Ouch. My nose. Ouch. My word count.
“Jesus fucking christ what just touched my foot!” screamed Francine. “It didn’t feel like a tree. I know what kicking a tree feels like. I’ve kicked like ten trees tonight. There are way too many trees in this forest, and I have had it with them.”
“It’s a forest, Francine, there are going to be trees,” said the voice of Darian right behind her.
“You know Darian, you’re making it very hard to continue being madly in love with you,” Francine screamed.
“Madly in what?” Darian asked.
“I’m not over you!” Francine screamed, but not in a romantic comedy way.
Francine screamed in an ‘I’m angry and screaming things for the sake of screaming things way. It was loud, intense, and made Darian more concerned for his own safety than it made him confused about Francine’s romantic interests.
“That was my face!” Finn shouted back.
“Oh my god, it was Finn’s face!” Francine shouted to Darian.
“I can hear, Francine,” said Darian.
Darian moved his arms about to ensure that he didn’t run into any trees himself as he moved towards the voices of Finn and Francine. Francine, having been closer to Finn and his face, correctly identified that Finn was on the ground and kneeled down. The ground and leaves she knelt on felt surprisingly dry. Darian, who was farther away, was unable to identify the elevation of the source of the sound, and—having not been notified that Francine too would be crouching down—was clotheslined by Francine, toppling over her and onto Grant, who finally woke up.
“No, Mom, I don’t want to go to school. Just five more minutes,” Grant murmured, turning over to his other side.
He wasn’t quite capable of turning over to his other side, however, due to the cluster of bodies that had manifested.
Robin, floating above, watched on with both concern, amazement, and a bit of entertainment? Like when one is watching one of those reality television shows where danger is an element and people do get legitimately injured from time to time, and it looks like someone might have really done themselves in. You know they’re not dead or anything—the broadcasting company likely would not have aired the footage were they to pass away—but you still worry about the wellbeing of the character you’ve been following for such a long time.
Finn rubbed his eyes with the edge of his sleeve and opened them as wide as he could. They still stung, in part due to the liquid and in part due to the foot he had just received to the face, but at this point he was in ‘keep them open and maybe it will fade’ mode. The faint outline of Francine appeared in front of him, which he viewed critically. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Nothing really seemed right today. Come to think of it, there was a large gap between the rainstorm and running back into Grant that he couldn’t quit piece together. It was wild and concerning.
What was concerning to Robin was that, of all the bodies that had found their way into this part of the woods, none of them were Maria. And Robin didn’t want to have to explain away both wasting all that extra potion, and for nothing proper to come out of it. Robin zoomed back up to the top of the hill and called out in the voice of Patrick
“Hello? Is anyone there? The cabins this way!”
Darian’s ears perked up at the word cabin. He got to his feet.
“Did anyone else hear that?” Darian asked.
Finn was more concerned with his face to respond, and Francine was too concerned with what she had done to Finn’s face to respond. Darian gave a half-hearted “let’s go this way,” and disappeared up the hill.
“Francine, is that you?”
“Yes, me and my shoe,” Francine replied. “Sorry about that. Why are you two on the ground. Is Grant hurt?”
The weight of Darian’s body on his own now gone, Grant had tossed himself gently back into the deep dark waters of sleep.
“No, we’re fine. I mean, I’ve been better. Thanks for kicking me and all.”
Francine apologized wordlessly with her face.
“We just went down for a nap,” Finn said. “Boy are you a sight for sore eyes.”
Francine smiled, happy that Finn was immediately over the whole ‘kicked in the face’ thing, and glad that she had found more people.
“Like really,” Finn said. “Have I ever told you how gorgeous your face is?”
Francine blushed, though her blush was not visible as it was basically pitch-black out save the light of the moon and the stars.
“Oh hush, I look like trash,” Francine responded. “I look like, hell, everyone here looks like a literal wet rat.”
“Well then you’re doing the wet rat cause a great service by how gorgeous you look,” Finn said.
Francine took a step back. Well, she was kneeling down by Finn’s side, so it wasn’t really a step. More like a scootch backwards aided by the layer of dry leaves between her knees and the grass. She was becoming concerned that the foot to Finn’s face had done a little more damage than just a shock.
“Can you tell me what your name is?” Francine asked.
“Finn,” Finn replied.
“Where are you right now?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“And what time is it?”
“My Fitbit is dead.”
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Your really are hilarious Francine. It’s pitch black, how would I be able to tell that?”
Francine was very poor at administering these kinds of tests. In her defense this was the first time that she had needed to do so in a dark mysterious forest, and also the first time she had needed to do so in any shape or form, so to suggest that her performance in conducting this test was indicative of her general ability or value as an individual would be disingenuous at best.
Finn’s responses to her in general were, however, quite indicative of some kind of serious head trauma, and that wasn’t good for anyone. Francine didn’t want to be that person, specifically that person who drop kicked the son of the ex-wife of the guy who ran the whole music festival straight in the face. Though, at this point it was starting to seem more like an episode of naked and afraid and less like a music festival. Francine had yet to hear any music, and she surely was not feeling festive. Festive was the last word she would have used to describe her current feeling and situation.
“Okay, yes, I’m pretty,” Francine said using her best ‘don’t challenge Grandma’s reality. She has dementia and we don’t want her getting angry at us’ voice. “Would you like to go looking for the cabin again? I think I may have heard a voice out in the distance.”
This was a half lie and half truth. She thought she had heard a voice, but she wouldn’t’ have been confident enough in that memory to share that information earnestly with someone who hadn’t been kicked in the face silly.
“Wherever you go, I go,” said Finn, standing up. “That’s how love works, Francine.”
“Jesus Christ, Finn? Finn.”
Francine abandoned hope and put a condescending hand on Finn’s shoulder. A happy chill ran through Finn’s body and he smiled the wide joyful smile of a dumb old dog.
“You’re dating Grant, remember?” she said, pointing to the sleeping body on the ground. “Actually, no! You’re engaged to Grant! Remember that? You’re literally engaged to someone else.”
“Oh my god, you got back with Darian didn’t you,” Finn said.
His eyes became wide with worry. He looked truly terrified.
“What? No, no I’m not. Why would you think that?” Francine said, now becoming acutely aware that, not only was she not dating Darian, but Darian was also nowhere to be found.
“You finally got Darian back, and that’s why you’re pushing me away,” Finn said. “That makes so much sense. That piece just keeps jumping back and forth. First you, then us, and now right back to you. I’ll kill the guy.”
Finn puffed his chest and started walking away in absolutely no direction. Francine lunged forward and grabbed his wrist. Finn twisted his arm and pulled it out of Francine’s grasp in that way that they teach you to do in lifeguard lesson’s so the person you’re saving doesn’t end up drowning the both of you.
“In order for us to be together, love, Darian can not be part of this picture,” Finn said. “I will return.”
And Finn sprinted away into the distance.
“Jesus Christ,” Francine huffed.
She had had it at this point. She knew that Finn didn’t mean what he was saying. It was the head trauma speaking, and she hated that the first time she had heard someone speak to her in that way, with such love and conviction, had to come out of the mouth of someone with severe head trauma. Specifically, severe head trauma that she had inflicted. A deep deep recess in her mind said ‘well, if things don’t work out, maybe this is a good last resort strategy if you’re single at 40’ which she shook away immediately. Now exhausted, sad, and completely ignoring the still-sleeping body of Grant, Francine stormed away in the direction of where she thought that voice had come from earlier.
This was not what Robin had planned. This also wasn’t the end of the world, as Robin could still splash some potion on one of the others, but they worried that Patrick might realize the unnecessary actions that they had carried out. They were also in uncharted waters at this point. Never had that much potion been used on one person. Something about the volume, or being splashed with the rain earlier and now being double dosed with an extra large dose had made Finn go absolutely wild. Perhaps the skin is more absorbent when already wet? Robin thought. Robin took down a mental note of ‘maybe love potions do work, we just haven’t been dosing nearly hard enough’ and floated off to go follow Finn into the woods.
When Robin left, so did the warmth and dryness that they had conjured, leaving Grant in a sudden jarring snap of cold and wet. He woke up in a fright.
“There make be snakes!” he screamed. “Get them off me! Get them off me!”
The fatigue wore off quickly through the sobering powers of cold and wet, and Grant became grounded with the fact that he was not in danger of being surrounded by snakes.
“Oh my goodness, Finn. I just had this crazy dream where-”
Grant stopped shortly. Finn was not there. It was dark, but Grant could tell that Finn wasn’t there. Grant got up and began his search.
“Should we be concerned that nobody else has arrived yet?” Francine asked Stephanie.
Stephanie looked up from her notebook and to the clock hanging in their dry, spacious, wonderful cabin. The clock read 2AM. Normally Stephanie would be tired, but she had woken up at 2PM that day to be more alert for the road trip. The three Red Bulls had also helped.
“Crazy how time flies,” Stephanie said. “Any chance you think that they’re just camping?”
Nicky scoffed. Al was not one to camp. Stephanie’s statement was ludicrous and also conjured an amusing image of Al all alone in the cold wet forest, trying his hardest to camp.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Stephanie and Nicky made a quick search of their own cabin and the surrounding cabins, ultimately coming to the conclusion that, no, Heidi, Al, Francine, Darian, Grant, and Finn were not in the area. And with no cell service to be seen for miles, there was no way to reach them than by foot.
Stephanie looked to Nicky and Nicky looked to Stephanie. They both came to the wordless conclusion that they would have to look for them.
“Gross,” said Stephanie.
“Gross,” said Nicky.