Marti and the Doppelganger - Chapter 8

Marti and the Doppelganger
Chapter 8

By Portia Bennett

 
Introduction: This is another story in the Cynthia Chronicles series. Other stories in the series are An Incremental Journey, Cynthia and the Reluctant Girlfriend, Cynthia and the Dumpster Diver, Cynthia and the Moment of Truth, Cynthia and the High School Years - Part I, Cynthia and the High School Years - Part II, Charli and the Girl Cave, Bobbie and the Glass Ceiling, Randi and the College Professor, Adam and the Three Wishes, Lisa and the Culinary Quest (aka Howard and the Completed pass), Cynthia and the Solicitous Sisters-in-Law, Cynthia and the Queen of the Knight, and Cynthia and the Dropped Ball. The time frame of this story follows about three to four years after Charli and the Girl Cave. This story takes place a little more than a year after Bobbie Anderson wins the (British) Open and about ten years after Simoné and the Second Time Around.

It’s time for the big hike to the top of ‘Old Gray Back’, Mount San Gorgonio on most maps. This is a long hike; let there be no doubt about it. Fortunately, the person they hoped would be on the hike is there. Now to save her.

 


This work is copyrighted by the author and any publication or distribution without the written consent of the author is strictly prohibited. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is coincidental.


 
 
Chapter 8
 

“Are there any questions?” the camp director asked.

“Yes,” a voice from nearly in the shadows away from the camp fire asked, “how much water are we going to have to carry?”

“Your canteens hold a gallon, and that should be enough. There is a spring in South Fork Meadows where you may get water. We will be carrying the micro filters if you feel it necessary to resupply there.

“Anything else?”

“What about bathrooms? If I have to go, where do I go?”

“Maybe I should go over this again. This hike is not a walk in Central Park. This is a tough walk. You are going to climb a vertical mile from here to the top. There will not be any convenience stores, food vendors or restrooms. We are only one of two groups permitted to make the climb today. In case you’ve forgotten, this is The San Gorgonio Wilderness. If you have to urinate, find a tree or fallen log. Take care of your business and put your toilet paper in the plastic bag you should have with you. Although the toilet paper is biodegradable, it will take a long time to return to nature in the conditions up there. If you have to defecate, take the shovel, dig a hole and do your thing and bury it. The same rules apply concerning the toilet paper.”

“But what if someone sees me?”

“Your hiking mates can stand around you if you can’t find a place to hide in. Above timberline you might have a problem. I would advise you to take care of things before you leave, and if you feel the urge while on the trail, take care of it before you reach timberline.

“Anything else?

“Good. Remember, if it looks like thunderstorms are developing you will turn around immediately. We can always reschedule the hike for later in the week. We don’t need to flirt with lightning.

“One other thing, if you don’t think you can make it to the top, one of the counselors will stay with you until the rest catch up to you on your way back.”

“Boy, he sure made it sound tough,” Lanu said as they walked back to their cabin.

“I think that was for the benefit of those who didn’t make the first hike. Other than those few blisters, we didn’t really have any problems among our group. We’ll have to watch those that didn’t make the first trip. I think there’re only five new ones. I am worried about that one who is a bit overweight. She didn’t make the first trip. I don’t think she was feeling well.”

“I know it’s only 1500 feet higher than it was where we turned around the other day, but that can make quite a difference. At 10,000 feet we’ve left a third of the atmosphere behind us. That next little bit of altitude change can be pretty rough on some people.

“Speaking of that. You’ve basically lived at sea level all your life. You certainly don’t seem to be having any problems with altitude,” Marti remarked.

“I don’t live any lower than you do in New England. I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji and that’s over 12,000 ft. We did it a week before it blew its top. We were in Tokyo when it erupted. As far as the altitude is concerned, I think we both have a physical advantage being what we are. I think we have quite a few physical advantages. I’ve never had a sick day in my life. I don’t suspect you have either. Great Gramma’s teeth are perfect. She says they get replaced about every fifty years.”

“Do you know how to stop ovulation?”

“No, is that possible?”

“It’s an easy spell. It’ll take just a minute to teach you. We’ve done some studying and have come to the conclusion that it’s best physiologically to have one period a year. I carry tampons for emergencies that others might have. It wasn’t nice what I did to Lily and Wanda, but I had to get their attention. Actually, I was just being mean. I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been prepared to help.

“Let’s get some sleep.”

***

They were on the trail at 7:00 AM. The first few miles were taken at a pretty slow pace. Digesting a big breakfast diverts some of the blood flow to the stomach area, and the legs may tire rather easily. Soon they were heading up “Poop-Out Hill” which was appropriately named. There had been a few complaints from the group previously about how strenuous this portion of the trail was. This time most seemed to find their trail legs pretty quickly. The plan was to take the longer Dollar Lake Trail to Dollar lake Saddle and then follow the ridge line to the top of the 11,500 ft. peak. On the return they would take the steeper but shorter trail back to Dry Lake and back on the South Fork Trail.

The bench mark at the top had the elevation at 11,502 feet; however, depending on the source, the elevation was given as anywhere from about 11,495 feet to 11,502 feet. It was hardly worth quibbling about. It was the sixth greatest vertical height from base to top of any mountain in the lower 48. Several of the volcanos in the Cascade Range had it beat. It did have them beat in one way. On a clear day, and that was problematic in Southern California, one could see Mt. Whitney over 165 miles away. No other place in the lower 48 could claim that sort of view.

They had just turned up the Dollar Lake trail when the group from Camp Coyote overtook them. There were quite a few appreciative glances from each side.

“Marti, that’s him next to last; that good looking guy with the buzz cut.”

“You’re right. There’s no doubt about it. His name is Peter Goretsky, and he’s been horribly abused at home. His father is a real jerk and his mother’s not much better. My goodness, they’d give Wanda’s parents a run for their money. We’ll have to do something about that situation; however, I think this situation is a bit more severe.

“Oops, I just caught something. I’m not sure what it is, but we’re going to have to watch him or her closely.

“Did you get her name?”

“Yes, it’s Penny.”

“So, who is it?” Rhonda asked. “I know you picked up on something.”

“Peter Goretsky, second from the end. He’s in a very bad way. His parents are going to send him to an aversion therapist if he doesn’t turn around.”

“I thought that sort of thing was illegal.”

“It is just about everywhere; however, that doesn’t stop the ‘flat earthers’ from inventing their own ‘science’. Wanda’s parents are the same way, as you know. We’ll have to do something about that situation as well.

“Okay, we know who it is. We’re going to have to watch him carefully. I can set up a link since he’s in sight. We’ll be able to keep track of him, but we won’t be able to get much information. There’s not much need to read his mind at this point unless things start to go south. We will be able to get general feelings. Cindy has taught me quite a bit about mind reading and mental control. I hope I’m as good as she is.

“Everyone is aware there is a problem with someone from that group. We’re going to tell them what’s going on and that we might need everyone’s help. Fortunately, no one has had any problem with our ‘special’ abilities so far.”

Their trail made a drastic turn back to the west as they left the Dry Lake Trail. Then it was a steady climb up past the once again filled Dollar Lake. They took a break near there before making the assault up to Dollar Lake Saddle. By this time they’d caught up to the stragglers in the Camp Coyote Group. Peter Goretsky was among them.

“Hi guys, how’s the climb going?” Marti asked.

“Not bad, we’re just taking it easy. Some of the guys think they’re going to set a time to climb record. We’ll probably catch them in a few miles.” This was said by one of the counselors who’d stayed with the slower group.

“Do you want to tag along? We were just making a sock check. We don’t need any blisters.”

“Sure,” Rhonda said, “but you might have to pick it up a bit.”

After quick introductions, the two groups, now one group, started up the steep trail to Dollar Lake Saddle. The view down Falls Creek Canyon towards Mill Creek was spectacular, and the girl who’d caught the large trout the previous week immediately wondered out loud if there were any trout down there. There was a little time for pictures before they headed east towards the massive peak. Marti and Lanu hung back just a bit and tried to strike up a conversation with Peter without much success. If they could get any response out of him at all, it was mostly “yes”, “no” or “grunt.”

Cindy had told Marti many times about the mixed blessing of being able to read minds. Lanu had similar instructions from her mother and grandmother. It’s a two edged sword. One may find out things that they had no right to know. There were the exceptions, of course. For instance, criminal activity or where someone’s life was on the line. Marti was pretty sure that was the case here; however, she did not want to come on too strong. They would just have to play it by ear and try to gain Peter’s confidence.

As they neared the summit, Marti sensed that something was going to happen. The last mile or so had been a very gentle climb to the top with spectacular views in almost all directions. By the time they reached the top, they knew it had been worth the effort. If one were to ask how many pictures were take, the guess would have probably in the hundreds. However, Peter seemed to be distancing himself from the rest of his group.

“Rhonda, tell Mr. Spencer that we’re going to lag a bit behind because one of us is having menstrual cramps. We’ll catch up in a little while.” Marti was getting the feeling that the situation was going to escalate.

“Everyone, we know something is going to happen. We’re just not certain what or when. For however long it takes, we’re going to disappear in a visual sense. We’re going to be invisible. I’ve ‘suggested’ to the others that we are just behind them. They won’t notice if we’re lagging behind. We’ll also be ‘running silent’. No one will be able to hear us. We’ve briefed you on Peter’s situation, and we’re going to do our best to prevent any disaster from happening.

“As far as our group is concerned, no one will notice we’re missing.”

As suspected, Peter started lagging behind as they switchbacked down the mountain. As they reached a long straight stretch that would eventually lead them to Dry Lake, Peter suddenly cut off a trail to a large outcropping of rock. It became very apparent to everyone that Peter intended to jump. It was not a good decision for many reasons. One of the more obvious ones was that the drop was probably not far enough to be fatal. However, in his mental state he obviously was not thinking clearly.

Marti immediately took off on a run trying to catch him before he reached the top of the rock outcrop. She knew she couldn’t get there in time. The only thing she could do was project as loudly and as powerfully as she could.

“Penny, stop! Stop right now! This foolishness has to stop right now. We’re here to help you. Don’t you dare try to kill yourself,” Marti shouted mentally and verbally.

Peter was taken up short. His arms flailed as he attempted to regain his balance. Too late, he disappeared from view.

***

Were they in time to save Penny? Of course they were; however, this is not the time to fool around. Marti summons The Wizard. He takes several major steps.



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