His campsite was situated beneath a grove of Douglas Firs that resembled armor-plated giants in formation, awaiting orders to attack. Beyond them was a steep slope that rose higher than the three hundred foot tree canopies, so high in fact, it blocked out the setting sun which was already beginning to create an early evening chill. Nearby, the sound of the river could be heard rushing over rocks in a hurried manner. The forest grew louder with insect and bird songs as the young man applied the final touches to his tent, making sure each guy line was taut and secured.
"There we go, that should hold" he said aloud to himself. It had rained the day before so he decided to gather up as much dry kindling and firewood he could find before the sun finally gave up on his position. He began the task of roaming the perimeter of the land he was calling home for the night, collecting good wood when he found it. Now and again he'd retrieve the bowie knife from a sheath that hung from his waist to hack at entangled limbs, cutting free logs that were chosen as a sacrifice for the fire. Upon reaching a large, moss covered tree that had long since fallen from grace, he noticed a plastic bag partially hidden within the leaves and limbs down where it met the ground. Curious, he dragged it out using one of the sticks he had on hand and peeked inside.
"Oh... what the..." he remarked as he took a step back and collected his thoughts. About a half dozen, uncapped syringes stared back at him from inside the bag. He stood there staring at it for a few moments, lost in thought. As he continued looking down it began to look like a crinkly white porcupine staring back up. He imagined it being startled from its resting place, then barking angrily before scurrying off into the woods to hide again, and then he wondered if porcupines even barked in the first place. His thoughts returned to the contents of the bag. "Why in the hell are these way out here?" he thought to himself as he retraced the eight mile hike to this spot. He began to reason through it: chances are a diabetic hiker would not have been so irresponsible to leave this behind, which meant it must have been discarded by a druggie who decided to hike into the forest and shoot up, which also seemed unlikely. Either way, he was pretty pissed that it got left behind in the first place and decided that he would swim for its source, but not before starting a campfire and cooking dinner. Hunger trumps.
Night had fallen and the flames of the crackling fire danced and twisted in the surrounding darkness, creating images of movement everywhere he looked. The flickering fire light reminded him of when he was a child living in West Virginia. His family had purchased eleven acres of untouched rural land in the eastern panhandle, and over the years, had slowly grown it from a single wide trailer on blocks into quite the homestead, equipped with a 3 story house, swimming pool, garden and pastured animals. When he wasn't tending the family farm, he'd spend most of his time camping on the furthest edge of their property, building forts where he could protect their land from outside threats. Many a campfires were had out there, alone in the virgin woods, just he and his cache of army surplus gear and lofty imagination.
He remembered the night when he noticed the glow of what appeared to be a large fire on the northern most edge of their land, and upon hiking there, witnessed a pick-up truck completely engulfed in flames. He quickly ran back home, along one of the many trails he had carved through the woods, and told his parents what he had found. Police detectives, fire fighters, news reporters and neighbors descended upon the scene and over the next several days, his family was the center of everyone's attention. It turns out the pick-up was driven onto their land in the cover of night, a man was tied up and shot to death in the front seat, and the entire truck was set ablaze.
The detectives never did solve the murder, although the killer lived just over the ridge. He remembered going back to the scene of the crime over and over, poking around, searching for clues that might have been overlooked by the police. He recalled how quickly the appeal of playing "Army" switched over to playing "Police Detective" instead. He spent hours at the burn site meditating and pondering, trying to bring justice to a case that had gone cold. And it was at this moment in his life that he discovered his special ability to solve mysteries. Not only had he figured out who committed the crime, but he had even lead the detectives to the small pond where the murder weapon had been tossed. All by way of anonymous tip, of course. He wasn't about to reveal himself to the world just yet.
Memories of youth fading, his thoughts returned to the bubbling pot of water in front of him. The fire popped loudly and a glowing ember the size of a golf ball landed in the dirt near his boot. He casually flicked it back over the rock ring using two sticks, removed the boiling water and poured it into his Mountain House freeze dried food bag. While he waited for the contents to cook he fished around in his backpack and retrieved his abalone shell and a tightly bound bundle of sage. He leaned forward and lit the sage in the fire, turned it a few times, and blew it out. Grabbing his headlamp and abalone shell, he rose and walked up to where the bag of syringes were. With the sage in his right hand he made several soft passes over and around the syringes, allowing the smoke to waft in a particular manner. He placed the sage into the abalone shell and set both to the ground, took two steps back, and with outstretched arms began whispering a blessing of retrieval. He finished with the blessing, smudged one more time, and then returned to camp to eat his dinner.
When he was through eating he cleaned up and began rifling through his backpack again. This time he pulled out everything that was electronic: hand crank radio, GPS unit, cell phone, camera. He gathered up these items, placed them into a drawstring bag, and began walking off through the forest. His 90 lumen headlamp lit a wide path for him as he continued walking. When he reached the main trail he hooked a right and walked some more. The river, now only a few feet away, was loud against his side and a waxing crescent moon appeared as a broken fingernail through the trees. "497, 498, 499, 500" he said aloud and stopped walking. He looked around and spotted a fat nub that remained from a branch that had broken off from a tree. He hung his bag of electronics from it. He removed the watch from his wrist and hung it too, pulled a glow stick from his pocket, cracked it, and hung it there as well. He then turned and began his walk back to camp.
As he was walking he remembered back to when all this stuff was new to him. He smiled at the memory of all those watches and radios he burned through when he first started learning how to swim. It took several sessions before he finally made the connection and even then he would still forget from time to time. It took a lot of practice to gauge the proper distance too. One such time was when he read a newspaper article about a winning lottery ticket that had been tossed out by mistake and he decided to locate it. He drove across three counties to be near the source and hadn't parked far enough away before taking the swim. When he got back to his car it wouldn't start and he was stranded a few hundred miles from home. That was when he realized he had to be approximately 1/4 mile away from all electronics. Lesson learned.
Arriving back at camp, he settled in front of the fire and situated himself comfortably in a cross legged fashion, back straight and arms placed in his lap. He closed his eyes and began counting backwards from 50. As he did so, he slowed each breath until his lungs and chest were barely moving. His body grew feint and his mind felt loose within his skull. He began to hum "Ohhhhhmmmmmm.... ohhhhhhhmmmmm..... ohhhhhmmmmmm...." for a long time. The chanted vibrations left his throat and electrified his entire body, creating a warmth that felt like a soaking hot blanket had been wrapped around him. Soon his mind was no longer part of his body, but instead floated freely above the campsite in an observing manner. It jolted wildly and zipped around the perimeter of the campsite searching for a doorway, until it finally found the bag of syringes and hovered calmly just above it. And in an explosive flash of blinding light it disappeared inside of itself, creating a swirling vortex in the night air that resembled a ghostly apparition of sorts.
Time ticked by and everything grew silent. He opened his eyes and looked up just in time to see two guys and a girl approaching the fire. They appeared very tired and walked lethargically, as though shackled at the ankles. When they reached the campfire they each sat down except for the girl, who quietly went into the tent, moments later reappearing with a plastic bag in her hands. She joined the guys and they each started taking off their belts. She pulled from the bag three syringes and a spoon, and passed them to the her left. She then removed her own belt, pants and shirt, and wrapped the belt around her right upper arm and began slapping it.
One of the men said, "Yo, we haven't even cooked it yet."
She let out a partial laugh that was quickly replaced by a confused sigh , "Oh my gosh, I'm sooo spaced right now. Donovan, c'meer and fuck me first. Fuck me, Donnie, fuck me." She began rubbing her bare breasts while tilting her head back and moaning at the trees. Suddenly her arms began moving so fast across her chest that they became a blur. All three of their actions were now in super fast speed. Their heads bobbed around wildly, their motions quickened, their conversation sounded like high-pitched chipmunks. He fast forwarded past the scene that was about to occur, there was no need to watch these kids ruin themselves here at the very spot he now camped. He stopped fast forwarding in time to see them sprawled haphazardly, passed out under the night sky. He fast forwarded some more until the sun came up and then watched as the two men tore down camp while the girl took a squat in the woods off in the distant. After a few more rounds of fast forwarding he finally saw one of the guys walking off with the bag of syringes in his hand. After relieving himself, he returned empty handed and the three of them disappeared down the trail.
So there it was, just as he suspected. Three drug addicts hiking through the woods after a wild night of recklessness. He decided to swim out a little further and follow them all the way back to the trailhead before closing his session. After a long round of fast forwarding, he watched as they finally exited the forest and returned to their vehicle. A 1998 Buick LeSabre, green with a black hood. He swooped in, memorized the license plate, and severed his link.
The fire was mostly glowing embers now as he snapped back from his astral retrograde, or, "swimming" as he liked to call it. It had gotten very cold so he grabbed his jacket and went off to retrieve his electronics. The next morning he packed up camp, completed his stretching routines, and began the eight mile hike back to his car. He had marked the location of the drug paraphernalia with a cloth tied to a stick and also noted its coordinates with his GPS. Upon reaching cell phone service he would call the Forest Service Department, report the discovery and relay the information he retrieved while swimming. If they asked how he knew all of this, he'd simply say "have a nice day" and leave it up to them whether or not to pursue it.
At around 11am he finally reached the wooden information station the marked the beginning of the trail. Excitedly, he hurried out of the woods and rushed over to where his car was parked. Upon reaching it, his heart sank and the hairs on his arms and neck stood on end. He peered around the parking lot and noticed three other vehicles, all equally damaged. He looked back at his own car, staring at all the broken glass that littered the seats and floorboards and gravel lot below. Two windows were smashed, he imagined one must have been for fun. His radio was missing, as were his sneakers and CD case. The picture of his girlfriend that he kept on the dash was ripped in two, both halves laying on the ground. Disgusted and angered, he popped the trunk and started placing his gear inside. He paused, took a long swig from his water bottle, took one more look around the parking lot and began removing all his electronics and placed them into a drawstring bag. He retrieved the sage from his backpack, closed up the car, let out a long sigh, and began walking. "One, two, three, four..."