Length: 5285 words (15.1 double-spaced pages)
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"Thanks for that update, Bob," said the aged anchor person. His voice
was rough and deep, as though he had been to sea recently and had taken home a
throat lined with thick salt water. He sounded too serious, but friendly enough
to be a local newscaster for a maximum audience of perhaps 20,000 bored stiff
eyes. "And now we have a related story about the new sporting goods store here
in Sidney. Nan Johnstone is there live. Nan?"
"Yes, Phil. Thanks." Nan was an aged person as well, who doubled as
the station's investigative reporter and local happening's person. Her voice
was about as clear as Phil's. It sounded nasal and rusty, as though she had
been talking her whole life and was about ready to give it up for good. "I'm
here at what is now officially the largest hunting and fishing goods store in
the world. Cabela's will be opening tomorrow afternoon at three o'clock, and
the management is expecting nearly half the population of Sidney to show up for
the grand opening event. In the past few nights, we have been bringing you
related stories because of the incredible economic impact that Cabela's will
have and already has had in our area. As you know, 2,000 people out of the
Sidney area's 10,000 are already employed by Cabela's. That number is, of course,
expected to rise in the months and years to come. The story we bring you
tonight concerns the last step in completion of the 400 acre store and
surrounding grounds. Today, over 700 stuffed animals arrived from an eminent
taxidermist in northern California, and crews were immediately sent to work
arranging 300 of the stuffed beasts in a brilliant display against the dividing
wall in the center of the store. They let me take a sneak preview of the
arrangement earlier, and it is incredible. Even if you're not planning to
purchase anything tomorrow, the animals make it worth your trip. One may find
the other 400 creatures on display throughout the store. They will be shown
either one at a time with tape-recorded sounds of them and their habitat or they
will be shown in groups. The main exhibit is arranged between the tents on
display and the clothing section, and although pictures are not yet allowed from
within the store, postcards will be available from any of the cash registers or
from other points around Cabela's. We hope to see you all there tomorrow.
"Thank you, Nan. We'll be there. It looks like it is going to be a
very nice grand opening tomorrow at Cabela's. And speaking of very nice, here
is Scott with the weather update."
"Thanks, Phil. It was a beautiful day today, and tomorrow, at least
until about six o'clock, we can expect the same. Tomorrow evening, there will
be a severe thunderstorm warning, as well as a tornado warning for the Sidney
area. The conditions look to me like we could have a tornado come right through
town, but let's keep our fingers crossed until then . . . "
The TV screen abruptly went blank via the remote control on the other
side of the room. A young man, about sixteen, sat in a large, brown chair on
the far side of the room, mechanically flipping the remote control over and over
in his hands. He stood to about six feet tall and was about average weight. "I
think we're going to go over there about four o'clock tomorrow." He spoke in a
clear, intelligible, resonant voice. The tone suggested maturity of character
and a quiet, serious disposition.
"That's fine, Brian. Just let me know if you need a ride out there,"
said his mother, a woman of about forty. "I don't think I'll be able to go
tomorrow myself, but maybe I'll stop by the next day or the day after that.
Just let me know what your plans are."
"OK, mom. I'll let you know. Goodnight, now."
Brian stood up from his chair and walked into his bedroom, where he
immediately picked up the phone and dialed Chris's number. "Chris? Hey, what's
"Hey, Bri. Not much." Chris's voice was higher than Brian's, and did
not sound as mature or as intelligent. At first impression, one would see Chris
as very outgoing, yet possibly even too gregarious. "You hear anything about
"That's what I was calling you about."
"Huh-Huh... That's cool." Chris attempted an impression of Beavis and
Butthead, but he did not sound even remotely like either of the two annoying
cartoon characters. "Well, I guess we'll go over to that Cabela's place
tomorrow, pick up some girls, man . . . Huh-Huh . . . That would be cool."
"Dude, give it up. What girls could we possibly find at Cabela's
tomorrow that we haven't known our whole lives? Your options are pretty limited
when you're living in a city of 8,000, Chris."
"Why, you're quite the pessimist today. But anyway, there's no use in
arguing with you. I guess we aughta head up there about five o'clock or so.
"Sure. Sounds good. I'll pick you up around then."
"Oo! Gonna get picked up in Brian's parentmobile . . . yes! Huh-huh;
anyway, though, see you then. Later."
"See you tomorrow."
After the evening's lengthy activities, Brian discernibly resolved to
turn in for the night, and, after informing his mother of his plans for the next
day, did so.
The following morning was a pleasant one. The air had the sweet scent
of creation, and the only audible tones were those of Mother Nature. Contrary
to the meteorologist's dismal forecast for the evening, the day looked as if it
would turn out to be enjoyable after all. The morning passed by quickly for
Brian, and, as suddenly as he had woken up, the Time that Flies had taken him to
the late afternoon.
Brian approached his parents sitting in the dining room, visiting.
"Well, I suppose I'll be seeing you all about eleven or so. By the way, you
mind if I take the car?" He directed the first comment to his mother, who
appeared to be the type who worried about details until she made herself sick
with distress. The question, though, was directed at his father, who was
sitting opposite his mother. With one fleeting glance, anyone could tell that
Brian's father was most definitely the figure with the authority. He possessed
a casual, confident demeanor, and when he looked up from his newspaper to say
"sure" to Brian, his statement was indubitably irrevocable.
"Just be careful, honey." His mother, though, still received an
opportunity to do her arduous duty of worrying.
"Will do. I'll see you all later."
As Brian walked out of the front door, he was met by the vulgar sight of
a '77 Oldsmobile station wagon, otherwise known as the 'parentmobile'. "Huh . .
. I sure do wish I had a job so that I could have money for a car." He spoke
out loud, to no one in particular. "Oh, well, I suppose I'll have to live with
this thing until then." Brian sat in the driver's seat while he began to figure
how many weeks he thought it would take him until he could save enough money for
a decent car. Still figuring, he put the car in drive and headed for Chris's
house. When he arrived, Chris was waiting by the door, and as he approached the
station wagon, Brian could see him jokingly mouthing the word 'parentmobile'.
"At least I'm sixteen."
Silence filled the car for a moment, until Chris broke in with "Huh-Huh .
. . that's cool." Once again, his impression had failed miserably.
"You're getting better at that, you know."
"Thanks for the encouragement. Oh, by the way, you need to pick up
Nancy and Sarah from Sarah's house."
"Nancy and Sarah? Oh, you mean the Nancy and Sarah a year older than us.
Where do they live?"
"Thanks for telling me so soon so that I have to turn around to go back
and get them. No, really, I appreciate it."
"No prob. Anything I can do to make you late."
"Nancy and Sarah, huh? I don't think I know them too well. You?"
"No, but I've talked to them in school a few times before. We're all in
the same Latin class.
Brian still seemed to be confused about the two, and after deciding that
he was most likely thinking of someone else, Chris attempted to correct the
situation. "You know, Nancy. She's pretty smart and has the long, light brown
"Oh, yeah. She's, well, the less attractive one."
"She's still not bad."
"But Sarah, on the other hand, is incredible." Brian shook his head
slowly and looked off in to the distance. It was obvious that he liked at least
what he had seen of her. To Brian, Sarah was one of the people he had had a
crush on ever since he had first seen her in the halls of school. Considering
the fact that Brian would never have had the nerve to approach her on his own,
he had thought that nothing would ever develop between them. Suddenly, though,
his hopes had become remarkably more reasonable.
"Incredibly stupid, you mean."
"Do you mean she's not book smart, or are you saying that she just
doesn't know what's going on?"
"Well, she makes pretty good grades, but she's the most gullible person
I've ever talked to. Oh, and, by the way, if she asks, my '69 Corvette is still
in the shop."
Brian once again shook his head, only this time he had a knowing smile
on his face instead of a faraway look. "Don't you mean your '15 Vette, Chris?"
he said through his quiet laughter.
"I get it. Turn at the next street. Nancy's house is the third one on
"All right," he said, as he pulled the old, beat-up station wagon to the
front of the Victorian-style white picket fence, "You can run up there and get
As Brian watched Chris approach the front door, it seemed as if he were
trying to process a hundred thoughts at once. "What should I say?" "What if I
embarrass myself?" He then remembered his mother, who he always told worried
too much, and he forced himself to stop his mental self-torture. He thought to
himself, "OK, I just have to take it cool. If I just act myself, they won't
even think about the car." Brian had always tried to make sure that no one knew
he was an excessive worrier with a self-esteem problem, but he still tended to
worry to himself quite a bit. Brian watched as the girl whom he had secretly
liked ever since he could remember approached the door. With a pained look on
his face, Brian then managed to endure the seemingly endless two minutes it took
from the time they answered the door until the time they stepped into the car.
Nancy was the first to speak as they entered the car. "Hi. I'm Nancy."
"Hello, Nancy. I'm Brian." An awkward silence followed his
introduction, and Brian could think of nothing else to say, but, "Sorry about
the car. I know it's a piece." And then, after another pause, "It's my
"Hey, you have nothing to be sorry about. At least it has wheels and
runs. That's better than I have." Somehow, the words seemed to make Brian feel
more at ease. At first, he thought it might be because they had some kind of
connection between their personalities. On second thought, though, he decided
that Nancy was probably just one of those people who has a natural gift for
relating to others. "So . . . " Nancy attempted to make polite conversation as
the others had once again ceased communication. "I know that we both know Chris
from Latin, but I don't think either of us have ever really met you before,
Brian. This is Sarah."
"Hi, Sarah. Chris has told me so much about you."
"Was it good or bad?" Sarah had an incredibly pleasant voice. Brian
thought to himself that it was as pure, clear, and sweet as a mountain stream.
He knew the words should have been sarcastic from anyone else, but she somehow
made them sound so genuine.
Brian decided he would investigate not only her reply, but also Chris'
accusation of her gullibility. "Definitely bad, Sarah. You should have heard
what he was saying."
"Chris!" Her articulation had changed from polite to angry, but to
Brian, the sound of her voice was still wonderful. "I thought I could trust
Brian quickly decided it would be best for him to break in to prevent
any further damage. "Sarah, it's OK. I was just kidding. I thought that you
were as well when you asked. Believe me, I haven't heard anything out of him
about you except for compliments."
"Of course." Brian realized that Sarah genuinely was extremely naive.
He decided that it was in his best interests to change subjects. "So, I hear
Cabela's is still hiring some in-store employees. They hire at sixteen, too."
Nancy was the first to voice her opinion at this. "I've been thinking
about applying, but I'm not sure if it will fit in to my schedule with all the
tough classes I'm taking this year. Speaking of Cabela's; according to that
sign, we just entered Cabela's land."
"Cabela's land?" asked Brian, "This place really must be as big as I
hear. I can just barely see the parking lot from here."
"Why do you think they would put the largest hunting and fishing goods
store in the world in Sidney, Nebraska, of all places? I mean, come on, all
8,000 of us would have to buy something from here every day just for them to
stay in business." Chris, for the most part, wasn't a cynic, but occasionally
he enjoyed arguing. "Your mom works there, doesn't she, Nancy? Has she ever
said anything about why they built it here?"
"Well, from what I can tell, they do most of their business from the
mail-order magazine. They probably decided to put the main distributor's
headquarters here because Nebraska's kind of in the middle of the United States.
They'll get more interstate business than business from Kearney and us."
"Gee, thanks for that in-depth analysis of my shallow question, Nancy."
"Anytime," she returned. It seemed strange to Brian how quickly Nancy
had changed tones from very friendly, outgoing, and seemingly at a constant
temporary loss for words to overly analytical and rattling words off like an
accomplished debater. He could not seem to tell whether she was trying to be
funny by her answer to Chris' question or if she were simply the type who not
only makes quick changes of style, but also overanalyzes everything.
"Look at the horses!" Brian had become so captivated with Sarah that he
barely noticed the childish way in which she had pronounced 'horses' with a long
'e' at the end.
"Uh . . . Huh-Huh. Horses are cool," Chris broke in.
"Okay. You all ready? Good, let's go," Brian said.
As they stepped out of the car and approached the front row of glass
doors, a man in a white tuxedo reached for the door handle and swung it wide
open, allowing the group to pass into an outdoorsman's paradise. The scene in
the center of the store was incredible. A seventy foot high mountain sat atop a
huge square, each side measuring about 120 feet. Around the outside of the
square were various plaques, each describing one or more animals on display.
Three snow white mountain goats stood on the top of the mountain, just above ice
sickels hanging threateningly from the rocks. A howling coyote sat about
halfway between the top and bottom of the mountain. Below it were two elk, a
huge brown bear standing on two feet, two small deer, two huge moose, a panther,
and a rabbit being chased by a fox. Above the entire scene hung a flock of
large birds, each spanning about five and a half feet from wing to wing.
Along the left side of the store stood three immense tanks of fish that
were surrounded by tons of hooks, lures, poles, reels, and small bass boats.
Behind the fishing accessories were dozens of isles of various outdoor clothing
items. In the middle of the clothes stood two imminent grizzly bears, each
about seven feet high. Behind the clothes was a door with a sign over it. The
sign read, "Coming Soon: The Discount Cave." Next to 'The Discount Cave' stood
the 'Something for Everyone' gift shop. Most of its occupants were women and
smaller children. As far as the group could tell, with the exception of the
small deli, the 'Something for Everyone' shop was the only place in the entire
store that had nothing to do with hunting, fishing, or camping.
Along the right side of the store stood more isles of hunting and
camping clothes, as well as an assortment of heavy dress shirts with Cabela's
logos on them. Rows of bows and arrows sat behind the shirts, and behind
archer's heaven was the hunting section. The selection of hunting equipment was
perhaps the most impressive Brian had ever seen. Nearly fifty yards of large
guns sat behind the employees' counter, just waiting to be bought. The handguns
sat idlely in the glass counters. People strolled along the counter, stopping
periodically to peer at a hunting weapon that took hold of their interest.
Unorganized boxes of ammunition and bird calls had been dispersed among the
vacant remaining shelves. To the far left, another animal exhibit was visible.
This one comprised a single, heinous looking tiger. A large, arched sign with
the word 'Africa' on it in red letters towered above the tiger. The placement,
backdrop, atmosphere, and overall look of the scene created an exceedingly
The group had somehow been separated into pairs, and Brian found himself
walking along rows of duck calls near the tiger display with Nancy. "That tiger
looks a little bit too real." Brian looked at the tiger's lifelike posture and
knowing eyes in amazement as he thought to himself.
"No kidding, Brian. That's spooky." Nancy, too, stared at the tiger's
viscous eyes. "I wonder how they make all of these dead animals look so alive."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." As the two passed the tiger, they felt as
if it was still staring at them, thinking of what a nice meal they would make.
"That's strange. I wonder if that thing makes everyone feel that way."
"No, it's probably just us." Nancy's soft giggle seemed to magically
release much of Brian's silent anxiety. "We're just paranoid."
"I guess so . . . Hey, look at that room." Brian pointed at a large
room in which guns and knives sat against the wall and hung from the wall in
separate glass containers. The sign above the large pillars that represented
the doorway read 'Antique Weapons of the Early 1900's and of the Civil War'.
Although no one was permitted entrance, Brian spotted American Indian hatchets,
assorted muskets, and even a chair attached to a large machine that looked to be
from World War I as he stood in the doorway. "Interesting stuff, but why don't
we go catch up with Chris and Sarah?"
On the other side of the antique weapons room stood Chris and Sarah,
both staring in amazement at a stream of crystal clear water falling elegantly
from strategically placed rocks in the middle of a large pool of water. In the
water, large goldfish swam casually, not seeming to mind the concrete siding.
Chipmunks scurried along the outside rocks, stopping once in a while to beg for
food from onlookers. Chris removed a quarter from his pocket and placed it into
a vending machine entitled 'Squirrel food'. He received a handful of peanuts
that Sarah and he managed to feed to the large rodents as they passed by. "This
is beautiful," said Sarah.
"Uh . . . Huh-Huh. Squirrels are cool. Feeding squirrels is kick a- .
. . " Brian managed to thump Chris on the head as he and Nancy approached the
waterfall and Chris and Sarah.
"We went into a tent over there that we wanted you two to see." Sarah
spoke with enthusiasm and a wide smile on her face to the rest of group, and
then skipped off in the direction of the tents.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Brian quickly followed Sarah, who had
already settled herself in a large, six-man tent.
As Chris stepped in, he darted his eyes from side to side, examining the
every aspect of the tent. "Whew . . . this must be three times as big as my
"Probably because this is a six-man tent, and his is a two-man," added
"Good point. Hey, somebody shut the door." As the rest of the foursome
talked blase, Nancy reached behind her to zip up the flap of lycra material that
was the front door.
"So, I hear there's a tornado warning for tonight," said Brian. "The
weatherman claimed that it could possibly hit Sidney, or maybe even hit
"As did I, mon frére," added Nancy. "You know, I can't hear a thing out
of this tent. It must be completely noiseproof."
Chris, the most knowledgeable about camping equipment in the group,
interjected, "The purpose of the design is to keep all of the rain out, but, as
it turns out, keeping the water out happens to also keep the noise out. I like
it better this way, but my dad bought the one that doesn't keep all of the rain
out. He says that it's dangerous to not be able to hear animals or other
invaders in the night."
"I suppose that if there was a fire in the building ten minutes ago, we
wouldn't have known about it until too late." At Brian's comment, each looked
at the other, and Nancy opened a corner of the door to hear the reassuring sound
of the outside world.
Nancy leaned over toward Brian and whispered in his ear, "Make up some
crazy story, and tell it to Sarah to see if she'll believe you." As Nancy
leaned back, Brian began his tale.
"Nancy and I were just talking about something that happened while we
weren't with you two. We had gone over to look at the main exhibit when Nancy
noticed something strange. One of the larger birds' wings was twitching. I
don't mean it had been caught in a gust of air, either. After a while, it
seemed as if the entire bird had started to move. We decided not to stick
around, but we did overhear some people talking about it later. They said that
one of the people who works here took the bird down and took it back into an
employees only room. Of course we don't know the exact scenario, but my best
guess would be that whoever stuffed the birds didn't do a very good job. He
probably just froze them and shipped them. So be careful, Sarah, when you walk
over by the birds."
The amazed look on Sarah's face was enough to make anyone laugh. Chris
nearly accepted the invitation, but he managed to cover his mouth and turn the
oncoming laugh into a cough. Sarah, with a frightened, confused look on her
face, blankly uttered the single word, "Really?"
The entire situation was more than the rest of the group could take,
though. The three of them burst out laughing all at once, at Sarah's expense.
After laughing for a few seconds, Brian said, "No . . . we're just kidding,
Sarah. That wouldn't really happen."
After the laughter had subsided, Nancy noticed that they had been
sitting in the tent for nearly an hour, and it was now after eight o'clock.
"Hey, you all. We probably should be getting out now. Somebody must be waiting
for us." Nancy once again reached behind her to unzip the door, but this time
no piercing noise of jostling customers was heard. Instead, the noise had been
replaced by complete and utter silence. The four looked at each other without
saying a word, ultimately making the silence even more magnified.
Brian was the first to break the silence. "I think we should leave now,
"That's probably a good idea," said Nancy. With worried glances, the
entire group made their way out of the tent. They were greeted on the outside
by nothing but unequivocal darkness and silence. Without a word they made their
way toward the front door. Nancy reached the row of tall, glass doors before
the others and attempted to push one open. Her efforts, though, were useless.
Every one of the doors had been locked from the inside as well as from the
outside. "They're all locked."
"So let's break them down!" Chris, in his panic, grabbed a lamp from
the desk and hurled it at the huge pane of glass. The small, ceramic lamp
smashed as it hit the door, leaving nothing but shards of pottery on the floor.
Nancy broke in to the situation, trying to calm everyone down. "Come on,
you guys. There's no point in panicking! There obviously has to be either
someone else in the store who would have a key or a much easier escape route. I
mean, look what you would have done by breaking the glass. Not only would you
most likely end up having to pay for it, but also it wouldn't help us get out.
There's an iron fence no more than thirty yards from here, and it goes straight
up to the overhang in the front of the building, in case you didn't notice. All
you would have done is let the rain in here."
Brian quickly broke in with, "The rain! Everyone must have been
evacuated because of a tornado. They said it would come right through here. It
was probably on a path for the Cabela's building, and they told everybody to
leave and to take shelter in their basements. Oh, no; it seems as if we were
just talking about how it could be dangerous not to be able to hear outside the
"Thanks, Chris. I know that."
Nancy attempted to take control of the situation at this point. "Come
on! We have to find a way out before the storm gets worse! Okay, Brian, you
and Sarah go over by the deli and into the employees only room. Look for
windows, doors, or anything else that would give us a chance of getting out.
Chris and I are going to look around the main area for stuff that we could use
to build a ladder to get to those windows near the ceiling."
"Okay, we'll be back. Come on, Brian." As they began walking toward
the back of the building, Brian realized that they were headed for the evil
looking tiger that had frightened Nancy and him earlier.
"Come on, Sarah, let's go this way. We'll look over in the deli,
first." Brian climbed onto the deli counter and jumped over it as Sarah found
the swinging door and casually walked through it. "There's the door to the back.
We'll go in there and look around for a door or a window or something, and then
we'll look somewhere else if we can't find anything." Brian slowly opened the
door that led to the back of the deli, and then peered inside. "Okay, let's go.
I'll look for a light." The room was large, and, for the most part, empty.
"I can't see anything but the outline of . . . maybe . . . a table or
"Okay. I found a switch box here." Brian flipped quite a few switches
before he finally found one that illuminated the room. The new light was
greeted by a scream from Sarah who immediately ran for the door. "Wait, what is
it?" Then Brian saw what must have scared her so badly. On the table laid a
large bird that looked almost exactly like one of the birds hanging from the
ceiling over the main exhibit. Brian's story must have made her considerably
apprehensive. "Well, I don't see anything of use in here. You?"
"No. Let's get out of here." The nervousness in Sarah's voice made
Brian anxious as well. "I should stop believing people so easily. But I always
worry about what people will think about me if I don't believe what they say."
"I don't know what to tell you. If what they're talking about couldn't
possibly happen, just don't believe it." During the conversation, Brian failed
to realize that he was leading them into the hallway with the Africa exhibit and
the sinister tiger. As they approached it, Brian could see nothing but two
small red dots through the darkness. He sensed danger as he grew nearer and
nearer the ferocious animal. As they passed, though, the impending peril
withdrew. In the employees only room, they discovered nothing but a large, neon
'EXIT' sign with no door underneath. The other two had about the same amount of
"I think we should just give it up and stay here for the night. What do
you think, Chris?" Nancy spoke as if she were weary after losing a hard fought
"Unless Brian and Sarah found something, which I somehow doubt, I think
we're just wasting our energy trying to get to those windows. Oh, there they
are, now. Did you two have any luck?" Chris yelled to the other two, and the
echoing sent chills up the spines of each of them.
As Brian and Sarah approached, Brian began to speak. "Okay, here's the
deal. You two are going to go back to one of the tents and sit tight while
Chris and I try to bust open the switch box to get some light in here. I think
the darkness is just making everything worse for everyone." At this, Nancy and
Sarah headed for the tents while Chris and Brian walked toward the hunting gear.
"Grab that scope and break the glass, Chris." Chris broke the glass to the
handguns, and, to their surprise, no alarm sounded. He then reached in through
the broken glass and picked up two weapons.
"I'll go look for some ammunition," said Chris.
"Yeah, good idea. I'll get one of those big knives from the other end
of the counter." After getting two boxes of ammo for the two guns, Chris walked
to where Brian stood, near the large, locked metal box that held all of the
light switches. "Try shooting the lock from the side, Chris. Just make sure
you don't mess up the circuitry." Chris loaded the weapon with six bullets and
fired two directly at the lock on the right side of the box. The bullets had
absolutely no effect on the lock. Each of the two bullets bounced back as Brian
realized there was no way to even make a dent in the steel with such a low-
powered weapon. He knew that it was no use to try to break in. The only way
they could possibly turn the lights on was to find a key to open the box.
Suddenly, a small, scratching sound was heard from the other side of the
counter. "Did you hear something?"
"Yeah," said Chris, "I'll go check it out." Chris looked over the edge
of the counter to see a small, white rabbit sitting against the wood of the
counter. It moved its head from side to side and then took a small hop forward,
causing the same scratching sound.