You've stumbled through the treacherous terrain today for hours, always hitting dead ends. In complete exhaustion you crumble to the ground and curse the descending of dusk for overtaking the sun. Only you have survived, and you begin to doubt whether there will be another day for you to continue. Skin hangs loosely on your ribs and back, adhered only by the dried blood that poured freely the day before. Only sheer will keeps you moving forward.

A flashing vision of roaring water flashes through your mind. Days ago you and three friends had begun a rafting trip that would be the vacation of a lifetime. The river was unusually high this year and your group had to be especially careful since areas that had normally been swift moving rapids were now violent and churning, often resulting in sudden upsurges of current that would nearly lift the raft out of the water. It was one of these surges that had pushed your group's raft into a massive boulder. The sudden weight shift had caused the raft to turn and everyone had been ejected.

Becoming air borne like a rag doll you were hurled into the boulder and even now only remember seeing Yellow, blue, and orange debris scattering in all directions in the water as you had descended under the river's surface. You had gained consciousness and found yourself wedged in a cluster of logs and boulders. You had gaping wounds and the pain descended upon you like the blows of a mighty hammer. Far downstream you had seen the raft drifting with the current, empty. You shudder as you remember looking down into the water and seeing something orange swirling and dancing upon the floor of the river... recognizing a patch of bright green you realized Charles' body was in the grip of a hydraulic. Looking along the shoreline you had seen Sarah washed into a cluster of rocks. It took quite a lot of time and energy to reach Sarah, and when you got to her you found her lifeless body broken and twisted. Another 50 yards downstream you had seen another body face down in the water, it was John. You had pulled the corpses of John and Sarah onto the bank and covered them with stones to keep the animals from easily taking them. Charles was out of reach and you guessed that he might never be released from his watery grave.

As the branch of a small aspen slaps your face you stop and peer to the sky trying to discern which direction the sun had gone. You have been heading due east in hopes you would cross one of the roadways detailed in the only guide you possess. The travel guide they gave you when you began your "Wilderness Journey" resembles a tattered napkin. You drop the small book, realizing that beyond the colorful pictures and artfully crafted prose it is useless to you. You pull a small wad of plastic from you pocket and unwrap a notepad the cellophane has been protecting. You had stumbled upon someone's old camping area the previous day finding nothing useful except some children's art/craft materials. You scavenged a small notepad and pen, figuring you would take notes of your progress just in case some sort of delirium set in. You had heard stories of how people would loose the ability to remember where they had been and where they were going... now you had at least some small chance. The pen you have been using has a difficult time transferring ink to the damp paper... You begin writing.

"I've journeyed another day through severely rolling hills abounding with thick forest and granite bluffs. I've fallen into dozens of pits that were masked by lush foliage that gave me the illusion of a clear path. It seems there is little hope for my survival at this point."

You rest your hand a moment and continue.

"It seems that nearly every trail marking and guidepost is inaccurate and leads me the wrong way consistently. I feel that I have wandered hundreds of miles and yet am no closer to finishing this trek than I was at the start. I can only continue because I DESIRE to LIVE."

Your head sinks forward as you begin to fall into a stupor. You have entered this near comatose state several times today, food and water have been difficult to find over the past few days. As you drift in and out of consciousness your begin to realize you haven't seen a living creature for days... not even a bird... not a bug. The heavy night air is beginning to make your breathing labored, you crawl into a nook several yards away and collapse on the soft padding inside.

Suddenly your eyes spring wide open, you are lying on a blanket... soft and thick! You look around the nook and find a small box, some trinkets, a uselessly dead cell phone. To your left there is an opening that you feverishly scramble through. In the darkness you recognize one of the objects you sift through as a book of matches. The paper matches are damp and you labor getting one to light, but when fire is sparked you see paper, books, shining things, a lamp... A LAMP. The oil impregnated wick ignites with ease and as you adjust it's height you are able to make out your surroundings.

In the far end of the cave you see movement, almost in disbelief you see the hollow eyes of another person turn your way. The figure is hunched over a makeshift desk with large stacks of paper surrounding it. Looking down you realize you have overturned several piles of paper with your clumsy entrance. Blood has begun dripping from your shoulder onto the paper carpet you have created while barging into this cave.

The burlap shrouded creature begins to gently and carefully feel it's way through the maze of papyrus stacks in an effort to get closer to you. In a moment you realize it is a haggard and wrinkled lady, largely resembling the witches you read about in fairy tales. She is obviously blind, but you have neither the strength nor the will to run from her... you hope for the best. As the woman reaches a nearly half-way point she sniffs, cackling as she smells the oil of the lamp burning.

"You've come seeking wisdom?" she barks.

"I... I... " your voice is rasping and you find your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth each time you attempt to form words. "Hekph meh" you force yourself to say. The woman tilts her head sideways looking at you with those empty dry eyes. In an instant she reaches out grabbing you by your hair and begins dragging you away from the paper and toward the darkest area of her home. You feel your wounds being opened up as they are dragged across the floor by this demon possessed witch you have discovered. When she drops you the moist stone dampens your torn clothing and you drop your face to the ground... puddles of water greet your descent. As you painfully stretch your tongue out to the moist surface you taste the rock but water yields relief to your dehydration.

You hear the lamp open, and then total darkness surrounds you. The stone is lowering your body temperature, and you have no stored energy to counter the chill... so shivering you fall into unconsciousness. A ringing fills your ears, your slowing pulse forms a primitive beat in your head. Time is lost to you and each drift into consciousness seems like a mere snapshot in duration. The thought runs through your head that you are going to die soon... almost guaranteed. The old hag will probably cook you for dinner. You desperately want to jump up and run out of the cave... but even if you had any strength in your body... the way is now shrouded in darkness with that horrid woman probably crouched ready to rip out your heart or to run a knife through your heart.

As you begin to drift into the euphoric state that briefly precludes a drift into the promise of death that awaits you there are brief images burning before your eyes... yielded by your memories. You see your friends flailing helplessly in the oppressive currents you all had fallen into, you see your parents smiling and cheering you as you cross the finish line in a junior high track meet, a brief snapshot of crumpled and scattered papers lit by a lamp appear quickly replaced by the memory of your first time standing at the top of the world, you smile inwardly at the curvature of the earth and a screeching eagle soaring overhead. Memories stream through your mind and you accept this as being the life passing before you. A mental image of scattered papers appears again to you... this time you attempt to make out the writing. Scribbled writing on the paper overlapped and poured across at odd angles. The old woman's blind writings had no order to them. The image is no longer visible to you... but as you ponder on the scribblings your heart sinks at the words on those pages.

Sobbing, you feel yourself shaking violently. A hand grabs your foot and tugs, but your mangled shoe slides of too easily. Again the hand reaches you and fingers wrap around your ankle. Your damp clothing and skin slide easily over the stone floor, darkness protects you from seeing the rough surface and any body parts that are falling off and being left behind. At some point you feel yourself sliding across the bed of paper you created as you fell into the hellish creature's lair. You clutch your hands in fists and feel sheets of paper sticking to your skin as you attempt a death grip with the ground... still you are being dragged.

With a thump your chin strikes the edge of a stone, the pain jerks you into full consciousness. As you try to spin around and release yourself from the grip of your captor it becomes evident that you are helpless. The wounds on our side begin collecting moss and gravel as you are raked across the terrain. Eventually the rock is replaced with a bed of pine needles and tilting your head slightly you see she is dragging you downhill on a pathway. The distant sound of water fills your ears and you begin wondering what would be next.

As you resign yourself to the mercy or damnation that would shortly become your destiny you glance to your right arm sliding loosely along the ground, limp and helpless. Your eyes travel along your arm to the ending point... the hand that is clenched in desperation around sheets of crumpled paper. You gaze at the nearly illegible scribbling that formed some sort of cryptic design formed by two words...

The witch drops your feet and your feel the frigid current of a rapidly flowing river wrapped around them. Weakly looking up you see the woman turn to you... she grabs you and begins to roll you into the stream. As you summon all of your energy and latch onto her leg you form a pitiful scream... your voice nearly a whisper. As the woman begins kicking free from your grip the pieces of paper begin falling from your hand. Your grip is no match for the nimble kicking that comes from the wretch that is sending you to a watery grave and you slide helplessly into rushing water. Dragging only a single piece of paper with you.

"disLcoOvSereTd dLOiscSTovLeOSTreLdOST LOST LOdSiscoTvered" ... the words LOST resonate through your mind. You have died.. you are going to hell. As the water envelops you the screams from your mouth fall dead. With no strength you feel your body drift into the rushing current, sharp rocks claw at your flesh and you begin to feel the very soul within your begin to tug away from you. "LOST"... "LOST" your thoughts drift to wonder what comes next.

You reach a point where you find yourself admiring everything racing by you. The beautiful trails of light glancing through the water upon colorful rocks. Driftwood embedded on the river's floor. The current turns you onto your back and you see the sun pouring upon the water above you, then a shroud of darkness falls between you and the sun's glory. In horror you see tentacles descend upon you grabbing you sharply. You resign to your final purpose being a feast along the food chain when suddenly you break the water's surface. The tentacles are arms reaching into the stream to hoist you from the watery grave. Your eyes cannot move, your body is limp and lifeless and you are fading into darkness. You only slightly feel the arms squeezing you to purge your lungs of the water they have filled with. As you are eased down to the floor of the tube raft you hear sobs and screams and recognize the people as being your friends. At least you will die close to your friends.

The paper that had been gripped in your hand now floats in a pool of water next to you, and as you feel your spirit drifting outside your body the words on the paper appear crystal clear. One word repeated from every angle on the paper in the old hag's writing...

"dis co v ere d d  isc  ov e   re d           d isco vered"

You see the empty corpse that was you suddenly lurch, eyes opening wider. A voluminous spray of water gushes from it's mouth and your ethereal spirit is suddenly ripped downward. Now you are looking up into the sky, droplets of water falling onto your face. Your friends appear over you just as you gasp deeply and feel your entire body pitch violently, a geyser of water erupting from your mouth. Between gasping and vomiting you claw around the floor of the boat for that piece of paper. Your friends are gripping you and trying to calm you down, but you cannot stop... not until that paper is in your hand again. As you collapse and fall forward, leaning on the raft's inflated tube wall you notice a piece of paper floating in a quiet little pool at the river's edge. You sigh in relief, turning to instruct someone to retrieve the paper.

As you gesture toward the shore and begin to form the words of instruction you see the paper gently lift onto a rock, carried by the current ebb and swell. Then suddenly, like the strike of an adder a hand darts out from the foliage alongside the river and the paper is gone. You look to your friends and they are waiting to hear what you will say. The blank stare from their eyes lets you know they saw nothing and you force a smile the best you can.

"I can't be alive." the words are difficult to voice due to your overexposure over several days and dehydration.

"Well you had us really worried there for a few minutes" your friend John exclaims.

Sarah chides in, "I bet you were under water in that last pool for five minutes."

Nodding, Charles adds "It musta been a hydraulic... you sure are lucky... I thought we had lost you for sure"

You feel your eyes roll backward in disbelief. You finger the cuts at your side, loose flesh still there, but those wounds could have been caused by sharp rocks at the river's bed. You have nothing to prove to yourself that more than 5 minutes at the rivers bed had elapsed. Then you reach to your pocket and begin to laugh deliriously, an agonizing cry flows from you as your hand closes around the outline of a small notebook and pen.

"Five minutes" you allow the words to loosely fall from your lips.

Like a person losing all emotional and mental control you laugh and cry, coughing from the water's invasion of your lungs. Your friends quickly begin paddling the raft downstream, you have no idea when or if the landing ramp would be reached. You are still not sure whether you are really alive... remembering so vividly the corpses of your friends. Could it all have been your mind playing tricks?

You look backward and catch a brief glimpse of someone standing at the river's edge. You hear a distant cackling and see the figure wave a white piece of paper in the air and disappear.

Discovered Lost is an evolution of my original vision for The Beggar's Den site originally hosted at Mindspring. Hopefully this site will be a collection of trash and treasure that somehow provides value to someone... even if it's only me.