Ray & Gen & The Box of Hope™
The Journey Begins
By Chris Gurnick
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.
“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
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
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
“You’re both in for a big surprise, and a wonderful adventure,” said
“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 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
“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.”