The Navigator

by Cynus

Chapter 2

Ian Drake. Silas hadn't seen his brother in almost eight years, not since their parents evicted Ian from their home for refusing to become a missionary for the Mormon church. Many Mormon families worked the same way, though not all were as strict as Silas' family. Ian and Silas were best friends up until Silas turned eight and Ian left without even leaving a note.

At first, no one told Silas the truth. His parents told most of the kids that Ian had decided to leave, but his sister, Emma, confided in Silas when he turned twelve. At twenty, Emma became the eldest after Ian was disowned. They had two siblings between them, Spencer and Rebecca, but Silas had latched onto Emma after Ian had left, and when she thought him old enough to be told the truth she did so.

Emma told him Ian decided to leave the church and their parents had given him what they called 'tough love', making it clear that if he wasn't going to be part of the church and live by church standards, he would no longer be welcome in the family home. Ian told them to go fuck themselves and left the next day. Only Emma—sixteen when Ian left—was told what really happened. Their parents enlisted her help to soften the blow with the other children. She'd done her best, but as time wore on she couldn't handle how her parents never spoke about Ian or what happened.

The news traumatized Silas, especially considering the doubts about the church rolling around in his head. Emma's revelation only served to complicate his confusion, though she'd only told him as a warning. She saw him beginning to change and think in ways their parents would not approve of, and she told him if he wasn't careful, he might end up suffering the same fate as Ian. Silas hadn't liked the prospect of being tossed out on the street and he made every effort to shift his perspective.

At twelve, Silas became a boy scout, and his parents wholeheartedly approved of that decision. In a desperate need to prove himself to them, Silas focused on his scouting more than anything else, putting it above even his social life. He completely lost himself to the program; he excelled at learning how to survive in the wilderness, and the scouting program noticed. He was nominated to join The Order of the Arrow, the scouting elite. They pulled him aside one night at a weeklong summer camp and asked him to join their order. His parents beamed with pride then, and even more when he finished his eagle at fourteen.

But one thing remained unreconcilable within himself. Scouting taught him to be honest. Unable to deny his feelings for one of the other boys in his troop, and wanting to be true to himself, Silas ended up telling the boy of his feelings. While he asked the boy to keep it a secret, his friend told the troop leader, who brought the matter to his parents' attention.

His parents were livid and asked him to deny his feelings, putting him face to face with a dilemma he'd hoped he would never have to endure. He knew if he told his parents the truth then they would disown him and kick him out, just as they'd done with Ian. At the same time, he knew if he lied to himself and denied his feelings, it wouldn't be honest. As his parents leaned into him, asking him to tell the truth, he finally broke down in tears. He hated himself for it, but he lied to them and said everything said about him wasn't true. He told them he'd never come on to the boy in his troop and it was all a lie.

His parents thanked him for being honest, though he'd never felt sicker, and then they left him alone. That night his dishonesty traumatized him so much, he knew he had to come clean. He wrote out a letter explaining everything, then packed up his survival gear before leaving the house to make it easy on his parents.

Adelaide showed up an hour later. When she saw him leaving, she'd started to escape from the yard. Like every dog who knows the mood of the boy she loves, Adelaide sensed Silas wasn't coming back and went to great lengths to catch up to him. She'd stuck with him ever since, and though it was harder to take care of a second mouth to feed, he'd never regretted having her with him. She was far more help to him than a hindrance, and it had certainly been less lonely with her there.

The next year and a half were spent either in the wilderness or working odd jobs to pay for basic necessities. No matter what, Silas always made sure to move on from an area after a few months at the most. People began to ask questions after he spent too long in their company because they thought themselves entitled to know things about him. He found the idea laughable, but it was also dangerous.

This was the first time since he left home that he knew someone in the area. Silas didn't know how to deal with Ian being there. Even though he'd learned the true reason why Ian left, Silas still resented that Ian had never tried to contact him. That fact alone made Silas want to keep his distance from his brother.

But despite all that, he kept looking over his shoulder as he continued toward the edge of town, half hoping he would catch some sign of his brother still chasing him. When Silas left the diner, Ian came out after him, but Silas was quicker and dressed in clothing which allowed him to move a lot faster than his brother's slacks and work shoes did. Silas finally managed to lose him several blocks later, but he kept his pace, ensuring that he put as much distance between him and Ian as possible.

He only stopped when he ran out of breath, pulling up short in front of a house with a white picket fence surrounding the yard. He placed his hand against the top of the fence and leaned into it, breathing heavily. He removed his beanie and ran his fingers through his hair, looking back the way he'd come. It was midmorning now, and people were starting to get up and move about. The increased traffic had forced him to dodge around cars several times, and he'd almost run into the paperboy as he crossed in front of Silas on his bicycle.

From the look of it, he only had a few more blocks to go before he reached the woods, and then he knew he'd be free. No one would be able to catch him once he made it there. He looked down to Adelaide who watched him curiously. Laughing softly, Silas reached down to scratch behind her ears. "Thanks for coming with me, girl," he said, staring into her eyes.

The sound of a door creaking open drew his attention to the house which owned the fence beside him. A black-haired girl peered at him with cautious blue eyes as she stepped out and reached for the newspaper on her front porch. She wore a pink bathrobe over a set of blue pajamas. Silas guessed she was about his age, and attractive as far as he could tell. He tried to avoid making her feel any more uncomfortable by looking away from her, but she kept her eyes on him, and her lack of attention caused her to lose her balance. As she caught herself against the door, her slipper-covered foot shuffled against the newspaper and sent it rolling off the porch to land on her shoveled walk several feet away from Silas.

The girl giggled in embarrassment, then covered her mouth as Silas looked at her again. She stepped outside quickly and moved down the walk to grab the paper. Silas waved and started walking away, whistling to get Adelaide to follow him. He only made it a few steps before he heard a quiet voice say, "Um . . . hi."

Silas turned back toward the girl and smiled at her with the same smile he had used on Jenny in the diner. The girl blushed and avoided his gaze as Silas replied, "Hey, my name is Drake. What's yours?"

"Chelsea," the girl answered with another giggle. "Are you new? Did you just move in?"

"My family is just here for the spring," Silas replied casually. "It's a cold morning, what are you doing outside?" He eyed the paper in her hands and then looked back up to her eyes.

"Talking to a cute boy with a dog," Chelsea answered with sudden confidence. She walked up to the fence and crouched down, reaching forward slowly with her hand. "Can I pet her?" She asked before she committed to the act. Silas nodded and she reached through the slats in the fence to let Adelaide get her scent before scratching the dog behind the ears.

"I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm afraid that this cute boy doesn't swing your way," Silas answered honestly. Chelsea stiffened, her hand pausing briefly. Adelaide whimpered, and Chelsea slowly returned to normal and to resume scratching her. When Chelsea straightened from her crouch she moved her hand to her chest, where she withdrew a necklace from underneath her pajamas. She clutched it in her fingers as she stared forward, not seeming to notice where she was.

"Sorry, did I say something wrong?" Silas asked, and Chelsea blinked before she smiled at him and shook her head.

"No, it's just . . ." Chelsea began and then interrupted her words with a sigh. She met Silas' eyes and showed him the crucifix that she was holding in her hand, rolling her eyes. "This town has two kinds of people in it, those that belong to The Church of Light and Truth on the other side of town, and those that don't. My family belongs to the church, though sometimes I wish we didn't."

"I have my fair share of experience with a church that doesn't accept me," Silas replied with a smirk. Chelsea seemed distracted again and Silas sighed and took a step back from the fence. "I should be going . . ."

"Hey, be careful while you're here," Chelsea said, interrupting him. "I wouldn't be as vocal about being . . . um . . ." She paused uncertainly as if not sure what to call him.

"Gay?" Silas asked with a roll of his eyes. "You know you can say it right?"

"Yes, g-gay," Chelsea replied with a nod. "I'm sorry, Drake. This is the first time I've ever talked about this with anyone that wasn't yelling at me about how wrong it was. If it's any consolation, I don't believe what the pastor says. He's a total…" She hesitated as if she wanted to say something harsher but instead she finished with, "Jerk."

"Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Chelsea," Silas said with a nod and a forced smile. "Come on Addy. Let's go."

He made it several feet down the sidewalk before Chelsea called out to him, "Drake!" He turned, and she smiled and said, "It was nice to meet you, too. I hope you and your family enjoy your stay for however long you're here. If you're interested we should go grab lunch sometime. Can I give you my number?"

Silas turned and patted his pockets and shook his head. "Sorry, I don't have a phone."

"Then how about you just meet me today at three-o-clock at the corner of Main and Third?" Chelsea said with a grin. Silas chuckled and held his hands up helplessly.

"Can't be today, but I can do tomorrow. You're not going to try to turn me straight, are you?' Silas asked with a smirk.

"No, I know that does no good," Chelsea replied with a sigh. "Too bad, really. I do think you're cute, but I also find you interesting, and that's the reason I want to meet you. Is that something we could do?"

Silas nodded and turned around again. "Main and Third at three," he called over his shoulder. "I'll be there. Hope it's worth the cost."

"I'll see you then!" Chelsea called back. Silas kept walking until he heard the front door to Chelsea's house close, and then he turned to look back. She was gone, and Silas was left to ponder what had just happened. He didn't know why he'd agreed to meet her, and he wasn't sure he would keep the appointment either.

As important as honesty had once been to him, its importance had waned over his time on the streets. Lying sometimes helped him survive, and that was his number one goal. But still, there was no reason not to meet with Chelsea, other than the possibility he might run into Ian again. He didn't know how Ian would react, however, or if his brother was still attempting to look for him. If local law enforcement became involved in any way, Silas would have a serious problem on his hands.

Perhaps it was better not to go to lunch after all.

Silas finally made it into the woods by seven-forty in the morning, and he breathed a sigh of relief as the town began to disappear from sight behind the trees. He felt safe again, and knew that provided he kept a low profile he wouldn't have much to worry about. Ian would eventually give up on looking for him, and then he could risk making his way back to the highway and find a trucker to take him away.

Until he was certain that the law wasn't looking for him, however, he needed to have somewhere to sleep. At least in that regard he had the advantage of experience. A dirt road that continued through the woods where the pavement ended, but Silas took the first trail he came across which took him away from the road. The road would take him up to cabins and cottages which were likely as not occupied. Silas wanted to get away from people at all costs.

The trail was well used, likely by both hikers and bicyclists, and he didn't want that, either. As soon as he found a lesser used trail that branched off the first, he took it. He continued this process, keeping his direction both north and west as well as he possibly could with the trails available until he found himself on a game trail which took him much deeper into the woods.

He hiked for nearly two hours, putting as much distance as he could between the town as he could while leaving enough daylight to prepare his campsite properly. Once he heard the gurgling of a small stream in the distance he knew he was getting close. He now had a water source, and where there was water there was also food; animals had to drink sometime, and rabbits were easy enough to snare for someone who knew what they were doing.

The stream came into sight, a foot or two deep at the most by his best estimation, and roughly ten feet in width where the trail intersected it. The water ran fairly quickly, a result of the snow melting in the spring temperatures, and Silas took the time to choose which stones he would use to cross on before he started across. Adelaide followed his movements exactly as he started across, making sure to keep his balance and take his time to avoid falling into the stream. The last thing he needed to do was add hypothermia to his list of problems.

When he reached the other side, he searched for a suitable campsite, finding a sturdy tree with enough open ground beside it to construct a shelter leaning against it. He whistled and Adelaide's ears perked up. "Okay, girl," Silas said with a grin, "Get me some sticks."

Adelaide dashed into the nearby brush, and Silas looked around for the first log to use in the construction of his lean-to. He saw one in the distance which with a little manipulation could work well, and then dragged it over to the tree he'd selected. He slid his backpack off and opened it, withdrawing a small hacksaw and a hatchet before setting to work on the log.

Over the next few minutes, Adelaide returned, dragging large branches in her mouth and adding them to a pile next to Silas. He thanked her for every single one, and she happily kept going until he asked her to stop. He picked up the log he was working on and wedged it against the tree. He then set about leaning the branches that Adelaide had brought him up against the log, creating angled walls and a cavity between them, leaving an entrance in the side facing the stream.

He paused to eat a protein bar, and tossed a dog biscuit to Adelaide who ate it up eagerly. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until he had the food in his mouth, but he paced himself and ate it slowly anyway. The time he'd spent with the band had been good to him; he had eaten quite regularly, though he now paid the price of that temporary opulence. He would have to acclimate himself to eating less again, and until he did he'd feel hungry a lot more often.

"I'm almost done," Silas said to Adelaide, and nodding toward the structure. "I think this one will be pretty good. Our blankets are still in pretty good condition, too."

Adelaide looked at him in confusion and Silas chuckled before taking another bite of his protein bar, chewing it slowly. He dug into his bag again, withdrawing a plastic container that held two halves of a soda can and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He opened the container and withdrew the can, sliding the top—which had been indented and punctured at regular intervals—into the bottom before setting it on a level place on the ground. He pulled a small pot from his backpack and walked toward the stream, filling the pot with water. Setting the pot on a rock. he opened the bottle of rubbing alcohol and poured some into the soda can. He then withdrew a lighter from his pocket and produced a flame, lighting the alcohol within the soda can. The alcohol roared to life but remained contained within the soda can, and he placed the pot on top of the can. Although the center flame was smothered, the flames continued to rise through the holes to hit the sides of the pot, heating it and the water inside. He waited for the water to boil before he removed the pot from the heat and smothered the entire makeshift stove with the plastic container that normally held it. The flame died instantly, and Silas went through the process of pouring the remaining alcohol back into the bottle before dismantling the stove and putting it away while the water cooled.

"The water's safe now," Silas said to Adelaide, nodding to the pot. "Drink up."

As Adelaide drank, Silas withdrew his own water bottle from his backpack and took a long drink. His bottle was almost empty, and his spare already was, which meant he'd be spending the rest of the day boiling water to replenish his supply. He cursed himself for not checking his water level before he put the stove away, but decided he'd worry about it later. For the moment he had a shelter to finish, and then he'd have to set some snares and hope that he caught something by the morning.

Adelaide looked up at him when she finished her drink, sensing something was going through her boy's head, but he smiled at her and tried to force the anxiety away as he did every night. "We're going to be fine, girl," He said, crouching in front of her and scratching her behind the ears. "Don't worry about me. We'll get through this, one way or another."

She barked at him, and he laughed at the sound. Even though he knew she didn't understand most of the words he said, she understood the emotion behind them. Somehow, she always knew, and she was the first one to tell him he was full of bullshit. They would survive, that much was certain, but whether they were going to be fine or not was a different matter altogether. He hadn't been fine in a long time, and he wasn't sure he ever would be again.

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