Seth was born with a heart condition, the thought entered my mind and left it. I could not panic. When I reached him only moments later I repeated, Seth, are you okay?
I can't do it. I'm done. He was convinced of his own incapability.
Yes you can. You just need to rest. I picked up his backpack. Told him to sit on a log next to it.
Up into the nothingness ahead I yelled, Slater.
What? I heard from a distance further than I had estimated.
Get back here, I yelled louder.
Get back here!
You come here! We're not coming back there.
Slater, NOW! It's Seth.
We shouldn't have to walk all the way back there.
And then in the middle of the woods with God, three boys, trees and a river as my witness I used my most intensive outside voice to instruct, SLATER GOFF, GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE! plus several more exclamation points.
His silence meant he was on the way back telling Isaac how pissed he was for having to rehike a situation.
I turned to Seth, Is it your heart? Where are your pills?
No, it's not my heart. I just can't go any further.
Yes, you can. You just need to rest. Water. We'll get ja something to eat. I transformed into pain free nurse Shea with Seth as my dutiful patient.
Slater and Isaac, the pissed off fellow hikers, were soon on the scene. I gave them the jist of the matter as the food spilled from my pack. We're gonna stop here and rest. Everyone needs to rest and regroup. We'll sit, eat, drink and recoup.
They both did their own checking on Seth and began setting up shop, our own sweet little ICU in Sipsey Wilderness, Alabama.
We were all soon laughing. Seth even. It was like summertime on a patio with good friends. We talked about our day, what we had found along the way.
Once Seth convinced himself of the could do it we began to discuss the prospects of us making it to the car by nightfall. Slater announced his intentions to the group once again. He would be taking a bath in his own bathtub this evening, sleeping in his own bed in his own home. Seth and Isaac agreed.
We are walking against the river, I explained. We were walking against the river the first night. We are going in the opposite direction now. The car is that way, I pointed behind me and across the river.
Slater looked Seth in the eyes and asked, Seth, you've got the map, can we make it? Seth nodded.
He turned to Isaac, Isaac what do ya think?
Let's do it, Isaac replied.
Slater looked at me. I reluctantly nodded my head as well with a Good Gosh whispered loud enough for the three to hear me.
We soon had our packs on and not much later had taken our previous places in line, my eyes on the trail and Seth's back. We were losing light. The rain came again, harder this time. I had to hike closer in order to see Seth through the sheet of water falling from the bib of my hat, my personal waterfall.
The rain let up but little light remained.
A guy yelled from across the river. We yelled back and then heard laughter.
We continued on the trail until Seth and I froze from the sounds of Isaac and Slater celebrating. Whooping and hollering as if they were football fans and their team had just won the championship for the first time in fifty years.
Seth, we made it. I think they found the car.
Yeah, maybe so.
The dark was settling in and the rain came again as we picked up the pace to get to the party. On our way we dared to ask, Slater, is it the car?
No. But we know where we are, he yelled back.
Damn, I thought.
To be continued.....