I dreamt I was back at my camp, the giant bag of cocaine sitting on my lap and I was shoveling handfuls of it into my mouth. Giant white clouds of the stuff exploded around my face when it didn’t quite reach my mouth. In the dream I could practically feel the powder stinging my eyes. The kid had been sitting across from me on the other side of the picnic table. His face glowed pale in the moonlight above us and he was doing the same thing, except with handfuls of dollar bills. Dollar bills he was pulling from a suitcase on his lap. He chewed the paper like a cow with his cud, small bits were escaping his mouth and clinging to his face, sticky with saliva. It went on and on like this until I awoke, sweating, an apparently crying.
Looking down at the kid in the darkness, all I could see of him was the long thin dagger of light extending out from his camera, but that was okay. If the light went out, then I would have cause to worry. Squinting my eyes, I could see the kid moving his light over what appeared like a carpet of fallen logs. As if some lumberjack had hacked off the limbs of an entire forest of trees and came here to dump them to hide what he’d done.
My heart had eased the thumping beat it had picked up when the kid disappeared down the crevice. It looked like he’d reached the bottom, or perhaps it was a false bottom? Just another clot of sticks hanging in midair, thick enough to give the illusion of ground. I tossed the thought away. I moved down the crack, moving away from where the kid was frantically tossing logs this way and that. The river of logs continued well past where the kid was searching, and I could see no thin spot where daylight shone through from the bottom. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a false bottom, but it helped the odds that the kid was on a pretty secure space.
“How’s it going, kid?” I yelled down.
“Nothing yet,” he yelled back. The camera was sitting on the ledge beside the kid’s head. Far below, the top of his head looked like the tip of a dirty Q-tip, and the logs he was tossing around were mere twigs.
With each log he threw the beating in my heart increased. If it was only a clot of sticks, any of the logs he was pulling out could be a linchpin, and removing it could send the whole works cascading down, swallowing the kid in a moving river of sharp logs.
Look at you worrying about the kid, my mind jabbed.
“I saved his life once didn’t I?” I mused, watching him work. “I also gave Arthur my word.”
“A promise means a lot coming from a junkie like you?” The voice came from the other side of the crack, and when I looked over my mother was peering her cracked and decaying face out from behind a large maple.
I ignored her, and tried to ignore the cold sweat coating my arms and the gooseflesh rashing out there.
“I’m going to help him out of this crack, and if he does find the money, I’ll worry about that after.” I told the black mouth of the crack. From the trees across from me, a trill of laughter echoed; a high-pitched cackle. I looked again, not being able to help myself, but she had gone.
“Good riddance,” I muttered.
The kid continued to work, and I continued to watch him. He had moved further to my left, closer to the cliff’s edge, and closer to the jagged white line that descended from the top of the cliff and down, marking the space where the crevice opened up. Moving further in that direction was dangerous, but it allowed more light and I’m sure that’s what the kid was looking for.
“Be careful down there kid,” I yelled. He didn’t respond.
“You want to take the money don’t you?” the voice came from my left this time. I turned, my pony-tail sliding over my shoulder. She was standing on the edge of the cliff, glancing down into the crevice where the kid worked.
“You’re not real,” I said. “And no, I don’t want the money.” She looked at me. Her eyes were pale white, almost without colour, and her skin was like blue cheese. Her arms were raked and pitted with track marks. She smiled a grin with no teeth.
“Sure, Rodney boy, sure,” she breathed. She was getting closer, and I closed my eyes and willed the hallucination away.
It’s not real, she’s not real. I know this, so you have no power.
I opened my eyes and she was gone again.
I looked back down into the crack and the kid was gone too. I blinked a few times, searching for the beam of light from his camera, but I saw nothing.
My head whipped in both directions, and still saw nothing.
“Son of a bitch,” I spat. “Kid!” I yelled.
“It’s gotta be in here,” his voice came back. Relief washed over me, but I still didn’t see him. I looked to my left, in the direction he’d been heading, and saw nothing, so I turned back.
He had doubled back and was further to the right than he had been before. Near the space where the crevice closed up.
“What’s that kid?” I yelled down.
“If it had been out there,” he pointed to the left toward where the cliff opened up, “it would have been washed out long ago and someone would have found it.” He dropped his arm. I could see his hands were covered in dark brown mud and when they flashed through the camera light, I could see red shining out in the place where he had been cut. His hands splashed giant shadows on the rock wall behind him. “So it’s gotta be jammed down below me here somewhere.” I nodded.
“Makes sense,” I said. Not bothering to yell down to him. He resumed searching, tossing logs this way and that and I continued to wait.
After some time, listening to the kid’s grunts and the clunking of logs crashing into one another, my stomach released a loud grumble. I didn’t dare leave the edge though. If the kid needed help I would need to be as close as possible. Not that I would be as nimble as he was getting down there.
You’d probably end up killing yourself in the process of trying to save him, my mind told me.
“Thanks for the confidence booster,” I said.
I glanced at the dead cougar, hanging suspended in the air, impaled on the first clot of sticks. I shuddered. I turned back to the kid, who was standing frozen, staring at the space between his legs. I watched him for a moment, waiting for him to move, lift the next log and keep searching, but he didn’t. The camera was placed on the ledge again and it shone directly at him. His shadow stood behind him, looking like a warrior standing tall and ready for battle.
“What is it kid?” I yelled down. “Did you find it?” He didn’t answer. The logs around him were covered in a layer of thick brown mud. These were the ones on the uppermost layer, those that are constantly exposed to the elements. The kid stood surrounded by logs that looked bone dry and practically glowed in the camera light. His arms were covered to the elbows in mud, and his shirt was smeared like a kindergartener who has spent a day finger painting.
Then I heard the scraping. It was the sound of a stick being drawn across a rock, but much louder. I looked to the left, and saw the logs nearest the end of the cliff, where it opened up to the view of Algonquin’s west side. They were shifting, as if some giant creature were underneath and making its way toward where the kid was standing. The logs seemed to push up against one another, then started to ease down, Where the crevice opened to the cliff, I could see those nearest the edge beginning to tumble out into mid air, like a waterfall of logs.
“Kid!” I screamed. He still didn’t look up. I turned to the left to look again, and my mother was there, standing among the trees, smiling. I screamed in her face.
“Kid you have to get out of there!” He still hadn’t moved. “Look!” I pointed, but the kid still didn’t look up.
“Fucking hell,” I spat. I clamored over the edge, tossing my legs clumsily down into the crack. They searched for footholds as I shifted my weight. It was almost over right there, as my weight dropped into the crack when my feet still had nothing to support themselves. I slipped down, but grabbed the edge, my hands gritting into the pebbles and sand along the lip of the crevice.
“Shit balls fuck,” I yelled, the string of curses carrying my fear along with them. I looked down. The kid was still cemented in place. He moved though? He’s in a different pose.
“Kid! Open your fucking eyes!” I yelled at him. Yes he had moved, the camera was in his hand now! He was still standing in the logs though. Logs which at any moment could give way sending him falling who knows how far. I started to move down, glancing back at him with each step I took. My heart was slamming into my ribs, and I could feel sweat leaking down my sides and back. I looked up at space above to see my mother’s head hanging over the edge.
“You’re not real!” I yelled at her.
I looked back down, and the kid was gone, the space where he had been standing was nothing but an empty hole. A sinkhole in the logs had opened up which now stared up at me like a large black eye. I stared back.
“Kid!” I yelled down. My hands were gripped into the wall, my feet clinging to small outcroppings on either side.
There was no sign of him.
From above me I could hear that high-pitched laughter begin, echoing down over the walls on its way down to me.