The Blake family holiday takes a frightening turn when parents, Tom and Jane, vanish without a trace. Young teens, Tim and Sarah, will have to figure out how to survive on their own if they’re to have a chance of finding their parents.
“You’ll have a great time at the lake!” Dad grinned at Tim and Sarah. “We’ll go fishing, make smores over a campfire, go camping. There’s so much to do that will be a new experience for both of you.”
Tim and Sarah exchanged glances. They’d hoped to visit Disney World for their annual holiday or charter a yacht in Hawaii. Camping by some crummy lake wasn’t even on their list of desirable holiday adventures.
“We can row out to some of the islands too,” Mom added. “Your dad and I always wanted to explore the haunted cabin on Moose island.”
Haunted cabin? The children were now far more interested in this lake holiday idea.
“We might see sasquatch,” Tim said. “Or gumberoo.”
“Or find evidence of ghosts!” Sarah turned to her parents. “We’re in. When do we leave?”
The children’s excitement quickly faded when they arrived at the lake. Cabins nestled among the trees lining the shore, and every last one of them looked like they’d been built by pioneers. While their parents carried their luggage inside, Tim and Sarah stood on the path and stared at the cabin they’d be staying in for the next week.
If we do see a weird creature, I’m jumping into its jaws so I don’t have to deal with this anymore,” Tim said.
“We have to do whatever it takes to get out of here.”
Sarah eyeballed her brother. “Do you understand me?”
Tim and Sarah spent the next hour complaining about the smell inside the cabin, the dust, and the various small bugs they found. Their parents brushed everything off, to their dismay.
“We’re in nature now, kids. Enjoy the experience! Your dad is building a fire so we can have barbecued fish and potatoes baked in the coals for lunch. Maybe later we can forage for edible plants in the forest. Isn’t that great?”
Sarah gasped. “You’ve got to be kidding. I am not eating food cooked in coals! That’s gross. I want takeaway instead.”
What kind of backwater hell have you brought us to?” Sarah shrieked once Mom finished explaining that takeaway was impossible out there. “I insist we go home tomorrow, otherwise I’m running away.”
“Me too.” Tim was on the verge of tears. “Holidays are supposed to be fun, Mom, but instead you’re torturing us.”
“Come on, guys.” Mom held out her hands to them. “I know this is a little rougher than what you’re used to, but it will still be fun. There’s a lot of joy to be found in living a simple life and spending time together as a family.”
“They couldn’t have gone anywhere without the car, Sarah. I think something happened to them.”
“People in the suburbs live a simple life, this is more like being homeless!”
“Yeah,” Tim added. “Or living in the last century. How can there not be a single restaurant that delivers here? How do these people survive?”
“They eat coal potatoes!” Sarah wailed. “And fish they kill with their bare hands!”
Sarah ran from the room, and Tim followed. Their mother, Jane, buried her head in her hands.
Meanwhile, the children’s father, Tom, was enjoying cooking dinner. He was pleased he’d caught a fish for dinner and hadn’t lost his knack for making perfect baked potatoes. He looked up with a grin when he noticed Jane approaching, but his smile dropped when he saw her sad expression.
“We might’ve had good intentions when we agreed to give our kids the best in life, but we’ve spoiled them.”
Jane sat beside her husband on a log near the fire. “They don’t value the simple things in life at all.”
“What happened?” Tom put his arm around Jane’s shoulders.
“They refuse to eat. They’re grossed out by the idea of eating a fish you caught yourself, and ‘coal potatoes’ as Sarah put it.” Jane sighed. “They want to go home.”
Tom clenched his jaw. Some of his best memories were from family camping trips, and he couldn’t believe his children wouldn’t even give this vacation a chance.
“Well, you and I will have a great dinner, and we’ll figure something out to get the kids involved.” Tom squeezed Jane. As he reached over to remove their food from the fire, heavy footsteps came toward them fast. The couple turned and gasped at what they saw behind them.
Today is the day we leave this dump,” Sarah declared when she and Tim woke the following morning.
The siblings went out into the main room to demand they leave immediately, but neither Mom nor Dad was in there. They checked outside next, but their parents weren’t by the lake or in the surrounding forest.
“Where could they be?” Sarah kicked at the dead coals of the fire Dad made last night. There were still a few potatoes nestled in the ash. “I’m hungry.”
“Turn around slowly and raise your hands. I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest.”
“Me too.” Tim had been waving his phone around, trying to get a signal, but he lowered it now. “There’s no reception here, and no internet either.”
Sarah sniffed. “Maybe they went to get breakfast at some dumpy diner in town.”
Tim shook his head. He pointed to the car parked beneath the trees. “They couldn’t have gone anywhere without the car, Sarah. I think something happened to them.”
Eventually, Tim and Sarah were so hungry that they fished the potatoes from the ashes and ate them. When the sun started sinking over the lake, and their parents still hadn’t returned, Tim and Sarah decided to search the car.
Dad hadn’t used a map or GPS to drive them there, and the only money in the car was a few cents lying in the glove box. There were no snacks or any kind of food except bags of potatoes.
The children curled up together on the couch to discuss their situation, but neither of them knew what to do. Their cell phones didn’t work, and they hadn’t seen anyone else the entire day. They couldn’t walk to town either, as it was miles away, and they weren’t sure of the route.
We’re going to die out here, aren’t we?” Sarah sniffed.
“I won’t give up without a fight.” Tim hugged his sister.
“We’ll figure out a way to survive tomorrow, and then we’ll try to find out what happened to Mom and Dad.”
“What if some crazy forest hobo killed them?” Sarah looked up at Tim with fear in her eyes. “Or a gumberoo?”
That frightened Tim, but he remained stoic. He was the oldest and knew he’d need to look after his sister. He comforted her, and the siblings went to bed, but they didn’t sleep easy. Strange sounds emanated from the forest, and Tim was sure he heard someone walking around their cabin.
The next morning, Tim discovered something he and Sarah overlooked when they first searched the car: fishing rods.
At least we’ll have something to eat other than potatoes,” he told Sarah as he prepared to make them breakfast.
Having watched several movies where ordinary people survived the wilds, Tim was confident he knew how to proceed. He nearly hooked Sarah while setting up the fishing rods, but that was her own fault. She was trying to get a signal on his cell phone and wandered too close to where he was working.
Next, he went to light the fire. He’d collected wood from the forest’s edge and arranged it carefully. He struck a match and lit the kindling. When it went out without lighting the wood, he gathered more kindling and tried again.
“Tim!” Sarah’s excited cry distracted Tim from his tenth attempt to light the fire. She’d grabbed one of the fishing rods and was fighting with it. Tim ran to help her, and soon they landed a sizeable fish.
Sarah jumped for joy. She then took a turn coaxing the fire to life while Tim gutted their catch. Eventually, they had fish and potatoes cooking over the fire.
The siblings’ next priority was to find their parents. That night, they agreed to walk along the road until they got a signal on Tim’s phone. However, they never got to follow through with their plan.
Tim was woken by the sound of heavy footsteps. It was pitch black. He lay in bed listening to the footfalls circle the cabin, and approach the door! He quickly shook Sarah to wake her up. He was about to investigate, but she held him back.
“This must be the person who took Mom and Dad,” she whispered.
“We need to hide so we can follow him when he leaves. He’ll lead us to our parents.”
Tim agreed. Brother and sister hid away while the mystery person entered the house and opened doors and drawers. What could they be looking for? When the footsteps receded back towards the front door, Tim left his hiding spot to follow the person.
By the wan light of a sickle moon, Tim watched the shadowy figure approach the car. They opened the boot and removed a sack. Fear filled Tim’s heart as he realized the intruder would steal their food.
Tim grabbed a section of the fishing rod he’d left near the door and ran into the night. Thinking fast, he raised the length of the pole as though it were a rifle and pointed it at the intruder.
“Stop or I’ll shoot,” Tim cried. “Turn around slowly and raise your hands. I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest.”
Sarah had joined Tim and shone a flashlight at the intruder’s face as he turned around. When Tim saw who it was, he dropped his pole.
“Dad! What are you doing?”
Tom gave his children a sheepish smile. “Let me fetch your mom and we’ll explain everything.”
An hour later, Tim and Sarah sat across from their parents. They couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.
“So, all this time you were in the neighboring cabin with some guy you made friends with when you first came here years ago?” Tim said.
“And you just watched us starve and worry about you?” Sarah wailed. Tears coursed freely down her cheeks.
“We wanted both of you to realize the value of the simple things in life, and that money can’t buy you everything in this world.” Tom looked at Jane with a slight frown. “We might’ve taken it a bit too far, but we didn’t see any other way to get through to you.”
Tim sighed. He was furious with his parents, but he could see now that he and Sarah had been bratty about the cabin. Much as he hated to admit it, they wouldn’t have listened if their parents had tried to convince them to go fishing or cook potatoes in the fire.
“Fine, but you owe us a proper holiday now.” He pointed at his parents. “You turned this one into a disaster, so the least you can do is make up for it.”
Jane nodded. “We’ll leave first thing tomorrow. Maybe we can book a few days at a nice resort close to home.”
Tim shook his head.
“No, we’ll stay here. Tomorrow, you’re going to show Sarah and me how to fish and find plants we can eat.”
“Yeah.” Sarah smiled a little. “That way, we won’t have to die of hunger the next time you two decide to disappear.”
Tom and Jane smiled at each other.
“Whatever you say, kids,” Tom replied.
A year later, Tom arrived home one day with a brochure for a luxury resort.
“To make up for last year, I’ve planned an extra special trip,” he announced. “We’ll be going to Mexico!”
Tim and Sarah exchanged glances. At one time, they would’ve been overjoyed at the opportunity to travel to a different country on holiday. It was still a tempting proposition, but as Dad showed them pictures of the resort, they realized it wasn’t the sort of holiday they wanted.
“Actually, can we go to the lake cabin again?” Tim asked. “We still need to explore that haunted island.”
“Yeah,” Sarah said. “Just promise us one thing: we’ll bring more to eat than a few sacks of potatoes!”
Jane gave her husband a wry grin. “I’m sure we can bring some carrots too. Maybe some broccoli.”
“I meant snacks, Mom!” Sarah said.