She pulled the backpack over her shoulders with a grunt; heavy but not so much that she wouldn’t keep a good pace. She put the pods in her ears and, as she got out of the house silently, she pressed the play button of her smartphone. One of her favourite songs started, a good rhythm to set the pace.
She cast a last glance to the house they were renting for the holidays; she would come back changed. She knew that: her father said it was likely. She was looking forward to it. It was the first time she was going hiking without her parents, without anybody really. It was a two-day hike she’d planned with her father’s help; the map was in the left-side pocket of her bag with the compass.
She walked the couple of hundred meters that separated the house from the trail. She’d scheduled to leave this early for two reasons: first, it would give her more day time, second, her mother wouldn’t smother her and try to prevent her from going. She’d been hesitant about this; something about the mountains. She’d grown up here until she was 8 and her father got a job in the city. Jen and her dad looked it up: two girls disappeared on the trail a few weeks before Mr. and Mrs. Morris moved out and once a decade before, one came back totally disoriented and how her girlfriend had fallen to her death. Sadly such accidents happened to untrained hikers, such as the girls were.
In the end, they were long ago memories that had turned into superstitions in her mother’s head. Still even if nothing had happened in 30 years, Jen promised to be careful and she took her phone anyway.
Said phone remained close by because she expected to find some beautiful scenery to photograph. She hoped to fill her portfolio for her photography class starting next term; she was excited at the prospect, and having some sort of work to present to the teacher would be nice. For fear of losing it – and mindful of its weight – she hadn’t brought her full frame DSLR. She almost regretted it when she reached the first panorama… it was gorgeous. Such a treat to enjoy it on her own. Catching her breath – the slope was steeper than she’d imagined – she drank.
Soon though she felt she no longer walked by herself. There were noises ahead and behind her; some hikers who had camped at night most probably. They strode purposefully and seemed to walk a lot faster than she was: men certainly. And used to the trails she could tell. In fact, less than an hour later, she did cross path with two guys who’d hiked the trail for two days. They chatted a moment: they started their trek where she was ending hers. Told her to ensure she slept with her clothes on at the peak if she made camp there: the nights were cold still. No more ice though, last month thaw had left the path clear and nice.
Some time later she wondered why she still heard their steps. She checked the time: she parted from the guys an hour ago. If she was walking 4.5km/hr and they 7km/hr – highly likely since they were taller than her – there would be more than 10km between them; she shouldn’t hear them anymore. Unless there was someone behind her… Oh well. She didn’t really care: the place was magnificent, the scenery amazing. She truly should have brought her DSLR.
Around 2pm, she found a spot a little bit remote from the path in the shade: it had a circle surrounded by stones for fire. Here a few meters away from the trail and hidden from the sun, the temperature was at least 5C cooler. And the forest seemed a lot darker than it was. Another fascinating effect of sunlight. But here, as she sat, she heard some whispers… she shook her head. The wind in the foliage of course. It was easy to get superstitious in that space that seemed between day and twilight – even though it was afternoon – where the leaves seemed to whine as they rustled together.
She picked up her backpack once more, when something brushed past her. She wheeled around. Nothing. She shrugged. And walked away. She’d been back on the trail for half an hour when she saw her. Ahead of her, a woman stood, her face dark with dirt and mud, as if she’d fallen.
“Are you ok?” She called.
The woman didn’t answer, turned away and disappeared. What the hell?
Well it turned out she hadn’t disappeared; the path started downwards. But still Jen couldn’t see her. She felt cold suddenly and turned. Screamed. The woman pushed her backwards. She fell.
She came to, lying on her back. Her head hurt a little; she sat down. Dizziness made her nauseous. “Slowly, slowly,” she admonished herself. She looked at her hands: scratched slightly, where the girl tried to stop her fall. There was a black case next to her knee; she picked it up. She searched the girl’s memory: smartphone. The screen was broken but it still worked. She stood. Broken ankle: then no more.
She rummaged through the meat suit’s memories and thoughts. A three day hike, ok. She could do that. She picked up the phone, put the pods back into her ears. Just as she went on, she pressed the play button. And laughed when the song ‘Possession’ started.
Finally, after two failed attempts, she could leave that forsaken place. She might even find the one who banished her here.
In réponse to the Daily Post writing prompt Hike