The last thing any of the boys expected was to see Dan raise his arms in the air; run into the middle of their impromptu wrestling match; pick up the first person he caught—which happened to be Peter, raise him over his shoulder and gently place him down on the ground before pinning him. The move, quick and sudden, left all of them silent with mouths agape.
Through a broad grin he said, “It gets easy after branding cattle for a couple years.”
Slowly, the shock melted away, and beginning with Brian, the questions erupted. “How did you learn how to wrestle?”
Holding his hand out to help Peter up, Dan said, “You’re not taught how to wrestle. Like I said, classic cow handling practices. Just be glad I didn’t have rope. Otherwise this young man would have his hands and feet tied together.”
Hoping for a chance to prove he wasn’t an easy target, Peter pretended to accept Dan’s assistance. Instead, he ran at Dan’s waist and tried to upend him. Dan caught Peter by the waist, threw him into a firefighter’s carry, and slowly moved into a circular motion that made them look like a human helicopter.
“Aww, he got you good!” Damien goaded.
Brian and Demetrius leaned into each other to prevent themselves from falling as they laughed.
“None of us saw that one coming,” Eugene exclaimed.
Dan slowed his twirling. Coming to a stop, he set a dizzy Peter on the bed. “I hope I didn’t hurt you too badly.”
Holding on to the side of the bed to maintain his balance, Peter said, “I’m alright.”
Damien spoke for the group, “We’re sorry if we were too loud.”
Rubbing the shoulder he used to hold Peter, Dan said, “You boys are fine. I stopped in to tell you tomorrow we have an early day. There’s someplace I think is important for helping you understand how you got here.”
“Can you give us the cheat codes version?” Nicholas asked.
“A cheat code?”
“You know what we need to know to get to the next step.”
“We all wish life had cheat codes,” Dan sympathized. “No, there are no cheat codes. Actually, after tomorrow things may get even more complicated.”
“Then why take us there?” Damien asked.
“Remember you have two choices go through the problem and grow, or you walk around it and have to face the same issue all over again. And to be honest, I don’t know why you came here. Maybe you’d be able to provide some answers so the surprise visitors will stop coming. With that closing thought I bid you goodnight gentlemen.”
The boys settled into their bed and sleeping bags and Dan dampened the wick in the lantern. Moonlight kept the room bright enough for them to see the outlines of each other’s bodies as they tossed and turned in an attempt to get comfortable.
Demetrius whispered into the dark room. “Are you asleep Brian?”
“No,” Brian sat up. “I keep replaying the last conversation I had with my mother. I told her I wish I lived somewhere else. If I don’t get back she’s going to think I ran away because of her.”
“We’ll get back.” Demetrius assured him.
“How can you be so sure?”
Demetrius sat up and leaned against the wall. The wood sent a cooling sensation down his spine. Glad to be feeling something, Demetrius pressed harder making the effect reach his shoulders. “I had a dream last night. It didn’t make sense until just a while ago. There were two men talking about the kids being a reversal of a curse.”
Damien’s head popped up. “What did they look like?”
One was a typical Montana rancher, but the other had long hair with braids on the side. The cowboy said something about trying to work peaceably. The longhaired one said he didn’t think it was possible. I thought maybe I watched too much television before going to bed.”
“Did any of them say how we were able to get back home?” Eugene’s voice joined the conversation.
“You could always build us a time machine,” Nicholas mocked.
“You’re stupid.” Eugene rolled over and threw the covers over his shoulders.
“Anyway,” Damien said, “Did they look like the two people that were out a ways from the bus earlier today?”
“I didn’t see them.” Demetrius admitted. “And it was night time in my dream.
They were at the end of a trail,” He stood on his knees and peered out the window. His body froze, “Like those two guys standing at the edge of the ranch.”
Damien, Brian, and Peter threw aside their blankets and hustled to reach the window. Demetrius turned to hush them. When he looked out the window, the two men were gone. “They’re gone! I swear just a minute ago they were there.”
“After a day like today, I believe you,” Damien remained in his position by the window. Resting his chin on his hands, he stared out into the night.
One by one the boys returned to their sleeping bag until it was Demetrius, Damien, and Brian. “Do you think we should take turns keeping watch?” Brian asked.
“I don’t think they could get us in here,” Damien said.
“Then again, did you ever think Mrs. Almstead and Alex were going to disappear in front of our eyes?” Demetrius asked.
“I’ll take first watch,” Brian offered.
“I’ll stay with you for a while,” Demetrius kept his gaze on the place where he saw the two figures.
The three boys woke in the morning with sore backs from sleeping with their heads resting on the windowsill.