I kicked the dry leaves, enjoying the crunch as we marched along the old trail we’d hiked since childhood. Occasionally, an acorn crashed through the canopy or a rodent rustled out of our way, but overall, silence ruled.
Dick, taller than me, ducked under a branch, into my path. I swerved off course, avoiding collision. We chuckled, used to that anticipatory relationship generally ascribed to twins. We were just brothers.
As we hiked, the wind kicked up, scattering leaves like deserting soldiers, and a pelting rain spat around us like volleys of gunfire, then reconnoitered to advance from our rear, pushing us along like captured warriors. We darted into a dense growth of trees as lightning smoked our heels.
"Now what?" Dick and I asked simultaneously. We were twenty minutes from the car. "We could make a run for it," I offered, "but that’s all uphill. Let’s just wait it out."
"Yep," nodded Dick. "Look! It’s like standing behind a waterfall."
"May be a long wait. Might as well get comfortable." We moved farther into the woods, hoping to find something to sit on.
"Miller’s Cave isn’t far," Dick remembered. "Haven’t been there in ages." We changed course and made it in minutes.
As we shook rain from our coats, a low growl emanated from the shadows. "Hear that?" I asked in a hushed voice.
"Sure did," Dick answered, grabbing a stick. I followed suit.
"Okay, critter. The storm has you spooked, but let’s work this out." I wasn’t at all sure, but kept talking in soothing tones. "We won’t hurt ya."
Dick dug out a stick of jerky. Biting off a chunk, he tossed it just far enough that we could still see it.
No takers. No movement, just that low growl. I unzipped my jacket, drawing a penlight from my shirt. No animal eyes reflected in the dark, but the growl grew into a wail that suddenly didn’t sound like an animal…
Dick and I burst into laughter. "There’s some hole in the cave that pulls the wind through. What a couple sissies we turned out to be!"