The Calling Page 11

“That’s what you get for trying to take charge,” Hayley said.

“No kidding.”

We made it to a grassy clearing, but Corey was in a lot of pain. Walking was only making it worse.

“Getting to a higher spot to look around is a good idea,” I said after we sat him down. “We’ll find a tree while you rest—”

“Whoa, wait.” Corey started struggling to his feet. “I’m okay. I’ll be slow, but I can move.”

“He doesn’t want to be alone,” Hayley said. “You know how he is. Leave him alone and he discovers he’s not as much fun as he thinks he is.”

Corey shot her the finger. She was right, though—Corey really wasn’t one for enjoying his own company. People seemed to feed his bottomless well of energy.

“I’ll stay with him,” Nicole said.

Daniel nodded. “Hayley and Sam, you guys should stay, too. Maya’s going to be the one scaling a tree. Kenjii and I will stand point, but everyone else should rest. We won’t go far. Plenty of trees nearby.”

Hayley agreed to stay behind. Sam did not. Daniel seemed annoyed, but she didn’t get the hint. In the end, it was easiest to let her come.

“There’s something I need to talk to you guys about,” Sam said once we were out of earshot of the others. “About what happened on the helicopter.”

“You did an amazing job,” Daniel said. “If it wasn’t for you…”

“None of us would be here,” I said.

She went scarlet at that, and trudged along for a few minutes before she continued, “It’s not that. It’s about … when the pilot was knocked out. What you did, Daniel.”

“Daniel didn’t get within three feet of him,” I said.

“That’s what I mean. All he did was yell.”

“I must have startled him,” Daniel said.

Except that Daniel had done the same thing when we were escaping the fire. Whatever it was, he hadn’t just yelled loud enough to startle the men. Not when it happened twice. But Daniel stared at us with honest confusion.

“It’s not important right now,” I said.

“Actually, it might…” Sam shook her head. “You’re right. It can wait.”


WE DIDN’T GO FAR from the others. My sense of direction in the forest was uncanny, as my dad always said—along with my ability to find my way back to a spot—but I wasn’t relying on that now.

I stopped under a huge tree and said, “I’m going up. I’ll look for lights.”

Daniel boosted me to the nearest branch. Tree climbing here isn’t easy. Many redwoods are like telephone poles vaulting to a canopy of greener limbs way over our heads. It’s a matter of finding the right tree to shimmyup.

What made this climb difficult wasn’t the tree itself. I’d spent the last couple of hours trying to forget what happened on the helicopter. What happened to Rafe.

That’d been easy when we had to keep everyone moving forward. But when I went up the tree, it reminded me of our climbs together. I could hear his laughter, feel that strange pulse, as if I could sense his heart beating. He seemed to be right beside me, and if I just looked over, I’d see him there, grinning and—

More than once, I almost gave up and slid back down. Told them I couldn’t do it. I was too tired. The tree was too difficult.

I let a few tears fall. I caught my breath. And I kept going. Rafe had died to save me, and now I had to help save everyone else.

I climbed as high as I could, past the point where I heard Sam say to Daniel, “Should she be going that high?”

Near the tree’s crown, I looked out and my heart plummeted into my soaked sneakers. Trees. That’s what I saw. An endless expanse of inky black trees.

I stayed up there for about ten minutes, straining for any sign of light, even the flicker of headlights on a distant road. Then I climbed back down.

“It’s dark,” I said, after I leaped to the ground.

“Um, yeah,” Sam said. “It’s night. How the hell you expected to see anything—” She stopped as she realized what I was really saying. “Oh.”

“I’ll try again in the morning.”

But we all knew that if there’d been any houses or inhabited cabins nearby, I should have been able to spot light.

We trudged back to the others and told them.

“There must be people out there somewhere,” I said when we finished. “We’re not in the middle of Alaska. The nearest house can’t be more than ten, fifteen kilometers away.”

“Which Corey can’t walk with his busted knee,” Hayley said.

“I know. That’s why we’ll split up in the morning. I can move fast—fifteen kilometers isn’t even a half-marathon.”

“I’ll go with you,” Daniel said. “I can keep up. For tonight, though, we need to get someplace more sheltered.”

I nodded. “We’ll need to find a stream, too. Fresh water.”

“You mean we have to go farther into the forest?” Corey said. “We got off that island for you, but I’m not sure we should be hiding so far away that we won’t see a real rescue team if they come.”

And so it began. Round two of the great debate. Once again, we split along the same lines—Sam, Daniel, and I wanted to push on, while Corey, Nicole, and Hayley wanted to stay. Daniel could have swayed Corey. But he was injured and we couldn’t bring ourselves to insist he tramp through the forest in agony.

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