It was supposed to be just an ordinary camping trip, two old friends hiking through the woods of northern California. But this self-enforced isolation exposes long-hidden rivalries and resentments between the men. The deeper they get into the wilderness, far from civilization, the greater the tension becomes–until it erupts into a terrifying life-or-death battle for survival. Two men enter the woods, but only one will emerge alive . . . .
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Richard Matheson was The New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, The Path, Seven Steps to Midnight, Now You See It..., and What Dreams May Come, among others. He was named a Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention, and received the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has also won the Edgar, the Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards. In 2010, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. In addition to his novels Matheson wrote several screenplays for movies and TV, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," based on his short story, along with several other Twilight Zone episodes. He was born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, and fought in the infantry in World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Matheson died in June, 2013, at the age of eighty-seven.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
“This is as good a place as any,” Doug said, leaning forward on the backseat.
“Okay.” Marian started to slow down the Bronco as it turned a curve to the right.
“By that fallen big-leaf maple’ll be fine,” Doug told her.
“Right.” She eased the Bronco toward the right side of the road and braked slowly. The carpeting of yellow leaves crackled under the tires before Marian stopped the Bronco by the fallen tree.
“Perfect,” Doug said.
Bob drew in a sudden, involuntary breath. “And so the adventure begins,” he said, trying to sound pleased.
Marian looked at him as she switched off the engine. “You all right?” she whispered.
He nodded, smiling. “Fine,” he said.
Doug opened the back door of the Bronco and got out. He stretched his arms upward, groaning as he arched his back. “Oh… boy,” he muttered.
Marian looked worriedly at Bob. “Are you sure you’re all right?” she asked.
“Yeah, why do you say that?” He managed a grin.
“Well—” She gestured vaguely. “You didn’t sound too certain there.”
“And so the adventure begins,” she quoted.
“Oh.” He laughed softly. “I’m a little nervous of course. I’m no kid. But I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”
In back, Doug had unlocked the hatchback door and was starting to lift it.
“You’re comfortable then,” Marian said.
“Oh, sure.” He leaned over and put his arms around her. She responded and they held on to each other tightly.
“Okay, lovebirds,” Doug said from behind the car. “Time to unload our gear.”
Bob and Marian drew apart, smiling at each other. They opened their doors and slid out, standing on the leaf-covered ground. “My God, the leaves are so big,” Marian said, picking up one that was more than a foot across. After a few moments, she dropped it, the golden leaves crunching under their shoes as they moved to the rear of the Bronco where Doug was pulling out his backpack.
“Here, I’ll get yours,” Marian said, pulling at Bob’s backpack. “Holy! Moses.” She had lost her grip on the pack, which thudded down on the ground. “It weighs a bloody ton,” she said. “How in God’s name are you going to carry that for four days?”
Bob forced a smile. “It’s really only three, honey. There’s not that much left of today.”
“Two hours would be too much for carrying that,” she said, gesturing toward the fallen pack. “You’re forty-five, not twenty-five.”
“ Honey…” He gazed at her reproachfully.
“Oh…” She sighed, looked guilty. “I’m sorry. I’m not saying you can’t do it. It’s just…” She made a face. “It’s so damn heavy.”
“He’ll get used to it,” Doug told her. “And it’ll get lighter every day as the food goes.”
“I suppose.” She watched Bob pick up the pack and move it away from the Bronco, then turned toward the back of the car.
“You’re not taking this, are you?” she asked, picking up a red flare.
“Sure.” Doug’s smile was teasing. “To light our campfires.”
Marian put down the flare, smiling. “What’s this?” she asked, picking up a length of chain. “You don’t need this on your hike, do you?”
“No.” Doug took it away from her and put it back in the car.
“What’s it for?” Marian asked him.
“Protection,” he answered.
She opened her mouth as though to speak, then closed it again. “Oh,” she murmured, watching him take a long leather carrier from the Bronco. “What’s that?” she asked, trying to cover her feeling of embarrassment about mentioning the chain.
“A bow,” he said.
Bob made a sound of strained amusement. “You’re taking a bow?”
“I always do.”
“And arrows, I presume.”
Doug gave him a look.
Bob asked, “Why? Do you hunt while you’re out?”
“Not necessarily,” Doug said.
Bob and Marian exchanged a look. “Which means…?” Bob asked.
“Bob.” Doug turned to him with a mildly accusing look. “We’re going into wilderness. There are black bears out there. Mountain lions. Coyotes.”
“Oh, now, wait a minute,” Marian said abruptly. “Nothing was said about black bears or mountain lions or coyotes.” She looked at Bob in concern. “Now I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”
Doug laughed. “Marian, I’m not saying we’re going to run into one of them. The bow is just a precaution.”
She stared at him, her expression one of worried doubt.
“A precaution,” he repeated.
“How many times have you used it while—” She broke off. “Scratch that. How many times have you had to use it while backpacking?”
“Once,” he said, smiling.
“Black bear or mountain lion or coyote?” she asked uneasily.
“Rabbit,” he said, repressing a grin.
She looked startled. “You shot a rabbit?” As Doug nodded, she asked, “How come?”
“I lost my pack in some rapids and I had to eat,” he told her.
She looked at him in silence for a few moments.
“There aren’t any grizzly bears up here, are there?” she asked apprehensively.
“Used to be,” Doug answered. “Wolves too. Until they were killed off by stockmen—traps, guns, poison.”
Marian winced at his words.
“Honey, I’m sure it’s going to be—” Bob started.
“All right, let’s put it this way,” Marian broke in. “How often do you see black bears or mountain lions or coyotes?”
Doug chuckled. “Marian, you’re too much,” he said.
“Well,” she insisted, “how often?”
He groaned softly. “Once in a while, dear girl,” he said with labored patience. “But they don’t want to have anything to do with us any more than we want to have anything to do with them. You leave them alone, they leave you alone.”
“Marian, come on,” Bob chided.
“All right, all right.” She nodded several times. “I’m just…” She gestured vaguely with her hands.
“I should never have mentioned it,” Doug said. “Believe me, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Okay?”
“Okay.” She smiled awkwardly. “I’m just…an apprehensive frau, that’s all.”
Doug’s responding smile was a sad one. “Too bad I don’t have a frau to be apprehensive about me,” he said.
“Oh…” Marian moved to him and kissed his cheek. “I’m sorry, Doug. You’re really doing something nice taking Bob on this…what, hike?”
“Adventure,” he said with a teasing smile.
She smiled back at him. “Right, adventure,” she agreed.
“All right. Now.” Doug looked serious. “You’re okay with the Bronco?”
Marian nodded, smiling. “Okay.”
“And you understand my map.”
She nodded again.
“Well, I’m not the world’s greatest mapmaker,” he said.
“It’s fine,” she told him.
“Well, just…follow the yellow Hi-liter route.”
“To Oz,” she said.
His lips puffed out in a sound of partial amusement. “Yeah, right,” he said. “It’s about…I’d say forty miles or so. Two things to keep in mind. Turn off the main road after you pass the Brandy Lake sign. And most important, keep an eye out for the two Pine Grove signs, one for Pine Grove Street, the other for Pine Grove Lane. You turn right on Pine Grove Lane; it’s the second sign you’ll come to. Got it? The second sign.”
“Got it,” she said.
He raised his hands, palms forward. “I’m only being a pest about this because we’ve had to go out searching for a lot of guests who turned right on Pine Grove Street.”
“I’ll remember,” she said.
“Okay. Good. You have the keys to the cabin?”
“In my purse.”
“Right. And you understand about the propane tank for the stove. And turning on the water.”
“I don.” She nodded. “I’ll be fine, Doug.”
“Well…I just want to be sure. We won’t be there until Wednesday afternoon.”
She nodded. “I’ll be fine,” she reassured him.
“Sure you will,” he said. “You’ll enjoy the cabin. There’s a nice big deck in back that overlooks the forest. Sit there with a drink, you’ll love it.”
“I’m sure.” Marian nodded, smiling.
“You’d better be on your way then so you have plenty of light in case you make a wrong turn. Driving up there in the dark can be a bitch.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said once more.
“Good.” He kissed her on the cheek. “We’ll see you on Wednesday then.”
“On Wednesday.” She was silent for a moment. Then she said, “I’m going to say good-bye to my husband now.”
“You mean auf Wiedersehen, don’t you?” Doug said with a grin.
She pointed the index finger of her right hand at him. “That’s up to you,” she told him.
His grin widened. “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of him.”
“I know you will.”
She took Bob’s hand and led him several yards away, to the other side of the fallen maple tree. She put her arms around him and held him close. “You take good care of yourself now,” she said.
He embraced her. “I will.”
“I’ll avoid the black bears and the mountain—”
“Stop that,” she interrupted softly. “I’m going to be uneasy enough without worrying about wild animals chewing on you.”
Bob laughed softly. “Don’t be uneasy,” he told her. “Doug has backpacked dozens of times.”
“Well, you haven’t,” she said. “Take it easy. Don’t let him push you.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Well…” She blew out a heavy breath. “He’s so…physical; you know that. He’s an actor, he’s done westerns…action pictures. He’s…tuned up.”
“What, and I’m out of tune?”
She sighed. “I don’t see you going to the gym very often. Or swimming.”
“I walk, don’t I?”
“Your one saving grace.” She squeaked as he pinched her back. “Well, anyway, I mean it: please-take-it-easy. Don’t let Doug push you. He won’t do it on purpose,” she added quickly, cutting him off. “He might just do it without thinking.”
“I’ll collapse at regular intervals,” he said.
“Oh…” she sighed again. “You aren’t very reassuring.”
“I will be careful,” he promised. “I will take it easy. I will avoid wild animals.”
The grip of her arms tightened. “Please do,” she said quietly.
After several moments, she drew back and looked at him intently. “Honey, are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.
“I have to, sweetheart. How am I supposed to write a convincing novel about backpacking if I’ve never backpacked once?”
She nodded, sighing again, then made a face of mock pleading. “Please, sir,” she said in a little girl’s voice, “couldn’t you write a novel about drinking chichis and lazing around in Hawaii with your wife of twenty years?”
He chuckled. “Maybe the next one I—” he started.
“Bobby, we have to go,” Doug called.
“I wish he wouldn’t call you that,” Marian said, “as though you were ten years old or something.”
“He doesn’t mean any harm,” Bob said. He drew her close and pressed his lips to hers, lingering on the kiss.
“Dear God, that was like farewell,” she said, tears appearing in her eyes.
“Don’t be silly, sweetheart. We’ll be at the cabin on Wednesday afternoon. Have a vodka and tonic waiting for me.”
“If I don’t drink up all the vodka, worrying about you.”
He laughed softly and took her by the hand, leading her back around the tree.
“Farewells all completed?” Doug said.
Marian managed a faint smile. Doug’s smile became one of sympathy. “Really, Marian, there’s nothing to be worried about. Your husband will be sore as hell in every muscle, that I guarantee, but otherwise he’ll be intact.”
“Okay, okay, I’m going,” she said. She kissed Bob briefly on the lips, then moved to the Bronco and got in behind the steering wheel. She turned on the engine and pulled out onto the road, raising her right hand in farewell. Bob had the feeling that she didn’t look back because she was crying. Oh, sweetheart, he thought, smiling sadly.
* * *
As the Bronco disappeared around a curve, he picked up his pack with a grunt at its weight. “Okay, let’s go,” he said.
“Whoa, whoa, not so fast,” Doug told him.
“What?” Bob looked at him, curious.
“We have to check out our gear before we leave.”
Bob frowned. “Now?” he asked.
“Why didn’t we do all that before we left Los Angeles?”
“It’s a good idea to do it now,” Doug said. “Double-check before we leave.”
“What if I don’t have everything I need?” Bob asked. “What can I do about it now?”
“Well, I gave you a list of things you need. I assume you got all of it,” Doug said. “I was going to go to the supply store with you—as you recall. But you were in New York attending a big meeting.”
“Mm-hmm.” Bob nodded, wondering why Doug felt the need to call it a “big” meeting. It wasn’t that and Doug knew it.
“Oh, well,” he said. “Let’s do it then.”
Doug looked at him questioningly. “Are you sure you’re up to this, Bob?” he asked.
“Sure,” Bob said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“Are you really?”
It didn’t sound like a question to Bob. Doug’s smile bordered on disbelief. He chuckled. “Okay. You got me,” he admitted. “Naturally, I’m a little apprehensive.”
“A lot apprehensive,” Doug answered.
“Well, maybe,” Bob said. “I’m not exactly John Muir.”
“Not exactly.” Doug’s smile was amused now.
“I’m counting on you to lend me through the wilderness without incident,” Bob said.
Doug shook his head, laughing softly. “I’ll do my damnedest, Bob,” he said. “Okay. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Bob leaned his pack against a tree to open it.
“I see you got a side packer,” Doug said.
“Is that bad?” Bob asked. “The salesman said it was easier to get into.”
“Did he tell you it would leak more in the rain?”
“Well…no,” Bob answered. “Are we expecting rain?”
“Y’never know,” Doug said. “Did you try it on for comfort?”
Bob nodded. “Yes, I did. The salesman even put a sandbag in it to show me what it would feel like when it was loaded.”
Bob chuckled. “It felt heavy,” he said.
“Damn right.” Doug nodded. “Well, let’s see what you’ve got inside.”
Bob unzipped the bag and took out the first item.
“What the hell is that?” Again, Bob felt that it wasn’t a question but a judgment.
“A stove,” he said.
“That wasn’t on the list I gave you,” Doug told him.
“The salesman talked me into it,” Bob said. “He showed me how easy it was to use. What would you rather have at the end of day, he asked, cold cereal or hot chicken à la king over rice?”
“You have chicken à la king with you as well?” Doug said, laughing as he spoke.
Bob sighed. He was getting a little weary of Doug’s belittling tone. “You never took a stove with you?” he challenged.
“Yeah, sure I did,” Doug answered. “Nothing wrong with having a stove. I was just trying to cut down on the weight you have to carry.”
“Okay.” Bob nodded.
“Canister stove’s heavier too,” Doug told him. “And you’ll have to carry out the canister.”
“Oh, no.” Bob looked dismayed.
“Oh, yes,” Doug said, nodding and smiling again. “Those are the rules of the game, Bobby. You don’t leave anything behind. Except for piss and crap of course.”
Bob made a face, nodding. “I understand.”
“Do you?” Doug looked at him almost sternly. “There are rules, Bobby. It isn’t just a stroll in the peak we’re going on, you know.”
All right, all right, Bob thought, He felt like saying it but didn’t want the hike to start out ...
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Book Description Forge Books 2010-03-30, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. Publisher overstock, may contain remainder mark on edge. Bookseller Inventory # 9780765302724B
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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. It was supposed to be an ordinary camping trip, two old friends hiking through the woods of northern California. But this self-enforced isolation exposes long-hidden rivalries and resentments between the men. The deeper they get into the wilderness, far from civilization, the greater the tension becomes - until it erupts into a terrifying life-or-death battle for survival. Two men enter the woods, but only one will emerge alive. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780765302724
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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. It was supposed to be an ordinary camping trip, two old friends hiking through the woods of northern California. But this self-enforced isolation exposes long-hidden rivalries and resentments between the men. The deeper they get into the wilderness, far from civilization, the greater the tension becomes - until it erupts into a terrifying life-or-death battle for survival. Two men enter the woods, but only one will emerge alive. Bookseller Inventory # BZE9780765302724
Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.It was supposed to be an ordinary camping trip, two old friends hiking through the woods of northern California. But this self-enforced isolation exposes long-hidden rivalries and resentments between the men. The deeper they get into the wilderness, far from civilization, the greater the tension becomes - until it erupts into a terrifying life-or-death battle for survival. Two men enter the woods, but only one will emerge alive. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780765302724
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