Which is better?
Bill White was sitting on the pine needle covered ground, enjoying the feel of rough bark on his back. His girlfriend, Elizabeth Monroe, sat across a dying fire from him, poking at the embers with a stick. After a few moments she pushed the stick into the fire one last time and stood up. She stretched, and said "I can't wait to get back and have a long, hot shower." "Ha, yeah, me too, " said Bill, eying her figure in the dim light. He loved the outdoors, but two weeks of interior camping was long enough even for him. "This was a great idea, but when Robert suggested a canoe trip, I wasn't really expecting to paddle for six hours a day." Their campsite was fairly dark, enclosed on three sides by tall pine trees. An old picnic table and three small tents were illuminated only by infrequent flickers from the dying camp fire. On the forth side, about 30m away, ripples from a wide lake quietly lapped at three canoes partially dragged onto the narrow, sandy beach. Above, the sky was quite dark and starless. Bill felt something briefly touch his bare shoulders and asked, "Do you know where the bug spray is?" before slapping at a second touch on his leg. "Susan had it before she went to bed. Maybe she tossed it in the tent?" Bill stood up and brushed the sand and pine needles off of his khaki shorts. Satisfied, he walked over to the tent he shared with Elizabeth, partially unzipped the screen, and peered inside. He unzipped the screen the rest of the way and climbed half-way into the completely dark tent. "Lizzy, where is the flashlight?" "I'm not sure, but the batteries were pretty low anyway." After a fruitless minute of searching, Bill gave up and pulled one of their packs out. It turned out to be Elizabeth's, and he checked the outer his pack and located his spare can of insect repellent after a quick search. He stood and used the spray on his legs and arms before setting the can on the picnic table. He then took a fairly clean t-shirt out of his pack and pulled it on over his head. Bill turned toward the fire and said, "Come here, and I'll spray you," but Elizabeth was not there. "Lizzy?" Bill walked around the fire and saw her darker silhouette against the dark sky. He walked towards the opening in the trees and joined her looking out over the lake. Elizabeth walked down from the treeline to the edge of the lake. "This was an awesome idea, but I am really looking forward to going home. I can't wait to have a hot shower and sleep in a real bed again." "Me too. Elizabeth looked across the wide lake, searching for the park office they had started from two weeks earlier. Elizabeth couldn't see the lights of the park office across the water. The far shore of the lake was dark, completely enshrouded in darkness. Bill pulled the tee shirt on, zipped up his pack, and pushed both packs back into the tent. "Lizzy, you're gonna get eaten alive by mosquitoes." Elizabeth turned to Bill, and said "I don't think we are in the right spot. I can't see any lights across the lake, and they were really easy to see that first night." "Don't worry, this is the right lake, I recognized the rocks we portaged around earlier. My guess is we are further north and an island or something is between us and the docks." Bill couldn't see any lights either. "It is funny, though. There must be twenty camp sites on this lake, and no one else has a fire going." The sky had been overcast most of the day, and the stars and moon were obscured by clouds, making the darkness almost complete. "We'll be back to the parking lot by noon, and I'll have you home before six, so don't worry. " Elizabeth and Bill held hands and walked back to the fire. "Want to roast some more marshmallows?" Elizabeth shook her head. "Everyone else has gone to bed, and it's going to be a long day tomorrow. Lets get some sleep." Bill said, "Sounds good to me. Go ahead, I'll douse the fire and join you in a few minutes".
Robert Cole paddled harder, enjoying the exertion. To his left, Bill White and Elizabeth Monroe fell behind, but on his right Danny Smythe and his cute girlfriend, Denise, were keeping up. Robert liked a challenge, but Susan was tiring in the hot sun. "Come on, Sue, we can beat these clowns!" Susan grunted something vaguely threatening, making Robert smile. She was definitely the best thing that had happened to Robert in a long time, and he was smart enough to know it. They continued racing until Robert was even with Denise and declared his canoe the winner, at which point they three canoes continued at a more leisurely pace. Susan was the first to see their destination, and less than an hour later they arrived. The dock was located on the end of a long sand beach, near a large park building. Racks on the beach held several chained canoes and a yellow plastic paddle boat. The public parking lot was hidden behind the park building and numerous pine trees. "I need to hit the washroom, then I'll get my car and bring it down to load up." said Bill as he jumped onto the dock and pulled his life jacket off. "Me too, ", said Danny, " I've had to take a piss for the last hour." "Nice." Denise rolled her eyes. "I'll stay here and watch our stuff until you get back." Robert climbed out of his canoe and held it so that Susan could climb out. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve and said, "Lets get our crap out of the boat, then I'll get the truck." Susan replied, "Go get the truck, it'll be easier to just toss the packs into the back. Oh, and can you plug my phone into the charger? The battery is probably dead and I want to call mom and my sister." "Sure, be right back.
Robert walked up the dock towards the park office, but turned towards the parking lot once he reached the concrete sidewalk. He could hear the girls by the canoes, and Bill and Danny as the disappeared around the corner of the building, but he couldn't hear anyone else. Other than the sounds of birds and the slight rustling noise of the wind through the trees, Robert couldn't really hear anything. He was completely surprised and came to a halt once he rounded the building and saw the parking lot. It was almost empty, and his truck was missing. "The hell?!" Was there another parking lot? No, this was the right one, Dan's car was still parked over by the picnic area. It didn't make any sense, this lot should be full of cars, there should be a dozen families enjoying the beach and picnic areas. Robert turned and ran back down the sidewalk and around the building towards the dock. "Hey, guys! My helling truck is missing!" "What? No way, my purse was under the seat! My phone, my keys, my credit..." Susan start walking up the dock, letting go of their canoe, then rushed back to grab it. "Shit." She tied the canoe to the dock, nearly falling into the shallow water in her haste. "Elizabeth, Bill's SUV is missing too. The whole damn lot is empty, except for a few cars, including Dan's." Elizabeth stood beside the packs she and Denise had pulled out of their canoes. She frowned and said, "Someone in the park office will know. Maybe they had a wedding and had to move our cars." The four of them walked towards the park office where, two weeks earlier, they had purchased their permits. Bill came out of the bathroom and joined them as they walked up to the front doors and discovered them locked. There were no lights on inside, and no park vehicles nearby. "hell." Robert rattled the door a few times, before giving up. "Is this helling park closed on Sundays?" "Calm down, Rob."Elizabeth pointed and said, "There's some pay phones by the camp store. Just call the main gate and someone will come down to sort this out for us." Bill was staring at the parking lot. "What if they were stolen? Maybe the park is closed for some reason and someone just stole them?" He looked at Elizabeth and then started towards the camp store. "I'm calling the police if those damn rangers don't have my car back here in 10 minutes." Danny came around the corner to join the group. "What's going on? Lets load up the cars and find a restaurant!" "We're the only ones here with a car, " said Denise, "Rob and Bill's have been stolen or maybe towed, and there is no one here to help!" Robert followed Bill to the pay phones, while Danny ran over to his car. The driver side window was broken, and the car was full of glass. "Ah, hell. Someone broke the window and robbed me." He shouted towards Bill and Robert, "My car's been broken into!" Bill picked up the pay phone handset and said to Robert, "Well, that settles it, ours are probably stolen". He popped a couple of quarters into the phone and listened in vain for a dial tone. "Phone's dead." "helling, hell-hell!" Robert grabbed the handset from Bill and listened to it himself before slamming it down on the receiver. "What is going on? We would have noticed a storm big enough to take out the phone lines. And where the hell is everyone? Weather like this, this place should be packed!" He and Bill started walking across the lot towards the girls. "Phone's dead." Robert said, " we are going to have to ride out in Dan's car." Elizabeth and Denise looked at each other and Elizabeth asked, "What are we going to do with our camping gear? We can't just leave it here, Bill and I spent a thousand bucks on that canoe alone!" Robert thought for a moment and was about to answer when Bill spoke up. "Lets hide the canoes and packs and come back for them tomorrow. The trees grow right to the water edge north of here, so it should be easy to just paddle them there to hide them." Danny said "Good idea. There is no one around so they should be safe enough." Robert, wanting to be the one in charge, said "The girls should stay here and clear out the glass while we hide the canoes." Okay, well I want that GPS we bought, " Denise said to Danny, "I'm not leaving that for some asshole to steal." Danny said, "I'll grab it," as the three men started walking back towards the dock. Robert could barely contain his anger. "I can't believe we were robbed, and the helling park staff left us out here. What if Danny's car had been stolen too, or wouldn't start? We'd be royally helled right now." Bill stepped onto the dock and headed for his packs and canoe. "Without a ride, we'd have to walk for hours just to get back to the main gate." He picked Elizabeth's pack up and dropped it into the middle of the canoe. "Do you think there was a bad accident? Maybe a tanker truck full of chemicals overturned in the park?" He picked up his own pack and dropped it into the back of his canoe. Robert climbed into his canoe and calmly said "Maybe Jerusalem flu has killed everyone." "Yeah right, " Danny said, "the swine flu was killing everyone in Mexico too, remember? Then it reached Canada and... nothing. The regular flu killed more people that year." Danny untied his canoe from the dock and pushed off with a paddle. "Every couple years, it's the same thing. How many people die from West Nile every year? None?" "I'm not sure, but I think lots of people get sick with West Nile every year," said Bill. "Lizzy's parents had the flu the week before we went camping. I was worried Lizzy would catch it and we'd have to cancel, but she managed to avoid it." Bill pushed his canoe from the dock and paddled it after Danny's. "Well, if the flu didn't kill the hellers that stole my truck, I will." The three men paddled their canoes until they reached an area where they could be easily hidden. Danny brought his in as close to the shore as he could, then jumped out into knee deep water. Bill and Robert followed suit, and the three men pulled their canoes into the trees. Robert pulled his the furthest from the water, then proceeded to camouflage his canoe with some pulled up weeds. Danny stopped dragging his as soon as it was clear of the water, then bent over it to grab Denise's pack. After putting the pack on, he walked over to Bill and Robert. The three men stood for a moment, looking at the canoes. "Good enough, lets go." Robert led the men towards the parking lot, looking back occasionally to see if the canoes were still visible. By the time they had reached the almost empty lot, the canoes and their gear were completely invisible. ~~~ Danny opened the trunk of his car, deposited the backpack, then slammed it shut. Bill and Robert climbed into the back seat, and Elizabeth and Susan climbed in on top of them. Danny and Denise took the front seats, and Danny started the car. "This is cozy. Everyone comfortable back there? Robert spoke up immediately. "Lets go. Head for the main gate, but stop if you see any park staff." Danny put the car into gear and backed out of the parking spot until he was clear to drive forward again. Danny pulled out of the lot and onto the paved access road. The only drove for a minute before he came to a stop sign and the highway through the park. There was no traffic, so Danny turned left onto the highway without waiting more than a few seconds. "Not much traffic today, " Danny said, "maybe there was a nasty accident that blocked the road." Bill said, "I was just thinking. Forest fires are fairly common up here, and they might have evacuated everyone if there was a really bad one. That might explain the missing cars too, they might have towed them if they thought the fire would reach that parking lot." "What about my car?" asked Danny. "A forest fire doesn't explain smashing this window and stealing my wallet or Denise's purse." "True, but the break-in could have happened before the fire. Or a vandal maybe taking advantage of the evacuation?" Robert said, "I don't know where everyone is, but I don't smell or see any signs of a forest fire. I think the damn staff is on strike or something, and the interior campers just got screwed. They just left our cars for anyone to steal. That also explains the phones... some union jackass probably helled with it." "Hey now, I'm in a union, " said Elizabeth, "and I have never sabotaged anything." Bill shifted uncomfortably under her. Instead of answering, Robert looked out the window at an abandoned car at the side of the road. Danny slowed down as they drove past, but it was obvious that no one was there, so they drove on. Denise said, "A union action wouldn't block the highway. There are no other cars at all. It's eerie as hell." No one spoke again until Danny rounded a corner five minutes later and the were able to see the main gate to the park. "Okay, what the hell?" The main gate was normally very busy, with a staff of people manning a tourist information building, but it appeared abandoned. Danny pulled his car into the parking lot, and turned the car off. "Okay, lets get out and see if anyone is around, or if the phones work." After Susan climbed off of him, Robert said, "Maybe we should just drive into town and contact the cops there? That way we can gas up and hit a restaurant. This place looks dead." Elizabeth climbed out of the other side of the car, followed by a very stiff looking Bill. "I'm going to check the notice board, if the park was closed and the staff gone, there should be something there to tell people." Elizabeth said, "I'll come with you." Susan and Denise walked towards the washrooms at the side of the tourist information building. Susan said, "We'll be right back." as they entered. Danny walked over to the park office beside the gate, and tried the front doors. The front doors were not locked, so he had no problem getting inside. There was no electricity for lights, but the building had numerous windows allowing sunlight to brightly illuminate the front portion of the building. Danny stood just inside the doors, in a wide room with a high counter dividing a sea of desks from the public space. The counter was dotted with several small stands containing pamphlets. Danny walked around the end of the counter and checked several desk phones to see if they worked. The did not. He started towards a door at the back of the room when he thought he heard Denise scream from outside.