Beyond the Western
She had heard it and now she felt it. Something or someone was focusing on her. A cold chill worked its way up her spine to the back of her neck. She felt the hairs stand on end. A sudden shiver of fear came and went as she stood frozen in place. What had she heard? She wasn’t quite sure.
Candice Crowley was hiking the last section of the Overlook trail. It had taken a sudden drop down under a thick canopy of fir trees. It blocked out what was left of the days low hanging sun. The sudden darkness had come on too quickly and she wasn’t prepared.
According to the map she carried, the next camp stop was still a quarter mile away. A tactical flashlight/stun gun combo hung from her backpack. It was readily accessible but that didn’t help her now. She only thought of it now that she might need it. She kicked herself for not having it in hand. Now, any sudden move might bring whatever was out there down on her.
Decisions needed to be made, and made quickly.
Candice was an outdoors person. Always had been. She camped and hiked with her family as a kid and continued to enjoy it throughout her adult life, usually by herself. She liked it that way. Nice and quiet. Time to reflect while enjoying the natural beauty that surrounded her.
Learning survival skills played a big part in her life. She knew how important they were especially when a person was out on their own, which is why she was being so hard on herself right now. She knew better.
She decided to move. Slowly reaching behind her hoping to find the flashlight that was hanging from her pack. No luck. It was out of reach. The backpack would have to come off. Even in the cool night air, sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead.
Eyes straining to pierce the darkness. Ears straining to hear any little noise. Muscles tense and twitching. Nerves ready to unravel. How did she want to remove it? Slow and deliberate right where she stood? Slowly stoop low to the ground and then remove it? Slowly step off the trail first; or just do it in one swift motion and hope for the best?
Whatever she was going to do, it needed to be done sooner than later.
Without giving it another thought, she whipped off her backpack as fast as she could. It wasn’t fast enough. Before she reached the stun gun, whatever was out there swiftly pounced on her.
She screamed and lashed out kicking and thrashing her arms as furiously as she knew how. Whatever it was suddenly jumped back. There was silence. A light came on. A man holding night vision goggles stood before her.
He was bent over in pain and holding his side. He lifted his head and looked at Candice. “I’m a cougar and you’re dead. Damn, I think you might have broken a rib.”
Candice was still trying to catch her breath. “Freddy, you bastard. You’re lucky I didn’t get to my stun gun.”
“No, you’re lucky, Lucky to be alive. This survival class is all about keeping you that way. You made a crucial mistake. One that could have cost you your life.”
“Well you made one as well, and it may have cost you a rib,” replied Candice.
“Let’s get to camp and talk about how we both could have done this better.”
They walked the last quarter mile in silence. Candice reflecting on her mistakes and Freddy reflecting on his sore ribs.
© Copyright 2020 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.