First I see the smoke rising, the smoke from a chimney of a cold spring morning. I want to run, but I can’t, physically can’t, I crawl. Exhausted. Dehydrated. Starved. Alone. Will I make it?
Five days earlier…
I jolt awake as my alarm goes off. 4:30 am. I grab my breakfast, a light one, only a piece of toast and coffee. I quickly dress, grab my pack, and drive to Ron’s house. We have been preparing for this for months. On the car ride to the mountain we talk about how excited we are for this. We pull into the parking lot at the bottom of the trail. We add layers and double check our packs. The plan is to only be here for three days. We start on the trail, crunching over the fallen leaves of early autumn. The trail is twenty-five miles long, it’s somewhat steep and when taking the wrong path it can be rocky and treacherous.
We hiked seven miles the first day, and set up camp in the designated area. My muscles are sore, I’m tired, and need sleep. Ron starts the fire while I search for wood. We cook hotdogs and beans, a classic over the fire meal. We relax by the fire and talk for three hours, just talking about random things. After a while we decide to head to bed. I sleep like a rock and wake to the sound of birds chirping. Ron and I grab a quick granola bar for breakfast and head for the trails. We take the path marked “Greensburrough.” As we start something runs across the path and into the thick brush. It startles me but we just continue on. After four miles we reach a jagged cliff with a small path that wraps around the side of the mountain, and I realize that we took the wrong path.
There is no going back now, but trying to walk across this thin ledge is not a great option either. But we take the path. Ron goes ahead of me, he carefully shuffles. We get about half a mile doing this, and we can see the normal path. Ron places a foot and the rocks crumble beneath us, almost the whole shelf falls. As I freefall my arms scrape against the cliff looking for something to hold. I find a lip and hold on for my life. I then reach for Ron. He grabs me and reaches for the same lip. We have nowhere to go.
We start to slide across the ledge barely holding on. We go slowly, and I can feel my arms getting tired. When we reach the normal path Ron pulls himself up and then reaches to pull me up. We crumble to the ground too shocked to do anything. After that we decide to hike on until we find a place to set up camp for the night. I don’t remember much after that. As soon as the tent was ready I passed out. I wake up to russling outside. It’s the middle of the night. I open the flap and see an extremely tall figure scatter away. I couldn’t see exactly what it was but it wasn’t human. I look around and take in everything. Ron is nowhere to be seen and all of our stuff is gone. A loud scream comes from the woods. A sharp tortured scream. It’s Ron. I run towards the sound. Terrified of the figure I just saw. As I run I step in something. Squish. I look down to find the last thing I want to see. It’s Ron, but it’s not really him. It’s a dismembered, mutilated version of Ron. I barely have time to grieve before I hear footsteps headed in my direction. And I can make out a large figure. I run. I leave everything and just run.
In the night I trip over branches, rocks, and roots. I twist my ankles and scrape my knees, but I can’t stop, there’s something behind me. The same thing that killed Ron. After a few miles I lose the thing, but I still can’t stop not until I am safe. I run ten miles before the aches in my body force me to stop. I check my watch and it’s about 1:00 pm. I’m tired and hungry, with no shelter, no food, and most importantly no water. I Don’t even know where I am. I find a tree to rest under and drift asleep. I have nightmares about that thing. After many hours the pain in my stomach wakes me. I’m so thirsty. I check and see that it’s 9:27 am, I’ve been asleep for twenty hours. I start walking, very slowly. Every now and then I hear a weird half scream half cry. After a couple hours I come across a trail, Greensborrough trail. I’m relieved, iI might get out of here. I continue on, the sun slowly decends and night falls. But I still keep moving. Night seems to last forever, and the noises get louder. The sunrises. I don’t know how much farther I can make it, but I can’t stop. I start to crawl. That’s when I see it, the clearing.
Then there’s smoke from a chimney. I push myself, crawling faster. I reach the front door, and scream. I need someone to answer. Then the lock turns, the door opens, and a very tall man steps out.
To be continued...