I intentionally didn’t finish this story. Most of the stories I share on my blog are snippets of conversations and situations you might witness at the grocery, a bus stop, or in a waiting room, offered for you to complete in your head, the way you naturally fill in the blanks when you overhear part of a conversation or see people interact. But since some of you asked for more, I’ll take you a little deeper into the woods.
Read the first part here: Broad Daylight
Maybe you drifted off, sun-dazzled as the blood crusted around the thin scratches and wounds on your legs.
You tilt your head back to confirm the sun has fallen significantly. Three more hours of daylight?
Still tangled at the ankles, you begin pulling thorn from thread.
You don’t have to explain to me: these are not small rose thorns, shaped like raptor beaks. These stubborn, icepick thorns average an inch, pierce deeply and protect each other. As soon as you free yourself from one, its brother attacks from a different angle.
You scoot back in increments as you remove the thorns, aware of the light falling behind you.
Is it the change in light or the close-up experience with thorny bushes? You gaze across the expanse of thorn and understand they are less green, brown almost. So you target the greener undergrowth and move west, west, northwest, until you can head north, then east.
The stiff branches of the friendlier shrubs reinjure your wounds, but you’re numb to the pain now and more aware of the dropping temperatures.
The Clearing and the Cabin
Then, like turning the page of a fairytale, the world opens up: the clearing—flanked on the south by a wall of forest and thorns—and the old cabin.
I was right there three hours ago, so close.
You approach the cabin in the middle of the clearing, looking for signs of human intervention. Paths cut through the high grasses and weeds toward the pond on the east side. Deer? Racoons? A big bad wolf?
“Hello?” in case someone is waiting inside.
You make the corner and spy a stack of wood close to the door. A tangle of vines and weeds surround it, but how long since it was touched?
“Hello?” A board in the single riser to the door cracks under your weight. Ear against the door, hand on the rusty handle, “Hello?”
Gently at first then with force, you turn the handle, push the door, and tumble into the dark room. You scramble to stand, bumping your head against a wooden table. Your eyes adjust to the dim, single room.
Apple on the table, unexpected warmth from the faint glow of embers in the fireplace.
You’re alone, but for how long?
360 turn to refresh your memory. No place to hide. Not even a cabinet. Just the fireplace, the table, a chair, a bundle of bedding in one corner, and in the other corner… is that a spinning wheel?
You back up to the warmth of the fireplace and stare at the apple. You’re starving. You remember your backpack—you thought this through—and the food you packed, probably crushed from the fall.
You drop your backpack at your feet, turn to warm your hands, and begin rethinking your plan.
Who was here? Was it him? Is the cabin safe?
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023