Chapter one

It's only been 15 minutes since Gwen I think said we should write everything down and its 10 minutes since I got chosen, and for those 10 minutes I've had everyone crowded around me gazing at the blank page and yelling ideas and advice. 'Back off you guys! I'll never get this done. I haven't got a clue where to start and I can't concentrate with all this noise.'

OK, that's better. I've told them to give me some peace, and Colin backed me up, so at last they've gone and I can think straight.

I don't know if I'll be able to do this. I might as well say so now that I know why they chose me - because I'm meant to be the best writer. But there's a bit more to it than just being able to write. There are a few little things that can get in the way. Little things like feelings, emotions.

Well, we'll come to that later on. Maybe. We'll have to wait and see.

I'm down creek now sitting on a fallen tree. Nice tree (Scots pine I think). Not an old tree that's been eaten by grubs but a young tree with smooth reddish trunk and pine needles still green. It's hard to tell why it fell. It's healthy but maybe it grew too close to the creek. It's nice here. This pool only ten metres by the tree, but surprisingly deep, up to your waist, in the middle. There are constant little concentric ripples from insects touching it as they skim across the surface. I wonder where they sleep, and when? I wonder if they close their eyes when they sleep. I wonder what their names are. Bugs, anonymous sleepless insects.

To be honest I'm only writing about the pool to avoid what I'm meant to be doing. That's like Iain, finding ways to avoid things he doesn't want to do. See I'm not holding back. I warned them I wouldn't. I hope Iain doesn't mind me being chosen to do this instead of him because he is a really good writer. He did look a bit hurt, a bit jealous even. But he hasn't been in this from the start, so it wouldn't have worked.

Well I better stop biting my tongue and start biting the bullet. There's only one way to do this and that's to tell it in order, chronological order. I know writing it down is important to us. That's why we all got excited when Gwen suggested it. It's terribly important. Recording what we've done in words, on paper. It's got to be our way of telling ourselves that we mean something, that the things we've done have made a difference. I don't know how big a difference but a difference none the less. Writing it down means we might be remembered and by god that matters to us. None of us wants to end up as pile of dead white bones, unnoticed, unknowing and worst of all with no knowing of the risks we've run.

That makes me think that I should be writing this like a history book in very serious language, all formal. But I can't do that. Everyone's got their own way of doing things and this is mine. If they don't like my way then they can get someone ells. Ok I better do it then

It all began when

They're funny those words. Everybody uses them, without thinking what they mean. When dose anything begin? With everyone, it begins when you are born, or before that when your parents got married, or before that when your parents were born or when your ancestors colonised the place. Or when god first created humans or when humans evolved from apes, depending on your point of view, but all the same, put that all aside for what's happened to us there was quite a definite beginning.

So it all began when Helen and I said we wanted to go for hike, go for a trip for a few days over the summer holidays. It was just one of those stupid things: Oh wouldn't it be great if... we'd camped out more often, we been camping out since we were kids taking the motorbikes all loaded up with gear and going down river, sleeping under the stars, slinging a bit of canvas between two trees on cold nights. So we were used to that. Sometimes another friend would come Gwen or Sue usually, Never boys. At that age you think boys have us much personality as coat hangers and you don't notice their looks, then you grow up.

Well there we were only weeks ago, though I can hardly believe it, lying in front of my TV watching some junk and talking about the holidays, Helen said we haven't been down to river for ages let's do that.

Ok, Hey let's ask dad if we can have the Jeep, Ok, hey let's see if Colin and James want to come, Oh yeah, Boys! But we'd never be allowed, I reckon we have a shot. It's worth a try.

Ok hey, if we get the Jeep, Let's do further than we've ever been before. Wouldn't it be great if we could go right up to pipers and right into hell, Yeah ok let's ask,

Pipers, pipers view is a long line an arête, that dose dead straight from Mt William to Cuillin. Its rocky and very narrow and steep in places, but you can walk along it and there's a bit of cover. The views are fantastic, you can drive almost up onto it at one point, near Mt William on a old logging track that's hard to find now, it's overgrown, Hell is what's on the other side of pipers, a cauldron of boulders, trees, blackberry's , wild dog's and undergrowth. It's a wild place and I don't know anyone who's been there, though I'd stood on the edge and looked down at it quite often. For one thing I could not see how you'd get in there. The cliffs all around it are spectacular, Hundreds of metres high in places. There's a series of small cliffs called Satan's steps that drop into it, but believe me, if these are steps, the Great Wall of China is our back fence. If there was any access the cliffs had to be the way, and I'd always wanted to give it a go.

The locals all told stories about the fire team from Hell, the stories tell that during Second World War a fire team when into hell thinking they saw a jerry plane and they never returned. People say they got lost and turned mad and killed each other, others say they couldn't get out they lived down there. I want to believe in their existence but I found it a bit difficult. My brain kept asking myself awkward questions. Like: if they were on a reconnaissance mission how come no one came looking for them for a mission report. Still, it was a good story and I hoped it was true; not the: they went and turned cannibal part but they survive as soldiersof fortune in wild part.

Anyway the whole thing, the trip grew from there. We made this casual decision to do it and we immediately let ourselves in for a lot of hard work. The first job was to persuade our mum's and dad's to let us go It's not that they don't trust us but as dad said, It's a pretty big ask.

They spent a lot of time not saying no but trying to talking us into other things instead. That's the way most of parents operate I think. They don't like to start a fight so they suggest alternatives that they think they think they can yes to and the hope you might say to. Why don't you go down the river again? Why not ask Gwen and Elizabeth to come instead of the boys? Why don't you take the bikes ? Or even horses? Ah make it a real old fashioned campout. That would be fun.

My mom's Idea of fun was making jam for the preserves section of the Summerwood show, so she was hardly an authority on the current subject. I feel a bit odd writing things like that, considering what we've all been through but I'm going to be honest not mushy.

Finally we came to a agreement and it wasn't too bad considering we could have the jeep but I was the only one allowed to drive it. Even though James has his provisional license and Colin thanks to his mom and dad he knew how to drive a fire truck and a police cruiser. I don't even have a provisional. But dad knows I'm a good driver. We could go to the top of pipers view. We could invite the boys but we need to have more people, a group of eight. That was because mum and dad thought there was less change of an orgy if there were more people there. Not they would admit that was the true reason, The said it was to do with safety but I know them too well and yes I written that "o" in know carefully, I would not want it to be confused with a "e"

We had promised that we and the boys bring smokes or alcohol. I don't think we would have bothered to take smokes or beer away. We were still all skint from last Christmas.

We ended up with a list of eight counting us. We didn't ask Cailean because he's so lazy or Elizabeth because she was doing a work experience with sues' parent's. But after five minutes after me made the first list. Iain sterling turned up at my place with his dad. So we put the question to them. Mr. Sterling is a big guy always wears a tie no matter where he is or what he is doing. He seems kind of heavy and serious to me. Iain says his dad was born on the corner of straight and narrow and that sums it up. When his dad is around Iain stays pretty quiet. But I asked them as they sat at our kitchen table pigging out on my mom's scone's and we got knocked back in one sentence. It turned out that Mr. and Miss. Sterling were going overseas and even though they had a worker Iain had to stay home and keep eye on the place. So that was a bad start to our plans.

The next day I phoned Colin's home and his mom had pick up the phone, I had asked if Colin was there and she told me that he and his father were at the fire department. Collins dad is fire chief and Colin helps maintaining the trucks. So I left on one of the bike to the fire department in town. When I arrived I saw Collins blue jeans sticking out from the bottom of a truck and he must of heard me coming because he stuck a hand and said " hay there Marie can you pass me my toolbox from the bench. I went over and took the tool box to the pale skinned freckled arm that was Colin. I hear a tearing noise and cry of relief from Colin, he pushed his toolbox out under the truck and then rolled out from under the truck himself. He looked happy to be done. What was wrong I asked? Leek in the full pump he said pointing at his said wiping his fuel covered face with an old rag. I had not clead his face completely but you could make out more of his pale freckled face. how did you fix it I asked and he smiled bet down and picked a some duct tape and putting on a voice you would only hear on an add on TV. With duct tape it can fix almost anything from airplanes to teddy bears. Chucking the tape back into the toolbox he asked so what can I do you for? I told him about the trip that Helen and I were hosting. He smiled, great Idea Marie and I love to come but my dad wants me to be at the show this weekend so unless you can convince to let me go I canny come he said with his Scottish accent braking out. (Collins dad is from Scotland and Colin and mum and dad just came back from visiting relatives) where is your dad I asked? In his office he said pointed with thumb over his shoulder. He started walking toward a door with the name fire chief john O'Brian. I followed him and he knocked the door and a deep voice answered saying come in. Colin opened the door and step inside and I followed and there in the small office was Colin's dad. Colin and Chief O'Brian were almost twins. But were Colin had short light brown wavy hair and ocean blue eyes and pale skin, Chief O'Brian had short curly blond hair, chocolate brown eyes and tanned skin.

I asked the chief if Colin to come with us and told him our plans. Hmm he said do you want to go he asked looking Colin, He nodded his head. Ok it's ok with me but I will have to check with your mother he said and pick up the phone hallo there sweet heart he said sitting back in his chair. I just calling because Marie is asking if Colin and come on a trip with her and some friends. There was a moment the chief looked down and said ok that's ok right see later ok and hung up the phone. Right that's sorted then Colin you can go with your friends on this trip and we both thank the chief and left the office closing the door behind us. We agreed that would l texted him later with more details.

So Colin was ready to come and Jane Rang that night to say James was coming too. He wasn't all that keen she said. I think he'd rather go to the show but he's doing it for me.

Err and Yuk I said tell him to go to the show if he wants there's plenty of others that want to come with us

I rang Susan after I called after I called Jane and told her of our plans. Do you want to come I asked.

Oh gosh. Do you want me to come? I didn't even bother to answer that one. Oh gosh. Susan was the only person I knew under the age of sixty who said gosh. Who else is coming she asked .James, Jane, Colin and I and we thought we would ask Gwen and peter too.

I would like you to come with wait a sec and there was a long wait and then she came back with a series of questions, she relayed my answers to her mother and father after about ten minutes of this there was another long conversation then Sue picked up again, Mums being difficult she sighed, it should be ok but mum wants to ring your mm to make sure. Sorry, that's ok I'll put you down with a question mark and well talk later on in the week ok. I hung up, It was getting hard to use the phone because the TV was yelling at me, mom had it on too loud so she could hear the news in the kitchen. An angry face filled the screen, I stopped and watched for moment. " We've got a wimp for a foreign minister", The face was shouting " He's gutless, He doesn't understand the people he's dealing with. They respect strength not weakness." "Do you think that defence is high on the government's agenda" asked the reporter "High? High! You must be joking, Do you know what they have cut from the budget." Thank goodness I am getting away from this for a week I thought. I went into dad's office and rang Peter.

Peter was funny when he came to phone almost suspicious, He seemed to react slowly as though he was weighing it up. I'm meant to be playing at the commemoration day concert he said when I told him the dates. There was a silence which I finally broke. Well do you want to come? He chortled. It sounds more fun than the concert.

Jane was puzzled when I said I wanted to ask peter. We didn't hang around with him at school. He seemed a serious guy, very into his music but I told you thought he was interesting. I suddenly realised that we didn't have that long left at school and I didn't want to leave without knowing people like peter.

Well what do you think I asked, there was another long pause. Silence makes me uncomfortable. So I kept talking "Do you want to ask your mom or dad?"

No no I'll handle them. Yeah I'll come, You dot sound that keen, Hey I'm keen !. I was just thinking about problems, but it's cool. I'll be there, what will I bring.

My last call was to Gwen. Oh Marie she wailed It'd be great, but I'd never be allowed. Come on Gwen your tough put the pressure on them. She sighed oh Marie you don't know what my parents are like. Well ask them anyway. I'll wait on ok.

After a few minutes I heard bumping noises of the phone being picked up again. Did you con them into it? Unfortunately it was Gwen's dad Mr Stevens who answered. No Marie she hasn't conned us into it. Oh Mr Stevens I was embarrassed But laughing too, cause I knew I could rape Mr Stevens around my finger.

Now what's this all about Marie, Well we thought it was time we showed Independence and Intuitive and all those good things. We want to do a trip along pipers view for a few days get away from the sex and vice of Summerwood into the clean wholesome air of the mountains.

Hmm and no adults? Oh Mr Stevens your invited as long as your under thirty ok. That's discrimination Marie. We kidded around for five minutes till he started getting serious, you see Marie we just think you kids are a bit young to be careering around the wild on your own. Mr Stevens what you doing at our age? Ok Marie one to you. I was parting at hangman's falls. That's before I got smart and put on as collar and tie Mr. Stevens was an insurance agent. Tell you what Gwen and I will have a chat and call you tomorrow.

Gwen rang back the next day to say it was a deal. She was pleased and excited. She had long conversation with her parents, the best one ever she said. This was the biggest thing they'd ever trusted her on. So she was keen for it to work out. Oh Marie I hope there's no disasters she kept saying.

The funny thing about it was that if parents ever had a daughter they could trust it was the Stevens' and Gwen but they don't seem to have worked that out yet. The biggest problem she likely to have was being late to church and that'd be probably be because she was helping a boy scout across the road. Things kept going well. Mom and I were shopping, Saturday morning and we ran into Susan and her mom. The two mums had along serious conversation, while Susan and I look In a shop window. Whatever mum said to Susan's mom worked and I was able to cross of the question mark next to her name.

Our list of eight was down to seven but they were all definite and we were happy with them. Well we were happy with ourselves and other five were good. I'll try to describe them the way they were then or the way I thought they were because of course they've changed and my knowledge of them has changed.

For Instance, I always thought of Gwen as a fairly Quiet and serious, She got effort certificates at school every year and she was heavily into church stuff but I knew there was more to her than that. She liked to win; you could see it when we played sports. We were on the same netball team and honestly I was embarrassed by some of the things she did. The moment the game started she was like a chopper on heat, Swooping and darting around everywhere, bumping people aside if she had to. If you got weak umpires Gwen could do as much damage in one game like an orbital strike. Then the game would end and Gwen would be quietly shake hands back to her normal self. Quite strange, She's small, Gwen but strong, beautifully balanced. She skims lightly across the ground, where the rest of us trudge across it like it's made of mud.

I should exempt Susan from that though because she's light and graceful too. Susan was a bit of a hero to me. Someone I looked up to as the perfect person, When she did something wrong I'd say, Susan don't do that your my role model, I love her beautiful delicate skin, She has what my mother call's bonnie features, She looked like she'd never done any hard work in her life, never been in the sun, never got her hands dirty and that was all true because unlike us rural's she live in the town and spent more time playing the piano than drenching sheep or marking lambs. Her parents are both solicitors.

James, now he was your typical rural. He's older than the rest of us but he was Helen's man so he had to come or she would have lost interest straight away. The first thing you notice about James was his wide mouth and the second the size of his hands, they were huge like a pair of shovels. He was known for having a big ego and he liked to take the credit for everything. He annoyed me quite often for that, but I still thought he was the best thing that happened to Helen. Before she started going around with him she was too quiet and unnoticed they used to talk a lot in school and she'd tell me how a sensitive caring guy he was. Although I couldn't always see that myself, I could see the way she started getting more confident from going out with him and I liked that. I always pictured James in twenty years. When he'd be president of the show society and play football for the club on Saturdays and talking about fat lamb prices and bring up his three children with Helen maybe.

That was the world we were used to we never thought it was going to change much.

Colin lived down the road from me and In school he was always getting into trouble and fights. Colin used to wait when workmen on the roof of the school. Fixing it or something, Then he wait till there were too busy to notice and he take the ladders away some ware and later you'll hear men shouting for help. Colin was short as a kid but he filled out the past few years until he was one of the biggest in school. They always at him to play footy but he hated all sports and would not play and would not join a team for anything, he liked hunting and would ring my mom and dad to ask if he could hunt some rabbits.

The last one was peter, Peter lived in the town like Susan but that's about all they had in common, peter was tanned were Susan was fare. He had a short chestnut brown hair with a gelled up fringe and sapphire intelligent eyes and a nice soft voice. His mother and father are from Japan and they had a restaurant. Pretty good food we went there a lot. Peter was good at music and art in fact he was good at most things but he could be very annoying when things went against him, he'd go into long sulk and not talk to anyone for days at a time.

So that was the famous five, I guess Helen and I made it the secret seven. Hah. Those books don't have lot of bearing on what's happened to us. I can't think of any books I've read or film's I've seen that relate much to us, we've all had to rewrite the scripts of our lives the past few weeks. We've learnt a lot and we've had to figure out what's important, what matters – what really matters. It's been quite a time.