Story A Day September: Day 5

So, today’s prompt was to write a character like you. It’s funny, because I can see similarities to me in a lot of the characters I write, but when I try to do it intentionally, it becomes rather fraught. I’m not super happy with this story, although I’m happy I managed a happy-for-me ending.

The unnamed main character of this story has certain commonalities with me (I sometimes trail run, although never alone and I do have rather stupid fears about running into bears or other large animals in the woods (even though I have and nothing happened). She reacts to her situation with an inner strength I would like to think I might manage.

******

Running To/Running From

Her feet came down on the packed earth one after the other. Her eyes scanned the path in front of her for rocks and roots. It was so easy to trip and being alone this far out in the woods, there was not likely to be someone else down the trail any time soon.

She had been running for forty-five minutes and hadn’t seen anyone yet.

She ran with a small fear, vague but gnawing, that she would fall and hurt herself or be confronted by an angry or protective bear. She kept herself entertained by playing out the scenarios in her head. If she had a plan, it couldn’t be too bad when it happened. (She also held onto a tiny irrational belief that, if she imagined something, if she thought through the details, it could not possibly happen, at least not in that way.)

She could, of course, have avoided the fear entirely by running in the city, but that seemed like a failure. To give in. To not do something that plenty of other people did just out of her own weirdness.

It felt like a unique personal failing, so she did it. Even the people who knew her best were not privy to her fears and failings.

She wasn’t really good at talking to people, if she was honest.

It was uphill now, steep, and she slowed down. She wanted to pace herself. She hadn’t turned around yet and there was no point in reaching exhaustion before she got back to her car.

She walked up and sipped from her water bottle as she did so.

She came to the top and paused for the view. She was not yet at where she would turn back, but this was the highest point she would reach and it was beautiful. It looked down on a wooded valley, thick and green and lush. Canadian Shield rock poked out of the soil and grass and ground cover and she went to sit down.

The rock was warm from the sun and she stretched out her legs. She pulled an energy gel out of her pocket and ate it while she relaxed. The whole run was worth it just for this place, this moment.

When she rose and her foot went down on the small, loose rocks, she did not have any fear. There was no time for anything other than a brief frisson of shock and she fell, sliding, down the steep sunlit side of the hill, hitting her head and mercifully losing consciousness sooner rather than later.

It was dark when she woke, groggy and confused. It was cold now and she was shaking. She could hear the noises of the animals the dark hid.

What she wanted most to do was go to sleep, but she had a vague idea that was a bad idea. Concussions or something like that.

She knew the area so well, but she had never been there at night, not in the dark, and this part was far from the trails she normally ran. The trees were dense overhead and she had no idea where she was or what direction she ought to travel in.

She wanted to sit down and cry if she couldn’t sleep.

So dark.

Her water bottle was gone, she thought pointlessly, as she pulled herself to her feet.

She hurt all over, but she didn’t think anything was broken or bleeding. Or at least not bleeding badly.

Her ankle was sore as she began to walk, but she persevered regardless, going slowly but not allowing herself to stop.

She could not tell how long she had been walking when she noticed that the sky had begun to lighten. She took the opportunity to briefly pause and look around her. She did not recognize the place and there was no clear trail. She was walking through the clearest places and hoping.

The rustling sounds that she had heard all night were lessening now.

She took a deep breath and continued on.

Hungry and thirsty and beginning to wonder what she should do about that, a louder noise came to her from the direction she was heading. She stopped and for the first time since the fall, the fear in her belly returned.

Wolf or bear or even fox.

She listened.

It sounded like steps, she tried to convince herself.

Maybe.

She moved forward as slowly as she could with her bruised body.

And there was a path.

And down a slight hill, heading away from her, two people with hiking sticks and Tilley hats and a large dog loping beside them.

“Hey!” she called, although her voice was raw and her throat dry. It wasn’t loud and they didn’t give any indication they had heard her.

“Hello!” she tried again, a bit louder now.

It was the dog who turned her head, saw her, and gave a sharp bark.

She felt tears coming to her eyes as the people turned, looks of curiosity turning into concern as they saw her.

And then she let go, feeling her knees buckle as she fell to the soft earth.

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