Note - this is based off of an incident in Zion National Park's famous trail, The Narrows.
CAUTION - MILD SCARY ASPECTS. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR READERS UNDER 10.
Chapter 1 - Coral Canyons
Huge columns of orange sandstone stretched into the cloudless, impeccably blue sky. An arched bridge towered overhead, rising above the rocky cliffs. The river wound slowly through the sandy valley, leaping over a waterfall before gently curving westward. Jammers came and went through the marvelous canyon, discussing trades, jumping on the bridge, or just lounging on the sun-warmed canyon floor. Coral Canyons was truly pleasant today.
Suddenly a small, slim, pale-orange-and-white fox burst through the Canyons Pathway, followed by a larger gray-and-white one. The light ginger one tilted her head, pausing by the falls. “Bouncing,” she called softly. “Come on.” Bouncing lept onto a fallen boulder nearby. “So what now, Luck?” he asked. “You won the race already.” Lucky’s turquoise eyes sparkled. “We could go exploring,” she suggested. “It’s a perfect day for it.” Bouncing dipped his head in agreement. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"> A flash of maroon nearly knocked the ash-colored fox over. “What the—?” A sleek fox with rich, dark red fur crouched on another boulder, her dark eyes glittering with excitement. “Hi there!” she said cheerfully. “I’m Ruby! You going exploring? Can I come? Please??” “Um…” Lucky blinked, shrinking away slightly. Still shy, I guess, Bouncing thought to himself, shaking out his pelt and clearing his throat. “Yeah. I’m Bouncing Cottonfox, and my friend here is Lucky Fastfox. Come along with us.” </p> <p class="MsoNormal"> Ruby skipped along joyfully, while Lucky quietly padded beside Bouncing. The sun beat down from above, prompting the red fox to leap into a shady spot. Suddenly she jumped back in surprise. A thick-furred, midnight-blue wolf crouched in the cool spot, eyes wide. “What are you doing?” she asked gently. “This is my den. Please don’t go charging in.” “Oh.” Ruby paused, looking back at Bouncing with her ebony eyes. “Well, we were just going exploring,” she explained. “I guess… I got carried away.” The dark wolf turned away. “No problem,” she murmured, stroking a smooth red stone with her paw. “If you want to go exploring, I would suggest the Narrows of Greely. It’s really beautiful there.” </p> <p class="MsoNormal"> Bouncing tilted his head. “Narrows of Greely? What’s that?” he asked. “It’s a narrow little canyon, entered by the river cave,” she stated, retreating back into the darkness of her den. “Just… beware of the water. The water… beware of the water.” </p> <p class="MsoNormal"> Taking a step back, Bouncing glanced from Lucky to Ruby. “We should go there?” he suggested. Lucky nodded her pale head, and Ruby hopped to her paws excitedly. Together they padded toward the falls. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"> Without warning, a silver-and-blue shape fell in front of them. A leopard grinned up at them. “Going somewhere?” he growled. Lucky yelped, and Ruby flattened her ears, digging her dark claws into the ground. But then the leopard's eyes lightened. "Not without me, you aren't!" Bouncing narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?" The big cat took a pace back, tilting his head slightly, making his headdress tip. "I love this place!! Can I come?" Bouncing nodded. "I'm Bouncing Cottonfox; she's Lucky Fastfox; and she's Ruby." The leopard dipped his head. "My name's Cloud. Nice to meet you all!"</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> The group continued into the small but well-lit cave. There, they ran into a sandy-gold lioness, Thea. "Hi there," she said cheerfully. Mind if I join you guys?" Bouncing consented, but a voice in his head nagged him. Great Mira, how many are coming?! He exhaled calmly and continued walking with his group of now five animals.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> They all seemed to have different gaits. Lucky crept along quietly, light on her feet; Ruby bounced on her heels; Cloud plodded along calmly; and Thea walked contentedly, though veering away from Ruby quite often.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> Finally, they arrived at a broad opening. A wooden sign hung, paled by the constant exposure to sunlight. In large, bright-red letters, it spelled out, </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align:center;"> NARROWS OF GREELY</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align:center;"> 20 MILES ROUND-TRIP</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align:center;"> CLOSED SEASONALLY, ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align:center;">MORE INFO AVAILABLE AT WWW.THENARROWSOFGREELY.COM</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align:center;">~JAMAA DEPT. OF PRESERVES AND PARKS~</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> "Yeah!" Ruby hopped around the sign exhuberantly. Thea paced up to the opening and let the sun shine directly on her face. Lucky pressed against Bouncing, trembling. He took a deep breath, and slowly padded foward into the bright canyon sun.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> </p>
Chapter 2 - Into the Narrows
The huge spanse of the canyon floor spread out before them. "Not so narrow yet," Cloud commented. "But it gets that way soon." Thea shifted slightly away from Ruby, then asked, "Does it get dark in the narrow parts?" The huge leopard nodded. "Absoulutely. You can see the sun if you look up, but it's shady." The lioness looked relieved.
Bouncing noticed that Lucky looked really apprehensive. Oh dear. He wended his way over to her, then asked, "Are you okay, Luck? You look... nervous." The pale she-fox shook her head. "I'm fine." He shrugged. "Okay. Just let me know if you need anything."
As the group walked, the broad red walls gradually came closer. A cold river flowed, becoming wider and taking up more of the canyon floor.
Soon, the canyon was less than 50 feet wide, and the river more than 30.
Bouncing pushed his was through the cool, dew-dropped ferns growing along the outer bank. The water flowed, perfectly clear. This must be what carved it, he thought. Just like the regular Coral Canyons. Suddenly Ruby appeared behind him. "Look at the water!" she gasped. "I can see right to the bottom!" A loud splash announced that the red fox had plunged into the water. Oh dear. The fox's maroon head appeared above the water, dripping wet. Cloud padded over, eyes shining with amusement. "Not so waterproof, eh?" "Oh, hush." Thea had joined the group on the patch of bank as well, and was pulling Ruby out of the crystal water. The shady-gold lioness seemed a bit nervous around the fox, but helped her nonetheless.
Soon the animals were off again. Ahead of them, the canyon stretched, flaming walls curving closer and closer together, until they were at the point where they nearly touched at the top. The sun watered at the top of the perfectly clear sky, directly overhead, but it hardly affected this hidden-away crack in the earth, which was shrouded in a cool shade.
The river was perhaps even more beautiful, its crisp water leaping over smooth sandstone rocks atop its soft bed, pooling into small ponds at parts, and nourishing the stunningly white blossoms on the bank.
Bouncing paused to admire the beauty, tail curved in respect. Cloud, wading in the chilled water, laughed softly. "You said the wolf wanted us to beware of water? Ha ha! How can this do anything? It's harmless, ha!"
Little did the animals know that Cloud would be proven wrong.
And they would pay the price.
Chapter 3 - Strange Observations
Lucky trembled by Bouncing's side. "What?" he inquired gently. "I-I'm fine, really," she insisted. "Just n-nervous." Bouncing turned away, sighing. What did I do? Thea padded over, whiskers bent in understanding. "It's not your fault, not hers either," she said. "You're really leading us finely." The golden cat purred warmly, then wended her way toward Cloud.
Bouncing padded along the cool, soft, sandy floor, gazing up at the soaring sandstone walls and gorgeous river, which now took up all but a narrow strip of the canyon. Suddenly Ruby bounced over to him. "Look!" she said. "A cloud!!" And indeed, off in the distance, barely noticeable over the steep canyon rim, was the smudged, dark gray outline of a cloud. "Huh," he said. "Um, neat."
Within a few minutes, the bank became more moist, smaller, and then disappeared. "Now we have to wade the rest of the time," Ruby griped. "How much longer?" Bouncing paused, paws dark with dampness. "Well, when we started, the sun was more to the east. Now it's past noon to the west... I'd say we're two-thirds of the way there." The hyperactive red grumbled to herself, but showed no hesitation in splashing about and throwing pawfulls of water at others.
A branch floated past Thea as she waded. "Weird," she commented. "First stick I've seen so far."
The water underfoot seemed to get colder, lapping ceaselessly at Bouncing's paws, even seeming to get higher.
Clearness vanished suddenly, and the river swirled with murky brown streaks.
"What does this all mean?" Cloud said, puzzled. "This's never happened before when I was here."
"I don't know..." Bouncing said, genuinely stumped.
Chapter 4 - Distant Roars
Lucky's ears swiveled from side to side, ever alert, pricking up constantly. Finally they came to a stop, angling ahead. Bouncing, still concerned of her behavior, paused. "What is it?"
"Don't you hear that?" she whispered. By now everyone had come to a complete stop. Even Ruby stopped skipping, listening intently. Thea tilted her head inquisitively, eyes warm yet sparkling with worry. "Lucky, what's wrong?"
"A roar," the she-fox said. "Off that way. Can't you hear it?"
Bouncing lifted his ears, flicking them directly toward the immense crack that was the canyon. And indeed, a dull, roaring rumble, barely noticeable, was present.
"I don't think that's a good sign," Cloud commented apprehensively. "Never happened when I was here..." The river was silent except from the distant noise.
"Perhaps we should go back now," Thea suggested, an urgent edge to her voice. "It's been nice, yes, but we really should be going now." The animals quickly agreed, and turned, walking against the current.
But as they progressed, the roar grew louder. By the time that the river took up only half of the canyon floor, it filled Bouncing's ears, leaving him to hear little else. Finally he yelled, "We should check behind us." "Yes! Please!" Ruby consented, pawing at her black-tipped ears.
Bouncing turned, paws scraping sand.
A 200-foot-tall surge of water was less than the length of a few trees away, rapidly approaching, crashing, destroying and flooding through anything and everything in its path.
"Mira help us...."
Chapter 5 - Beware of the Water
"RUUUUUUUUNN!!!!!" Bouncing yowled at the top of his lungs.
The group took no hesitation, sprinting at top speed away from the colossal wall of water. But it was too fast. "Climb the walls!!" Thea screeched, grabbing Ruby and swarming up to a high ledge. Cloud leaped to a rock, bounding to the near top of the rim. Bouncing followed. "Go forward on the ledges!!" he screamed, watching as the water lapped higher still. Finally he stopped, chest heaving.
Cloud glanced at the fox, then boomed, "THEA!" Across the canyon, a reply came. "Ruby and Thea here!!" The silver-and-blue leopard called out again. "LUCKY!" There was no response, and a feeling of deep horror and dread crept over Bouncing. Lucky had climbed the wall too... Hadn't she?
"I'm going to look for her!" Bouncing yowled over the water's roar. "Are you out of your mind?! There's no chance! Don't risk it!" Thea screeched. "I don't care!" he screamed, leaping down onto the canyon floor.
The water loomed, threateningly close, but he spotted a small cave along the walls, nearly concealed. Lucky would hide there. He pushed off the sand into it, squeezing through just as the water lapped at his tailtip.
Water flooded around Bouncing, filling the pitch-black cave. "LUCKY!" he bellowed. "LUCKY!!" He heard a soft, stressed cough. "H-h-here." Bouncing rushed toward the sound, heart soaring. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he was able to make out her pale fur. "Lucky!" He pressed against her.
"Bounce..." she wheezed. "You... have to... go.... save... yourself." His eyes welled up. "Not without you," he sobbed. Lucky gasped for breath. "You... go, go.... water... Don't worry... I'll be... fine....."
He stared at her, heartbroken. "But you'll die," he cried. The she-fox lifted her head, softy butting him toward the cave entrance. "Go, go... It's too... late for me... you save your... yourself." Bouncing ran toward her, pressing his head to her soft shoulder fur, his insides feeling as though they would tear themselves apart. Finally he forced himself toward the crack of the entrance.
He heard a soft gasp. Glancing back, the frail she-fox's shoulders were still. No longer breathing. Not to do so, ever again...
Still, determined that she must have her last wish, Bouncing forced himself into the heartrendingly cold water, kicking his legs until he reached the surface. Gasping for breath, he struggled to keep his head above the surface. Fatigue engulfed him, the swirling torrent sucking him downwards.
A firm grip suddenly pinched his scruff, lifting his dripping body out of the water. He gulped in air, trying to focus his eyes to see his rescuer. But then the dragging feeling returned. He suddenly passed out, letting everything fade to darkness.
Chapter 6 - Greely
A soft growl sounded in Bouncing's ear. "Get up." The fox only pulled in his paws closer to his chin, aching all over, exhausted. Suddenly a powerful paw cuffed his ear sharply. "Get up!" He reluctantly opened his eyes, letting them slowly adjust. He layed in a shaded sandy clearing, mind foggy, sun shining down. A large, dark blue-gray blur in front of him came into focus.
Bouncing jolted. "Greely??" The wolf Alpha glowered down at him. "About time," he snarled. Bouncing's mind whirred, then snapped into place. "But--I was in the canyon--didn't I die?" "Well, it's a bit obvious, unless you're a complete fool," the wolf said, rising to his paws. Snarling to himself, the dark canine paced, his lope kicking up sand. "You and your group are lucky to be out alive." But then Greely's piercing yellow gaze softened. "Except one," he growled quietly.
The big wolf paused, but then jolted and regained his ornery, cold personality. "Be glad it was just one this time," he snarled. "Due to your foolishness, I expected more." Greely stalked into the shadows, leaving Bouncing alone in the clearing.