Ryan stopped to take a breath. He and Sawyer were in the mountains again, but this time it was the Cascades of Washington and the thin air was slowing him down. They were headed to a small lake in the mountains that they had been told was full of trout.
"According to the map, we're just a quarter mile away." said Sawyer. "Let's keep going. We want to catch a few for dinner before the sun goes down."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." said Ryan as he started walking. "Not everyone has four legs you know..."
They made it to the lake a short time later and sure enough, it was loaded with hungry trout. Sawyer dropped his pack and pulled out his fishing pole as Ryan started putting their tent up.
"Hey Ryan! First cast!" exclaimed Sawyer as he reeled in a beautiful rainbow trout.
"Nice." said Ryan. "Oh and don't worry about the tent. I'll just do it myself." he added with a hint of sarcasm.
Sawyer just smiled and cast his lure back into the lake. By the time Ryan finished with the tent and started a fire, Sawyer had caught plenty of fish for the evening. The sun was setting behind the trees while they finished their dinner and climbed into their sleeping bags. Despite the exhausting hike, the two friends were wide awake with anticipation for the next days fishing.
"There's so many fish in that lake!" said Sawyer. "I can't believe there aren't more people here fishing."
"I know." said Ryan. "The hike was rough, but so worth it. I assumed there would be competition."
"It's almost as if we're not supposed to be here." said Sawyer
"Maybe they're all afraid of Sasquatch." said Ryan
"That's not real." said Sawyer as he rolled his eyes.
"Neither are dogs that can stand up and talk." said Ryan
After an hour or so of chatting, Ryan and Sawyer fell asleep to the sounds of the mountain night.
When they awoke, they immediately started casting their lures in search of breakfast. Then Ryan spotted something across the lake.
"Sawyer, check that out." said Ryan as he pointed across the lake. "Is that a mountain lion?"
"Yeah, it is." said Sawyer. "I wonder if it saw us."
The mountain lion waded into the lake, swatted at the water, then pulled out a trout and made it's way back into the forest.
"Maybe it has cubs." said Ryan
"It's back again, be still." said Sawyer as the two ducked behind some brush. Too late. The mountain lion saw them move and darted back into the forest.
"I sure hope it doesn't come back this way." said Ryan
"Well, it seemed pretty scared..." said Sawyer. "Let's just get back to fishing."
The two friends started fishing again, but not until Ryan got his shotgun from his pack. Just in case. Suddenly, a shot rang out from across the lake and the pan Ryan had been using to cook breakfast was hit by a bullet!
"Whoa! What the heck? Someones shooting at us!" yelled Ryan as he and Sawyer dove for cover. Ryan tried to yell across the lake.
"Hey! What the heck is the matter with you? We're fishing!" Ryan yelled. Then, a burst from a machine gun rang out as five bullets struck the log Ryan and Sawyer were hiding behind.
"That sounded familiar. AK-47." said Ryan
"How can you tell?" asked Sawyer.
"It has a 'ratta-tat-tat' sound to it." he replied.
Sawyer tried to peak over the log when another burst hit their cover. Ryan was able to see where the shots were coming from.
"That's it! Sawyer, get ready to make a break for the trees behind us." Ryan said as he loaded a handful of slugs into his shotgun. "On '3'. 1, 2..." Sawyer tensed his muscles and prepared to make a dash for the trees. "3!" Ryan jumped up and started blasting his shotgun where the shooting had come from. Sawyer sprinted towards the trees as Ryan fired and ran with him. Ryan emptied the shotgun, then turned to run for the trees just as another burst of fire rang out behind him. The shots impacted the ground behind them as they ran.
"Go! Go! Go!" yelled Ryan. They both dove into the trees and crawled on their bellies as more bullets passed over them.
"What is that guys problem!?" exclaimed Sawyer after the machine gun finally went silent.
"I don't know." said Ryan "But I'm beginning to understand why we're the only ones here."
Ryan and Sawyer stayed in the woods and watched their camp. After a few minutes, a man with an AK-47 cautiously made his way into view. He walked into their camp and started destroying it. He pulled out a knife and made a huge gash in the side of their tent. Then, he pulled out their sleeping bags and threw them into the camp fire.
"What a jerk!" whispered Sawyer. "We need to stop him!"
"It's not worth the risk, Sawyer." said Ryan. "Let's just wait it out and-" Ryan stopped short when he saw the man pick up his favorite fishing pole. The stranger put the rod up against a tree and stomped on it, breaking it in half.
"He's mine!" said Ryan as he reloaded his shotgun. Then, without any warning, a gun clicked behind them.
"Don't move." said a female voice.
"Whoa, look lady..." said Sawyer. "That guy is trashing our camp. He shot at us."
Ryan and Sawyer both turned to look at their captor and their eyes opened wide. Standing there with a pistol pointed at them was the mountain lion they had seen earlier.
"Don't look so surprised." said the mountain lion as she glared at Sawyer. "Did you think that you were the only animal on earth that was special?"
"Start walking." The mountain lion led them back to their camp where the stranger was waiting for them.
"Here are the intruders." said the mountain lion as she handed her gun to the stranger.
"Well done, Tressa." said the man as he put the gun away. He took his AK-47 and pointed it at Ryan. "You and your dog are not welcome here. This is my home and you are trespassers."
"Look man, I had no idea this lake belonged to anyone. I saw it on the map and thought it would be fun to fish here. I was told that it's stocked every year." explained Ryan.
"Well you chose the wrong lake to fish in." said the man as he aimed his weapon.
"Whoa! Hold on!" yelled Ryan.
"Alex..." said Tressa. "It would be better if they walked on their own rather than us drag them."
"You're right." said Alex with a laugh. "Alright you two, get moving."
"Where are you taking us?" asked Sawyer
"I said get moving!" snapped Alex
Ryan and Sawyer were led away from their camp. Ryan studied Alex as they walked. He was an older man, probably 50-60 years old. He knew his way around the woods, but his aim with his weapon was lacking. Ryan was sure he could handle him easily if he had the chance. His pet, Tressa, was a different story. He'd have to try to separate them and take her by surprise. Their captors had marched them through the forest for almost an hour when they approached a shack. It was extremely old and in need of repair.
"Cozy." said Ryan. "Are you the master craftsman behind this?"
"Shut it." snapped Alex.
He led them inside and directed them to sit at his table.
"Before I kill you two trespassers, I figured I'd tell you a bit about myself and why I feel the need to kill you." said Alex.
"How kind." said Sawyer, sarcastically.
"My name is Alex Johnson and I've lived in these woods since I was 18 years old. I have lived alone for the most part, but 5 years ago, I met Tressa. She was wounded by a poacher so I took her in until she was healthy. During this time, I noticed that she and I were able to understand each other. Much like you and your dog. I like my way of life and will do anything to protect it. Poachers, hunters and hippies all threaten my way of life to one degree or another. I don't like hurting animals, but people, I have no problem." said Alex.
"If you don't like hurting animals, let Sawyer go." said Ryan
"Well, I don't like hurting animals, but Tressa over there isn't a fan of dogs." said Alex with a laugh.
Tressa snarled at Sawyer. Sawyer growled back. The two animals were pretty even in size, but Tressa had claws. Ryan wasn't sure how Sawyer would do in a struggle against Tressa, but he knew he wouldn't back down. Alex stood and motioned for Ryan and Sawyer to step outside.
"This isn't necessary." said Ryan. "Just let us go."
"Yes it is. You shouldn't have come here." said Alex as he pointed his weapon at Ryan. He was just about to pull the trigger when another animal roared less than 20 yards away from them! It was a grizzly bear and it was running towards them!
"Tressa!" yelled Alex in fear. Tressa roared back at the bear as she stood her ground. Alex swung his weapon towards the bear and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked, but didn't fire. The old mountain man had forgotten to reload since earlier that morning. Ryan took advantage of the opportunity and punched Alex in the jaw as he frantically searched for his pistol.
"You owe me a fishing pole." said Ryan
Alex fell to the ground in a heap. Sawyer ran inside the shack and grabbed Ryan's shotgun as Ryan picked up Alex's rifle and pistol. The two friends turned to run away while Tressa fought the bear.
"Help!" cried Tressa. The bear had swatted her and broken her ribs. She was helpless and would certainly be killed, along with Alex. Sawyer pointed the shotgun in the air and fired, startling the bear and causing it to run off into the woods. Sawyer pointed the gun at Tressa, but didn't shoot.
"We could have left you to die." said Sawyer. "Don't cross us again." he warned
* * * * *
Ryan and Sawyer made it back to their truck just before the sun went down. Ryan informed the Forest Ranger of the man who shot at them and destroyed their camp. The next morning, Ryan and Sawyer led the Forest Ranger to the shack. Alex and Tressa were gone and the shack was empty.
Ryan called Annie to let her know what had happened and that he and Sawyer would be home early.
"Yeah, we'll be on the next flight out of here." said Ryan
"Alright. Well, I'm just on my way to Starbucks so I should get going." said Annie "Oh, by the way. What do you think happened to that Alex guy?"
"I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that will be a story for another time."