Nikki had hiked for hours certain the trail had been just ahead of her, but it was no use. She was lost. The sound of the river had been her guide and now she heard nothing but the crunching of leaves and twigs under her hiking boots and the blood pounding in her ears. Haunting evergreens with branches at odd angles towered over her like giants. She checked her cell again, but still didn’t have service. “Damn it!” A flash of lightning followed by thunder rang out through the canyon. Her water bottle was emptied hours ago. She felt the hair on the back of her neck rise in warning. Just behind her she heard rustling in the underbrush.
She began to run and stumbled, but caught her balance before falling. Nikki looked back over her shoulder and whatever it was, gained speed and was closing in. The sight of a flickering light which danced through the dense thicket gave her hope and she sprinted faster. The blisters on her heels opened up, but she forced her way through the pain. As she approached, she could see the light which seemed to pulsate through the small window of an old shack.
She ran up to the door and banged. “Please, let me in!”
With an aching thirst and fear of what lurked behind her, Nikki turned the door handle, spun around and slammed the door shut. She was overwhelmed by an unfamiliar acrid smell. She turned and gazed around the small cabin. Some kind of meat was cooking on a spit over an ancient-looking stone fireplace which cast a warm glow in the mid-evil room. The floor was covered with a sticky substance and a stench filled her nostrils. She drew closer to an old plank table filled with bowls of all sizes and a huge iron pot.
As she leaned over to peer inside she felt someone take hold of her arm from behind and moan. She screamed and searched for a weapon to defend herself. She grasped a brass candlestick and swung her head around. To her amazement she gazed upon a handsome man who let go of her and raised his arms to protect himself.
She dropped the candlestick which clanged to the floor and stepped backwards.
“I, I am sorry. I’m Nikki. Who are you?”
The tall man swiped long dark curls out of his eyes and began using sign language.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
There was a thud on the roof and a howl. The man scrambled across the room. He picked up a torch leaning against the wall and lit it in the fireplace. Nikki heard several heavy footsteps up above. Then she heard it jump to the ground and then strike the front door.
The man swung the door open and groaned while waving the torch around.
He came back inside and bolted the door shut.
He ran across the room and snatched a notebook and pencil from a blue frame pack.
He wrote something down on the pad and showed it to her.
“My name is Kevin and I am mute. Where did you come from?”
“Denver. I came to hike for the day. I started early this morning, but got turned around and lost the trail. The trees are so unusual. I didn’t recognize the mountains in the distance before the sun set. Where are we?”
He scribbled again.
“I have no idea. I have been lost for over three years now. Every time I’ve tried to escape, I ended up back at this cabin.”
“What was that thing?”
“I have never seen it, but it is as real as you and me.”
As she read the notebook, the window flew open on its wrought iron hinges and a cold gust blew into the small room extinguishing the fire. Complete darkness engulfed her. She reached out and said, “Kevin?”
A bony hand as cold as ice clutched her wrist and she screamed, “AAAHHHHHH!”
When was the last time you were truly frightened?
Photo by S. Lindau