Day 194 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about camping.
Shannon: I’m going to smell like campfire all day tomorrow, but boy did the warmth feel great right now. I’ve always wondered how a fire can bring any mix of people together as one group, as if they’d all spent a majority of their lives together. Is it primitive, something pass down to us from our ancestors long ago? Maybe it’s survival. We’re all drawn to what we need in order to live, and since we’ve found it, we’re most open to the company. Either way, sitting around a fire has always been my favorite part of camping, no matter who’s around the circle.
Erin: “Why do people like this,” my tent-mate moaned.
“Getting away from the big city is nice,” I illuminated.
“I’m not away. I’m more stressed and concerned with the hustle and bustle than ever.”
“What are you talking about? There is no stress in a 50-mile radius of this place.”
“Exactly. I normally combat my major stressors with the distractions of lesser stressful details around me. There are no distractions now. I am being crushed by a wood full of my most heavy thoughts. The silence is bringing dark dark over analyzations.”
“Suddenly I don’t see the appeal of this either,” I said as my own demons were brought to the surface.
Time for your character to reconnect with nature.
With the monstrous RV hot on our tail, we screamed along the highway with obnoxious, crackling rock music blaring from the old radio. Behind us, the vehicle weaved and swayed as its driver dared us to go faster along the boiling tarmac, their own brand of road trip music echoing dangerously as we passed through a short pass; it was some kind of atrociously-catchy pop music with a deep, spine rumbling bass beat. When we shot out the other side of the rocky boulders, the expanses of beige and burnt grasses stretched out again, redirecting even more heat into the tiny, run-down car.
Jesse, whose long brown hair was fluttering in the wicked wind, was doing his best to ignore the insufferable idiocy from behind us as he drove, had his sunglasses pressed tightly against his forehead. Reaching up to adjust the mirror slightly, a bead of sweat dripped off his arm and into the faded leather seat, but he didn’t notice. In the back seat, their arms and legs intertwined gracefully in a pile of exposed limbs were Rose and Robin who’d fallen asleep after half an hour. As I watched them peacefully sleeping, despite the raucous music and rocky ride, Robin lifted his head to peer outside at the flat land and impending mountain range before he sighed sleeping and laid back on the leather sear. Rose was snoring quietly with her fingers looped protectively through his. At the very back, behind all the proper, legal spots, was Thunder and her golden retriever, Lightning; it had been her choice to stay in the very back among all our things over the middle seat.
“Hey, babe,” shouted Jesse over the heart-pounding music, “can you turn it down a bit and tell me how far the cut-off is? We must be getting pretty close ‘cause we’re making such good time with those jerks on our ass,” he growled as I turned down the tunes so we could converse easily. Behind us, the sprawling couple yawned noisily as I flicked on my phone and waited for the map to load. As I did, the vehicle behind us flashed its high-beams and honked irately at us, attempting to attract our diverted attention.
A few seconds later, Jesse and I both realized what they wanted in the same instant, and he gently tapped the brakes before hitting them with his whole foot. We came to a relatively sudden stop and the RV rolled up a few behind us with its terrible music still thundering at us. Straight ahead was a winding line-up of cars of all shapes, sizes, models and ages that snaked its way off the main drag and into the steep hill to the left. Crawling near the top, there wasn’t any movement at all at the end of the line and a good number of vehicles were standing empty under the scalding sun, their contents having gotten out to stretch their legs while they waited.
When Jesse turned off the car and rolled down all the windows, someone knocked on the frame near my head, almost making me jump into his lap. “Hey, that was some pretty good speed-driving, my man!” bellowed a man who’d mistakenly donned a flowery t-shirt and sun visor though he wasn’t any older than we were. Adrian patted my shoulder with his sunburnt hand before heading back to the air conditioned RV to have whatever fancy lunch his wife, Audrey, had packed for them in the freezer.
“Ass,” whispered Jesse under his breath as he swung his door open and took a few stiff steps onto the hot road. “You comin’, Jade?” he called as he disappeared into the tall grasses on the other side of the highway, his voice becoming muffled. I stretched my arms to uncomfortable popping sounds, and hopped out of the car and onto the dirt shoulder, glancing into the back seat. Though everyone there was capable of driving it, I knew none would if the line started moving any faster, so instead of following Jesse, I just took his seat.
He remerged a few minutes later, red-faced and puffing hard. Stifling a chuckle, I pointed toward the top of the hill and called to him, “We’re gonna move up at least one whole spot in at least ten minutes, so someone’s gotta be here or they’ll,” I pointed with my thumb to the RV, “go ahead of us.” With a deep sigh, he skipped across the street in his holey leather sandals and pecked my cheek. “It can’t be too much longer, you know; it’s not a big hill.” I swung my legs around, kicked off my own flip flops, and leaned back in the seat to wait it out in comfort.
A few hours later, we finally made it up the hill and around a few bends in snaking road, to the ticket booths. Behind us, the sun was dying behind the mountain range in spectacular shades of violet and russet, but Jesse, myself and Adrian were the only ones in our party still awake. Everyone else had nodded off sometime during the long and arduous trek up the hill because it was such a warm and boring experience. But, as we neared the booth, I roused everyone in the car to help us if it was difficult to find our campsite.
“Rosie and Robin, up and at ‘em! You too Thunder!” I called as our radio switched between static and crackling interviews with people none of us knew; the boisterous daytime programmes were obviously over for the day. As I fumbled around in the dim glovebox for our tickets, I flicked on my phone’s flashlight and noticed a notification. Pulling out the papers and laying them out on my lap, I read the message out loud, “Hey kids, just hope you’re having a good time. Jade, your mother and I will be fine. We finally found a bunker that we can use. Tell Jesse his mom is with us, but she’s not terribly happy about it.” Sighing loudly, I turned it off and straightened the files.
When Jesse took the pile from me to pass over to the attendant in the collapsible booth, he whispered, “You know, if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t be hiding away in there. I’m not even sure it’s necessary.” He laughed heartily, touching my fingers in the partial darkness for stability that I couldn’t give him. This camping trip was the exact opposite of hiding away in a bunker; I hadn’t felt any of the concern or terror until I got that message.
“You folks, five plus canine, are in A904. Head straight down the hill, then take a left when you get to row nine hundred, and you’re almost at the end of the row. Enjoy your stay,” the attendant spoke roughly, as though they’d already said the same thing all day for four days, which he likely had. Waving to him, we headed off in the direction he said, feeling the temperature in the air change drastically as we went along. Every row had strings of fairy lights strung across posts with the campsite numbers, and when we got to our row, Jesse turned down it. We passes people from all walks of life in all kinds of situations from large families in rickety tents to castles on wheels with one or two occupants. Dogs barked and whined in their places as Lightning passed them by.
Near the end was a large space that was deemed A900-903, which was clearly meant for Adrian and Audrey’s enormous camper. Sliding easily into stall A904, Jesse threw her into park and shut the engine off, throwing us into almost complete darkness under a deepening sky. Above us, stars were beginning to pop up like pinpricks on an enormous canvas that was splashed with shivering, changing paint. When I glanced around, I realized we were in the basin of an enormous valley that stretched out around us like a blanket to meet the mountains on every side. Thousands of people were milling around between hundreds of campsites; there had been five levels of sites ranging from one-night spots like ours, to week-long sites where they had to arrive five days early for the celestial event and had to wait a few days to leave. There were too many people to arrive and depart in a relatively short window of time to make it simple on the organizers. We’d splurged on our campsite so we could be here for the least number of days given this was a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness.
Yanking the first tent out of the back, with Thunder and Lightning scrambling around excitedly, Jesse started to set up our camp in the dim light. I helped him get the first quarter started before I grabbed the second portion and began hooking it in. Our tent was a four-room monster my parents used to camp with all the time and it was really starting to show its age with a few jagged tears in the sides and thinning of the mesh floors. After a few minutes of struggling, I dropped the part I was working on and growled, shrugging toward the car just as the RV pulled up.
“Okay, Rose, Robin, if you want to sleep in the comfort of a tent, you’d best help me or you’ll be on the ground so help me,” I shouted through the open window at the cuddling couple. Robin glanced out at me, saw the dark expression in my eyes and kicked open the door with his bare foot. “Thank you,” I whispered to the swirling Milky Way.
It only took half an hour to get it all set up with mattresses, sleeping bags and music ready for sleeping before the event. Planners were coming around with schedules and hand-crank radios for those who didn’t have one so we could all enjoy the pre-event show they were going to put on. As Jesse and I were heading back into our portion of the tent, Audrey came over with a pamphlet they picked up at a rest stop: The Asteroid Hits. Thanking her, we went to lie down, taking turns reading from the brochure in over-dramatic voices.
“The hunk of rock is set to hit on the mountain range here, on this night at around 4:13 local time, where there will be an enormous gathering of campers excited to attend the catastrophic event,” read Jesse in an announcer’s voice and his expression full of joy.
When he passed it over, along with a tiny flashlight, I continued on about the effects of the crash on the world, “The possible consequences have been hotly debated for months, but could include: widespread power failure, magnet field alteration, aftershocks, accidental missile launches and more. The entire planet is cautioned to stay indoors and away from anything that might explode or fall over.” Trembling slightly, I calmed myself by hugging Jesse closely to me and watching Thunder and Lightning’s shadows as they slept soundly in the room next to us.
When the sirens started up, half an hour before the event, there was sheer panic before people turned on their radios and listened to the programme they played. It was all about how to enjoy the experience and how to stay calm; they also suggested that small children who wouldn’t understand what was happening might be best left asleep. Quietly, Jesse and I left the tent to join Adrian, Audrey, Rose and Robin as they leaned against the car with the radio crackling away in a relaxed woman’s voice. She was conversing with a man who sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying.
As the enormous rock hit the atmosphere, it burst into flames and streaked rapidly across the night sky, burning a trail in my vision and cutting steeply toward the ground. There was a second, after it fell behind the mountain range, where nothing happened at all and everyone in the world held their breath. Then, as quickly as the rock had appeared, a shockwave rippled out from the mountains, knocking out any light, electricity and sound as it went. We were shoved back into the car, which moved a few feet backward, though were relatively unharmed.
All around us, though, was pitch blackness and complete deathly stillness and eerie silence; the whole of the world was going deaf and blind.
Nikki comes down the stairs and clears her throat, “As of right now, the males of the house have one hour to pack whatever they need from the house and vacate the premises.”
“Why?” Josh asks.
“Because the ladies are having a girls day and no males are allowed,” she explains. “You can do anything you want, just off the farm.” She then goes back up the stairs, hearing the other girls laughing from a guest room.
“…They are ladies, and we are ‘males’?” Finn asks.
“There’s no arguing with four women with their minds made up,” Noah states, “what should us gentlemen do?”
“…Uh, go to town? Does anyone have any shopping-?” Rick’s suggestion dies in his throat.
Everyone looks to Noah. “…Camping it is. Alright, let’s get packing.”
Each boy has a backpack and sleeping bags rolled up. Noah has a couple tents. “Are we taking the car?” Josh asks.
“Nope. We’re taking the trails. There’s a camping area in our woods.”
The boys suppress their groans and follow the grandfather to the correct trail.