Frank Ryan presents:
Jamie's Seven Wishes
Pilot Episode: "What would YOU wish for?"

"What would YOU wish for?", I asked.

Rick looked up. "Huh? Whatcha mean?"

"Let's say that you could wish for anything in the world. What would you wish for?"

"A million.", Rick answered without thinking. I pulled a face at him.

"You're not thinking right, stupid. If you're wishing, why wish for ONE million when you can have one HUNDRED million with the same wish?", I said.

"True...", Rick contemplated.

"So what else?", I asked again.

"Right now, I wish for a blowjob.", Rick smiled. "Preferably done by that hot blonde bird in our Science class..."

"That's just plain WASTING wishes, man!", I interrupted Rick's fantasizing. "Put some effort into it!!"

Rick got a bit agitated by my raised voice. "What do YOU care all of a sudden?"

I had known Rick for as long as I could remember, but I wasn't really sure if I could entrust him with my secret. He's an okay guy, but if he was faced with as much temptation, possibilities and sheer power as I was faced with, there's no telling what a guy like Rick might do all of a sudden....there's no telling what ANY human might do.

Quite frankly, I'm still amazed I'm keeping as cool a head through all this as I am!!

It all started roughly about a month or so back, when I was invited by my P.E. coach to go on a hiking vacation with several of my classmates, all the way to the uncharted regions of the illustrious...

"CANADA??", my dad freaked when I showed him the brochure. "You want us to pay a trip to CANADA for you? Why in the WORLD..."

"Dad, the scenery up in Canada is among the most awesome sights in the world! There are parts there where no human's ever set foot! To go hiking there would be too cool, please can I go?", I begged.

"Why can't you just go hiking in the meadows? A round trip wouldn't cost you more than 15 pounds!"

"Dad, I've BEEN to the meadows, it's nothing like Canada! PLEASE...", I continued begging, "I've never even BEEN abroad!"

"Hmmmppphh...What does your mother say?"

Now this was good news - I knew my Dad and when he asked what Mom thought, it meant he had somewhat given up the struggle and was willing to let it ride on Mom's judgement. At least they wouldn't bitch too much about the cost of the trip, that's usually Dad's part...The hardest part now would be to persuade Mom that it was SAFE to go. Which might be a lot harder than persuading Dad....

"Errr...I'll go and ask her, but I believe I heard her say it was allright..."

"Of course you did, Jamie. Don't mind if I want to hear that out of her own mouth, do you?", Dad said.

"No, of course not, heheh...", I sheepishly laughed.

I dashed out of the living room, towards the kitchen where Mom was. She was standing over the sink doing some washing-up.

"Mom...", I started. "I have a... small...favor to ask..."

My Mom looked up. "What is it this time, Jamie?"

"It's not like I've ever asked much of you folks...", I meandered.

My mom gave me a look.

"And my grade average has been exemplary..."

"Get on with it, Jamie!", my Mom demanded.

"Well,", I started, "there's this really cool trip my school's planning, and I really want to go..."

"Where are you guys going?", Mom asked.

"It's a hiking trip...Beautiful sights, uh...Rick's going too, please can I go, Mom?"



"WHAT?!", I Mom exclaimed.

"WAIT, wait, before you say no...", I tried, but Mom already started freaking.

"Jamie, Canada? That's across the Atlantic for Heaven's sake, the cost alone would be tremendous! Why, not to mention it's dangerous... there are bears out there, Jamie!"

"Mom, I'm sixteen, you know! We'll be with a whole bunch of others! There's a teacher coming along too of course!"

"I don't know, Jamie..."

"Mom, I absolutely HAVE to go on this trip. It's what I've always DREAMED of doing... Please...pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease?"


After about another week and a half of begging, pleading and worshipping, I was finally allowed to go. Probably just because my parents figured the money itself would be worth shutting me up for the rest of the month.

The days rolled by and I got more and more jittery. What would you expect, I had never even been outside of Great Britain. I had never been on an airport, even! I guess that's what being stuck in the Midlands will do to a bloke. I felt pretty much out of place here as it was!! Living in the UK was bad enough - Not only is it boring like Hell in the little town where I lived, where Birmingham was the nearest biggest city, but there was another tiny thing that was troubling sexual preference. I'm not exactly what you'd call the standard norm. I like other boys. Right now I'm no longer ashamed of it, but I haven't had the guts to tell anyone up to this point. I'm what you'd call a severe closet case. Probably the reason why I'm still a virgin too. Although girls seem to think I look okay, I don't agree one bit. I've got reddish hair that's more orange than anything else and is quite unmanageable, and pale blue eyes. I've always wanted to have green eyes. I think I would've start saving for green contact lenses or something by now, had those things been available here...My body seemed to be totally muscle-less. I looked quite scrawny in fact. I'm one of those kids who doesn't seem to grow muscle, period. I'm quite the athlete, though. My high P.E. results are what got me on this trip in the first place!!

The only one I've ever come close to telling my big secret is Rick. He's been my best friend for about a decade. And if that's not enough, I've had a severe crush on Rick for a long time. I'm finally over that now, since Rick is a certified heterosexual, but it's taken quite a lot of soggy pillowsheets. I guess it's the way he looks. He's got the loveliest jumpy blonde hair, and brown eyes below it. That's enough to get anybody soggy, if you know what I mean. Granted, he's not the cutest boy I ever laid eyes on. He hardly compares to Adam Rickett or Charlie Hunnam, but it's a close one.

The day before we were supposed to leave, I caught up with Rick after our classes.

"I'm SO jittery, man.", I told him. "What about you?"

"Oh, I really wanna go too. Only thing that troubles me is the flight. Over eight hours!"

"Can't those things go any faster?", I said. More to myself than to anyone else.

"Concordes, yeah. They break the sound barrier.", Rick answered.

I smiled at Rick. "Are we getting a Concorde?"

"No.", he grinned back. "But you asked..."

"Well, I'm looking forward to the flight. I've never flown, you know."

"Uh huh, you told me.", Rick said as we both headed out the school doors. "It's no big deal, although taking off is quite fun."

Rick's parents had sent him off to France half a year. He really disliked going, till he found out English birds were turned on by a bloke who could speak French. Girls...don't think I'll ever understand them.

"Sooh...", I said to Rick, "You packed yet?"

"Yeah", Rick answered, "My Mom insisted she'd do all the packing for me. Only way she'd be sure I didn't forget anything, she says."

"How sweet of your Mom. Tell her I said hello.", I said.

"Will do Jamie.", Rick returned. "See ya tomorrow morning...or should I say night?"

"3 AM is not my idea of morning.", I grinned back. "But if you wanna get to Canada, there's sacrifices to be made, eh?"

"You bet, but it'll be worth it....Just think: Canadians! Grizzly bears! Mountains, vast forests..."

"And nine crazy Britons.", I smiled. "Can't go wrong, eh?"

"That's right! See ya tomorrow, Heathrow Airport here we come!", Rick cheered as he waved me goodbye.

My alarm clock woke me at the right time, and I instantly jumped out of bed. Funny, when I went to bed tonight I feared I would have been as dazed like I don't know what, but within an instant I was as clearheaded as ever; only more so. I was actually going to Canada!!!

I hurried to get dressed and dashed downstairs, to find Mom and Dad already there. Mom smiled warmly at me.

"Just wanted to say goodbye to my little man," she smiled, walked over and gave me a hug.

"Thanks Mom. I'll be back before you know it.", I responded.

"You'll be gone for two weeks, Jamie. You've never been away more than a day or so. Can't blame your mother.", my Dad said.

"You be careful now, you hear?", Mom demanded.

"I'll take care of myself. Besides Rick's there.", I said.

"I know dear. You boys have fun. And don't forget to take pictures! I bought two roles of film for you to fill."

"I will, I'll get you some GREAT pics!"

"You'd better,", Dad murmured. "Might as well get SOMETHING out of the money we spent..."

"What, besides your son's eternal gratitude?", I smiled.

After saying my Mom goodbye for the umpteenth time, Dad finally drove me to the buses. He handed me some extra money - just in case, he said - and took off to go back to bed, probably. Can't say I blame him, I was starting to feel slightly sleepy again as well. Luckily Rick was there to keep me awake. Like me and the other kids, he was dressed in warm sportgear and hiking shoes, and sporting an overly large backpack on his back. He was wearing sunglasses while it was pitchdark. I had forgotten my pair...drat. Maybe I could pick up some cheap ones at Heathrow.

"Good morning, sunshine!", he cheered.

"Hiya yourself, Rick! Ready for some action?", I smiled back

"Not yet...This is gonna be the worst of the whole trip. Two and a half hours of driving to London."

I winced. "That long, eh?"

"Yeah - That's what you get when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere like we are out here.", Rick sort of pouted.

"That's why I want this trip, man...can't wait to get OUT of here, even if it is for a measly fortnight."

"I know what you mean...", Rick agreed. "If it were up to me I'd be going on a lot more of these sort of trips. I wanna skydive once in my life too."

"That'd be the greatest...but I already had to bribe my parents into letting me go on this trip. I think the thought of a skydive would give my Mom a seizure.", I said.

"Most likely, yeah!", Rick grinned. That moment, our team leader walked up. Fitted with about the same gear as Rick and me were wearing. His back pack looked even larger than ours, though!

"Hey Mr. Higgins!", Rick said.

"Hi there Rick, Jamie. You guys are early.", he replied.

"Oh yeah, we can't wait to get out of here.", I smiled. Mr. Higgins was our P.E. Coach, a middle-aged dark haired man of, I guessed, 30 something years of age. He wasn't that tall and had a kind face, 'specially for a Coach. One thing about him was that he seemed to have heavy hairgrowth, so he was always sporting a perpetual stubble beard and a wild bush of hair. Mr. Higgins was also the one who had organized this whole thing along with his colleague from the other school institute, but who we hadn't met yet. That school would be supplying the other four kids, apart from the five from our School. Aside from Rick and myself, there was Marty, a brown-haired boy in a year above me. Bit of a show-off, really, but he did well in P.E., that's what counted for this trip. Then there were Cindy, a girl who looked familiar, and another girl whom I didn't know but was called Debohra, or so I was told. Fair enough.

Another middle-aged man was also along for the ride. He had a large iron coloured moustache, and a muscular physique though he looked to be well in his forties. This was supposed to be our guide. He told us his name was Roger Clarcke and that he had made this trip several times already. Can't argue with being safe, I guess. Besides, wouldn't want us to get lost.

The -female- Coach for the other institute showed up, with two girls and two guys with her. All were dressed in about the same way as we were. Just that the female Coach's outfit had pink/blue colours, which made her look quite ridiculous. Rick and me looked at eachother and both had to snicker.
I gazed at the other kids. The two girls were introduced as Mary and Betty (both were about as plain as their names were) and the boys were called Kevin and Peter. Peter was a dark haired kid with floppy ears that stuck out underneath his hat. Kevin, though...he looked like something out of a sports mag. Deep blue eyes with a slight green hue over them, a nicely tanned skin and a very cute face indeed. The outfit really looked good on him too. He had short, almost nonexistent hair, slightly blonde from the look of it, black army boots, camo-coloured trousers and a darkblue jacket. He looked somewhat older than Rick and me, probably seventeen or so, I figured...Crap, hope he didn't catch me staring there!

The female Coach was kind enough to add that her name was Jennifer Brown and that the pink/blue colours were meant to facilitate rescues per helicopter. Smart thinking on her part, but it didn't take away the fact that she looked like a twat.

It was finally time to depart, and Rick and me were both crammed into a double seat on the bus that was actually a little too small for two persons. Luckily Rick had brought his walkman, so we both crawled up together to both listen to his tape. I didn't know the group he was playing, but it sounded okay enough. After a while of jittery chatting and cheering, Rick decided he wanted to take a nap, so I pulled out my Tolkien pocketbook - I came prepared! I was somewhat ordered by my Dad to read the Lord of the Rings saga before the movies came out, and I figured I could do it within 8 hours. I started reading, and 86 pages later, we arrived at Heathrow Airport!!

Heathrow Airport looked every bit impressive as I thought it would be! Thousands of people moving about, even at this impossible hour, female voices flying over the massive speakers mounted everywhere, airplanes taking off and landing every ten minutes or so. It was totally breathtaking. I took a few pictures for the folks at home, and looked at Rick in awe.

"Impressed much?", he grinned.

"I'll say!", I returned. "Figured it'd be cool, but this is"

"Wait till we get on the airplane.", Mr Higgins assured me. I really couldn't wait!

The female twat Coach informed us our plane would make a quick landing at New York to refuel, so we'd be able to tell that we've been in the US as well! I REALLY can't wait anymore! I might as well start hopping up and down!

I looked at Kevin. He seemed equally amazed. Maybe I should ask him if he'd flown before...might be a good opening!

Just as I thought that, I saw that Peter kid head over to him and ask him that exact question!! Dammit!! That was MY line, you bastard!! Great, now I'd probably be depressed for the rest of the planeride!

Rick must have seen my change of face. He asked:

"What's wrong, mate? You're not homesick already are you?"

"No, no...Sudden fear of flying, I guess.", I lied.

"Don't worry.", Mr Higgins said. "More accidents happen with buses than with airplanes. We'll be allright."

I wasn't about to tell our Coach that I fancied Kevin and was jealous of Peter for stealing my opening line, so I just nodded. I'm sure I would feel a lot better when we'd actually be on the plane. And Rick was totally wrong too, I couldn't be homesick if I tried! I wanted to go abroad for ages, and now I was finally getting the opportunity to see the world outside of Britain. I wasn't really planning to waste that opportunity by longing back to the place I've tried so desperately to leave for the last few years. Always it was the same: No money, or I was too young...blah-blah-blah. Right now, I felt as if nothing could stop me.

Our backpacks were hauled off by a cart to board the plane. I felt glad too, cause the thing was bloody heavy. Rick looked just as relieved, and so did Kevin from the looks of it, even though he looked to have quite defined muscle. Man, I wish I had his kind of body.

Our Coaches handed us our boarding passes. I made sure I was seated next to Rick, but close to Kevin. Hey, gotta arrange to have a nice view for 8 hours or more, right?

When time to board the plane finally came around, I was feeling more jittery than ever. This was it - no turning back now. Not that I wanted to go back!

Rick patted me on the shoulder. "C'mon chap. It'll be alright, you'll see!"

"I hope so.", I replied. I didn't really need to be comforted like that, but I liked the attention nonetheless. And I still hadn't managed to talk to Kevin either. Maybe I'd get that chance once we were on the plane.

There wasn't really a line going to our terminal - there was a...well, sort of an escalator, really. Save that this one didn't form steps but stayed on the ground. Nice saved people having to drag their luggage around. Figured that for the price airlines were charging nowadays, any service they provided was already well paid for.

Rick shouted a "Surf's up!" when we stepped on the automatic walkway, making the most of us snicker. Being as jittery as I was, this was kind of like a wild ride on itself. This was going to be two weeks of doing stuff I had never done before...flying, going to Canada, hiking in one of the most gorgeous scenery this world has to offer, and...surfing a walkway, from the looks of it.
At the end of the walkway ride (almost lost my balance once!) we arrived in a slightly darker and smaller tunnel, leading to the side of the plane. Our boarding passes were checked by a uniformed lady, whose sole purpose in life seemed to be acting over-friendly. Sorry, but a fake smile looks like a death-grin. I can always tell.

We entered the plane itself now. I could look past the tunnel walls - there was a small opening, less than an inch wide - and see the 12 inch thick pressure door of the plane. I couldn't help but glance down, and the ground was well over 40 feet below us, seeing as the plane was standing on it's landing gear and these things aren't exactly small. One small step later, I was inside. The others were there already.

The interior of the plane looked strikingly similar to a normal bus, except more carpet padding and less steel. Most of the white walls were fiberglass, I knew, and things that looked like metal were obviously aluminium to make the plane as light as possible. Another stewardess bird (Easy on the makeup, sweetie! Bloody hell.) showed us our seats. Mr Higgins and his colleague twat were paired up, I was seated next to Rick, who got the window seat first, and behind us were Mr. Clarcke and Cindy, who appeared to have developed a fascination for the man's tales along the way to London. Across the aisle to my left, Mary and Betty were seated together, Peter and Kevin were, and in front of them, Marty and Debohra. Hmm, flirt away, you two. The best part was that if I glanced to my left, I looked right at Kevin, and if I looked to my right I could almost touch Rick. Bliss, heheheh!

A small fifteen minutes later, we heard the typical "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking..." pilot's voice over the speakers. He informed us once again the destination (in case you got on the wrong plane?) the altitude at which we'd be flying in feet and about what time we'd be expected to arrive in New York. Local time, though, would be about 4 Pm.

"Nono, don't be disappointed,", Rick jolted. "Y'see, we'll be pretty much stuck on the airfield anyway. But when it's totally dark and unclouded, you'll be able to get an awesome view of night-lighted New York city when we fly over it!"

"But everyone will be asleep at that time!", I said.

"New York never sleeps. Read it in a brochure once.", Rick smiled at me.

I hope you're right...", I started, when all of a sudden the plane jerked into motion. The plane was slowly moving along the runway:  The take-off had started!!

"Allright!", I cheered. "Here we go, buddy!", I said to Rick. I was really anxious to see the actual take-off. Part of me still had trouble believing this huge machine would actually go up in the air and's just one of those things your mind sees and takes for granted, but when you think about it is actually quite remarkable.

The plane geared up, the sound of the four massive engines along with it. The white stripes on the side of the runway seemed to flash by faster and faster. When I thought the thing possibly couldn't any faster, the pilot added another punch and really set the thing in motion. My mind didn't really have enough time to process that thought, cause all of a sudden, the hull of the airplane tilted upward, more than forty five degrees, and G-forces pressed me back into my seat, hard!! We were off the ground!!

"Whhoooooaaah!!", I let out.

Rick grinned. "Love this bit.", he said.

Kevin was smiling also. Most of the girls were giggling too. Guess this was the first time flying for most of us.

Before long England's shores passed over into the bluegrey plains of the Atlantic Ocean below us, and the pilot let the plane climb to above cloud height. Seeing the top of a cloud deck was quite a sight as well. The sun shone on the roof of the clouds, creating flares of orange, yellow and pink hues. Breathtaking was the only word fit to describe it......

Well, believe it or not, even spectacular sights lose their initial charm after three hours of staring.

My ears had long since popped and the lunch we were presented with was less than edible. Rick had put his walkman on, and I was, for lack of another word, bored. I shifted in my seat...about five hours left...probably more.

I was disappointed I hadn't spoken a single word to Kevin as well. He was babbling with Peter all the time, the last hour solely about football. I had decided that being a football fan did not indicate straightness - I liked football as much as any other bloke.

One thing Kevin and I seemed to have in common - we both cheered for Manchester United. Seeing as kids in our village sort of had to choose which team they cheered for, most were either Newcastle or Man United fans...although their conversation now seemed to be drying up a little because Peter seemed to like Newcastle. A thing to remember, heheh...
What caught my interest the most, though, was that Kevin totally idolized David Beckham. Of course I wasn't sure if his hair matched Beckham's when longer, but it sure did now. Beckham's current coupe was the same as Kevin's: really really short. As far as I was concerned, it really suited Kevin though.

I decided that since I had nothing else to do, I might as well pull out Lord of the Rings again. I flipped on to page 86 and started reading.

A few pages later, a voice caught my attention:

"Whatcha reading?", Kevin said.

It was Kevin! He was talking to ME instead of Peter!! don't lose it, Jamie, answer the guy.

"Uhhh......", I stammered.

"Lord of the Rings, huh?", Kevin answered for me.

"Y-yeah, it's a great book...", I replied.

"I know, I've read it twice.", Kevin smiled. I had the opportunity to look directly into his eyes now...They were awesome.

I smiled back. "My father kinda ordered me to read the books before the movies come out..."

"I really can't wait for the movies. I'm bloody curious. You saw the trailer?", Kevin asked.

"Yeah - pretty awesome! George Lucas is going to have a tough one in 2002...", I smiled.

"I have more faith in Lord of the Rings than I do in Star Wars, after Episode 1.", Kevin said.

"Oh, not me...", I replied. "I think Episode two will still be at the top of the box offices in 2002."

Kevin seemed to consider that. "Depends,", he said, "if we'll get a universal release or not."

"I hope so...don't wanna read the entire plot on the internet again.", I smiled.

"Again?", Kevin smiled, "You did that with Episode 1, then?"

"Oh you bet... I'm a big fan.", I said.

"Hehehe well, we'll see who wins at the box office next year!", Kevin smiled.

Kevin and me seemed to have more in common than cheering for Man United...and he turned out to be a real nice bloke as well! I finally had a conversation going with him, and I secretly hoped I could get to know him a LOT better before this trip was over...

After a great chat with Kevin and a quick nap, Rick woke me to see New York. Unfortunately, it was clouded above New York so we saw very little of the night-lighted city. The landing went smoothly - a small bump only, and the huge plane was back on the familiar ground.

We were allowed out of the plane to stretch our legs. The flight from New York to Toronto would take us another three hours...uggh...believe me, at first I was really looking forward to flying, but right now, I hated going back onto the same plane. That and we had to wait another 45 minutes or so for the plane to refuel. I dunno, somehow I expected flying to go quickly. Of course we enjoyed another take-off, but after that it was just another busride. Okay, I knew that Canada wasn't exactly next door, in fact it was about halfway across the globe, but somehow I expected that with all the modern technology we'd be able to get there just a little bit faster...?

Of course the planeride to Toronto went a lot faster, now that I had both Rick and Kevin to chat with. Kevin was intriguing - not to mention drop dead gorgeous - but of course, the question whether or not he had an interest in boys, preferably me, remained unanswered thus far. I hadn't quite had the gall to ask him if he had a girlfriend, let alone if he fancied boys, but I did find out a lot more about him. For one, he was indeed 17, about five months older than me. He was a Gemini, his favourite sport was football, he really liked David Beckham, agreed he never should have married 'Slutty Spice', even wore his hair like David, as I expected. His favourite food was pizza and his dad was in the carpenting business. He enjoyed movies, and like me just loved sci-fi and fantasy. He lived on the outskirts of our small village, and was asked on this trip because he had the best lap time of his school. Whatever his sexual preference was, I was determined to make another great friend out of him, and I was sort of hoping it wouldn't be another 'Rick-scenario'...but I couldn't promise myself that.

Once we landed in Toronto we were faced with - oh, joy - a 30-minute busride to a hotel. After a short night's sleep, Mr. Higgins told the group, we were to fly out to a smaller airport where a lorry would ultimately take us to the wooden lodge in the forests, our starting point for our hiking trip. Of course we would be sleeping in our tents once we were in the deep woods. Fair enough, I was really, REALLY looking forward at this point to sleep in a BED....

The bus kept dragging on, and well after 40 very bumpy minutes we arrived at our not so big hotel. I was ready to curse the entire public transportation system at this point. No wonder this trip had cost this much, the bloody HALF of our money was spent on transportation!! Bus, plane, plane, bus, plane, lorry... you'd really start to think they were taking us to the very edge of the world...

...and they'd better. Ironically, it was exactly what I'd asked for.

The roads leading up to the wooden lodge were rough and littered with gravel, twigs, branches and potholes. The lorry shook the lot of us around brutally. I suppose I didn't even notice anymore. What with my spinning head, the shaking and rocking of the vehicle we were in seemed to be natural. It was the engine that really bothered me; it made such a racket it probably woke up every squirrel living in every tree for about twenty miles from here.

Mary, Betty and Debohra were asleep. Marty tried to sleep. Mr. Higgins' kind face looked like a thunderstorm, his twat colleague Jennifer just stared out the stained window. Mr. Clarcke seemed quite allright - he was expecting it to take this long, no doubt.

Rick was playing his walkman tape for the third time this trip and looked less than amused. Peter was playing on a Gameboy, bored face as well. Kevin was reading in my Lord of the Rings book and I was studying Kevin while he did so. My mind wasn't really capable of anything else - I was totally, completely, utterly knackered.

Every minute seemed to feel like another eternity queuing on, and the only way to pass the time was dreaming about Kevin. I started fantasizing about how it would be to touch his skin...what it would feel like to run my fingers over his short kiss his thin lips softly and run the tip of my nose along the soft skin of his cheek...

I had to snap myself out of it - the goal here, Jamie, was to befriend Kevin first and foremost...not to drift off on cloud nine while looking at him. Though it was ever so hard not to - let's face it Jamie....whether you like it or not, you have a crush on Kevin.

Outside, we cold make out vague shapes of trees in the starlighted sky. We were reasonably deep in the forests now...I have to say I loved the atmosphere. Even with the engine roaring at about a million decibels I could still imagine the woodland sounds. The silent call of an owl in the distance. The rustle of birds in the darkened trees... The sound of fallen twigs breaking beneath a Grizzly's heavy paws.............

Inevitably, I dozed off.

A quiet nod from Rick brought me back of my slumber. The first thing I noticed was that the sound of the engine was gone from the midnight skies and the woodland sounds I had tried to imagine earlier on were now very real, indeed. The lorry had stopped.

"Jamie, we're here.", Rick whispered.

"Hmmffff?", I replied, still dazed.

"We're at the lodge.", Kevin whispered in my other ear.

"Mmhhh...oh..oh, cool...", I yawned. "Uhh...I just fell asleep, man..."

"Me too,", Rick said. "Kevin woke me up."

"It's...2:17 local time. We still have a good six hours' sleep before first light, I think.", Kevin said as he grabbed his kit and climbed out of the lorry.

Rick and me did the same, and within seconds we were standing in the chilly air of a midnight (Canadian!!!) forest. The air was quite nippy indeed, but that didn't surprise me, considering how far up north we actually were. As soon as I took a few steps away from the petrol-infested lorry, I could smell the trees around me. The air was fresh, cold, and smelled of wood and pine needles. It was great...I let out a sigh. We were finally here.

"Allright lads,", Mr. Clarcke spoke up. The plan is we stay here till the break of the next day..."

What day was it, actually? I hadn't a clue!!

"Go to bed early tomorrow night.", Mr. Clarcke continued. "After you lot have had sufficient rest, we'll go on our first hiking round. With luck that'll take less than four days..."

With all due respect, four days of hiking seemed like a daunting task. Must...sleep...

Mr. Clarcke seemed to laugh at our weary faces. "You boys and girls may have top P.E. ratings, but this is the real world, lads. Survival of the fittest and all that...."

"Even the fittest need their beauty sleep.", Rick whispered.

Mr. Clarcke laughed out loud. "Fair enough, that blonde lad's got a point. You must all be knackered. Have a good rest... Breakfast's at nine."

Maybe, if we're lucky, we'd be up in time for lunch.

The lodge was one of those buildings that gave the appearance as if it was entirely made of tree logs. Of course it wasn't, but the outter walls sure made it seem that way. The interior was quite spacious for a relatively small structure, though. The boys of the group - Kevin, Peter, Marty, Rick and me - were assigned the largest  room with three bunk beds. The girls - Mary, Betty, Cindy and Debohra - were less fortunate. Jennifer Brown was the only female adult, so she had to bunk with them in a similar room. Mr. Clarcke and Mr. Higgins shared a room with two single beds.

For me, this was great - being in a room with Kevin, Rick, Marty and Peter meant I could see them all strip down for bed. Granted, I wasn't really interested in seeing Peter and I had seen Rick without his shirt a couple of  times already, but I really hoped to get a glance at Kevin's bare chest and Marty, although I didn't particularly like him, looked like he had a nice body as well.

We all started opening our backpacks. Rick dove onto the uncovered bunk closest to him.

"Sleep! Yippee.", he said.

"I don't know about the rest of you but I'm seriously knackered.", I added.

"I think we all are.", Marty said.

"Oh yeah...", Peter added.

Kevin sighed and nodded. "Still though, we're here. Dunno about you lot but I'm really looking forward seeing the forest at sunrise."

"Good luck,", Rick smiled. "I'm willing to settle for high noon myself."

"Hahah...Well, you're right I s'pose...There's still, what, 13 sunrises ahead of us?", Kevin asked.

"Just about,", I said. I pulled my crumpled sleeping bag out of my backpack and flung it on the bunk above Rick's. "For now, I'm just about ready to collapse."

"I think we'll all need our rest for the days to come.", Marty said. Always the leader-type, that one....

"Right on.", Rick said, and started taking his jacket off. Good, that's one of them, heheh... I started undressing too, and pretty soon all of us were.

I took off my jacket and started on my shoes, trying not to be too obvious... I think most boys have this innate urge to check other boys out, but I really wanted to see if I could catch Kevin looking at me. And of course, I was curious about his body. The more inches of Kevin's bare skin I could see, the better!

Marty and Peter were taking their shoes off too, and so was Rick. Kevin decided he was going to take the top bunk next to ours (great choice, lad) and threw his kit up on his bed. He then took his jacket off, and continued with his boots. They were heavy black US Army style boots. To me, those type of boots always held a certain sexiness. Especially when a cute boy was taking them off, hehehe...

Rick was wearing about the same style of shoes that I was, brown hiking shoes that reached well above the ankle. Marty wore a variant of that type, a lighter shade of brown, and Peter was wearing reinforced sneakers that looked pretty new. I'm not sure if that was such a good choice, because sneakers tend to be less than waterproof....but I didn't care much about that, I just wanted to see them all strip, really.

Kevin had one of his boots untied and took it off. He wore white socks underneath. His foot had this really sexy deep arch. Seeing that, I kind of hoped he would take his socks off too... A boy's bare feet were always a turn on for me. Can't really explain why...

I also threw a glance at Rick, who had already taken his shoes off and took his shirt off now. The lodge was relatively warm, so there wasn't any need for us to sleep in pyjama's or anything like far as I was concerned, we could all strip down to our knickers, hehehe... Rick's body looked pretty good, as always. He wasn't that muscular (well, more than me, anyway) but he had clearly defined pecs and a very cute belly button that stuck out. It always drew my attention...

I took my shirt off too. I didn't actually see Kevin looking my way at all just yet. He was still busy with his other boot, which he untied and took off as well. He then rose to his feet and took his shirt off too. Unfortunately, he was wearing a white sleeveless shirt underneath that. Damn, I had hoped I could catch a glimpse of his bare stomach and his belly button too...But I could see his shoulder muscles and biceps, and from the lean way they looked one could only assume he had abs as well. Wow...

Peter and Marty had taken their shirts off too. Marty looked quite good, with a smooth nice pecs and small nipples. Peter was relatively undefined and was already showing traces of dark hair on his stomach and around his nipples. I preferred blondes anyway, heheh...

I looked at Rick. He sat down on his bunk and took this trousers off, one leg at a time. He was wearing boxers. I always thought boxers were really sexy. I'd love to wear them myself but because I had such a shrimpy frame, I'd look ridiculous if I did so. Not so with Rick, though...he looked bloody hot, as always. I had never seen him naked (once, almost) but from the looks of it he had a well developed package...

Kevin dropped his trainers too, so I decided to do the same. He wore boxers too. Remarkable how al the cuties wore boxers, because Marty had them as well, Peter and me wore briefs. Peter looked well equipped too, the fabric of his briefs really tight around his scrotum. Marty seemed to have relatively little. Kevin looked as if he was the biggest of all of us, wow!! But then, he was the oldest too.

We all hit our sleeping bags and decided to call it an night. Since we were all seriously exhausted from more than a day's travel, not much more was said before several of us dozed off. I was lying awake a little longer. What would the next day bring me? What would the forest outside be like? Kevin was right...I couldn't wait until the sun came up again.

The early sunbeams glistened as they poured through the curtains into our room. I blinked my eyes several times; I hadn't seen actual daylight for at least a day - only the artificial lighting on the airplane and the dim lights in the lodge. On the long run, that will give you quite a headache.

The sunlight was bright and felt warm. Mid-spring in Canada, and we were here to witness the Canadian forests in all their splendorous glory. I couldn't wait to get out of bed!!

I got up, and jumped out of bed, coming face to face with Kevin He was already putting his shoes on.

"Oh great, you're awake too.", he smiled. "I just had to get up when I saw the sun."

"Me too,", I agreed. "The sun always wakes me up."

Kevin smiled. "It's beautiful here. C'mon, look outside."

I walked over with Kevin to the small window. Kevin pulled open the curtains. Whoa...

The lodge was right near the forest's edge. Even in the full sunlight, you could only see a few feet into the dense trees. The skies were a kind of magnificent blue you never saw in Britain, ever. In the vast distance of the horizon, I could make out the peaks of a massive mountain range.

"Wow...", I said. "Are those the Rockies?"

"I'm not sure." Kevin replied. "I'd say we're still far away from the Rockies. Canada's a big place...but then, with a sky as clear as this...there's no telling how far you can see."

"Either way, there are a lot of hills out here."

"You bet,", Kevin replied. "We'll be hiking uphill a lot. You up for it?"

"Of course,", I smiled. "I'll show you a thing or two..."

"Hehehe, you're on.", Kevin grinned. Right then, we heard a low grunt coming from the bunk behind us.

"Hmmmmpppfff....", Rick moaned. "Can't you shut up? I'm trying to sleep here..."

"Hehehe, if you wanted to sleep you should've stayed in Britain.", I said. "C'mon man, there's stuff to see!"

"Arrggh...", Rick replied. "It's not going anywhere...."

"But we are,", I said as I hurried to get dressed. "Let's go, sleepy-head. We've got exploring to do!"

After dragging Rick out of bed and urging him to get dressed, the three of us were standing on the edge of the forest, right outside the lodge. The air felt chilly, even though the skies were clear and the sun was shining. Guess the brochures weren't lying about dressing warm. The grounds here were sandy, but not difficult to walk on. There was the distinct chattering of several birds and as we looked, we could see a large bird of prey soaring in the distance. Wow...

"Man, look at that...", Kevin sighed.

"Yeah...that's what I came out here for! What do you think, Rick?"

Rick yawned. "I missed it.", he said, while rubbing out his eyes.

"Twat.", I grinned.

"Yeah,", Kevin added. "Maybe you really SHOULD have stayed in Britain, if you sleep that much. The hiking stuff certainly doesn't look like it's going to be easy."

Rick yawned again. "Don't worry. Before you know it I'll be my own energetic self again...", he said. "Just that I couldn't sleep before we left, and well... the trip didn't help either."

"I hear the Coach has brought a crate of energy drinks.", Kevin said.

"No offence Kevin, but your Coach is a twat.", I grinned.

Kevin smiled back. "Yeah...she is."

A chilly breeze swooped out of the woods and through my hair. This early in the morning, the woods seemed to look so alive... almost like they were moving. I imagined it wasn't some sort of visual trick and that they were moving... insects, birds, and the wind, constantly keeping the trees in perpetual motion, like the stars move at night, only they move too slow for us to see...

Mr. Higgins joined us outside in front of the lodge. "Enjoying the view, lads?", he asked, running his hand through his shabby hair.

"Yessir...", I replied. "It's quite spectacular out here."

"That it is...", Mr. Higgins returned.

"We saw an eagle just now.", Kevin said.

"They're abundant here.", Mr. Higgins nodded. "I think we'll see much more glimpses of wildlife when we hit the woods. But we won't have time to look at every bird in every tree we pass - this is a P.E. trip, not a biology lesson."

"That reminds me,", I said, "will we be graded for our performance here?"

Mr. Higgins laughed. "There's some bonus points to be earned, yes. Not that you guys will need them. When you guys have freshened up, breakfast's in the dining room next to the lobby." He patted us on our shoulders and walked off, back into the lodge again.

"Your Coach seems nice.", Kevin said. "Not the arrogant twat like ours."

"Higgins is okay.", Rick said. "If you guys don't mind, I'm gonna go back and lie down for a few more... days..."

With that, Rick walked off too. Kevin gave me a look.

"You sure he's allright?" he asked me. "He looks awfully beat."

"He's always like this.", I said. "Don't worry, he'll be jumping about the place before you know it."

"You do know him longer than I do.", Kevin grinned.

"You bet.", I said. "Since we were both little."

"Cool, to have a best friend like that.", Kevin said.

"Yeah...Rick's the best...", I said. The way Kevin had said it, it almost seemed like he was lonely...Well, I wasn't about to let him feel lonely for a moment!!!

"Well,", Kevin said. "What do you say we grab some breakfast too?"

"Hmm, they probably won't serve a proper English breakfast anyway...", I said.

"If you wanted an English breakfast, you should have stayed in Britain along with Rick.", Kevin smiled. "Now come on, I'm starving already. The food they serve on planes isn't what I call tasty."

"You're very right about that.", I said as I headed for the lodge's door with Kevin.

Kevin and me arrived at the breakfast table, to see Marty, Peter, Jennifer Brown and most of the girls already there. No offence to the girls, but I always have trouble keeping them apart. For the life of me, I couldn't remember which one of the two was Mary and which one was Betty. Cindy, yeah, she was easy to recognize. Short hair, painted dark red, and blue eyes. Dunno, if I liked girls she'd be the kind of girl that I would like. Debohra was sort of a slutty blonde who was just a tad too ugly for the load of make up she was wearing. She had a huge nose too. But then, that's nothing rare with us Brits...

Kevin and I sat down next to eachother on the breakfast table for our group. There were 12 chairs in total: Nine students and three adults, of course. I glanced over the table. There were four baskets that contained bread, and some plates with ham, and cheese, as well as little packages of butter and jam. The packages looked way too small to fill a sandwich, though. Typical.

Mr. Higgins and Mr. Clarke walked into the dining room as well at that point and took their seats. One seat remained empty.

"Is that all of us? Who's missing?", Jennifer Brown asked. If twats could speak, I assume that's what they'd sound like.

"Rick is,", Mr. Higgins replied. "We found him lying on his bunk, fast asleep."

"Oh dear.", Ms. Brown replied.

"He'll be along any minute now.", Mr. Clarcke assured. "I fed him a can of energy drink and told him to put his head under the tap before he joined us. We need everyone to be sharp-witted here."

Kevin looked at me in a 'I-told-you-so' way.

"He'll be allright, Mr. Higgins.", I offered. "Rick's always like this. He'll be fine later in the day."

"Nevertheless,", Mr. Higgins replied, "make sure he drinks some coffee for breakfast."

At that moment, Rick walked in and joined the rest of us.

"Hey all,", he smiled, looking fit as ever. "Sorry to have kept you all waiting."

"How ya feelin' now, lad?", Mr. Clarcke asked.

"Better.", Rick replied. "That stuff seems to work."

"That's why we brought it.", Clarcke grinned. He got to his feet. "Allright, now we're all here, listen up, folks." We hit the woods at 4 pm. I want everyone to report to me and Mr. Higgins at three to receive their tents. They're two-person, so you'll have to team up."

Looks like that was going to be Rick and me..

"Until three, you guys have some time to look around here. Get some rest - we'll be out there in the woods for four days. That means three nights sleeping in tents. You won't have such luxuries such as showers, so make sure ya take a good one before we leave.", Mr. Clarcke grinned. "If only to do your mate a favour."

Guess he had a point there...

"Two landrovers will drive us a bit into the woods. After that, we'll hike along the forest ridge. It'll be pretty steep in some places, but that's half the fun. If you like a flat landscape, you might as well go and hike in the meadows.", Mr. Higgins added. He was very correct there....

"Enjoy your breakfast, lads. Lunch at this table at one, and we'll have our tea in the woods. Remember, tents at three."

"Got it.", Rick replied.

"And if you fall asleep again, I'll wrap you in a cardboard box and send you back to Britain. I'll be more than happy to pay the stamps myself.", Clarcke grinned at Rick.

"Don't you worry, Mr. Clarcke...I'll be able to out-hike every single one of you."

"You're on,", Kevin said. "Guess I'll be competing with both of you."

"You bet,", I said. "We'll show you exactly which school's best!!"

That remark fired up a heated discussion at the breakfast table. The odds were with us, simply because we had three boys against two. The girls seemed less competitive in it all. For me, I think I only wanted to impress Kevin. And I certainly wanted to show him I was better than that Peter kid he seemed to hang out with. Call me crazy, but whenever he talked to him... I couldn't help but feel a touch of jealousy. I guess everyone can be a bit possessive when it comes to crushes... I've seen girls bash in each other's skulls just to get a better view of a certain Take-Thatter... but then, that's girls for ya. I'd probably do the same if it meant Beckham's autograph.

After a real thorough shower - separate stalls, sadly. No staring at a naked Rick or Kevin - and some lying down, we all got our stuff packed and headed for the tents. I hoped these tents weren't going to be tons of extra equipment to carry...

Mr. Clarcke started speeching about the tents. He told us this was a new modern model, that was lightweight and did away with tentpoles or groundpins. Within a second, Mr. Clarcke had clicked the tent open like an umbrella. It didn't even require setting up and weighed next to nothing. Perfect!! Camping with mom and dad always meant a disaster - THIS was more like it though!!

"These things will save ya lots of time, but if heavy winds show up, be sure you're already inside. Since they won't be secured to the ground they tend to blow away. That's not likely to happen though, forecast said sunny. But close to the mountains, ya never know.", Clarcke spoke.

"Wow. Better than I thought!", Kevin commented.

"I wasn't expecting this either.", I said.

"This'll save us a lot of trouble.", Rick said. "Of course, encounter a Grizzly and you're toast."

"Grizzly's don't usually come in the hilly parts.", Mr. Clarcke said. "Still, you never know." He reached inside the trunk of one of the landrovers and pulled out a classic hunting rifle.

"Just in case.", he smiled.

"Whoa...", Rick commented.

"Ever had to use it?", Kevin asked.

"A long time ago.", Clarcke replied. "Taking down a charging Grizzly takes two shots."

I swallowed. "Those things must be huge."

Clarcke nodded. "You'll think twice about harassing one of those critters."

"Hey, as long as they don't harass me I'll get out of their way...", Rick said.

"And so you should...", Clarcke replied grimly. "And so you should."

Four pm rolled around before we knew it, And we all met up once more in front of the lodge to get on the two Landrovers. Our backpacks were dumped in the backs of the large vehicles, and we crammed ourselves inside. Four persons had to sit on the back seat. It was tight, but manageable for a while. I sat next to the window, Rick huddled up against me. Every bump the landrover made shoved him closer to me. It wasn't bad, though... in the other car, one of the girls had to sit on Marty's lap! I'm sure he didn't mind THAT, though...

The Landrovers shot through the small forest roads. A mile or so away from the lodge, the terrain really started to get a lot steeper than before. I could see through the trees....there were hills around us, and occasionally, a ditch or ravine was visible. Some even as deep as 35 or 40 feet!! Rough terrain, indeed - but perfect for a hike!!

The landrovers took a small turn to the right and really entered the woods. The roads became thinner, and at one point I wasn't quite sure if we were even ON a road anymore...

"I have a bad feeling about this...", I quoted.

"Not again.", Rick returned. "You always say that stupid Star Wars line."

"Well, don't you think it's somewhat appropriate here?", I asked grinning.

"Hmm,", Rick said as he glanced past me, out the window. "This is new to me too. I'll give ya this much, though...the grounds here look bloody fab - I'm going to enjoy this place!!"

"Me too,", I agreed, "But still though, these woods are pretty dense. It'll be hard..."

Rick shrugged it off. "I'm up for anything. Bring on the Grizzly's."

"Uhh, Rick...", Kevin interrupted, "those things can outrun a human any day of the week. You'd be...well, toast."

"I'm up for it!", Rick boasted. I feel so loaded, I can take on the Blair Witch herself!!"

"God, you had to bring that up, didn't you?", I grunted.

"What?", Kevin asked.

"It's nothing, trust me.", I replied.

"Go on Rick...what?", Kevin asked again.

"Oh, just that we went to see the Blair Witch Project... and Jamie here... had NIGHTMARES about it!!"

"Arrghh...want me to turn the window down, Rick? I think they didn't hear you in the other Landrover.", I sneered.

"Hehehe...", Rick chuckled.

"He keeps teasing me about it.", I told Kevin. "Don't blame me, I was fourteen at the time!"

"So was I!", Rick countered.

"He never lets me forget...", I sighed.

"That's what friends are for.", Rick grinned.

"I just thought the movie was bloody creepy. And you never even saw blood too...", I said.

"I agree,", Kevin said. "That movie creeped a lot of people out. Blood or not, it was one good film."

"I'll still take Star Wars over it.", I said.

"You and your Star Wars...", Rick laughed.

"I agree with you there too Jamie.", Kevin said. "I'm not watching Blair Witch multiple times. But then, that's the only reason Star Wars does so good in the box office...the same bunch of people seeing it a billion times..."

"You take that BA--"

"Heads up, lads. This is it!!", Mr. Clarcke interrupted.

Clarcke brought the Landrover to a dusty halt. The area we had stopped really looked like the heart of a forest. And essentially, that's what it was!!

We all get out of the cars and got our backpacks back. We had decided Rick would carry the tent the first day, and me the second. Then Rick again, and so on. A fair deal, but the tent didn't weigh an awful lot anyway, so I wasn't worried too much about it. Carrying the tent wouldn't be that much of a problem. Still though - I looked around and saw that there were many hills around here - every pound extra on your shoulders might count on the long run.

Rick wasn't worried about it at all. He was still as charged as he was back in the Landrover. Kind of a sudden change from the sleepy Rick who was late for breakfast. It probably was because of that energy drink Clarcke had fed him. I'll have to ask about those...they seemed to work!

Clarcke hoisted his own backpack on while he locked the Landrover. Mr. Higgins locked the other and told us the staff of the lodge would be back to pick them up here. We would really be on our own in the woods. Of course we'd be safe if something happened: Clarcke, Higgins and Jennifer Brown all had cellphones, and probably some of the other kids did too. What were they going to do, call their parents from Canada? It'd be cheaper to just fly them both over! Bunch of rich snobs...While you're calling, why don't you order a pizza too. Make mine with cheese, tomatoes and Giant Panda-flesh. You can afford it.

"Allright lads...Ready to go? Lets get moving!!", Clarcke shouted.

Our group headed north, and immediately started out with a rather steep hill. 'To warm us up', Mr. Clarcke had said.

Hmm. I'm beginning to think he's quite the bastard.

After about an hour of walking uphill and uphill alone, my forehead started to get sweaty. I also started to get a little bit short on breath. I figured that had to do with the fact that we were walking on a much higher altitude than Britain, and oxygen was thinner here. Still, nature seemed to flourish: There were trees all about and many, many birds in the trees. On occasion, we could hear the rustle of a larger animal in the woods alongside the makeshift path we were walking on. Proably a deer or something even smaller, but my mind couldn't help but wander off and think of Grizzly bears....

When we reached what looked to be the top of the large hil we just climbed, I confessed to Rick:

"Hmm...this seems to be a tad harder than I had thought."

"Heheh, told ya so, man.", Rick laughed. "Me, I'm ready to go up another mountain or two."

"Riiight...", I said. "AND you have the tent. That energy drink really has you hopping about, huh?"

"Hah, you bet.", Rick grinned wildly. "That stuff's really something. I wouldn't be surprised if our little twat Jennifer is planning on keeping that entire crate for herself."

"Grrr...she wouldn't....would she?", I asked.

"Not sure. She seems like the type who would do such a thing. How else is she gonna keep up with us, anyway? I mean, LOOK at her!!", Rick murmurred.

"I know what ya mean...", I said.

"Anyway, I took precautions.", Rick grinned. "While Clarcke wasn't looking, I swiped a couple of cans. Want one?"

"Hehehe... you bet!!", I said.

"Make sure you stay behind though. Don't want any of 'em to see...", Rick said as he handed me the can.

"Course not, hehehe...", I said as I opened the can and quickly drank most of it. It had a funny tangy really bittersweet caramel. Not bad at all, though! I kept it hidden, and finished the rest when I got the chance. Rick also opened up another can for himself.

"You having another one?", I asked.

"Yeah, this stuff's really good.", Rick said. Besides, it works. I think Clarcke's going to keep us busy for a while longer. At least until sunset.", Rick said.

"Most likely, wouldn't say by looking at him, but I think HE's the one that's going to outhike all of us!!!"

"Not as long as I have these cans.", Rick grinned. I hoped he was right. We looked like we still had a long way to go......

The sun had started to set about half an hour ago, and the skies were starting to darken. Large patches of glimmering orange stretched across the horizon. It really was one of the most marvellous sights I had ever seen...Sunsets in Britain were beautiful, but this...this was bloody incredible! One could stare at the skies all night and not get bored!

Mr. Higgins had lit a controlled campfire and we all set up the tent around it for the night. For some reason, I felt right at home. I always liked the whole 'camping' feeling... a sunset, fire..and friends to have fun with. What more could you possibly ask for?

Most of the girls were tired. in fact, most of the boys were too. Clarcke HAD in fact dragged our weary bottoms up another hill, and if it weren't for Rick's magic potion, we would be severely beat too.

"Soooh, lads 'n' lasses...", Clarcke said as he stretched his back, "Not so tough now, are we?"

"Anybody wanna play ball?", Rick chuckled.

A collective sigh passed through the camp. Guess not.

"You're liable to fall right off a cliff.", Kevin said.

"Give me a parachute and I'll go voluntarily.", Rick smiled. "That's always been my dream...a skydive."

"A thrill seeker, are ya?", Clarcke said.

"Hmm, kind of.", Rick replied. "It's just one of those 'do-before-ya-die' things."

"So is hiking in Canada.", I smiled.

"You've got that one covered.", Mr. Higgins said.

"It's awesome so far...", I said. Everyone seemed to agree on that one.

After dinner and some more friendly chatting about, we all were ordered to turn in. I got my sleeping bag out of my pack and threw it in the tent along with Rick's. The air was starting to get chilly, but I wasn't really feeling like going to bed yet. Dunno...the day was just so exiting, sleep wasn't really on my mind.

"What about you, Rick? You sleepy yet?", I asked.

"Not at ALL.", he said.

"Me neither.", I replied.

"We'll just chat some more in the tent. I've got my flash light with me....", Rick said.

"Hmm, okay.", I said. But I'd rather remained outside...I just love the stars out here."

"You'll have plenty of chances to see more of them later on this week.", Mr. Clarcke said behind us. Crap, that guy has bloody good hearing...

"Right now, get to bed.", Mr. Clarcke ordered. "You lads will need your sleep. Tomorrow's another busy day. Now go on...get in your tents and go to sleep. No chatting."

"Right...", Rick said. "What if I have know...GO?"

Mr. Clarcke let out a sigh. "We're in a forest....pick a tree. Now, goodnight.", he said as he walked off towards his own tent.

Rick and me both got inside and got into our sleeping bags. Rick flashed his light on.

"He can really be a pain at times.", Rick commented.

"Quiet man...", I whispered. "Clarcke's got good ears...I'll bet he can hear you a mile away."

"Don't be silly,", Rick said. "noone can do that."

"You boys shut up now and get some bloody rest!! I won't drag your bums uphill tomorrow!!", Clarcke hollered from outside.

"Crap...", Rick whispered at his softest and turned the flashlight off......

I couldn't sleep.

I had been lying silently next to Rick for hour? Two? Three? I don't know. I'm pretty sure it was that bloody energy drink that was keeping me awake. What was in that stuff anyway? Caffeine? Speed??

Either way, I couldn't sleep.

I kept listening to the sounds the forest all around us was producing. And my mind kept wandering off... Even though I was trying not to, I was thinking of Kevin. About his bare body, and myself touching it...licking it. Everywhere he wanted me to....Thinking about him gave me a hardon, and because I was lying next to Rick...I couldn't wank off!

Rick wasn't helping me sleep either...He had twice as much of that energy stuff as I did... if not more. He kept tossing and turning in his sleeping bag and in the process, bumping into me. The tent we were in maybe was light weight, but it certainly wasn't comfortable. The ground felt a lot harder than it looked!

Rick turned in his sleeping bag again, and his knee pushed into my back, hard.

"Ouch.", I whispered below my breath.

"Sorry.", Rick whispered back.

"You can't sleep either?", I asked.

"Not at all.", he whispered back

"It must be that drink we took. Whatever's in there is keeping us wide awake."

"It's more powerful than I thought...sorry...", Rick tried.

"If I'm a wreck tomorrow I'll blame you.", I sneered.

"Hey! how was I supposed to--"

"Shhh!! keep your voice down.", I whispered.

"Oh...right.", Rick whispered back.

"Crap, I need to go take a leak.", I whispered.

"What was that?"

"I said I need to piss!", I repeated.

"Oh. You too, huh?"


"Wanna go together? I'll bring my flashlight...", Rick offered.

"Good idea.", I whispered. "If we walk a little, we can talk normally. I hate whispering like this."

"Me too.", Rick agreed. "Let's go."

We both got our clothes and shoes on again, and quietly unzipped the tent. The air had turned even more chilly than it was before, and it was quite dark indeed. A pluspoint was that when the surroundings are as dark as this, it's possible to see a lot more stars than you normally would. I saw BILLIONS of stars!!! The skies were completely full of them. I never thought that there were SO many!!

The bright flash of Rick's flashlight temporarily blinded me.

"Arrgghh!", I hissed. "Turn that thing off, you'll wake the others!!"

"Oh...Sorry.", Rick whispered and turned it off. "C'mon, let's go."

I nodded, oblivious to Rick of course, and followed his silhouette in the darkness. We headed left through the woods, away from the camp. I tried not to make tunrs, so that the camp would be right behind us and we wouldn't get lost in the process. Well, we wouldn't go far, anyway.

"Kind of creepy, huh?", Rick teased after we had walked a couple of feet.

"Oh shut up...", I returned. "Not the Blair Witch thing again."

"Hehehe...I KNOW you're afraid, man.", Rick smiled in the darkness. His flashlight was illuminating the ground in front of us.

"I am not..."

"Yes you a--shhh....what was that?", Rick said.

"What was what??"

"Gotcha.", Rick smiled.

"Bastard.", I said. "I'm gonna find a place to piss."

"Good plan.", Rick agreed. "Uhh...who gets the flashlight?"

"Hmm... us both?"

"I can't do it when someone's watching.", Rick grinned.

"Me neither.", I said. Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing Rick's penis at ALL..."

"Why don't we take turns, then...I'll go first.", Rick said.

"Okay..." I said. "Just get on with it."

"Yeah, yeah...", Rick said.

He walked away a few feet. I couldn't see him, just the little spot his flashlight was shining on. I coul hear the distinct sound of running water a second later....Great, now I really have to go!!!

A minute or so later, Rick returned and handed me the flashlight. I took it and walked the opposite reaction. After a few feet, I stopped too and aimed the flashlight at a big tree. Beyond the tree was nothing but darkness.

I needed both my hands to open up my trousers, pull my knickers down and get my penis out, so I clamped the flashlight's back end between my teeth. It was a little troublesome holding it like that, because the flashlight was round and was a good two inches in diameter.

After a minute or so I had emptied my bladder and tried closing up my trousers again. It was a little difficult doing so at the touch..opening it up had been much easier! I tried to bend my head downward to shine on my crotch a little --

The top of the flashlight bumped against my chest and shot out from between my teeth. It landed on the ground, rolled a couple of times...and vanished. It just went completely dark suddenly.

"Crappin' Hell.", I hissed. "Rick!!"

"What?", he answered.

"I lost your flashlight."

"What do you mean, lost it??", he said. "Where is it?"

"I don't know.", I replied. "Hang on...I'll see if I can find it.", I said.

"Be careful.", Rick said.

"Oh don't worry.", I said as I walked forward. "It's probably underneath a leaf or something. Besides, what can possibly happ--Whoa!!!!"

The ground suddenly got steep beneath my feet! I lost my balance, tried to grab hold of something in the dark surroundings. I swung my arms around me but it didn't work. I slipped. The bottom hit the ground, but I kept sliding downwards, fast!! I desperately tried toextend my arms to grab hold of SOMETHING....but all my fingertips felt was moist mud. Then, a spilt second later....I felt nothing at all. Only the cool air shooting past my skin as I fell.

"JAMIE!!! JAMiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee.................."

I only felt a sharp pain. After that, everything went black.......



The soothing sound of running water eased my mind back into focus. I opened my eyes, slowly, trying to get accustomed to the bright light. My head hurt, and so did my shoulder. I noticed - vaguely at first, then stronger - a burning sensation on my left leg. I tried rubbing the fabric of my trousers, but felt a little bit of moisture instead. I pulled my hand back up to my face and looked at it, seeing a little bit of red on my fingertips.

Blood. I was bleeding.

A quick jolt of panic struck me. I remembered, suddenly - falling down the cliff, trying to grab hold of tree branches desperately, Rick screaming my name...

Rick...where was he? No, wait...where was I???

I remembered Rick and me sneaking out of camp late at night - but right now, it was daytime! What's more, wasn't there supposed to be a CLIFF I had fallen off around here?? I looked around quickly, and saw nothing but trees around me. It also took a while for me to realize I heard water running ...water!! I remembered the map - there wasn't a water source anywhere NEAR close to the place we were camping!! I had NO idea where I was, nor did I had any recollection how I got here. Either there's a huge gap in my memory, or...

Someone had moved me....

Someone...or something....

I got to my feet quickly. My eyes shot in all directions, but I couldn't see anything or anyone around me. This place was totally unfamiliar to me. If I didn't know better I'd think I had been transported to another country altogether, had it not been for the fact that this was still unmistakable Canadian woodland.

I calmed myself a bit. C'mon now, Jamie - there has to be a perfectly logical explanation for this...

My mind tried to add things up, but the pieces of the puzzle just didn't fit: After all, Rick saw me fall down and no doubt made his way back to the camp to tell the others what happened. We didn't go that far, so it wouldn't be that hard to find me, even though it was pitch dark. On the other hand, if it was so bloody easy to rescue me, why wasn't I in a Canadian S.T.A.R.S. air ambulance right now...and WHY, if someone DID go through all the effort of moving me, did they move me HERE and just left me??

I just stood there for a minute, wondering. The rhythmic sound of the water nearby caused me to slowly move in that direction. I was totally alone out here, that much was pretty clear. If I was going to get out of here, a clearing like a river bed would help. If I was in an air ambulance the river shores would be the first place I'd look.

The river was closer than I thought. Only about thirty feet or so, and I suddenly stepped out of the dense trees and into a clearing. A large, broad river was flowing right in front of me. Across it I could see more forest, just like on this side. Large steel grey boulders decorated the river's shores. Wildlife was abundant: across the river, a couple of hundred feet to my left, I could make out a deer of sorts drinking. Birds were singing and chattering in the trees, most sounds pretty distant, soft like leaves that rustle in the winds, others closer. Almost as if the bird itself was right behind me....

I looked back at the forest. There, sitting on a pine's lower branches, was a bright blue bird. It was entirely blue except for a small patch of white near the chest. It had a funny looking tuft of feathers standing straight up on top of it's cocked little head. I remembered seeing baseball caps when we landed in Toronto all over the place, there was no doubt: this was a bluejay.

And it was chattering at me.

Now this was odd - I hadn't seen birds come this close once on this entire trip,  nor was I used to seeing birds act this way back home in Britain. This bird, though, was looking right at me, like it was trying to get my attention, and it was chirping as though his nest was on fire and he wanted me to save his eggs! This was the middle of Canada - birds here aren't supposed to be tame, right? So in no way could this bluejay be begging for breadcrums like the pigeons in London do...and even those pigeons didn't cause the kind of commotion this bluejay was causing....

The bluejay was almost hopping up and down on its branch now, almost frantically. I took a few steps closer, half expecting it to fly away any moment, but it just kept at it - chirping and squawking loudly with its delicate voice, sounding not quite distressed, but nevertheless urgent, somehow. It then took off, flew a short distance into the woods and returned just as quickly as it had taken off, back on the same branch, looking at me again. And chirping just as urgently.

I was kind of baffled. First I wake up in a strange place and now a bluejay wants me to follow him?? What is this, Jamie in bloody Wonderland?!?

The bluejay was warbling a series of tones now that almost seemed to have a begging intonation to it. It flew up and down in the same manner again, clearly trying to lure me closer...I took a few steps closer to the branch it was sitting on, not sure what to do. I mean, Alice followed the White Rabbit and look what happened to her...

The bluejay flew up again, and I was startled to see it was coming right at me this time! I took a step back but the little blue bird covered the distance in half a second, grabbed the cord of my jacket with its beak and flew away from me, literally dragging me along.
Okay, this was it. I figured, what the hell, this bird obviously wants me to come with. I'll be a good boy and follow. I've heard of dolphins leading astray swimmers back to the shores...maybe this bluejay is going to do something similar. Either that or I'll wake up in a moment.

I followed the bluejay back into the woods. Each time, it would land on a branch, look at me with a cocked head, its eyes waiting. Then, when I was close enough, it would take off again and land on a different branch, still well within visual range.

Most of these woods really DID look like no human had ever set foot here. There were large patches of moss on the ground that almost looked like green snow-covered fields. The sun beamed down through the roof of the trees, giving the whole area an enchanting feel about it.

And in the midst of it all was I, Jamie, following a bluejay. Heheh.

After a good ten minutes of fast walking, trying to keep up with the little bird and making my way through some areas of dense foliage, I arrived at a relatively clear area of the forest. There were several large, no doubt ancient trees. I didn't realize just how big some of these trees really were until I saw one of them lying on the ground...or partially, anyway. The large trunk, at least four feet in diameter, had been roughly separated from the root. Large splinters were still visible. The large tree had crushed several smaller trees when it came crashing down, and smaller plants had already started growing on the large trunk.

On that fallen tree, the bluejay had landed.

I stopped, a couple of feet away from the huge tree trunk and the little blue bird on top of it. I smiled, and, more to myself than to the bird, said:

"Allright, little why have you brought me here?"

To my enormous surprise, a deep voice responded:

"He did not summon you here....I did."

I froze!! That tree is talking to me?? What the HELL??

"Come closer.", the tree demanded.

I swallowed hard, then slowly started towards the large tree...

When I was within a foot or two of the massive trunk, I saw that it had not been the tree itself that spoke...but a man, lying on the ground, just behind the huge tree trunk. I immediately saw why he was lying there - one of his legs was wedged beneath the large tree!! Man, if this tree had fallen on top of this'd be a miracle if he had much of a leg LEFT! Furthermore, how LONG had he been lying here already? The man had a rugged face with a wild, darkbrown beard and longish hair... like he had been lying there for months now...but then, that was impossible...

"Ohmygod...", I stammered, "Are you allright, sir? Your leg..."

"My leg", he continued in that deep voice, "is stuck, as you may have already observed."

"I'll...I'll go and find help...", I offered, still clueless.

"No, no, you must not leave.", the man said.

"Allright, okay...Um,'s probably broken.", I said, trying to remain calm. "We need to get you to hospital..."

"What I NEED,", the man continued, "is to get OUT from under this confounded TREE!!"

"But your leg needs..."

"My leg is perfectly allright.", the man said.

"How can you leg be allright? It's crushed under that tree!", I returned.

"I have long since regenerated my leg. All I require is that you free me from this accursed tree!!"

Had I heard him correctly? "R-re..regenerated? B-but...but how can I...I mean...uh..", I stuttered. I was literally flabbergasted.

The man sighed. "I suppose it's a long tale. Sit down, young man. I require your help..."

It took at least ten minutes for the strange man to calm me down, another five for him to convince me it was allright to sit my bum down on the very tree that was crushing his leg - correction, trapping his leg. His leg had been, uh.....regenerated.

That's what he said, anyway. I didn't really believe he meant it literally. As far as I was concerned, this bloke was just one tic short of being a lunatic. He looked bewildered, but he didn't look dangerous, though. If anything, he reminded me of Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Besides, what could he do, order his little trained bluejay to peck out my eyes? Hahah.

I sat down on the immense tree, looking down at the stranger.

"So...", I started, "Who are you? What happened here?"

"I haven't used my name since before you were born. It's of no importance. You may call me...the Keeper."

"The Keeper?"

"Aye... That's what I am. The Keeper of these woods, and Guardian of its inhabitants.", he said, glancing over to the little bluejay, still sitting on the branch.

"Ahah...", I said. I was fairly convinced now that this 'Keeper' had lost most of his marbles. "Well, my name's Jamie. So why are you trapped, Mr. Keeper?"

"During a lightning storm, this tree got struck. I was tending to an injured deer when it came crashing down.", he continued. "I managed to get the young deer out of its path, but I myself was less fortunate. My leg...", he indicated, "...became trapped, as you can see. I managed to heal myself, but it is not within my power to move this tree. It is simply too heavy. Even the combined strength of five Grizzly bears wasn't enough to free me."

"Grizzly's...", I repeated.

"Yes,", the Keeper indicated. "Grizzly's"

I looked behind me...and looked RIGHT in the brown eyes of a gigantic brown bear. It had come out of nowhere and was growling right behind me!!

"Yeearrghh!!", I yelped as I jumped up, only seeing a second, darker bear to the right of it. I was terrified!!

"Calm yourself.", the Keeper said.

"Calm myself??", I shouted back. "Those things are bloody dangerous!!"

"Rummbaarr and Galeeshah.", the Keeper spoke. "They will not hurt you. Come."

"Yeah, right...", I said, half expecting a pounce from one of the huge grizzly bears any minute now.

The Keeper sighed. "Allright....I will order them to move back. If that will put you more at ease, my young friend..."

"You bet that would put me at ease...", I returned, still literally shaking.

Like the Keeper had said, the two bears started to back away from us. Within a minute, both of them had moved out of visual range. I swallowed hard again and let out a huge sigh.

" what's the deal here...", I demanded. "First you wanna tell me you can heal yourself and now you can talk to animals or something??"

The Keeper grinned at me, flashing perfect white teeth that seemed out of place with his bearded face. "You are correct in assuming that.", he said. "Come. Let me offer you an explanation."

I swallowed again. He had better come up with a good one...

I sat down on the big tree trunk again, still looking back every now and then for the two grizzly's that had disappeared in the woods behind me. The Keeper smiled at me.

"You need not worry, young one. They will not come back until I ask them to."

"Yeah, about that, uh... trick with the bears...quite well trained...", I started. My mind still had trouble believing the Keeper's statements, though the facts were obvious. The bears had done what he asked, and the bluejay, still sitting calmly on the branch next to me, seemed to listen to the strange man lying in front of the tree as well.

"It is no trick, I assure you.", the Keeper smiled. "What you see is correct - the animals obey me. I speak to them, and they speak to me. They heed my orders because I ask them to. I am their friend, as they are mine."

"That's, um...quite extraordinary...", I replied.

The Keeper laughed. "It is indeed, young one, it is indeed."

"But...but how?", I asked.

"Through the power...of Gaea's Tear."

"Gaea's tear?" I repeated. "What's that?"

"Once...", the Keeper spoke, "I was a scholar. An ambitious young  man with a mind swirling with questions. Curiosity. Wanderlust. I travelled the world studying ancient texts and manuscripts, visiting Holy temples and shrines, looking for answers..."

"To what?", I asked.

"To the mystery that occupies all men. Why are we here? What is our purpose? To what end do we exist? I thought the answer would be found in spirituality. But many of the modern religions I studied over the years proved to be nothing more than demented tales. The men and women who supported them often savages."

"Sounds familiar...", I commented.

"I searched...", the Keeper continued, "Egypt, India, the Japanese and Chinese Empires. My journey ended...or rather, my journey Greece."


"Yes. Granted, the Grecian culture is not nearly the oldest culture. The Mayan and Egyptian cultures share the same roots, and seemed to be the closest thing to a...primordial culture, if you will. One who may have seen the very being that created this world...but the legend...the spirit of it...I found in Greece. There, I found references to Gaea, the spirit of Mother Earth herself, the creator of life. The entity all religions are initially based on."

"So what's this...'Gaea's tear'?", I asked.

"Legends hinted of a well-kept secret myth...a myth that Gaea had beheld the work of humans and the state of her planet because of them, and when doing so...had shed a single tear. I became intrigued by this myth when I heard of it, and decided to dedicate my life to proving the myth was real, and finding Gaea's Tear. By chance, and pure chance came into my possession. The curator of a small museum in a town near Athens showed me an artefact I believed to be the tear of Gaea. The actual artefact the legend was based on. What had kept this particular legend alive over the years, was that within the tear, Gaea's power had been captured. Those who were pure of mind were able to call upon that power, and use times."

The Keeper grinned at me. "Seven...wishes."

"Seven wishes? You mean, literally? Like a genie?", I asked.

"Far more than that. No entity houses within Gaea's Tear. It houses POWER. It has been mistaken for a mere piece of Grecian jewellery over and over again. It cost me a small fortune to buy it from the museum it was in... but money can soften even the strongest of wills. When I saw Gaea's tear, I knew it was the real one. I felt its energy when I touched it. I opened my mind to it....and wished. And it complied."

"You worked?"

"Yes. I had been deemed pure enough of mind, apparently."

"Uhh...if you don't mind my asking, what did you wish for?", I carefully asked. The Keeper's story had intrigued me.

"What all inhabitants of our modern age would wish for.", the Keeper sighed. "Wealth."


"Ahh, yes, money. My travels had rapidly depleted my resources. I was in desperate need of more funding from the University I was affiliated with, but it no longer wished to support me and my unorthodox ideas, as they called it. The acquisition of Gaea's Tear had cost me just about all I had left."

" made you rich?"

"Oh yes. Quite rich. In fact, I had more money than I could possibly hope to spend in a lifetime."

I smiled. "Well, you sure don't look like it."

"Not anymore. But back in that time, I literally squandered my newly acquired wealth. I bought whatever pleased me. Food, drink, clothing, gold. A vast estate belonged to me. But over time, I learned that money is not the answer to one's problems in life...but the cause. I found no peace. I continuously had to defend myself from greedy fellow men and women who were solely after my wealth and would not stop till they had acquired it. Attempts at my life were made. Servant girls, common thieves...competitors. Even my own WIFE."

"Oh...uh....I'm sorry.", I uttered.

"It was my own doing. The treacherous serpent struck me with a knife in the midst of the night. She never wanted my love, only that which I had to offer her: my wealth. I never told her about the power that housed in Gaea's Tear. You, my young friend, are the first human I share its secret with."

"So, survived your wife's attack?", I asked.

"No. I was dying. It was Gaea's Tear who saved my life. Even with my life's blood gushing out of my chest, I was sound enough to wish for more than just my life. In my anger, I vowed that noone would ever harm me again to get to my fortune. I wished for the power of regeneration, so I could heal any wound inflicted upon me, and I would live as a strong vital man throughout Eternity. Age would never catch up with me, sickness would never strike me down."

I nodded. "A smart wish."

"A curse," the Keeper replied. "For I was forced to see everyone I ever cared for slowly fade away with age, and the inevitable death that followed. But there was more. I soon became the victim of the bloodthirsty savages I mentioned before. Religious fools who have adopted ignorance as their only God and will destroy all that they do not understand. For their master did not age; mortal wounds could not strike me down. In their eyes, I was a Demon, no doubt sent to destroy them. In return...they destroyed me."

"What happened?", I asked.

"Fire...blazing in the middle of the night. More pain than you can possibly image, more than anyone could ever endure. My estate, everything I owned, looted and burnt to the ground, myself along with it. But I had escaped, and I fled. Gaea's Tear, which I had converted into a medallion long ago, still clung to my scorched neck. And I ran.....I ran....My body healed, but my mind remained scarred. It was then that I decided to turn my back to the entire human world and to become what you see here before you: One with Nature. One with Gaea."

I just nodded. I was very impressed with the Keeper's story.

"I fled to the woods, the most dense woods I could find.", the Keeper continued. "The woods you find yourself in now. I used Gaea's Tear to completely cut off my ties to the human world. I asked Gaea for a shelter, a residence that hid me from prying human eyes, if some would ever venture in these deep woods.

"That's three.", I counted to myself.

"I also wished for high tolerance to extreme heat and cold, and harsh winds. For company, I wished to have the power to communicate with all animals, as I had vowed to do my best to protect them, and protect their home. Their home and mine... I provided myself with fresh water by taking up residence near this river. For food, I wished for an eternal plant that would always bare fruits. Apples, pears, grapes, cherries. Many of the most exquisite fruits known to man, and some unknown....

"Four, five, six..."

"Lastly, I wished for the ability to blend in perfectly with my surroundings if necessary. In a way...I can become....invisible."

As the Keeper spoke these words, his body slowly became transparent before my very eyes!! His colours faded, his shape vanished...until all I could see was a faint outline in the moss where his body had once lied.

I gasped!! So it WAS true... all of it. All the Keeper had told me was true. After I had seen him disappear right in front of my eyes, there was no denying it...I could not deny it. The Keeper HAD the powers he described. And that meant... Gaea's Tear was a reality as well. Bloody hell, it was REAL!!!

"I trust you believe me now, my young friend?", the Keeper's voice sounded out of oblivion.

"Uhh...yes...YES, I believe you!!", I called out.

The Keeper started to materialize again, right where is body had vanished a few moments ago. "Excellent... because I need your help, my young friend. I need you to believe. Only then will you know how to use Gaea's Tear properly."

"What do you want from me?", I asked.

"Is it not obvious? I have used all of my wishes, my young friend. The animals sustain me...they bring me water, and food. But they cannot free me from this tree. I cannot and WILL not let the human world find me. They would not understand. You see... I have been living here in seclusion, away from the human world...ever since 1872."

I gasped again. "1872??"

"Yes...I have been trapped here under this tree for more than a month now. It's obvious I can never get out without help. I will most certainly never die. I need your help. Because you are young, it is most likely you have not yet succumbed to the lure of things such as greed...hatred. You are still pure of mind. Gaea will listen to you. To me, Gaea's Tear is useless now. I have spent its power. I need an heir, Jamie. I will entrust you with the location of Gaea's Tear, and in will wish for my freedom. After that, the remaining wishes are yours, to spend in whatever ways you see fit."

I considered that, trying not to get too excited. ", how can you be sure that I won't just take off with Gaea's Tear and leave you?"

"Simple...if you try to run, or if you use your first wish for anything else than my freedom...Rummbaarr and Galeeshah will destroy you."

Behind me, I heard the familiar low growl of a Grizzly, close to me. I tried not to panic, but it wasn't really working. I forced myself not to look back.

"Doesn't look like I have much of a choice, do I?"

"You have nothing BUT choices now, young Jamie. My only request is that you use them wisely." He indicated to the bluejay. "Shyysha here will guide you to my shelter. Rummbaarr and Galeeshah will follow you. Remember, if you run..."

"I will be destroyed. Yes, I'll remember. And you needn't worry. I'll be back.", I said. If this Gaea's Tear really worked, this really WAS a once in a life-time chance. A chance at getting everything I had always dreamed of, IF I used my wishes correctly. I didn't fully trust the Keeper 100 percent just yet, but I knew one thing for sure: This was an opportunity I was NOT going to pass up......

I followed the little bluejay through the woods, much like it had guided me towards the place where the Keeper was lying. Again, it flew ahead of me, landed on a branch till I was close enough, then took off again towards a next branch. Soundlessly behind me, I knew, were the two huge Grizzly bears....what did he call them again? Rum-bear and Gall...Gally...well, anyway. They were Grizzly's, big, ferocious, walking behind me, and quite ready to kill me. That's all that really mattered. This, too, bothered me a bit, subconsciously. The Keeper wanted his pet guardbears close, probably within pouncing distance, when I made my wish. That being said, who says he will not order his bears to kill me once the wish is made? I mean, I certainly wouldn't entrust a powerful device such as Gaea's Tear to a total stranger...Pure of mind or not!

The small bluejay, Shyysha, lead me to a clearing in the woods not far from the Keeper's location. If this was the place, the Keeper's shelter appeared to be very well hidden, indeed - for I saw absolutely nothing that looked out of the ordinary. Just a clearing...several stray trees and just a bunch of that moss that seemed to cover the ground all over the place. So where was this shelter the Keeper spoke of, underground or something? Inside a magic hollow tree? I looked at Shyysha - he flew over to the middle of the clearing....and landed. On thin air.

At this point, I wasn't even amazed anymore. So that was it - the Keeper's little hideaway seemed to posses the same vanishing power the Keeper himself had. Fair enough, but how can I enter it if I can't see the bloody door??

My question seemed anticipated. Around Shyysha, I could see a vague outline of something big appearing. Within seconds, I could see a structure forming. Small windows, rough walls and an irregular roof made up a small building, no more than approximately 12 or 15 feet in length, no more than 8 feet wide. A very down-to-earth residence for a man who could very well have been the richest man alive centuries back... But then, to get away from all that was exactly what he had wished for. Ironically... the Keeper had used his remaining wishes to escape from the consequences his first two wishes had caused him.

One of the bears behind me growled a bit. I swallowed. Guess this was the part where I entered.

The small cabin was made of dark brown wood, which seemed totally out of place with the soft lightbrown colours the natural trees growing in the lush woods seemed to have. The roof was thatched. Another thing that seemed unlikely for this part of... wait a minute. This cabin seemed out of place, yes, but it had originated in the Keeper's mind. Of course it would seem out of place then! With Gaea's Tear he could have wished for a white porcelain IGLO and it STILL would have appeared, right where he wanted it to. Out of place or not!

I moved the black wooden door towards me and stepped inside the small structure. The inside looked as modest as the outside did. A table to the farthest side, a bed along the back wall. A small wooden workbench in front of the glass window, with two wooden drawers and a crutch in front of it. Along the walls hung various basic tools: hammer, saw, axe, etc. Everything basic you'd need deep in the woods. The most remarkable thing, though, was in the back of the cabin on the table. A large potted plant of sorts was standing there, reaching no less than three or four feet in the air, and - much like the Keeper had said - sporting numerous fruits on its many branches. A vine-like stem curled upwards, a branch spinning to the side every five inches or so, and it in turn splitting up again in two, maybe three ends. Each end was sporting a piece of fruit that looked tasteful and ripe for the picking. Delicious red and green apples, large bulging pears, bundles of purple grapes as big as...well, golfballs, some of them, and even such exotics as bananas, kiwis, peaches and plums, oranges, lemons, the works. In a dark green shrubbery at the base of the peculiar looking plant grew different sorts of berries. All in all there were simply too many pieces of fruit growing on this tree than one could behold. It really did look like it could easily sustain a person, if not more, for a lifetime. Or longer, if the plant shared the regenerative powers of its owner.

I walked over to the plant to take a closer look. I couldn't resist to take one of the large red apples in my palm to touch its smooth flawless surface. It must've been a long time since I had eaten anything, so my mouth was watering. An almost insignificant tug made the apple come off. I hesitated at first, but soon took a bite out of the apple.

It tasted as awesome as it looked, and to my relief, no Snow White scenario happened. It had been a strange day full of fairy tale stuff happening to me, but choking on a poisoned apple wasn't one of 'em, hehehe!!

I took another bite, and glanced around the cabin. So where was this Gaea's Tear that I was supposed to be looking for? I really had no idea at all what to look for, really. The Keeper mentioned he had the thing crafted into a medallion, so I guess I should be looking for that.

I turned around, and saw Shyysha sitting on the workbench. He looked at me, and cocked his little blue head downward twice. Indicating one of the two little drawers. Of course...That's why he sent ME here, and didn't command one of his bears or other animals to get it...they either couldn't open the door or open the drawer. The Keeper probably had Gaea's Tear locked away in a safety deposit box of some sort too. Depleted or not, that's what I'd do with such a powerful thing.

I headed over to the heavy drawer and opened it. Sure enough, inside it was a wooden box. I took the lid off and inside it, unmistakably, was Gaea's Tear.

Gaea's tear was essentially a big blue gem, shaped roughly in a teardrop shape. It was fixed in the heart of a gold medallion, about the size of my palm. The sapphire-coloured gem itself was about an inch and a half in diameter at its broadest point. Little gold clamps held it in place. The medallion it was in was in the shape of a seven-point star. One large tip pointing north, two slightly smaller ones to the sides of the large peak, north east and north west. Heading east and west were two points as well, and the two remaining points were aiming at south east and south west. Each star point bore a tiny little sapphire gem as well. A gold chain was attached to the back of the medallion so one could wear it around the neck. The star points were engraved with decorations, not unlike modern tribal tattoos. It was, indeed, an incredible piece of jewellery. No doubt priceless, even without its powers.

I gently reached inside the wooden box and lifted Gaea's Tear out of it. I held it in both my hands and as I did, the tiny gems that were sapphire a moment ago turned into pure white. As if indicating I was its new owner - and my wish record had been set to blank.

At that moment, I felt a sudden gulf of energy pass through me somehow, like a static field, making my skin crawl from head to toe. was almost as if the gem's energy touched my mind. Careful now, Jamie, don't wish for anything....not yet.

Outside, I heard the Grizzly's growl impatiently. Shyysha flew outside too. Guess that was my cue to take Gaea's Tear back to the Keeper...and wish him free.

Another growl, louder this time. "Allright, allright, I'm coming.", I said to the Grizzly's.

I stepped outside, and saw both the bears sitting on either side of the door, as if being sentries to the place. Which, in a way, they were. I walked past them, rather nervously, and started following Shyysha again, Gaea's Tear firmly in my hand.

The feeling of anxiety returned, though. What if I made my wish and the Keeper had me destroyed anyway? Those bears frightened me beyond belief. I mean, who wouldn't be scared out of his wit with two of those colossal monsters tailing you? I'm sorry, I'm just not used to anything larger than a stray cat where I'm from! I wasn't willing to take the risk of the Keeper double-crossing me, just as he wasn't willing to take the risk of me running for it, or wishing I was back in Britain, out of reach for his bears. There's an idea, he won't be able to stop me then...

I shook the thought. That was silly. Not only would I condemn the Keeper that way and probably suffer his eternal wrath,  but I would waste a wish for nothing. I might just as well set the Keeper free and take my chances with the bears.

I looked back at the two immense Grizzly's. I hadn't a chance in Hell.

Okay Jamie, think...there has to be SOME way you can incorporate wishing the Keeper out of his trap AND yourself out of immediate danger at the same time...I had to think of a way to get the Keeper out and giving me the ability to defend myself or at least get OUT of there rather quickly, but I was not sure if I could combine all those abilities into one single wish... I'd have to move fast, or be able to jump really high for a tree, but then how could I lift that tree off of the Keeper... To even have a chance, I'd have to be a Je... hey... THAT'S IT!!!

I looked at the two stalking Grizzly's again. It was a long shot, and a lot of insecurities BUT... I think I could pull it off.

Rummbaarr's fangs gleamed in the shimmering sunlight.

In fact, I had to pull it off.

I arrived at the Keeper's tree swiftly. I might have been walking a little bit faster because I was bloody nervous! Not only did I have this plan the Keeper might not 100 percent agree with, but I also wasn't sure how this whole wishing process was supposed to take place...or even if it'd WORK with me. He said that because I was still a kid, I'd be pure of mind, but I dunno... I've seen my share of kids who were anything BUT pure of mind already.

I approached the Keeper's tree. Of course, he was still lying in the exact same spot.

"I'm uh, back...", I said.

"If you hadn't come back, you would have been dead.", the Keeper spoke. How reassuring to know.

"I assume", the Keeper continued, "you found Gaea's Tear?"

"Yes.", I said. I showed the medallion to the Keeper. "I have it right here."

"Good.", the Keeper said. "Then you may now proceed and wish me out of here. As you may understand, I have a rather sore back."

"I can imagine.", I smiled. "So... how do I use this?"

"Have the little gems on the tips turned white?", the Keeper asked.


"Excellent. That means you are indeed pure of mind."

"Uhh...thanks I guess.", I said. "So what now?"

"Take Gaea's Tear in both your hands and look into it. your mind to it... let it read your thoughts. It is essential you focus on the one thing you are going to wish for."

"That's rather tricky..."

"On the contrary. Gaea's Tear is very accurate. There are no tricks, no dangers. It doesn't work that way. You will get all, if not more, that you wish for. In precise, almost uncanny detail."

"Like your cabin?"

"Exactly. It turned out just like I imagined it. Oh, how I long to return there once more... To sleep in my bed once again."

"I hope you will, soon...", I said.

"Then proceed, young Jamie. There is nothing that can go wrong if you concentrate. Focus."

I moved slightly closer to the tall tree standing behind me. The two Grizzly's were closeby, but even at full speed it would take them several seconds to reach me. Which was about the time window I required...if all went well.

I stared into the blue gem in my palms. It almost seemed like the insides of it were made of a thick liquid and started swirling slowly as I gazed. I felt a small tingle all over my body again, like goosebumps. I started thinking hard about the thing I was wishing for. I wished to posses all the powers I had seen in my favourite movies so many times: The ability to manipulate objects with the power of my mind, to extend my mind to others and influence them, to leap enormous distances into the air and increase my speed up to 40 times...and many, many other possibilities...

I wish.... to have the powers of a Jedi Knight.

With a jolt, a blue stream seemed to shoot out of Gaea's Tear and into my eyes, into the depths of my brain. The tingling sensation got stronger, almost to the point where I could HEAR it, like a silent scream echoing in the back of my head. The little medallion in the palm of my hand was vibrating ever so softly. The blue beam seemed to search my mind. It seemed to draw my thoughts out of my head and into itself, then back into my brain again. I could feel every cell of my body tingling now, from my toes to the very tip of my tongue. For a moment it felt as though steam was going to flow out my ears or something...but then, the jolt stopped. I exhaled sharply.

My mind felt... weird. I slowly started to see...CLEARLY, as if I had been walking around with a mosquito net over my head for all these years. I heard even the most diminutive sounds in the forest, I felt it living, all around me. I could not see them, but I could detect the various lifeforms in the forest, living nearby. It was an instantaneous burst of....awareness. I was suddenly much more aware of everything that happened around me, how things looked, sounded...and more. I had knowledge. I somehow knew I could easily move objects, jump high, or move fast. Like your body somehow knows how to walk, or process speech... I just knew I could do all these things!! oh, WOW.

I looked at Gaea's Tear. It had stopped pulsating, and the north east gem was now glowing in a bright blue colour. My wish had been granted. I HAD the powers of a Jedi Knight...and all the possibilities that came with such power were now opened to me.

Then...almost a second and a half before it happened, I felt something else.


Uncontrollable, FURIOUS rage!!!

The Keeper's face darkened, his brown eyes seemed to flash with fire. He let out a long, furious primordial scream!!

"YOU BETRAYED ME!!!!!", he howled.

I sensed the Keeper's fury in a wave that hit everything around us, including the two Grizzly's closeby. The whole forest seemed to howl along with the Keeper. Then, the Grizzly's both let out a deafening roar and rose to their hind legs. They were over 8 feet high!!

Time just seemed to slow down, like a movie played on half the speed. I saw the big dark Grizzly drop to its front legs and started towards me in slow, massive steps. His mouth opened wide, saliva dripping off his huge gleaming white fangs. Then, a moment later, the other bear landed as well. It also started running towards me, eyes flashing with a desire to rip flesh off of bones... preferably mine.

I had time to react. Actually I didn't, but my enhanced Jedi reflexes made it seem to me like I still had plenty of time to choose what to do. I had already chosen my action. I focussed, and JUMPED up towards a large branch in the nearest colossal tree. I shot up in the air, grabbed the branch, and with an atlethic swing, I landed right on top of it. I had perfect balance, there was no way I'd fall. I'd be able to walk across a wire like this!

I looked down to the ground, and saw I had jumped about 20 feet up in the air! There was no way the Grizzly's - who were both standing against the tree on their hind legs snarling at me - could reach me.

"You treacherous swine!!", the Keeper yelled. "You can't stay up there forever!! I'll have my eagles pluck you down from that tree and pick your eyes and tongue out!! I will see to it you will DIE the most agonizing slow death!!"

"No, waitaminnit, waintaminnit, let me EXPLAIN - "

"You were ordered to FREE me -", the Keeper yelled.

"And I WILL free you!! I wished for the power to lift that tree off of you!!", I yelled back, trying to calm the Keeper.

"Then do so now...or DIE. There will be nowhere on this entire Earth where you'll be safe from the eyes of my animals...", the Keeper threatened.

"Allright...hang on. I'll get that thing off you.", I assured. I wasn't as certain as I made it seem, though. That tree was pretty big. Yoda had lifted an X-wing out of a swamp, who knows how much those things weighed. All I'd have to do is raise the tree a little bit...a few inches would probably be enough. Luke was only a trainee and he could lift the X-wing a few feet or so...

I reached out with my mind. I focussed on the wood. I could almost touch its surface. I concentrated on the tree, and the direction I wanted it to move in....up...up...straight up...

While moving things, I found it only required two basic things. One needed the object's initial position, and it's destination point. For instance, I could let a rock shoot right up if I knew exactly where the rock was located. I could change the destination in mid-flight, but that was tricky. Also, it would be very hard to let an object do a looping. A curve has dozens of vector switches...I'd have to alter its course at incredible speed to make it...whoa, how did I know all these things?? All I required was that bloody tree to go up a few inches....

Slowly, the splintered wood moaned under the weight that shifted, and the leaves and branches rustled with movement. Shyysha was warbling excitedly...and suddenly, with a quick jab, the Keeper jerked up and rolled away from the tree. I released my grip on the tree and with a soft crash, it landed back on the ground.

I sensed a flood of happiness exploding from the Keeper's mind. Joy, intense joy...

"YYAAAAHAAAAHHH!!!!", he cheered, his face gleaming with child-like radiance. He was freed. He had his life back...

Slowly, he crawled to his feet. He moved his cramped legs slowly, and stretched his tired back until it looked like it would break. Then, he let out another joyful, almost childish giggle.

"Thank the stars...thank the forest spirits... I thank thee, Gaea!!!! Hahahaaah!!!", he yelled, as he hopped up and down, rejoicing in his recovered freedom.

The Keeper looked up at me, and smiled. Kindly. I could sense no trace of anything close to malicious intent, or feelings of wrath. Just immense gratitude.

"And I thank you, young Jamie.", he offered, extending his hand to me.

"'re not pissed anymore?", I asked.

The Keeper considered my choice of words. Then he laughed. "No, Jamie. I am not. It is safe for you to come down from that tree now, if you can. My animals will not harm you. On the contrary!"

Again, I my new powers told me he was telling the truth. He had no intention of harming me at all. I smiled back, and leaped down from the tree. Under normal circumstances my legs would be shattered, but I managed to soften my landing using the reversed technique I used on the tree, creating a mental cushion of sorts. Besides, my body seemed much more agile, and more capable of withstanding severe stress than before. Hehehe, if they thought I excelled in P.E. before...they're in for a BIG surprise when I get back!!

Back...I almost forgot!! The guys at the camp must be worried SICK about me....

"I, uh.. I really, uh, have to get back to the others...they'll be looking for me...", I said.

The Keeper seemed taken aback by my utterance. Then he smiled. "Your mind is indeed pure. You have been granted all the power you could ever imagine, and your thoughts are with your friends. You truly are the right person to carry Gaea's Tear. But I'm afraid your friends will have to keep looking for you a moment longer. There are matters we need to discuss."

"Matters?", I asked.

"Indeed, Jamie. You posses immense power. Such power has to be treated with care and wisdom. You have shown wisdom already by using your first wish not only to free me, but to increase your psychic abilities as well. But there are other things you will need to know... and I, my young friend, am the only person on this planet who can tell you. Come...there is much to talk about."

With that, the Keeper unsteadily walked off in the direction of his shelter. I followed. He was right, my friends could wait, there were more important matters right now. I could use a little advice before I made more life-altering choices. I should not rush into anything. I should consider all the possibilities, consequences and limitations before I decided what I was going to wish for.

Although, if I do say so myself.... I have some bloody spectacular ideas!!!

That's it!! I really, really hope everyone enjoyed this pilot episode to "Jamie's Seven Wishes" as much as I enjoyed writing it!! There's more to come, much more!! Jamie has six wishes left...what would YOU wish for??

A lot of time went into writing this... so I'd really appreciate it if all readers took a little bit of THEIR time to send me a kind word, encouragement, praise, flame, compliment, constructive feedback, or just a hug =) Believe me, it's what we web-writers live for =)

You all know what to do... mail me at and surf to my site to read my other stories and sign my guestbook as well. Thanks for reading, see you all next episode.

Frank Ryan