Robin de Voh
there's never enough stories

Nanoprep 2021 Day 3: On the Trail

By Robin de Voh on 2021-10-06

It was the 3rd day of his first long hiking trip ever. He'd started in a little town and was following a mostly well-marked trail. Wild camping was allowed in the area, so he'd been enjoying the sunsets from the comfort of his tent. The nights were soft and rain-free, so he slept without the rainfly on, just the mesh inner tent. The first night he'd seen the stars a little, since he wasn't that far away from town, but last night, the second night, all of the stars in the sky just popped. He'd been amazed. And so were the two other campers that had set up their tents near him.

He enjoyed the stars every time he woke up -- he thought he just hadn't adjusted to sleeping on the trail yet -- because he kept having nightmares. He usually didn't have many nightmares, but maybe he was just really tired. It was his first long distance hiking trail, and it probably didn't help he'd run out of water earlier in the day, due to his water filter breaking. He eventually fell into a deeper sleep though.

Until he woke up early in the morning, earlier than intended. He had heard a sound he hadn't expected, which shook him awake suddenly. He noticed his tent was open partly. He'd groggily got up and looked around, but he couldn't see anything.

But then he saw it. And then he ran.

He'd left his tent, his backpack, even his shoes. He was running on his sleeping socks on the grass alongside the gravel path he normally would have walked, but he couldn't stop. Something in him was pressing him to keep moving.

His mind raced over all the scenarios he could come up with. Had it been a bear? He had put up his bear bag in the tree last night, so that would have been unlikely to attract any. Was it a human? No, not that shape, right?

He almost tripped over a branch, but managed to keep his momentum going forward instead of down. In the distance he could see the second town just off the trail he was supposed to follow. It wasn't big, but it was safety to him. He had intended to go here today regardless, to finally get more water. He pumped himself up and pushed his strained muscles to keep it up.

With decisive steps, he ran until he reached the first building, a farmhouse. He knocked on the first door he could find, but there was no response. He looked behind him.

He'd been running for an hour. He hadn't looked back once. His fear had been so immediate that he fully assumed he was being chased, and only now, that he had stopped running, he dared take the time to look back.

It wasn't there.

He breathed in deep and exhaled almost deeper. His shoulders relaxed a little but not fully.

Even though he hadn't been chased here, what he'd seen this morning had been fucked up regardless. One of the tents of the other campers was just completely gone. He couldn't see it anywhere. That was weird, but okay, maybe they just left really early in the morning.

Then he noticed their trekking poles were still there. Hikers forgot their poles often enough, so maybe that's fine, he thought, but then he noticed the tree the trekking poles were leaning against was covered in something that, honestly, he could only describe matter-of-factly as blood. It was blood. It was obviously blood.

Then he saw the other mesh tent, also covered in blood. And a number of long gashes in it, from top to bottom, five of them. Claw marks, it seemed to him.

And then it had stumbled into view. Inhuman movement, long and gangly limbs, too far away and in the shadows to make out clearly. But he was certain it had claws on its hand. That had been enough to flip the panic switch in his brain.

Remembering this, he shivered. He walked away from the farmhouse, back to the road into town, and started towards the town center. Even if he wasn't being followed, he wanted to be in the safety of whatever crowd this small town could muster. He wrung his fingers together and noticed something.

He looked down and saw his hands were covered in blood.

"Fuck," he said to himself as he tried to jump away from his own hands.

Some townsfolk by now had noticed him, and had come out of town to meet him.

"Mister, are you okay?" one asked him.
"Your hands... What happened?" another asked him.

A third one was at a distance, making a phone call but looking at him with a worried look on their face.

"I think I did something bad," he said, as he slumped to the ground.

The first person looked at him, sized him up, and then asked "Are you planning on doing anything bad to us?"

"No," he weakly said.
"Good," the person said, turning to the person not on the phone. "Get some water, this man is dangerously dehydrated."
"Police is on their way," the third person said.