I pulled over onto the shoulder in the storm. Pike Pass was dangerous in fair weather. With limited visibility through sheets of pelting rain, I didn’t want to find myself swerving and flipping down a cliff to die. My parents lived just another mile up. No rush. Pulling over was wise. Safe.
Fate always seems to give you gifts you’ll hate.
When the rain stopped, my car was buried to the frame in mud. When I tried to rock it out, the wheels pitted themselves further.
It wasn’t far; I’d walk. Knowing the direction to head should save me some time. I’d bypass some distance by forging a path through the trees.
The darkness brought by the rain never did leave. As I went, twilight began to take hold, painting the canopy of branches above into sinister reaching outlines. Before very long, it was fully night. I hiked these woods, even camped here as a kid, I knew the direction to my childhood home by following the grade of the upward slope. I knew by sense of direction that bordered on preternatural.
I knew I was going the right way. It was less than a mile.
Why hadn’t I made it there?
A deer shifted its head above a line of undergrowth and spotted me. It darted swiftly past, hoofs landing softly on leaves and twigs as it rushed someplace in the direction I’d come. An owl hooted in the brooding dark. Then, the entire wood fell silent. Air didn’t howl through branches and crickets didn’t chirp. A single sound came to me in the eerie void of noise–footfalls. Far too clumsily made to be caused by something that belonged out here between the trees; beneath the lonesome stars in this quiet. It was a man. Another man in the dark.
Aside from me, no person had reason to be in these woods in the dark after heavy rain.
When I ran, the other man followed suit.
I ran until my lungs burned and my heart pumped magma. I must have run for 15 minutes without stop. Skirting trunks. Leaping fallen logs.
Where was the house?
Just as I was about to abandon hope, I spotted a light through the trees and was revitalized with vigor.
In moments I made it to the door.
“Mom!” I shouted, “Dad! Let me in! Someone’s out here!” I pounded until my mother answered.
“You look like the devil’s after you,” she said.
I pushed past and slammed the door, locking the bolt.
The knocking began moments later.
Someone shouted, “Mom! Dad! Let me in! Someone’s out here with me!” in my voice from the other side of the door.
There was a knock at the back entrance. There was knocking on windows and walls. My voice surrounded us and pleaded “let me in!”
I remained quiet as all around an impossibly sinister chorus used my identy and sang lies from every side.
I could feel the mountain laugh as rainstorms began anew.