn’t quite as weird as the twins, but it was a close thing. Katie, who we would occasionally call Katie-Bug, was the youngest of us all, only a freshmen. She was also rather short. In fact, almost everything about her was short, her hair (which reminded me of the down you see on baby chicks, because it was yellow and sort of fluffy-looking) came only to her shoulders, and her attention span was short as well. It typically began to waver after about ten minutes or so. I think that night was the longest I’d ever seen her focus on one thing.
Katie had an older brother, Harper. He was one of those lucky people with a tall, muscular build, so much so in fact, that it was almost funny when he stood next to his little sister. I mean, he just towered over her.
Once all the youth groups had showed up that were going to that evening, the head guy, who did at some point introduce himself (his name was Zack) stood up and declared that we were now allowed to raid the food table. Although, I think the exact phrasing he used was
Okay, snack time everybody. Like what are we, preschoolers? On the other hand, I was more than happy to get some food into me, but like I said earlier, if I had known what was coming…
The selection of snack foods arranged on the table was not all that impressive. There were two large bowls of grapes and trays of crackers. And there was fruit punch, because everybody loves punching fruit. Do you see what I did there?
Post-snack we were called to sit on the floor in a semicircle in front of Zack. (Still no chairs in sight, much to my chagrin.) He explained in his big booming voice that we were now going to play a little game. Why he called it a little game, I have no idea. In my mind, it was the furthest thing from little once it began. The game, he explained, was to be played mostly by us. Emphasis on us, he said, not the adults, just us kids and the volunteers. By adults, I guess he meant all of the youth leaders, because they then filed out to have, I found out later, a meeting over pizza. If I had found out before, I probably would’ve been jealous.
The game, according to Zack, was fairly simple. It was a you against them type of thing, in which the
them group was very small. In fact it was made up entirely of volunteers. The
us group was actually made of several
us groups. Each youth group was assigned a volunteer, or two volunteers if it was large enough, and that made one
us group. Our volunteer was a tall girl with long, straight hair that was dark enough that it later blended into the trees so well that if it wouldn’t have been for her pale skin, it would’ve been almost impossible to see her in the darkness, because she was wearing all black. Her first name was Haleigh. If she had a last name, she didn’t share it. I guess they thought it would be funny to let the volunteers in on the rules of the game and how it worked, but to keep the kids in the dark, because once all the groups had their volunteers, Zack bid us farewell and good luck. He then opened the gym doors into the darkness outside and cut us loose. Hilarious right?
Haleigh promised to give us a broad overview of the rules as soon as we were somewhere fairly hidden away. She led us between the gym wall and the hedge that grew along it’s length. On the way there, she’d insisted that we walked because running, she said, was against the rules. Harper then suggested that we tie her up and leave her behind so that we wouldn’t have to hear any of the other stupid rules that we’d have to obey, but then Haleigh pointed out that we’d never be able to play the game, much less win it without her. Katie added that the whole no-running thing wasn’t so stupid because, really, it was far too dark out for us to be running around in a forested area like this one. Aoife was quick to throw in that, at any rate, none of us had anything to tie Haleigh up with and that Harper had been playing far too many video games lately. Lorelei and I were careful to stay out of it. I don’t know what Lorelei’s reason for staying out of it was, but I figured that if Haleigh worked for these people, then she probably knew some sweet cheats for this game.
Alright guys, Haleigh began, sitting with her back against the gym wall, her head outlined against by the light streaming through the gym windows.
Back when I came through here, they explained the game while we were all still inside where it was warm, but then when Zack took over, things kinda went downhill. These days the game is probably a little more dangerous than it was in my time, so please pay attention.
The woods is three-fourths of a mile long and on its other side, as you’ve probably heard is the gym containing all your possessions and whatnot. However we won’t be able to enter the gym until we’ve collected five slips of paper from safe houses all over the forest.
Why do we need safe houses? Are we really in danger? Katie interrupted, her eyes wide.
Haleigh smacked her forehead,
No, we’re not really in danger, but I’ve been explaining this game all wrong. I really wish Zack would’ve explained this part.
We are supposed to be a group of Anabaptists, you all know who they were right?
We all nodded, the anabaptists were one of Julian’s favorite topics.
Thats good, Haleigh said, nodding,
We’re on the run from the state officials trying to get from safe house to safe house without getting caught.
What if we get caught? Aoife asked,
Do we lose?
Nope, we only get sent to jail, and we’ll stay there until we can manage to get freed somehow, Haleigh said, smiling to herself as if she knew something about the jail that we didn’t know, which she did of course.
So do you remember how Zack mentioned the
We nodded, although she didn’t actually seem to be looking for an answer.
Some of the volunteers are roaming around hunting for us and the others, but not all of them will be able to capture us if they find us. There are three things that the volunteers could be: soldiers, spies and townspeople. The townspeople will give us hints if we can find them, but their hints may not always be helpful. The spies will also give us advice, but it will only be bad, and if soldiers are close by then they’ll call for them. The soldiers are the ones who make the arrests. They’re also the only ones who’ll be carrying around tiki torches, so they’ll be pretty easy to distinguish from the others, Haleigh finished and started to stand.
Wait, Lorelei held up a hand,
how do we find the safe houses?
And what did you mean about the game being more dangerous? I put in.
Haleigh sat back down.
The safe houses all have a fire of some sort burning near them, and when I said the game was more dangerous, I was referring to the fact that the forest is now totally overgrown. Zach laid off almost all of the grounds’ people and the few who didn’t get the boot don’t bother to keep the woods clear since we only use it once a year.
Oh boy, I said, standing,
Does anybody have a flashlight? I asked the group.
Cuz I feel like one of those would come in handy right about now.
Haleigh pulled a medium sized flashlight from one of her coat pockets and held it up,
If I had to guess, I’d say that this will probably be all the light we’ve got.
Well, you should probably guess then, because you’d be right, Harper said as he too stood up and the rest of the group followed suit.
Come on guys, what are we waiting for? Aoife asked as she headed off in the direction of the forest, leaving the rest of us with no choice but to follow her.
The forest was pretty normal as forests go. I mean it had trees, what else did you expect? Flying lima bean plants? No, as forests went, it was fairly stereotypical. The trees grew close to each other but not so close that the seven of us couldn’t pass through them with ease. The grass clearly hadn’t been cut in a while though, and the further in we got, the more dead branches were strewn across the ground. And it was really dark, have I mentioned that already?
I don’t think any of us kids knew which way to go, so I turned to Haleigh and asked her if she had any ideas on which way to go. She only shrugged and said,
This is your guys’ game, you pick where we go, and then she handed me her flashlight to hit her point home.
I waved the flashlight around,
So does anyone have any brilliant ideas?
Katie jumped up and down,
Oh, oh pick me. pick me! I have an idea.
I shone the flashlight on her,
Speak, young one, while the light of knowledge still shines upon you, I said solemnly.
Why don’t we just walk around in that general direction until we think find a safe house? She suggested, gesturing with her arm.
I must admit, I was a wee-bit skeptical about her plan, how could we be sure that there was a safe house in that direction? But it was the best we had at the moment, so I nodded and said,
That could work, does anyone have an issue with going that way?
No one did so off we went.
Since I had the flashlight, I ended up at front of our little group. After a few minutes of walking, I thought I could see someone moving around a little ways ahead of us. I turned around and whispered to the rest of the group,
There’s somebody up ahead.
So what should we do? Aoife whispered back.
Lorelei made a face,
Is it just one person or could it possibly be one of the other youth groups?
I’m not sure, I turned back around and shone the flashlight back in the direction we’d been heading. Harper grabbed my arm and pulled it down so that the ray of light was on my toes.
Don’t do that, they might see us, he hissed.
Yeah, because they totally haven’t already.
Her timing was impeccable. The moment the words had left her lips, a flashlight beam fell onto her face. She scrunched up her eyes and looked away.
Who goes there? A girl’s voice called through the darkness.
It is I, the dashing and handsome Prince Charming, come to carry you away fair maiden, I cried out, hoping that when the girl got closer, she’d think it was Harper who’d replied.
Oh hush, Nicholas, you’ll be a prince when pigs fly, The girl answered, the laughter in her voice audible.
Oops, I whispered, winking at Aoife,
Time to face the music.
I turned around and held my hands in the air,
You’ve got me. I surrender!
By that point, the other youth group had reached us, and the girl, Peyton, was close enough that I could see her rolling her eyes at me.
Okay, you goof ball, do you know where the next safe house is?
I shook my head,
Have you guys found one already?
Yeah, have you not?
Okay, well, I guess, we’ll leave you to it. Come on guys, lets go check over that way, and with that Peyton’s youth group moved away.
Well, I guess we were going in the right direction after all, Harper said, shrugging,
But we should probably be more careful. Lets go.
I handed him the flashlight,
How about you take a turn with this thing now.
I moved back to walk with Katie.
Hey, Katie-Bug, you having fun yet?
Well, nothing super amazing has happened yet, although I have learned that you should not be in charge, because you’ll surrender to the first girls we come across.
I nudged her playfully,
Thats not fair and you know it.
Yeah, I know, I was just teasing you.
We hadn’t been walking long when we saw a fire burning away in the distance. It was too low to be the fire from a guards torch so we hurried towards it and so found our first safe house.
An older man with no hair and a pot belly sat in front of a small camp fire warming his hands and staring off into the distance. He wore brown pants and a loose white shirt. Over both of those he had a large, white apron. To me it looked like he’d walked out of one of those old fashioned movies that they show on TV.
Hello, Haleigh called softly,
We were wondering if you could help us.
The man slowly turned his head to look at us, then he nodded.
Yes, he said,
I will help you I think, but first let me tell you a story.
Once, not too many years ago, I think it would’ve been in 1538, a young couple fled from the Netherlands to England because of the way that they chose to worship. Anneken Jans of Rotterdam and Arent Jans de Lind were their names. After a time they had a little baby boy named Isaiah. Then Arent died and Anneken decided that it was time for her and Isaiah to go back to the Netherlands. Anneken, though did not live there long; she was arrested for singing hymns in the street and was eventually drowned at Rotterdam.
I believe it was two months between her arrest and her execution and her baby Isaiah was with her in jail for that whole time. When Anneken’s execution date arrived, she came to the site carrying her baby and a small purse. She offered both to anyone who would promise to care for the boy who was then fifteen months old.
My wife and I already had six children when this happened and my wife would’ve told you that she thought that was enough, but I took the young Isaiah in anyway and we raised him as one of our own. He went on to become the mayor of Rotterdam.
And he was always kind to a poor baker like me, I pray that you will also be kind to those you meet along your way.
And with that he rose from his seat by the fire and handed us a small piece of paper.
We took the paper from him and thanked him and started walking again. The flashlight had switched hands and now Aoife was in the lead. Lorelei walked by her side and their shoulders were shaking at some inside joke.
As we walked, I took a good look around me. Or I should say, as good a look possible under the circumstances. The moon was out, but it was only about half full and clouds kept floating in front of it. It was also sprinkling; a cold sort of drizzle that left me wishing for a heavier coat and, you guessed it, my gloves, which were sitting comfortably in my suitcase in that other gym which we could only enter once we’d collected five colorful slips of paper from all the safehouses. I could tell that I wasn’t the only one who was cold. Katie kept starting to shiver and then she would sigh and relax her shoulders and for a few moments she’d look as if she were totally warm but then she’d start shivering all over again.
But anyway, back to my heart-wrenching description of the forest. In this part of the state the trees were known for being tall and straight. They were the type of pine trees that made me think of an adventure movie where the hero has to fight off a pack of wolves while saving the world. I loved the different shapes that the trees made against the darkness when the the flashlight shone on them, the shadows dancing in the light. Along with being wet, the night was also rather windy and the branches rustling together was oddly comforting.
It wasn’t long after that that we found the next house. It was a small group of people sitting under a small bridge that went across a dry creek bed. We went and sat down next them and a young girl told us the story of a boy named Simon.
When I was growing up, I knew a boy named Simon who lived down the street. His father, who was called Joriaen Simons, was often in trouble with the law because he was one of those anabaptist but I don’t think he was a bad man. He seemed very brave to me, and so did his son.
In fact, perhaps Simon was even braver than his father because Simon had none of his father’s age and experience but was left to care for his family when his father was eventually killed by the government officials.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to take care of my family all on my own. The thought made me shudder, it seemed like that would be a huge job.
They gave us their slip of paper and we moved on.
I don’t know how much later it was after that it was when we found the third safe house, because somehow all of us had managed to leave our phones in our bags. This safe house was different than the previous two. Instead of just being people around a fire, it was a large pole in the ground that had been set aflame and all around the pole were people who just stared at it. My first impression was that the pole wasn’t supposed to be burning and that was the reason behind some of their horrified expressions. I thought that they were worried that the fire would spread and burn down the whole forest, but then I noticed that around of edge of the small clearing containing the pole and people were metal buckets and what else would you have in buckets like those besides water or sand to use to deal without of hand sparks? They motioned for us to come join them around the fire and as we moved to sit with them one of the men began to tell us the story of a woman who had recently been arrested for being anabaptist.
Maeyken Wens had been her name, and she had been burned on a stake similar to this one. Two of her sons had been present when she was burned, her oldest, Adriaen Wens, and her youngest, Hans. When she’d been brought out by the guards, Adriaen had fainted and not regained consciousness until the crowd had left and there was nothing left of his mother but a pile of ash.
Maeyken had been burned with a tongue screw to keep her silent and Adriaen went up to the ashes and poked through them until he found it. He then kept the screw in remembrance of his mother.
As the man spoke, I started off into the fire thinking how horrible it would’ve been to watch that and I was glad that Adriaen hadn’t ended up watching it.
When they had finished their story, we got up and turned to go. The man who had told the story to us held out a slip of paper. Haleigh took it from him, which surprised me. Until now, she had totally kept to herself and forced us to make every decision ourselves. Her eyes glittered in the fire light and I occurred to me that maybe she was tearing up. I personally just felt numb, but maybe that was just because of the cold.
Lorelei had the flashlight now, Aoife must have passed it on to her at some point when we were sitting around the fire.
Well people, which way now? Lorelei asked.
Hey there’s a guy over there, Harper whispered, pointing to a solitary man in black heading towards us through the woods.
Oh shoot! Aoife burst out,
What if he’s a guard?
I scrunched my eyebrows together,
Don’t the guards carry torches? I asked.
I think we’d better not risk it, Haleigh muttered under her breath, but if anyone besides me heard, I couldn’t tell.
By that point the man was close enough that if he was a guard it was too late for us to make a get away, because of that stupid no running rule.
Hey! The man in black yelled at us,
What do you think you’re doing roaming around the forest at night?
Katie’s eyes got wide,
What are we supposed to tell him? she asked.
I suggest we tell him the truth, Haleigh began.
Harper whirled on her,
What? Why on Earth should we do that? Even if he’s not a guard, he could be a spy.
In the light of the flashlight I could see Haleigh rolling her eyes.
Well, for one, she said,
he is probably a guard otherwise he wouldn’t have asked what we were doing. And for two, if and when we get arrested, we’ll get out of jail quicker if we tell the truth right off the bat.
And then it was too late to strategize any longer, the stranger was upon us.
If you folks aren’t willing to tell me your business, then I’m just going to have to take you to jail. Come with me, he barked. And so we did.
As we were following him through the woods, I couldn’t help but notice he wore boots made of tennis shoes and pieces of brown felt taped around his legs. It could be that I only noticed this because Lorelei kept shining the flashlight on them and snickering with Aoife.
Hey man, nice boots, I hollered at him.
He didn’t even flinch, darn it. I’d hoped for a reaction, but then again maybe I didn’t actually want a reaction because this guy was a guard and all. Who knew what these guards were authorized to do, especially since I remembered what Haleigh had said about how this version of the game was slightly rougher and more dangerous.
The guard led us into a long, low building made of bricks. The glass doors led to a long dark hallway. We followed him through them and down a long, narrow hallway until we came to a set of steep stairs leading into the building’s basement.
At the bottom of the stairs it was completely dark except the few lanterns that were hung along the walls and there must have been a blacklight somewhere because the white stripes on Aoife’s coat were glowing.
The guard brought us through to the end of the room and locked us in the corner. In the corner across from us there was a woman in a white dress who seemed to be chained to a bench. She asked us if we would sing for her.
Lorelei, who I knew didn’t like singing, wrinkled her nose,
Do we have to? she asked softly.
Who knows how long this lady’s been down here, it’d be a nice way to cheer her up.
But this is only a game, Aoife pointed out,
So she can’t have been down here that long.
Haleigh shook her head,
But thats not the point, you’re supposed to pretend that we’re not playing a game and that this is all real.
I think we should sing, Katie said quietly.
Yeah but thats just because you’re afraid of the dark, Harper cut in.
I looked down at Katie, she was so much shorter than me, that it was sometimes almost scary,
Are you really? I asked, genuinely curious. Katie didn’t strike me as the type of girl who’d be afraid of the dark.
She scowled me,
No, of course not.
Alright, I said shrugging,
Lets sing anyway.
How ‘bout ‘This Little Light of Mine? Katie suggested.
That’s pretty clever.
And so we sang ‘This Little Light of Mine’ in the dark dungeon at the tops of our lungs. It didn’t sound pretty, thats for sure, but somehow it was beautiful nevertheless. I could see Aoife smiling to herself as she sang and even Lorelei didn’t look as upset to be singing as she could’ve.
The moment we stopped singing, the guard in front of our door fell to the ground and a bright light started flashing.
Quick, get away while you still can! The other prisoner cried.
We did as she said without hesitation, hurrying out of the cell and back up the stairs. The light from the strobe light sitting alone one of the walls gave everything a sort of slow motion feel as it blinked on and off.
When we reached the top of the stairs, we looked frantically around to check for guards. Thankfully there weren’t any.
This way, Haleigh motioned down along, dimly lit hallway, and we all began to follow her down it.
We were maybe half way down the hallway, when I saw movement up ahead. Lorelei, Aoife and Katie screamed as two guards jumped out into the hallway just in front of us. As we turned and ran back down the hallway (yes we ran, and Haleigh did not say a word about it), I had to chuckle to myself, because honestly I’d been expecting something like that to happen. I mean, a long dark hallway is a great place for scaring people so why pass up an opportunity like that one?
When I looked behind me, the guards weren’t chasing us, I guess they’d hidden themselves away again and were waiting for their next victims to come along.
Once we were outside again, Haleigh took over control of the flashlight and we headed back into the woods before more guards could come through with another batch of prisoners and lock us back up again. Haleigh said that we’d have to be really lucky for the Holy Spirit to bust us out of jail twice. Apparently these days the Holy Spirit was represented by a strobe light.
We made our way along a narrow path that Haleigh had found. It was still really cold but at least the rain had stopped. Katie was walking beside me again and out of the corner of my eye I could see her shiver from time to time. I hoped she wouldn’t get sick from this.
Haleigh must’ve been thinking the same thing as me because from time to time she would look back at Katie and frown to herself in a worried kind of way.
Katie did you not bring a thicker jacket? Haleigh finally asked.
Katie shook her head,
I didn’t realize that we’d be outside for so long, she said quietly.
Haleigh pursed her lips,
Are any of the rest of you uncomfortably cold? she asked.
Well, I’m super hungry, Aoife said.
Haleigh rolled her eyes,
Teenagers, she muttered.
Well, actually I’m cold and hungry too and I really don’t like the way Zack’s chosen to run this, so lets just hurry through and finish, eh?
Won’t that defeat of purpose of the game? Harper asked, crossing his arms.
Well, tell me what all have you gotten out of the game so far? Haleigh asked coming to a complete stop and turning around to face him.
Um, well, I feel like all the stories that they told us were about children, or at least had children in them, so maybe this Zack guy was going for a ‘children were tough back then so man up everybody’ type thing.
That’s what you got out of a baby boy who was raised by a baker because his mother was killed by the government? I asked somewhat skeptically.
Harper glared at me, but I doubted that he was actually angry. It took a lot to make Harper angry.
Alright, so what did you get out of all this, hmmm? Harper demanded.
Okay, so maybe he was just a teensy bit angry, but he’d cope.
Um, I began, stalling for time. What I really needed was a good textbook answer that was vague enough to not be wrong but that made enough sense that someone would agree with me.
Yes, ‘um’ is a very good start, pray continue, Aoife said teasingly.
I’m really rather curious about what’s going to follow your oh-so-intelligent ‘um’.
I just laughed at her,
Well, my dear Aoife, I was going to say that I thought that I it was interesting that someone always died because of their beliefs, because they were anabaptist. And they always left someone behind, so it was like they were putting God first and all they’re other family members second, right?
Yeah, you could say that, do any of you others have an opinion?
Katie tilted her head,
Do you mean like an opinion in general, or like an opinion on what Nicholas just said, or an opinion on what we’re supposed to get out of this game? Because I have plenty of that first type of opinion but not so much the second and third.
Sorry, that was a little vague, I meant like an opinion on what you’re supposed to get out of the game.
Katie shrugged, it looked like she was done talking for now, which was fine. I’d noticed Katie was much quieter than her brother. Sometimes it was weird how different they were. He was so big and loud while she was small and often edging on shy.
No one answered Haleigh so finally she shrugged,
Well, think on it, ‘kay?
And then she turned back around and we started off once more.
The next safe house was different than its predecessors in that you could actually pretend that it was a house. It was really more of a shed, but I guess if you had to live in it, you would prefer to call it a house.
There were candles lit in all the windows and through the open door I could see that there was a fire in the fireplace. A voice from inside the house invited us in.
The first thing I noticed as I entered the shed/house was how warm it was. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it was deliciously warm. Or maybe I wouldn’t because I was super hungry and the word ‘delicious’ made me think of food.
There was only one person inside, an old man with a cane leaning against the bench beside him.
Sit down, sit down, we haven’t got all day, the old man said in wheezy voice.
They told me you would need to hear this story so sit down and listen up.
I thought about saying,
Yeah, yeah we’re sitting down, no need to say it three times, but then I thought better of it and sat down quietly on one of the benches. Just because the old man had come across as grouchy in the first minute we’d been here didn’t necessarily mean that he was.
This is how the old man’s story went:
Jacob Van Den Wege I remember was another one of those stupid Anabaptists who managed to get himself killed ‘humph’. I don’t know why he had to be so public about his faith if he knew it was gonna get him in trouble, the old man then paused to let out a wheezy cough.
Jacob left three little children behind when the government finally got around to killing him, and he had a wife too, I bet she wasn’t too thrilled about having to raise them little ones on her own. I heard he wrote his family a letter and didn’t even mention the kids by name, he just called ‘em the old man paused to cough again,
his three children. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that if I was about to die, I’d want to call my children by name one last time. He finished with an emphatic shake of his cane.
Then he took a slip of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Lorelei who had the misfortune to be sitting next to him.
Now y’all better get out of here before the guards come by and arrest us all, shoo, shoo, and he waved his arms at us as though he was simply shooing away some pesky birds.
One glance at Haleigh’s face told me that she hadn’t thought much of the old man’s message and the moment were all out of the shed/house she started her rant.
What on earth were they thinking when they assigned him to that story? ‘Stupid anabaptists’ my foot! The point is to be teaching you all how brave the anabaptists were and how much they loved God, not that they were stupid people who abandoned their children!
Katie patted her on the shoulder,
It’s okay, we’ve got you to straighten us out.
Yeah there’s no way we’ll get confused with you around to letting off steam out about how wrong all of this is. She held up her hands,
Okay, that was an exaggeration and I meant it in a good way.
Oh thanks, Haleigh said, and I’m not sure but she may have rolled her eyes at Aoife.
So, I said, trying to change the subject,
Do you by any chance, know where the last safe house is? Because I think I just felt a rain drop and if it started raining again, that’ll make me really sad and wet and plus I’m awfully hungry.
Hear, hear, Lorelei said raising a fist,
Lets finish quick and go eat someplace warm. I lost proper feeling in my feet along time ago.
Me too, Katie added.
Yeah that sounds like a good idea to me, the safe house is on the other side of the little stream that flows through the far edge of the forest, so it’ll be fairly close to the other gym. Come on troops, lets go finish this.
Thankfully, the rain didn’t start up again, so maybe the drop I’d felt had just been from a tree.
It took us about fifteen minutes to find the stream and when we did, we were in for a surprise when Haleigh shone the flashlight on it.
I thought you said it was a small stream, I complained,
I don’t know about you but I took that to mean a slow, shallow thing that would I would maybe be able to jump across and so not get my shoes any wetter.
Haleigh sucked in a breath,
Yeah, I guess all the rain earlier today sort of flooded it a bit.
A bit? Harper said,
That may be the understatement of the year.
And it really was. The ‘small stream’ was currently about as far across as Katie was tall, so maybe five feet or so, and it was following fairly fast for a stream. As far as I could tell it was fairly shallow. Or at least I hoped it was shallow because in the dark it would not be fun to try and cross it if it came up to my waist. Not to mention it’d be dangerous.
There was a little bit of moonlight slipping through the trees, but not a whole lot. If the flashlight fell in that would be bad.
Okay, um how about we go across as a group, that way if you trip, someone can grab you before you float off downstream, Haleigh said starting off down the bank.
She was shining the flashlight almost directly at her feet as she took the first few steps, so I could see that the water was already swirling around her lower calf. So much for a super shallow stream.
She turned around and shone the flashlight on us,
Mkay guys, the current is a little bit on the strong side so be careful. Try to stay right behind me and if anything happens just holler.
Then she turn the flashlight back on the water, and started walking slowly across.
Harper and I went next with the three girls just behind us. The water was unbelievably cold (well I guess it was believable what with the air being cold and all that) but I’d been hoping against hope that the water would be at the very least warmer than the air. Unfortunately it was much colder and I joined the ‘I can’t quite feel my feet’ club after taking a handful of steps.
It really sucks that there’s no bridge, I muttered.
Doesn’t it though? Harper replied.
My right foot brushed against something and I stumbled before regaining my balance. I turned around,
Be careful, I think there’s a branch or something right here, I told the girls pointing to where I thought the thing I’d tripped over was.
The girls were walking side by side with Aoife behind Harper, who was on my left, and Katie and Lorelei were behind me with Katie sticking out on the right, so it was really her that I was warning but when she nodded her response to me I wasn’t quite sure that she’d heard me, she was busily telling something to Lorelei, but I turned back around away and kept going.
A few moment later I heard Katie shriek as she tripped over the branch that I’d just warned her about, but when Haleigh turned the flashlight on her I could tell that she was laughing and that Lorelei had managed to catch her before she hit the water.
Haleigh turned around without saying a word and we continued wading across. She had reached the opposite bank of the stream and Harper and I were close when Katie screamed again. I wouldn’t have turned around again except that this time her scream was followed by a splash.
Harper instantly spun around and hurried back to the girls who weren’t as close behind us as they should’ve been. I could tell that Haleigh had also turned back around because the flashlight was trained on the empty space next to Lorelei where Katie should’ve been. And then the beam of light moved to the water as Katie’s grimacing face surfaced.
She spat out a mouth full of water and tried to stand back up, but when she tried to put her weight on her right leg, she grimaced and fell back into the stream.
Are you hurt? Harper asked, grabbing her arm and helping her back up.
Yeah maybe, my leg really hurts.
Harper bent down and picked her up. In the white beam of the flashlight, it was too easy to see the dark stream of blood running down her leg.
Beside me, Haleigh sucked in her breath,
Oh crap, She muttered,
That does not look good. Then louder she said,
Quickly everyone, the sooner we can get her to the safe house, the better.
Harper crossed the distance to the edge of the stream quicker than was probably safe and the twins were right behind him.
Come on, the safe house should be fairly close, Haleigh said, leading us off again.
I could Katie muttering under her breath behind me, I couldn’t make out everything she said but there were a lot of
That hurtss and
The final safe house was an open air gazebo. Its soul inhabitant was a plump middle aged woman whose eyes widen when she saw all the blood on Katie’s leg.
Oh my, she said,
That doesn’t look good at all. What happened to her?
We were crossing the stream and she tripped on something and got cut. Harper explained.
Well good heavens! The woman exclaimed,
Why on earth didn’t you use the bridge?
There’s a bridge? I asked, looking at Haleigh.
It was a long ways out of the way. Its all the way over there, She pointed to her left.
And I didn’t realise that the crossing would be so difficult.
Harper snorted and looked down at his little sister,
Well Katie-Bug, how do like that?
I think I’d like it better if my leg didn’t hurt so bad, She said apologetically.
The woman had moved closer to Katie and was getting a better look at her leg. She shook her head. That really doesn’t look good dear, I think you should hurry on to the gym right away. Here’s my paper, you know how to get there yes? She asked as she handed Haleigh the fifth slip of paper.
Yeah, I do. Thanks.
We walked through the woods at a much quicker pace, which was fine with me but I’m not sure how the twins felt about it. They were lagging behind the rest of us and I could only hope that they didn’t get lost because Harper and Haleigh seemed so intent on getting Katie medical attention that they probably wouldn’t have noticed if the twins disappeared.
Thankfully, we reached the gym before the twins lagged too far behind. It was amazing how dedicated to protocol the people at the gym doors were. They wouldn’t let us in until Haleigh had given them our five papers even though they could clearly see how badly Katie’s leg was bleeding. Needless to say, that didn’t help Haleigh’s mood and as soon as we were in the gym, she started yelling for someone to call an ambulance. It wasn’t half hearted yelling either, I’d say it was definitely the full blown yell of an angry mama bear.
Zack rushed over to us,
Goodness, Haleigh calm down. Someone is making the call, now what’s your problem?
Haleigh thrust Katie at him, her leg dripping blood onto the gym floor,
Can you not tell?
Zack swallowed nervously,
Oh yes, I see, um why don’t you set her down somewhere?
Hm, do we have any of those gym mats that would be almost comfortable to lay on? Haleigh asked.
Zack nodded and pointed to the far corner where there was a pile of mats stacked against the wall. Haleigh hurried over to them and lay Katie down on top of them.
Katie looked up at her and scrunched up her face,
I’m making a mess right?
Yeah Katie-Bug, you are. It’ll be okay though.
Yeah don’t worry, the ambulance will be here soon and once they’ve whisked you away, the rest of us will clean up your mess just like always, Aoife said, winking at Katie.
How bad do you think my leg is? Katie asked, her eyes worried as she looked at us.
Well, I began,
I think your leg has misbehaved fairly badly, but I think if you’re lucky they won’t cut it off as punishment.
Katie stuck her tongue out at me.
No, be serious Nicholas.
I pretended to be offended,
Me? When am I ever not serious.
Lorelei, stepped in front of me,
I think you’ll be fine once they’ve put some stitches in you, she said gently.
I’ve never had to get stitches before, Katie said,
Does it hurt?
Eh, I wouldn’t know, but I bet its not too bad.
Since Lorelei had clearly shut me out of their conversation by standing directly in front of me, I figured I might as well try talking to someone else.
Sometimes when I pray I like to imagine that the top of my skull opens up like a set of trap doors and my thoughts float up out through them and into Heaven as a gray mass. And this time as I prayed for Katie, I imagined that the thought mass landed in God’s lap and He looked down at them and laughed and said,
Oh Nicholas, of course I’ll help Katie.
As I said my silent ‘Amen’, I looked over Lorelei’s shoulder at Katie. She was laughing at something Aoife had said and caught me watching her.
What? She asked, smiling,
I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me.
I grinned back at her and nodded,
Yeah, I know.
Then the gym doors banged open and men from the ambulance streamed in. They came over to Katie and made the rest of us back away from her as the did their thing. Then they put her on a stretcher and lifted her away. As I watched the ambulance drive away, I felt sure that Katie was all right.
She was going to be okay.