27. Into the Abyss

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Seth ran out onto the bridge and stopped at the place where Fisher and Sandy had just jumped. Samuel joined him, and they looked over both sides, trying to see some sign of them.

“That was crazy! What did they expect? Now what are we…?”

“Seth? Seth?” Samuel had drawn closer, and was punching Seth in the side. He was looking at the far end of the bridge. There stood the Evil Man, black robe moving in the breeze which was rising up from the river’s surface. He wore the golden helmet, which hid all features from the two men except for the eyes. Suddenly as they watched in horror, the eyes began to glow a deep red. The two men were frozen in place, until the bridge jerked downward with a sharp force. At first they thought it had broken, but the Evil Man’s red glowing eyes held them unmoving, barely aware that the bridge was now swinging back and forth, as if someone were walking on it. Then a sound behind them made them both turn just in time to see a huge demon drawing back his massive club.

* * *

For Fisher, the worst part was passing that point of balance which sent him over the edge. But he had no time to think about it. The water was at least fifty feet below him, and even if he survived the fall, the fact that he had never learned to swim should have been enough to terrorize him to inaction. All he could remember were Sandy’s parting words as she leapt over the cable: “Trust me.”

He didn’t remember striking the water’s surface, but his first rational thought screamed for attention: “You’re drowning.”

He turned his head in every direction but saw nothing but water. Which way was up?  Something resembling stars began to flash all around his field of vision, a sign of oxygen deprivation. His will to continue holding his breath was ebbing, and in another moment he would simply relax and let events take their course. Actually, drowning wasn’t so bad, he told himself. After the first few moments of panic, he found himself slipping into a comfortable cocoon, as if snuggled into a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. Not bad at all .. just like going to sleep …I wonder what happens next?

What happened was a tremendous jolt as something struck him from behind. There was a sound like someone yelling in his ear, but seemed far away. The sound came again, and this time two arms slipped around his shoulders and yanked upwards.

Then the world exploded around him into a light show with stereo sound and sensory projectiles that felt like … water. There was water all around him, getting him wet, slapping at his face. Something from deep inside Fisher screamed at him, “Breathe! Breathe!” The shock prodded him into obedience and he opened his mouth to let the oxygen flow. The flashing stars changed into a rainbow of color and the air rushing into his lungs sounded like the passing of a jet, way too close.

He was being carried by a swift current down a river, and the realization brought a new wave of panic over him, as he remembered that he couldn’t swim. But something was holding his head out of the water, like a life preserver. A soft, yielding life preserver, which responded to his every move with a corresponding grip, keeping him afloat. He felt hands across his chest, fingers interlocked and holding him in a vice which wouldn’t let go. Odd, he thought, my hands are still tied behind me. Whose are these? Then a voice spoke clearly into his right ear, “Hang on Sweetie. We’re nearly there. Just let me pull you along.”

“Since when did you start calling me ‘Sweetie’? he asked the voice in his ear.

“I don’t know. It just seemed right at the time.”

“That’s okay, Babe. I kinda like it.”

After colliding with a couple of boulders, they finally reached a place where the gravelly river bottom came up to meet them. Fisher rolled to his stomach and pulled his knees up until he could support his weight. Sandy stood in front of him, put her arms under his shoulders, then bent her knees and half lifted, half dragged him to the bank of the river. As soon as he was able to lay face down with his head out of the water, Sandy moved around and worked at the ropes binding his wrists. “Your hands are blue,” she said. “Are those bruises or lack of circulation?”

“Probably both,” Fisher said, then stopped and took her hands in his. “Is that what you meant by ‘freestyle swimming champion’?”

“That gave me the confidence to jump in the first place,” she agreed, “but let me tell ya, this was nothing like any meet I ever swam at.”

“Well, you’re nothing like any girl I’ve ever known. I would have drowned, without a doubt. Have I mentioned that I love you?”

“Yeah. But feel free to mention it anytime it crosses your mind. Girls like to hear that kind of thing, especially from the man they love.”

As their strength slowly returned, they moved farther up out of the water until they were lying on their backs on the grassy river bank. “How far downstream do you figure we came?” asked Fisher.

“I don’t know; the current was moving pretty fast, and I think we floated for several minutes. Maybe a mile?”

“That’s about what I was thinking. So. What do we do now?”

They were resting on their elbows looking out across the water when something caught their eyes. Sitting up, they looked closely out at the center of the river where the current still flowed strongly. Two dark shapes were drifting with the current, and it didn’t take long to realize that they were the bodies of Seth and Samuel, floating facedown.

“Maybe that answers my own question,” said Fisher.

“What do you mean?”

“First, the Evil Man was robbed of Lisa’s sacrifice. Then he missed out on ours, and it looks like he took his anger out on those two. Ken and his friends will be returning from Rendezvous soon, and I have an idea that they’ll have a lot to say: a lot the Evil Man wouldn’t like anyone to hear. Sandy, by bringing the Truth to these people, we may have also placed them in great danger. Until they get back to the trail, with a solid foundation of faith to stand on, they’re sitting ducks. We’ve got to go back and warn them.”

Sandy thought about that, then said, “You’re right, of course. We can’t just make our way back to the trail and leave those people to fend for themselves, even if they were willing to see us die.”

“Fear is an awesome force, Sandy. It makes some people jump off bridges with their hands tied behind their backs.” He smiled and touched the side of her face. “And it makes some people do things they would never have dreamed of doing in different circumstances. I really believe that most of those people back there are simply bound up by the lies they’ve been fed for years. Let the truth shine in, and who knows? You may be teaching some of them to make Lizzie’s stew one of these days!”

“Now there’s an image worth pursuing!” Sandy smiled, then drew in her breath as a look of shock came over her face. “Lizzie! Oh Fisher, we’ve got to go back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Lizzie’s spoon is in my backpack, which is still at Ken and Dorothy’s place. I can’t leave without that!”

“So, all noble thoughts aside, it comes down to food, huh?”

Sandy slapped him playfully on the side of the head and let him pull her to her feet. “Whatever it takes, Sweetie. Let’s see if we can find a way out of this canyon without getting back into the river.”

“Now you’re scaring me,” said Fisher. “I’m with you: let’s start climbing.”

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