Here is the original last chapter plus the added epilogue, which I think you will agree makes the novella a stand-alone book unless you want to read more adventures with the characters.
After we had passed the first lookout, we began hearing more noises: the helicopter still, but also faint voices, so we knew we were getting close to the parking lot. Soon, I was clearly hearing voices and the slamming of car doors.
We arrived at the trailhead amid a flurry of activity. Uniformed rescue workers, police, and reporters were crowded into the parking lot. Tents and shelters had been set up along the far end, with police tape segmenting the rest of the space. When they saw us, one of the police officers approached, one hand raised and the other pointing.
“Are you the owners of these vehicles?” she asked.
We replied simultaneously, “Yes.”
“We need to get everyone off this mountain right away. Did you not feel the tremors?” Her voice was filled with urgency.
“Tremors?” I said and looked over at April. “Did you?”
“No,” she said. She chose her words carefully. “We . . . just went . . . to the lookout at the end—and turned around.”
“The USGS has been picking up tremors up and down the valley all morning. We are evacuating the entire area as a precaution,” she told us. “You’re the last ones in the lot. Give your names to the officer at the tent over there.”
As we walked over, we tried to make sure our stories would correlate, in case they decided to question us separately.
“We got here early this morning, OK?” I said.
“What day do you think this is?” she asked.
“Oh, crap. I have no idea. We were gone at least three days, but how much time passed here?”
“It usually was slower here, so I think we might still be in the same day, if not the next, at the most.”
“How can we find out without giving anything away?”
“If you have to, just say this morning, but who’s going to ask you what day it is?”
We gave our names to the officer. April did most of the talking. We were asked basic questions about our addresses; our relationship; when we arrived and what we had seen. Not that we had done anything wrong, but it was nerve-wracking to have to be vague and make up details. After about ten minutes, we were told to go.
We made our way to the vehicles, and I put my pack into the trunk. Turning to April, I asked, “Do you think this has anything to do with being in there?”
“I don’t know. Maybe?”
We decided to unload the gear at my place, since it was closer. I got into my car and called to April, “I’ll follow you to town, and if we get separated, I’ll see you at my place. OK?”
“Sounds good. I hope you have clean towels because I’m calling dibs on your shower.”
I started to move quickly toward my car.
“Change of plans!” I called. “You can follow me!”
She jumped into her own car as she shouted, “No way, dude!”
After the earthquake hit, the largest on record for the area, the road to the park was deemed too hazardous to reopen. The landslide and rushing water obliterated most of the trail system and public access areas.
Known to be missing was a senior park ranger. All other emergency personnel were able to evacuate the area prior to the quake.
An investigation is pending on the cause of the disaster.
Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.
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