by Kaol and Foster

This story is a continuation of Foster’s original story, “Kendra’s Tale”. I completed it, with his encouragement and assistance. 

Kendra paused for a moment, trying to catch her breath. She found it growing more difficult to breathe as the heavy mud seemed to clench about her like a wet fist. In spite of what she had heard, however, when she stopped moving she found herself descending into the mud once more. As she had recalled, you were supposed to sink faster in quicksand when you moved, not when you stopped moving. On the other hand, she wondered just who the heck had been doing the research in that particular area in the first place.

Kicking her legs once more, she tried to force against the mud to push her body upwards. Yet the mud offered little resistance to push off of, and instead she found her legs edging vertically downwards once more. The mud was soft and gushy about her legs as she forced them through the mire. It felt amazingly soothing on her bare skin, and were she not in fear for her life she might actually be able to enjoy the sensation. It almost massaged her flesh as she moved, yet if she did not find a way out soon her lungs would also feel the mire's caress.

Her field shirt was now bunched up about her armpits and felt heavy and uncomfortable. Trying to kick her legs as if treading water, she slowly moved her arms towards the shirt, wishing to remove it. Modesty no longer seemed an issue, and it occurred to her that she might be able to use it to snag something on the ground and help pull her out. Moving her arms was a slow, laborious process and with each passing second she felt herself slide just a little deeper into the swampy earth.

Fingers clutching the rumpled cloth, she cautiously raised her arms up and pulled the shirt up over her head. She was now up to her chin in the clutching bog, and the effort of raising her arms pushed her in deeper still. Mud streaked her cheeks as she pulled the shirt off with a triumphant and trembling sigh.

"Help!" she cried out, deciding that it was possible that someone might have come looking for her and/or Erin. At this point, she decided she might even be happy to see Erin the Creep herself.

With no response to her cry immediately coming, Kendra scanned the mud in front of her. Her shoulders were beneath the surface of the mud and she could not move them freely to get a good toss at anything nearby. A close examination revealed nothing of use anyway. She had pulled her shirt off to no avail. She let go of it and watched it slowly ease down into the mire.

Naked now except for a bra sticking to her like a second skin, Kendra tilted her head backwards, feeling the moisture of the mud soaking through her hair and against the back of her scalp. Her body was trembling, her lips shaking as she realized that her immediate demise was growing increasingly likely. A tear trickled out the corner of one eye, running down the side of her face towards the quaking surface of the bog. The mire rolled and lolled about her like a drunken sailor as it responded to the frantic kicking of her legs and pawing of her hands.

"Kendra, is that you?" Kendra heard a voice cry out from somewhere up and out of her vision.

"Hello?" Kendra cried out, almost sobbing with relief at the thought that she might be rescued. "Is there anybody there?" She half feared she had imagined the voice. She was also surprised by how much her voice trembled. Her legs continued to move in the mud, yet she slipped deeper still, her ears sinking into the thick slurry.

"Kendra! You look silly! What are you doing in that mud!"

Kendra's tears of relief promptly switched to tears of despair. Even with the mud oozing into her ears she could recognize that voice. It was Erin! She had hoped it might be Pam or Kate or one of the other counselors. Anybody but Erin! Now her life was dependent on Erin rescuing her. She briefly contemplated closing her eyes and just sliding under the mud with whatever dignity was left to her. Better that than pleading with Erin for help.

Yet as the cool mud tickled the bottom of her lower lip, the resolve to die with dignity evaporated. "Help me!" she screamed, her voice hinting at the hysteria building within.

"You look funny!" Erin repeated. "Is that quicksand you're in or are you trying to trick me?"

"It's not quicksand!" Kendra cried out. "I mean, maybe it is. I don't know. I'm sinking! Help me out!"

"Gee, it looks kinda fun. Is it?"

"No!" cried Kendra, then corrected herself. "Well, mostly no! Look, if you don't get me out of here I'm going to go under!" Kendra's head was arched backwards so far now that she was looking straight up into the trees above, trying to keep her head above the surface. She found herself wondering just how deep the bog was and how far she would settle.

"What should I do?" Erin asked.

"Find a tree branch or something. Get something I can grab onto and pull myself out with."

There was silence then and Kendra's eyes rolled about in their sockets as she tried to see what was happening. "Erin? Are you there? Erin? Don't leave!" Kendra cried out, certain that Erin had run off, scared, abandoning Kendra to her fate. She tried to recall if she had ever shared with Erin just how little she thought of her? Maybe Erin WANTED her to go under.

Kendra cried out as a branch appeared out of nowhere and smacked her between the eyes. The impact pushed her deeper still, yet she reached her hand up and grabbed it. Frantically she pulled up. She only moved upwards an inch, but it was an inch closer to freedom. "Erin!" Kendra cried. "You did it."

"Of course, I did," came the reply.

"Just hold on tight and I'll pull myself out."

Kendra strained with her muscles, trying to pull herself both upwards and forwards. It was difficult work. She was already tired from fighting the thick mud, and it clung to her body, making her muscles feel heavier. It was agony trying to fight the bog, and yet she couldn't give in now, not when she actually had a chance to escape.

Her face trembled as if she were trapped in a freezer as she fought to pull herself upward. The mud felt like an oatmeal glue about her and clearly resisted her efforts to extract herself. Yet Kendra was determined that she was going to free herself. She had never wanted anything so badly in her life and no damn mud was going to beat her.

Time lost meaning as she waged her battle against the quagmire, silent except for her heavy breathing and the slurping suction of the mud against her body. As she fought to free herself, Erin was forgotten and all that she could think of was the feeling of the mud against her nearly naked body and the aching of her muscles.

Persistence began to pay off, however, and Kendra soon found her shoulders breaking the surface of the mud, the thick, blackish ooze sliding in clump downwards where it reintegrated with the larger morass. She was now able to look towards the ground and was surprised at just how close she had been to a dry patch of land. The quagmire she was in couldn't be that large at all. Erin was no more than three feet away.

"Don't let go," she wheezed to Erin, who was holding onto the branch with uncharacteristic seriousness.

Erin didn't reply, but continued gritting her teeth as Kendra pulled against her.

Kendra pulled herself along the branch toward the ground. Her breasts broke the surface of the mud, but the outside air could not touch them, coated as they were in an inch thick layer of mud. She recalled that she was mostly naked and wondered how Erin would react to that. However, a moment later she decided she didn't really give a damn at this point.

Bending forward, she felt her legs rising towards the surface and began to wriggle, snake-like, towards Erin. Her hand flailed at the shore, snatching up handfuls of leaves. At last they dug into solid earth and she began pulling herself forward again. Her posterior slid out of the bog with a wet squelch and she sighed with relief.

"You lost your clothes!" Erin squealed, giggling nervously.

"You haven't lost your mastery of the obvious, have you Erin," replied Kendra, breathing heavily, clumps of mud dripping from her body onto the ground.

"What was it like, huh? You said it was sorta fun, right? Are you gonna ever do that again? Are you? Are you gonna walk around naked all day? Was that fun? Can I do that too? Wait till I tell my mom! Wow, I rescued you, didn't I? I'm a hero, huh? How did you get in there in the first place?" asked Erin without stopping to take a breath.

Wearily, Kendra stood on her feet, still trembling with exhaustion and fear at her close escape. She looked down at Erin and considered how she had rescued her. Then she considered how she had run off, leading to this little adventure.

Placing a bemired hand on the girl's shoulder, Kendra said, "I owe you a lot, Erin."

Erin beamed up at her.

Kendra pushed her forward, and Erin let out a tiny squeal as she slipped into the loose mud.

"Wow!" cried Erin. "This IS fun! Whee!"

Kendra grimaced and wondered just how deep she would let Erin go before pulling her out.

Or even if she should pull her out at all.

Kendra busied herself looking for some way to cover her mud-caked form while she let Erin splash about behind her for a few more moments. Interspersed among the reeds were tall shoots of a bamboo-like plant with sprays of white, fleecy seed-tufts. These came away in billowy handfuls, conveniently sticking to the gluey mud coating her body. There were enough of these plants in this hedge of reeds to completely cover herself.

"I'm going to look like Big Foot when this is over," she muttered. But it was better than the alternative. She would have to drag Erin out of the mud and send her back to camp to get one of the counselors.

Kendra came to herself abruptly when she realized she had become so absorbed in her task that she had forgotten about Erin.

"Hey Erin!" she called toward the wall of reeds that separated her from the mud pit. "Are you done playing in the mud yet?"

No answer.

"Erin!" Kendra called again, agitation gripping her voice. "Answer me, creep!"

The hollow was silent.

"Oh my God...!" Kendra dove through the reeds, scraping half the white fleece from herself as she tumbled to the edge of the pit. The deadly pool stretched out before her, its surface a smooth pond of mud except for the single churned path her struggling body had made across its center from the opposite end to where she now stood.

"Erin!!" she screamed at the pit, ready to jump in again to rescue her charge. Where had she shoved the girl? There, to the left! But... but...

The surface of the mud was completely undisturbed. Not even a footprint to suggest that anyone other than Kendra had struggled in its grip.


Her thoughts raced, driven by the doubled beating of her heart. But her flying thoughts lighted on nothing. She couldn't make sense of it. There was no sign of Erin's plunge into the mud. Absolutely no evidence that the girl had ever stood at the edge of the pit, laughing at her counselor and impudently dropping the tree branch on her head in a pantomime of rescue.

The tree branch. It was still lying at the edge of the pit, just to the right of Kendra's churned exit point. She did not want to admit to herself why, but she looked up, above the pit, at the branches of the tree that shaded this entire hollow. Looked up into the wooden arms that stretched across the air above her. Looked up to see one of them abruptly foreshortened, broken just above her, at a width that matched the end of the limb lying atop the mud.

Her mouth tried to form the words that would possibly make sense of this incredible scene. There was no sign of Erin's plunge into the mud. No sign that Erin had ever stood at the soft edge of the pit, struggling to pull at one end of the rescuing branch. The branch that so obviously had fallen down from the canopy above her... when? Days, weeks, months ago?

Or today, only minutes ago? To land on top of her head as she cried for help.



Kendra stood at the edge of the pit, trembling, more scared than she had been when her chin had touched the surface of the mud.

And then, a voice...

"Kenn-eeeeeee....! Hey, Kenn-eeeeee...!!"

Kendra jumped, the shock almost tossing her back into the pit.


Driven by nervous energy and adrenaline, Kendra crashed through the reeds and undergrowth toward the sound of Erin's voice. Above the noise of her progress came the long peal of a car horn, and a louder, deeper voice yelling her name...


...joined by the smaller, higher voice...


... and the repeated metallic notes of the car horn echoing through the valley.

Kendra burst through the foliage onto the dirt road, half covered in white fleecy seed tufts, breathing in ragged gasps and staring at the sheriff's deputy who was staring right back at her in shocked surprise.

And standing there beside him was Erin, her summer Scout uniform without a single dark smudge, her shoes without a hint of caked mud.

"Oh my God... my God... Erin... Erin..." was all Kendra could say as the three of them stood in the middle of the dirt road, each staring at the other with equal surprise.

"Wow, Kennie!" exclaimed Erin. "Look at YOU!"

The deputy turned and reached into the back seat of his car, pulling out a long overcoat. He quickly had it around Kendra's shoulders and draped over her shivering body. Kendra pulled it tightly around her until her knuckles grew white with strain.

"You look like you've had time in there, Miss. The little girl and I have been looking for you for hours".

Kendra stared at Erin, who just stared back. Something was strange. Something about Erin's hair...

"Braids..." Kendra whispered.

The deputy looked at her oddly. "Excuse me, Miss?"

Kendra was staring at Erin's hair. Long and blond, it tumbled down over the young girl's shoulders in dusty clumps. She remembered back, only the few minutes ago that now seemed like days, to the blond girl who had pulled with all her strength at the other end of a broken tree branch. A girl in a summer Scout uniform similar, but now obviously quite different from Erin's. A girl with two long braids of blond hair that Kendra remembered seeing dance around her shoulders as she pulled at the opposite end of the branch.

"Erin... that wasn't you..."

Erin looked puzzled. The deputy looked alarmed.

"Is there somebody else back in that marsh?"

"Ugh, yes... No... Oh my God, I don't know..."

The deputy turned to Erin. "Get in the car, honey. I have to talk to miss Kendra here for a moment".

Hearing the concern in the man's voice, and with uncharacteristic obedience, Erin did what she was told.

The deputy put a hand on Kendra's arm, as if he were trying to steady the trembling that had taken over the girl's body. Wrapped tightly in the overcoat, she still felt chilled all the way to her heart.

"What did you see back there in the marsh, Miss?" he asked.

Kendra described everything that had happened. How she had been searching for Erin in the hollow of the valley, come upon the mud pit in the marsh, and had almost drowned. She described the girl she had thought was Erin, who had teased her as she pulled her out of the mud. She paused in her story, then admitted how she had spitefully pushed the girl into the mud as revenge for what Erin had put her through. But there was no girl. The mud's surface was undisturbed beside Kendra's churned path. And only her own bare footprints marked the soft, muddy edge of the pit. It was as though the tree branch had fallen on its own, and had by itself somehow pulled her from the mud. It was as though the girl with the blond braids and peculiarly different uniform had never been there at all.

The deputy listened to her story without the slightest sign of disbelief. When she had finished, he slowly shook his head, his eyes never leaving Kendra's.

"Annie Norris..." he said.

Kendra stared back at him, her expression a wordless question.

"The girl you described was little Anne Norris. She went hiking alone in that valley over thirty years ago. When she didn't come back to camp, they went out searching for her. All they found was her beret lying on top of a mud pit deep in the middle of the marsh..."

And so, Campers...

When the moon has set, and the crickets have all stopped chirping, and the valley is as silent as a grave, they say you can still hear the voice of Annie Norris calling... calling... calling from deep within the marsh....


Copyright 1996 Kaol and Foster

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This page created on August 16, 1997

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