TITLE: Beyond The River
GENRE: Literary Fiction
The narrow path led up and away from the rushing water to where the forest thwarted the sun and the river’s hiss diminished until it was no longer heard. Twigs snapped beneath Brad Lucas’ boots. He listened intently for the cries of birds, for a foraging squirrel—any sign that everything was okay. As a boy, his father had told him, “When the woods go silent, a predator is on the prowl. Even if you can’t see it.”
Perhaps he was being paranoid. Then again, maybe he wasn’t. Brad parted his lips and whistled sharply.
A few feet ahead, Dean Romans stiffened with surprise and halted in sun dappled shade. “What the hell was that for?”
“Bears. If they’re around, they’ll move on.”
“Please provide advance warning next time.” Frenzied gnats circled Dean’s head and he swatted at them.
Here it comes, Brad thought. He’s finally going to complain about how stupid it is to be out in the middle of nowhere.
Dean snatched a water bottle from his backpack, drank, and then grinned, his gleaming white teeth contrasting with his swollen black eye. Brad was tired of following Dean—he’d been doing it for too many years now. “How much farther?” he demanded.
“I must tell you,” Dean said, sauntering off. “I haven’t been totally up front with you about this trip.”
Of course, Brad thought. You’ve never been up front about anything.
“What do you mean?”
Dean glanced back triumphantly. “Patience. It’s all part of the surprise.”