"I'll sit quietly, Hearing birds sing joyfully, In my patch of woods"
I scribble lines into my notebook, getting lost in my poetry, so much so I don't even heard Colt's approach.
"You coming, Birdman?" he asks, a smile in his voice from using my code name. I jump, startled and spin around to face him. He is standing over me, the setting sun casting shadows across the dark skin of his bare chest.
"Where is your shirt?" I ask getting to my feet.
"Back at camp, it's too uncomfortable, and rubs on my wings weird," he almost whined, stretching out the large gray wings on his back. I'd identified the coloration as sparrow wings and tried to persuade the group to make that his code name but everyone liked Karl's idea better. "Wing man," real creative.
"Speaking of back at the camp, guess who's found us?" he continued, leading the way through the forest.
"Who?" I asked nervously, worried he would say someone's parents or the police, we were just a bunch of high school drop outs hanging out in private property after all.
"Sarah!" Colt laughed at my nervous reaction and I relaxed as I heard the girl’s name.
"Oh thank God, I was worried--"
"I know," Colt interrupted me, smiling, "I still don't know how she followed us, maybe she is magic after all."
"There is nothing magical about a photographic memory, she's dilutional," I roll my eyes.
"Maybe so," Colt admitted, still smiling, "it wouldn't hurt to keep her around though."
"Just another mouth to feed," I grumbled.
"She'll make herself useful."
"How? This is Sarah we're talking about," I looked up at him to meet his eyes.
"Photographic memory is useful," he looked down at me, "lot more useful than talking to birds," he smiled, nudging me hard in the side. I stumbled back a step and he kept walking, quickly getting ahead of me.
"Hey!" I started after him, "I am useful!"
By this time we've reached camp, consisting of two large tents, and a yet to be lit fireplace. Emerald kneels by the firewood with both hands on a log, trying to heat it up to start a fire. Mollie and Karl sat next to the boys tent fiddling with some walkie talkies Karl swiped from his old work place before we left. Sarah unzipped the girls tent and stuck her head out as we approached.
"Hey, Jasper!" she greets me, tripping as she climbs out of the tent, "g--guess what?" She stumbles to her feet and runs over to me.
"What?" I ask trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.
"Eme said I could stay with you guys!" she squealed, "I get to be a cool magic person too!"
"Really, Em?" I asked my leader incredulously.
Emerald had resorted to rubbing to sticks together in an attempt to start a fire. She pauses to look up at me, "what? She ran away from home, what was I supposed to say?"
" 'Go back home,' for starters!" I snapped but regretted my tone when Emerald gives me a look. "Fine, I get it," I sighed, not like it was up to me anyway. I just like being around when decisions are made.
"Wacha been writing?" Sarah asks leaning on my arm to catch a peek at my notebook.
"Nothing," I shrugged her off. She pouts and goes back to the tent, I walk over to Karl and Mollie.
"Jasper, you're just in time," Karl says looking up at me as I approached, "we were going to check if the walkies worked." He hands one to Mollie and she silently gets to her her feet and wanders into the woods, not making a sound. When she is far enough away Karl turns on the walkie in his hand. There's static and he clicked the button to speak, "Sneeki, do you read me? over." He released the button and the static returns. After a second there's a break in the static, and just silence until the static returns.
"Maybe we should get someone else--" I suggest.
"Yeah," Karl agrees quickly. "Sneeki, you can come back now," he called into the walkie. A few seconds later Mollie makes her way out of the forest.
She silently mouths something excitedly but Karl shakes his head. "Sorry Mollie, we can't hear you over the walkie so Jasper is going to give it a try." She frowns looking down and hands me the walkie.
"Sorry, Mollie," I said feeling bad for the girl. She just nods and goes to sit next to Karl. I take the walkie with me into the forest and wait, leaning against a tree.
"Birdman, do you read me? Over." Karls voice calls over the walkie, loud and clear.
"I read you, weatherman, I’m going deeper into the woods to check the range on these things, over." I reply, not waiting for a response before I left. I stand up and paced what I guessed to be 100 yards deeper, "two hundred yards, over," I call into the walkie.
"We hear you loud and clear, Birdman. Over."
I continued deeper, "three hundred yards."
"yup, we read you, over."
"Five hundred, over," I called over the walkie but am meet with only static. "Weatherman, do you read me? Over." I turn back to walk back out of the forest but I hesitate as something catches my eye. It appears to be a scrap of clothing, sticking out from behind a tree. "What the--?" I walk around the tree to get a better look. A pair of legs stick out at uncomfortable looking angles and the body of a man comes into view. He is leaned against the tree but slumped far forward his head is nearly resting in his lap. As I get closer my stomach drops out; I don't think he's breathing.