Beyond Salvation

by Mark Peters

Chapter 6

The old mine was apparently called The Good Charlotte, reportedly named after the wife of the first owner. Our ranger friend took great delight in telling us that Charlotte wasn't good to him after all, with the miner, one Clancy Roberts, going broke while working the mine, losing it in a poker game and then having his wife, Charlotte, run off with his best friend.

The second owner did considerably better however, soon striking the rich vein that Clancy had been convinced was there and pulling out of the ground the rather large fortune that Clancy had hoped to collect himself.

Outside the mine it just looked like a cave, or a hole in the ground, going in horizontally. Around the entrance there was quite a bit of timber marking the way in and holding things up, while the railway tracks that came out of the mouth of the mine came to an abrupt stop about ten metres or so from the entrance.

As we crowded around the entrance, all peering into the dark void, our ranger gave a soft chuckle, before walking off to one side and opening the door on a little wooden building not too far away, which we soon found was home to some type of engine.

After fiddling with a few levers on the engine he pulled a cord and the motor soon fired up, coughing and spluttering a little and blowing out a cloud of acrid smelling blue smoke. The ranger adjusted something on the engine after a few seconds and the rough sounding motor quickly settled down into a smooth rhythm and as it did so we noticed lights start to appear inside the mine, illuminating the dark void deep into the mountain.

'Oh, wow,' Merry exclaimed. 'We don't need torches or candles after all. I was beginning to worry.'

'No, you won't need them at first,' the lady ranger said to her. 'But once you're in there you will need them for a couple of sections that haven't been brought into the twentieth century just yet. You'll be able to still get a feel of what it was like for the miners one hundred and fifty years ago when all they had were candles or lanterns.'

For the next three hours we were shown through the mine, travelling deep into the mountain and seeing first-hand what the miners faced in trying to make their fortunes. The section where electricity hadn't been connected and where we had to take candles with us proved most fascinating for me, as trying to see traces of different coloured rock under candlelight when compared to torchlight or electric light was almost impossible, at least to my eye.

I could easily see why old Clancy Roberts could have been within millimetres of a fortune and probably wouldn't have even known it.

The highlight of the morning, for some of us at least, was the ride on the self-propelled railway trolleys, which required people to push the handles on either side of a pillar in the centre of it up and down. We used this to ferry some people from the depths of the mine back to the entrance, swapping drivers after each trip so that quite a few of us had a go at it.

Part of the reason for this trip was for geology, so apart from checking out the inner workings of the mine Spills also had us studying various rock types and formations. To my untrained eye just about the only type of rock I could identify was granite, with its grainy grey texture, but I could see there were other types of rocks around, particularly the smooth black rocks down by the creeks – of which I had no idea what they were.

'All right then folks,' Mrs Bird finally called out to us, as she tried in vain to gather everyone together. 'Before we head back to the bus, where our lunch awaits, it's time to hand out your assignments. Please break up into your study groups and start on these while we are still at the mine. After lunch we will explore up and down the creek looking at rock types and rock formations for Mr Spillsbury's class, then we will complete the assignments.'

The assignments were soon passed around, then just as we did the day before we broke off into our small groups and started working through the first part of them. About half an hour later the teachers asked us to finish up so we could make it back to the buses at a reasonable time, then a few of us who were close by Mrs Bird started to gather around her, while I saw Hollywood, Miss Petrie and Spills trying to gather everyone else together.

'We'll get started then,' Mrs Bird said to Hollywood, who gave her a nod, then she set off back down the path with a group of us in tow.

I followed Pete and Merry back down the hill to the log across the creek which served as a bridge, smiling to myself as I watched them walking close together, almost, but not quite holding hands and thinking just how much things can change in less than twenty-four hours.

Despite Pete's little adventures with me from last night and this morning I still thought that they would make a nice couple, though I also suspected that Pete would be one of those guys who couldn't, or wouldn't, be able to stay entirely on the straight and narrow. I've seen a few of those types of guys in the past few years, most of whom were older married guys, so I figured I knew what I was talking about on that front. I didn't know if he would come to me looking for succour, in fact I was now kind of torn by the prospect of him doing that, because of our friendship with Merry, but whatever happened, I just hoped that Merry wouldn't end up the one being hurt. I decided that I would have to talk to Pete again about it before things got too serious between them.

There were a couple of other kids in front of them on the path down the hill, as well as Mrs Bird, and when we all reached the log, we did exactly as we had done on the way over that morning, with just two people allowed on the log at a time.

The kids in front went first, under the direction of Mrs Bird, to be followed by Merry, Pete and then me. As I waited, I glanced around behind me to see who would be next and was suddenly surprised to see Dallas standing right behind me, wearing a bright orange wind-jacket, with Timmy Baker and a few of their other cronies behind him.

I said nothing, then simply turned back around to face the others. I found that having them standing so close to me was quite unnerving, but I was determined that I wasn't going to let them see that. I wasn't going to give them that satisfaction.

The last of the first group was now on the bridge and Merry had stepped up, ready to cross. When it was her turn she started forward, with Pete stepping up ready to go once it was time. When Merry was about halfway over Pete started and then I stepped up onto the end of the log.

One by one, we were crossing easily, even allowing for the damp log, which was a touch slippery, with the fast flowing water beneath us. Everything was going like clockwork.

When Merry stepped off the log and Pete was halfway over, I then started.

'Watch your step there, fairy,' I heard Timmy say from behind me.

'Grow up, man,' I heard Dallas rebuke him. I couldn't help but smile to myself.

When I was about halfway over the log, I heard Mrs Bird say to Dallas, 'Okay then, you're next, Dallas.'

For some reason though, when Dallas stepped up onto the log I thought that I felt something. It may have just been a vibration or something from him stepping heavily onto it, but I definitely felt something shudder beneath my feet.

I stopped and turned back toward Mrs Bird. I saw Dallas stop too.

'What's wrong?' he asked me.

'I… I thought I felt the log move,' I answered him.

'What? That's nonsense,' Mrs Bird said. 'Keep going. Hurry up.'

Dallas started walking again and by now wasn't too far behind me, then, just as I was about to turn and start moving forward again, I saw Timmy jump straight up onto the log in one leap.

This time I most definitely did feel something and judging by the look of horror on Dallas' face, so did he.

'Did you feel that?' I said to him urgently.

He just nodded and grabbed hold of the rope.

'Timmy! Get back down now,' Mrs Bird cried out.

'What?' he asked, then proceeded to give another little jump.

The log shuddered once more as Dallas and I braced ourselves, holding onto the rope, but that wouldn't be enough. Suddenly I felt the log move under us.

'Run!' Dallas yelled at me, but I was frozen to the spot, my hands wrapped around the rope along each side of the bridge. Everything happened like it was in slow motion, as he started coming toward me, hand over hand along the rope. I turned back around and faced the direction we were supposed to be going in, and it was then that I saw the wide crack in the earth ahead of us, all around the end of the log where it joined the back.

Dallas careered into me, but my hands stayed firm on the rope.

'JJ… let go of the fucking rope!' he screamed in my ear, but the message was too slow in getting through to my brain, and suddenly the entire bank gave way in front of us, with that end of the log falling into the fast-flowing water with a great splash.

Somehow the other end was still at least partially embedded in the bank, but it had dropped right down from where it usually sat, and the others weren't within reach of it.

Above us hands were reaching out from the bank. Pete, Merry, the other kids, they were all calling out to us, all trying to reach us, but they couldn't, while behind us I saw Timmy holding on desperately to the end of the log, while Mrs Bird, the ranger and the rest of our class were either looking on in horror or screaming.

Dallas and I were holding on as best we could, half in and half out of the water, the creek washing over us, cold, powerful, and unrelenting. With the log jutting out into the creek, Dallas was on the downstream side of the log, his body almost fully submerged in the water, and still clinging onto one of the posts that was bolted to it to hold the rope. I was on the upstream side, copping the full brunt of the force of the water and just managing to hold on.

'Try and pull yourselves up the rope,' I heard the ranger call out, but to be honest it was all we could do just to hold on.

'Can you move your hands?' Dallas asked, calling out to me across the log.

'I don't know,' I answered, copping a mouthful of muddy water for my troubles.

I tried moving my hands but nothing happened. I tried again and this time I managed to open a couple of fingers. Taking any small victory I could I tried sliding my hand back up along the rope, but just as I tried this I was struck by something in the water, which I think was a branch, and this caused me to lose my hold of the rope with that hand.

'Hang on!' I heard Dallas yell at me as one of my arms flailed wildly in the air.

'I'm trying!' I tried calling back to him, but it was drowned out by the roar of the rushing water.

Just then I thought I felt the log move once more and I glanced at Dallas. His eyes widened in fear.

'It's going to let go,' he yelled. I could only nod.

Once more in slow motion I felt and watched as the log moved. The end of the log we had first stepped onto still seemed to be anchored in the muddy bank, in front of where our classmates, teachers and the rangers remained, but the end we were clinging to had started to swing downstream, pushed by the current. If it kept going and struck the looming bank, I suddenly realised, Dallas would be crushed between it and the log.

'Behind you! Watch out for the bank!' I yelled at him as I tried once more to get a hold of something, anything, but it was too late. Just as Dallas turned around, he saw the approaching bank, there was nothing he could do, and the log smashed him against the muddy earth.

For a moment he managed to cling to the post he had been grasping, but then I heard him groan, his eyes closed, and he let go, disappearing beneath the murky water.

'Nooooo…' I screamed, while making a frantic dive at where he had just been. I don't know how I managed it, but I found the strength to haul myself over the log and fling myself into the water where moments before he had just been. Frantically I reached down and then dived down into the water, feeling around for any sign of him, but there was nothing, I couldn't see or feel him anywhere.

The force of the water was exhausting. The noise was deafening. But somehow above that I heard a scream, 'Down there!'

Holding on to the post that only moments before Dallas had been holding, I looked up and saw Mrs Bird pointing off down the creek and my head snapped back around in that direction, frantically searching the raging waters for some sight of Dallas. At first I could see nothing, just the gurgling, bubbling water, but then I saw a spot of colour… something bright orange in the sea of brown. It was Dallas. It had to be.

Without giving it a moment's thought I let go of the post and just let the water carry me away, while at the same time I kicked hard, wanting to go as fast as I could, wanting to get to Dallas as quickly as I could.

I heard screams come from behind me, but I didn't look back. I didn't care about myself. All I cared about was reaching Dallas. I had to try and save him. I knew I was his only chance.

Going as hard as I could I tried swimming along with the flooding creek, trying to go as fast as I could, thinking that with each kick, each stroke, I would somehow get that little bit closer to him.

When I looked back moments later, I could see that I was getting farther and farther away from where my classmates and teachers were standing, open-mouthed, or with their heads in their hands or on each other's shoulders. Merry couldn't bear to look apparently, as she appeared to be crying on Pete's shoulder, while his arms were wrapped protectively around her, as his ashen-coloured face looked my way.

They really did make a nice couple I thought. But then they were gone, as the creek flowed around a bend and they were all obscured from my view.

It truly was up to me now. I simply had to get to Dallas.

Every time I felt like I was on the top of a swell or wave I tried looking ahead of me for any sign of him or his orange jacket, but so far there was none. I knew I was really struggling in the water, but I couldn't stop looking for him. I knew I couldn't give up.

As I was being washed down stream, the farther I went the more I noticed the changes in the banks of the creek, which seemed to have gone from muddy cutaways with grassy edges to large granite boulders and steep sides. The creek was also narrower and with it the water seemed to be travelling faster as it was funnelled into the confines of a ravine.

I imagined Dallas, somewhere up ahead of me, unconscious and unable to fend for himself and being smashed against the rocks.

Looking forward I once again tried searching for him and for what seemed like a long time, which I felt sure wouldn't have been any more than just a few seconds, I saw nothing. But then, just as I was about to give up hope I saw another flash of orange, perhaps not quite as vivid or bright as it had earlier been, but it was there, nonetheless. The good news was that it was even closer to me than I could have possibly hoped for.

Once more I kicked hard, trying to propel myself closer. The next time I spotted him I was closer again, so I kicked again and again, then moments later he was right there, almost within reach, bobbing around in the fast-moving water, apparently unconscious, but at least with his head out of the water.

My spirits soared at the thought of being able to finally grab hold of him, but just as I reached out to grasp him, I was thrown sideways by a surge of water, and my fingers closed in thin air.

I kicked hard again and tried swimming back to him, but on the up and down and ebb and flow of the water each time I thought I was close enough, I suddenly wasn't.

Eventually something went my way, however, even though it was unfortunate for Dallas, as he was smashed into a log that was half in and half out of the water, resting against the rocks on the side of the creek. For a precious few seconds, this seemed to halt his momentum and I was finally able to get close enough to him to reach out and grab both him and a branch protruding from the log, and somehow managing to hold us both there for long enough for me to be able to at least catch my breath.

Quickly I checked to see what sort of shape he was in. Holding his wrist I could feel a faint pulse. Holding my ear to his chest I thought I could hear his heart beating. He was out cold, but at least he was breathing, even if he sounded a bit raspy. It was enough for now, I thought.

Looking around me I could see that there was no easy way out of where we were. The rocks and boulders against which the log was resting were large and steep, sitting in a way that made it impossible for me to climb up or around them, and even if I was capable of climbing the log itself and dragging Dallas up with me, it led nowhere. Above the point where it stopped was nothing but cliff.

Where the log had come from, I had no idea, but I eventually figured that it must have been washed downstream at some stage in a previous flood.

Downstream! I rather forlornly looked in that direction. Was that our only chance of escape?

I started thinking about what our options might be.

If we stayed where we were I didn't know how long I would be able to hold us there, or how long it might be before any sort of a search or rescue party might come looking for us.

Fuck, I wished Dallas were awake so that he could at least have a say in what we did. He was usually the hero… I'm just the local fairy, remember?

'Faaaaarrrkkkk!' I yelled out as loud as I could. 'Get us out of here!'

All I heard was my own echo, but even that was drowned out by the rushing water that was tearing at us, trying to pry us loose to sweep us away to our… to our what? Our deaths?

Fucking hell! That was it, wasn't it? Or that would be it if we didn't get ourselves out of the water! But how and where could we do that?

I looked across at the other side of the creek in the hope that there may have been a spot over there where we could have made it to, but that side was exactly the same as where we were now – rocky and steep.

Thoughts of what our options might be started coming back into my head.

We could stay where we were. Too easy that, but if we chose that option, only one of two things would happen. Looking on the bright side we could get rescued, but when that would be God only knew! Then, I supposed, looking on the more practical side of things we could stay there until we eventually grew so tired that we simply let go, or were washed away… in which case we died!


Or we could push off now, before we grew too tired to hold on anymore, and take our chances. Sooner or later there would be somewhere downstream where we could make it to the bank and be safe again. All we had to do was survive another pummelling like that we had just come through.

I know that my thinking was probably flawed, but I was getting cold and tired and I knew that if we stayed here there was no way I would be able to hold on forever. At least the bit of a rest had let me catch my breath. For that I was grateful. I think I knew what I wanted to do. I just wished I could have asked Dallas what he wanted to do. He would know what was best.

After a few more minutes of indecision I finally made up my mind. I realised that we had to have a go at getting ourselves out of this position or we would die. It was a case of stay and die, or try to get somewhere safe, or die trying.

What did we have to lose?

When I had finally made up my mind a strange calm seem to come over me. I was no longer cold and shivering. My muscles were no longer aching. I knew what we had to do.

First things first, I had to position Dallas so that I could not only hold onto him, but also keep him afloat and stop his head from going under. I slowly managed to manoeuvre us around so that his back was against my chest and my arms were wrapped tightly around his body, with his head back against my right shoulder. I linked my hands together just below his rib cage so that I had a good grip, with my intention being to try and start out by floating backwards out into the current and at least trying to go down that way.

There was no way of telling if my plan would work, but the only way I was going to find out was by trying it. If I looked like getting into trouble, I reasoned, we could try and find another spot to rest up for a bit just like we had with this log.

All right then. This is it. It's now or never.

With my back to the centre of the creek I gave a push with my legs against the log and propelled us outwards, into the flowing stream.

At first nothing much happened. We bobbed along slowly in the slightly calmer waters at the edge of the current, but then we were picked up by the water. It felt like hands grabbing at us from all sides as we were starting to be pushed and pulled in all directions. Gradually we started going faster and faster, then as we reached the centre of the creek it was like we had been dumped into an industrial washing machine as we were picked up, dumped sideways and spun around.

Almost immediately I rued the decision to push off and keep going. I just knew now that we were going to die, and it would be all my fault.

It was all I could do to keep my arms wrapped around Dallas as downstream we were swept, spinning around, being dunked under, smashing into unknown obstacles. Despite all this I was determined not to let him go. If death was what was meant for us today, then we would die together.

For how long, or how far, we were swept along I have no idea. It seemed like forever.

Above us I could see patches of blue sky between heavy and dark clouds. Around us I could see mountains rising and falling, rocking back and forth and spinning around and around. The noise was deafening. The water was cold and unrelenting and tasted of mud.

Then, all of a sudden, things changed. The water no longer was all around us, no longer grabbing at us, it was as if we were floating through the air. Were we falling?

The thought that flashed through my mind was: What the fuck?

But then I realised what was happening. There must have been a waterfall, and we were now at the mercy of whatever lay below us.

I couldn't help it, but Dallas slipped from my grasp as we fell. Down we both went, tumbling and falling beside each other.

This was it. This was the end, I was sure. But the end never came. At least not the way I had expected it to.

We hit the water with a splat, followed by millions more gallons of murky creek water coming over on top of us.

We were forced down deep into a waterhole. I know my lungs were screaming out for air and I only hoped that instinct would help Dallas survive and that he wouldn't breathe in a lung full of the dangerous water.

When we stopped tumbling and I regained my senses I opened my eyes. Everything was dark and brown, but through the gloom I caught sight of something different, which I soon realised was Dallas and his orange jacket.

Quickly I went to him and grabbed hold of him, then with tired, aching limbs I tried to swim up toward the surface, dragging him with me as best I could. At one staged he slipped from my grasp once more, and I had to go back for him. Lungs were burning.

'Don't breathe,' I kept thinking, despite my body protesting. 'Don't breathe.'

I was thinking it for him as well as for me.

Then suddenly we broke the surface and with some coughing and spluttering, and a great deal of relief, I drew in a great lung full of fresh, wonderful country air and spluttered out what seemed like a gallon of creek water.

Quickly looking around me I found Dallas beside me, floating face down. I grabbed him and pulled him over onto his back, then, trying to remember the swimming first aid lessons I'd had as a kid, I grabbed him around the throat and started crabbing backward, heading to the nearest bank.

It was hard work and my body was aching but I had to keep going. Inch by inch we seemed to be getting closer, but time was what mattered now. I just knew that somehow, I had to get him onto the bank and try something, anything to bring him back to me.

Eventually I touched the bank. I put my feet down and felt something solid underneath. I had never been so grateful to feel land in all my life.

Standing up on shaky legs I started dragging Dallas out of the water, inch by inch, foot by foot, until we were both out and lying on a grassy bank. I felt battered and bruised and as I gasped for air, I could only imagine that he was far worse off than me. So, despite my own obvious exhaustion I reached out for him to feel if I could find any sign of life.

He didn't seem to have a pulse and I couldn't feel him or hear him breathing so quickly I tried remembering some more of my first aid lessons. It came back to me in spits and spurts, and I was sure I was doing something wrong, but any effort would be better than no effort at all, wouldn't it?

I tilted his head to one side and forced his mouth open. What seemed like a bucket of water flowed out of him. Then I tilted his head back and while pinching his nose I took a deep breath, then placed my lips over his and blew as hard as I could.

This was a moment I had waited half my life for, to have my lips meet his, but these weren't exactly the circumstances I had ever envisaged that happening in.

When I took my lips away I listened and could hear a kind of gurgling sound coming from inside him, then a small amount of water came up and flowed out of his mouth. Not sure if I was doing the right thing or not I tried once more to blow into his mouth, resulting in the same reaction. My head was confused. I had no idea if I was doing it right or not. Those swimming and first aid lessons were a lifetime ago.

I remembered something about pressing down on their chest, so that was what I did next, placing one hand palm down, with the other on top of it and pressing down. One… two… three… I went.

Dallas gave a bit of a splutter and my own heart skipped a beat.

One… two… three… I tried again. Once more, another little splutter.

I almost couldn't believe it. Something was actually happening.

I tried the mouth-to-mouth again and about another cup full of water came out. That was when I thought I should try flipping him on to his side and trying that as well. I placed my hands under his shoulder and ribs and lifted him up so that he was on his side, then tried the mouth-to mouth once more. I really had no idea what I was doing, or if I was doing anything right, but at least I was trying.

With him on his side I breathed into his mouth once more and this time something definite happened, he coughed and spluttered and a gush of water came running out of him. Then he coughed and spluttered some more, and gave a deep groan, which seemed to come from somewhere deep inside him.

By this time my heart was racing.

I jumped over him and was crouched in front of him looking at his face.

'Dallas! Can you hear me?' I asked him. 'Wake up!'

He groaned once more, but I had no idea if he could hear me or understand me.

'Dallas!' I pleaded.

There was no response.

I put my head down near his mouth to try and hear if he was breathing. He was breathing all right, but it was a gurgling kind of sound that he was making.

He was breathing though, and as far as I was concerned that was all that mattered for the moment.

Sitting up I started looking around me to see where we were.

We were on the edge of a large waterhole which was being fed by not one, but two waterfalls. I had never seen anything like it. There were two streams of water coming over the cliffs, about ten metres above us, plummeting down into the waterhole, which then emptied out and continued on, passing down through what looked like some jagged and very dangerous rapids and eventually disappearing behind a rocky crag.

Where we both were now was on a grassy flat, which ran down to the edge of the water, while behind us was a rocky outcrop at the base of a steep, but not insurmountable, hill. We were in deep shadows and while I had no idea what time it was, I figured it must have been well into the afternoon by now.

When I looked up at the hillside on the far side of the waterhole I noticed that only the top side of the hill was still bathed in sunlight, which confirmed what I thought about the time. I also came to the realisation that the sun would be setting behind us, so that the hill in front of us must be to the east.

Looking at the rocks behind us I could see that there was an overhang there, under which, I thought, we might be able to shelter for the night. I got to my feet and started walking toward it, my body screaming out with each movement, while at the same time I started picking up some sticks and branches that were lying around. I guessed that we might be able to make a fire or something with them, but how we would start it I had no idea.

I knew that I had nothing on me that would be of any use. No phone. No watch. No cigarette lighter. Looking back at Dallas I wondered if he might have anything that could help us, so I decided I needed to check on that, once I dumped my arm load of sticks and branches in front of the overhang and saw that there wasn't much under there that would prevent us from using it.

After a quick glance at Dallas' wrists I found that he was wearing a watch, but also soon discovered it was smashed. He groaned when I moved his arm, so I placed it back down gently.

I felt the pockets of his jeans and pulled a handkerchief and some loose change from one of them, and his wallet from another one, which I soon found contained only his library card, driver's licence, a few dollars in notes and a couple of condoms.

Smiling to myself I then checked his jacket pockets, and it was here that I struck pay dirt, when I first pulled out a sodden, half-empty pack of cigarettes, which I tossed aside, then a small cigarette lighter, followed by a mobile phone.

'Bingo!' I quietly said to myself.

Quickly I checked his phone to see if it was working and if there might possibly be some signal, but it was totally dead, which was hardly surprising seeing as it had just gone through a washing machine. Picking up the cigarette lighter I gave it a flick and a small flame appeared. That was something of a relief.

It would soon start to grow cold, I thought, and the wetness of our clothes had me concerned about catching pneumonia or something like that. I figured that first we would need to get out of these clothes so we didn't stay wet, then I needed to get a fire going so we could dry ourselves and our clothes out as soon as possible.

If I got us under the overhang, then lit the fire in front of us, I reasoned, we could use the rocks as a reflector of some sort to help us keep warm.

Despite his groaning protests I started to drag Dallas toward the overhang, which was only about twenty feet away from us. When I got there I pushed aside some of the litter on the ground and made a clear area where we would be able to sit or lie down. Then came the next part of my plan. I needed to undress Dallas and get him out of his wet clothes.

I propped him up against the rock at the back and started by taking off his jacket, then his t-shirt, and throwing them aside for the time being. Then I took off his shoes and socks and started undoing his belt and the zipper of his jeans.

This was something I had always dreamed of doing, but my dreams never quite found us in this kind of a situation.

As I undressed him I found that he was covered in cuts and deepening bruises, but none appeared too serious. I figured I would most likely be in pretty much the same state.

On his ribs I found a very large bruise developing there, which I figured was where he was squashed between the log and the bank just after we had fallen into the creek. Gently I touched it and pushed, which didn't seem to generate any response from him, so I figured it mustn't have been too bad.

I worked his jeans down and eventually got them off him, leaving him propped up wearing only his boxer shorts. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help but reach out and run one of my hands over the package that was hidden beneath the satin material. After all, I reasoned, I knew I would never get the opportunity to ever do it again and he certainly wasn't in any state to know that I had done it.

He didn't move or make any sound as I reached out and touched him, feeling just for a moment the firmness of him under my fingers. What did happen, though, was something that surprised me greatly. I felt his manhood stir at my touch, which caused me to jerk my hand back in surprise. It was so tempting to just slip my fingers through the slit in his boxers, but not even I was that depraved.

Pulling my hand away I figured that it was my turn now, so I pulled off my shirt, my runners and my jeans, so that I too was left wearing nothing but my boxers, accompanied by numerous cuts, abrasions and bruises, all of which were making their presence felt.

I quickly started gathering up our clothes and, after squeezing them and wringing out as much water as I could, I hung them on the ledge above where we would sit, with the intention being to light our small fire underneath the ledge, with the heat then rising to dry the clothes, while at the same time spreading out to where we would be sitting under the overhang with our backs to the rock wall.

Where these ideas were coming from, I had no idea, but I would be happy to let Bear Grylls take all the credit if we ever got out of here in one piece.

Turning my attention then to the need for a fire, I gathered up some dry grass and some small sticks and set them in a pile just out in front of where I figured we would sit. Then I found some slightly larger sticks, breaking them and setting up a small triangular pile. Using Dallas's lighter I tried flicking it to start a flame, but at first it wouldn't ignite. After a few tries, however, a small flame appeared and I then held it beneath the sticks and grass, allowing them to catch fire.

For a few moments there was only smoke billowing around, but then it started to catch, and soon sticks were catching fire and making happy crackling and popping noises.

I sat there for a few minutes watching as the flames licked at the branches, then once I was satisfied with my handiwork I started adding a few more. While they were catching, I started looking around for some more branches, or even logs, so that we would hopefully have enough wood to burn through the night.

Even though I was exhausted and my body was aching it was kind of a liberating feeling to be out in the open and wearing nothing but my underwear. I was even tempted at one time to take my boxers off and go au naturel, but that seemed to be taking it a bit too far. I laughed as I imagined the reaction of Dallas if he were to wake up while I was doing that! As it was, I was thinking that I would sure have some explaining to do if he woke up right now!

While I was still able to I also gathered a few green branches off some of the low, scrubby bushes that seemed to be growing at the bottom of this little ravine, which I packed in along either side of where we would be spending the night, in the hopes that they would hold a bit of the heat in around us. By the time I was satisfied with my handiwork I could see it was getting late. The sun had disappeared from the top of the hill on the far side of the creek and here on the floor of the ravine it was growing darker. I checked our clothes a couple of times, and they were still quite wet, so after throwing some more wood on the fire I retreated to where Dallas was lying and sat there near him, cross-legged in front of the fire, with my hands out in front of me and being warmed by the flames.

My plan seemed to be working, as it was actually quite cosy where we were, even though I was only in my underwear. At one stage I placed my hand on Dallas' chest and his skin felt quite warm to the touch and when I looked down at his boxers, I could see that they were tented out quite well, so obviously he wasn't in too bad a shape.

For ages I sat there staring at his sleeping form, my eyes flicking down to his shorts every now and then but knowing full well that whatever my hopes and dreams may have once been it was never to be.

In the end I found solace in the fact that I had somehow managed to pull him from the creek and that he was still alive. That was something that I had done, on my own and despite all the odds being against me. No matter what else happened from this point forward I knew I could be proud of that fact, and nobody could take that away from me.

Eventually I lay down and stretched out alongside Dallas, propping myself up on one elbow and watching the darkness fall outside our little shelter. Despite how cold I knew it would be out there, we remained surprisingly cosy with me getting up and throwing another piece of wood on the fire every now and then, to keep it going. I didn't even bother pulling down our clothes and dressing again, preferring to just stay as I was. I imagined that this must have been how the natives must have done it all those years ago.

At some time through the night I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up I looked out to see the eastern skyline bathed in the faintest of golden glows. Dawn was still quite some way off and, as I looked out past what was left of our fire, I could just make out the shapes of rocks and bushes emerging from the night.

From where I was lying, I reached out and picked up a couple of small branches and threw them onto the fire, watching them as they caught alight, with small flames gradually licking their undersides before they eventually burned brightly.

Dallas was lying behind me and as I was throwing the wood on the fire I heard him make a noise. I glanced back at him to see him lying on his back, eyes closed and with one arm across his chest.

I turned my attention back to the fire, then a few moments later I felt an arm being draped across my body as he rolled over onto his side. I froze. There was nothing else I could do.

Was he awake? Was it just one of those things where you roll over in the night and reach out for anything that might be there?

I wanted to turn over and see if he might be awake, but I dared not move.

After a minute or two he seemed to start pulling me in closer to him. I thought I must have been imagining things at first when I felt the pressure from his arm, but when it became slightly firmer, I knew that if I resisted and woke him, he would be bound to freak out entirely.

Inch by inch I gradually moved my body back to be closer to him, until eventually I was resting against his chest. I could feel his heart beating against me, and what's more, I could feel his erection pushing against my buttocks.

How surreal was this trip becoming? First, I give Pete the first blow job of his life and spend the night in his arms, then less than twenty-four hours later I wake up almost naked by a campfire with Dallas.

Despite my having longed for a moment like this since I had first started high school, it was all just too much. Even for me.

All I could do was surrender to the moment and with my head resting on the log we were using as a pillow, I let myself drift off to sleep once more.

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