Ray & Gen & The Box of Hope™

The Journey Begins
By Chris Gurnick
Chapter One

2,000 BC

     He laid the box down gently into clean, dry, herb - infused linen. It was very plain looking. No jewels, no gems, or shining metals adorned this vessel of hope. He said his last prayer for the box – so that some day, sometime, when it was most needed - the box would find itself in the arms of the two redeemers.

Present Day

      “What the heck?” Ray asked out loud, looking towards the riverbank on the right side of his canoe. “What was that?” he asked again.
      “Ray, what are you talking about?” his sternsman, Matt asked.
     “Look Matt! Look on the ground, over there under that large Jack Pine, see?” Ray said as he pointed towards the bank.       
     “No,” replied Matt.
     “LOOK!” Ray screamed exasperated. They both stopped paddling, and were now looking at the pine, whose lower branch was swaying back and forth, and saw something grayish-brown, maybe three feet high fall into the lake with a barely noticeable “Splash,” fifty-feet away from them. The thing swam to shore, and before hopping out, looked up, and all around to see who might be watching.
     “Oh my God, you’re right Ray—what in the hell is that thing?” Matt screeched, his throat constricted with fear. He had been a guide for almost a decade, and never, ever had he seen any such creature! It crawled stealthily out of the water and ran into the dense underbrush making no sound at all. In fact, the thing blended in perfectly with its background—almost as if it were invisible.
     Lake Kawaweogama had been Ray’s home base on this difficult trip, and as he sat with a sore bottom and aching arms from hundreds of miles of canoeing, he wished he could just stop and do nothing. As the crystal clear water rolled off the edge of his paddle and a lone American Bald Eagle flew above him in his canoe, Ray realized that he could go a little further, even with a throbbing, tired body. He lived for these summers! No one could understand how these long, grueling six-week summers spent canoeing could mean so much to him, but they did.
     Ray had grown up a lot over the past three summers. He had never done anything so difficult in his life, nor had he ever enjoyed anything so much in his life. He was now used to carrying fifty pounds on his back for two kilometers at a time. He remembered the first few nights, crying into his moldy, wet towel that he used as a pillow, thinking that he’d never be able to finish this camp, let alone have fun. Here he was, back again for another summer of pain, testing, and triumph.
     Gen also spent her summer in the Canadian wilderness. This was her first season at the camp, and she too had been tested. She didn’t realize what hard work this would be, and admired her brother even more for having done it twice. Now, she too, could brag to her friends that she spent her summer canoeing and portaging great heavy packs, and walking for what seemed like miles. Even though the first couple of weeks brought many tears, aches and pains, she remembered her mother telling her that she believed in Gen and that Gen was capable of many great things. Knowing and feeling her parents’ care and love and knowing that her brother enjoyed the experience helped her to believe in her own strength and ability to undertake the strenuous challenge.
      It was their last evening of camp on Devil’s Island. The island sat in the southeast corner of Lake Temagami, in Ontario, Canada. Overhead, God, in all His splendor, decorated the sky in such abundance, that not a single inch of sky was wanting for stars. As if the beauty of the novas, planets, and glowing orbs was not enough, the willowy, undulating, eerie dance of Aurora Borealis followed the children into the woods. Tonight, the Northern Lights were shimmering ribbons in various shades of pink and violet, with a little tinge of white. 
     In a place so clean, so beautiful, that you can drink water directly from the lake, they walked with heavy hearts, because they knew that this night would be the last on Lake Temagami.  Gen, fourteen and Ray, sixteen both ash-haired blondes, with fair freckled skin, had just finished a summer of what amounted to basic training. After their six-week challenge, both teens emerged strong, confident and aware that they could meet, even surmount physical, and emotional difficulties with ease. They had grown up a lot over the summer. Now, the hard part was leaving this place that had etched itself upon their souls. 
     When you become accustomed to northern loons singing you to sleep, eagles soaring overhead as you wake, and watching a mother moose and her calves feeding on the lake’s edge as you paddle crystal-clear waters, it is hard to leave.
     The campfire tales were over, but a few of the kids decided to stay up a little later. Gen and Ray offered to go and search for sticks to use for toasting marshmallows, when they stopped dead in their tracks, as they heard the loud “CRACK” of a branch breaking to their right.
     Gen screamed,  “AAAHHH,” and clung to her brother’s arm.
     “Stop it Gen,” Ray said trying to free his arm from his sister’s strong grip. “What was that,” he asked.
     “I don’t know!” exclaimed Gen. Only after they stopped jostling with each other, did they realize, that someone, something, was pulling on Ray’s pant leg. They both screamed, and broke into a run, back toward their waiting fellow campers, and back towards the fire, and the light.
     “God bless it, will you two stop for a minute?” Please stop. I mean you no harm,” yelled the creature from behind them. 
     Ray asked exerted, “Gen, did you hear that?”
     “Yeah, whatever that thing was, it, I mean, I think it was talking to us,” said Gen as she jogged beside her brother. Then, directly in front of them, making them stop so quickly that they stumbled backwards, they saw a bright light, and heard another loud “Crack”, and the thing appeared again-obviously exasperated, frustrated, and out of breath.
     “I…. I,  have worked with many humans in my lifetime. Usually, they stand rooted to the spot- in a state of shock. The two of you gave me some real exercise today,” the thing said in with a feminine voice.
     Ray and Gen were scared to death; they shook uncontrollably.  It was difficult to find words, let alone speak, as their brains were having quite a time absorbing what stood directly in front of them. 
      The creature stood its ground and watched the stunned looks on the teenagers’ faces. It stood three feet-tall and had greenish-gray colored skin. Its ears were rather large and wrinkled. It spoke English. 
     “What… I…..ummm. What are you? What do you want?” Ray asked. A look of recognition crossed over his face. With his hand over his mouth, he stammered, “Hey, wait a minute-you’re that thing I saw on the riverbed this morning! I thought I was just imagining you.”
      “Calm down, calm down, there is no need to fear me. I’ve been on this planet longer than any of your kind. I’m here to help you. My name is Fiona.”
     “You have a name, and you speak, but what are you?” Ray asked. Gen still clung tightly to her brother’s arm. Her sharp fingernails made marks deep into his skin. Right now however, he didn’t seem to notice.
     “What are you?” Gen repeated her brother’s question in a squeaky voice.
    “I am a Sniggledorfer,” Fiona told them.
      Gen perked up, cleared her throat and let go of Ray’s arm, “Wait, that sounds familiar,” said Vieve, her eyebrows wrinkled in concentration.     
     “Sniggledorfers have been on the Earth before dinosaurs existed. God created us to shepard all his living beings, which, of course includes humans. Some have confused us with spirit guides, or angels. Our appearance varies only by the shape of our ears, and the color of our skin,” said Fiona, dressed in brown leggings and an old leather tunic layered with lichens, moss, mushrooms and dried leaves. Her silky brown hair was rolled into a bun atop her wrinkled old face. As she stood talking, an ant crawled across her chest trying to get to the morel mushroom that grew on her shoulder.
    “We don’t need any help. We were minding our own business, having fun on our last night of camp, and you scared us to death,” said Gen, gaining confidence with each word she spoke.
      “I am sorry about that, but I needed to get the two of you alone, and in as little time as possible,” said Fiona, hurriedly.
     “Why?” asked Ray, nervously kicking small stones with his weathered leather boots.
      “You’re both in for a big surprise, and a wonderful adventure,” said Fiona.
     “Fiona, we just finished the ultimate adventure; we canoed all summer and saw neat animals and drank water directly from the lake,” Gen told Fiona.
     “I know,” said Fiona. “I’ve been watching you from afar. I needed to make sure that you were both finally ready for what lies ahead of you,” she said.
     “Sounds scary,” Gen said quivering, and then looked at her brother. He reached over and put his arm around her shoulders.
     “Well, yeah,” Ray said sarcastically. 
     Fiona smiled at the boy’s comment and continued, “I need you both to pack, and first thing in the morning, we’ll begin. I know that what I’ve told you has you both concerned and frightened. Tonight, as you try to sleep, please think over what I’ve told you. Both of you are meant to undertake a very important task. Think of it as the adventure of your lives. You are the descendants of royalty and heirs of an ancient artifact. The two of you have been chosen. No one else can do this, but the two of you. By your side, and at your back, you will both have me, and more of my kind to help and guide you. At all times, and especially in the most fearful of times, all that you need will present itself to you, as long as you both believe in yourselves.  So, sleep soundly, and I will meet you on the other side of the bay, near the boat line, and the buses. Your camp counselors have been told by your parents that alternate plans have been made for your return trip home,” Fiona told them.
     “You mean our parents know about this?”  Ray asked.
     “And what is all this crap about us being the only ones, it sounds like some sort of fantasy novel,” Gen added.  I’m sure that you must have the wrong people Fiona; Ray and I are regular, everyday high school kids. We’re not special, not rich, and certainly not important.”
     “You’re wrong about that. “And, “Yes,” “your parents have been briefed about this,” answered Fiona.
     “I bet our parents freaked out when they saw you,” Gen said.
     “Hey Vieve, do you remember Mom telling us about Sniggledorfers when we were little?” asked Ray.
      “Yeah, that’s it! That’s why the word Sniggledorfer sounded familiar to me! Mom told us that they liked sniffing stinky, smelly, sweaty socks, and that they lived under fallen leaves on the ground,” smiled Gen, afraid to look at Fiona.
     Fiona just stood there, obviously amused, and said, “Well, we do NOT sniff smelly old socks, but when we need to rest and regain our energies; we do seek solace from the cool, welcoming earth. We are simple creatures, and we love our lives. It is an honor for us to serve and guide humans; it is an important part of our destiny,” Fiona explained.
     “OK, you two better get back to camp and get to bed. I will be waiting for you behind the large pine at the end of the pier. I will brief you both about the mission in the morning. We will travel invisibly,” Fiona mentioned. Seeing the shocked looks on their faces she added, “Don’t worry- I’ll explain and show you everything you need to know tomorrow morning,” 
     Fiona left them standing alone. As she walked away from them, she heard the two talking frantically, and the words, “missions” and “invisible.”
     “What kind of mission is she talking about?  How in the heck will we travel invisibly? This can’t be real, we’ve got to be dreaming.” Gen said as she paced in circles. Worry and concern clouded her young face, “what’s going on Ray?” Gen asked. 
     “I don’t know. It’s all too weird. I just wanted to get home and hang out with my friends the last few days of summer. Plus, we’ve got to go back to school soon Vieve.”
     “Let’s call Mom & Dad tomorrow morning and check in with them. Fiona said they knew all about the whole freaky thing. I’m sure they’ll be able to help us sort everything out,” Gen said.
      Ray rubbed his red, swollen eyes, draped his arm over Gen’s shoulder said, “Let’s go back and get to bed, I’m really tired.”

© Copyright, All Rights Reserved. Chris Gurnick