I originally wrote this story for a weekly challenge called #BlogBattle and hosted by Rachael Ritchey. Though I don’t participate every week, the ones I do play a part in garner some comments to my writing, which is always helpful.
I did some camping, hiking, climbing action in my youth, either with my older Brother or Sister, or both, so draw from those experiences to pen some of my stories.
So, as this is the third time I’ve used this story for a group post type of deal, I’ll just get it posted and let others decide if it is worthy of the Haunt Jaunts theme.
(c) 2016 By John T. M. Herres
Look at it, just swinging there. Like it’s offering a fun time, just like children have.
He had a hard time accepting the sight, as it looked so incongruous.
He hiked all day through the National Forest, backpack loaded with provisions for a week, and had seen nothing strange. Until now.
He trudged the thickest parts of the woods, where very few signs of humans showed. He didn’t like the paths that other people followed, as there would always be residue of sorts that they had passed. In the rough, most people knew how to keep their evidence to a minimum.
He knew his journey’s end as only a point on a map. While planning, he tried to find areas that had not been overused, and didn’t lead to vacation highlights, solitude his main destination.
The hour had drawn late. Only about an hour before sundown, and the forecast predicted many colors caught in the multi-layered cloud formations. He wanted the camp set up in time to watch it. At least to see the colors through the canopies above.
As the sun neared its Grand Finale, he found a clearing just right. Flat, above the highest waterline of the stream trickling next to it.
A dark ring scarred the last place a fire burned, but had dimmed to a bare shadow from being weathered for several, if not many, years.
He found it when he walked the perimeter. Somehow, the rope looked brand new, though by all signs, his were the first feet to tread here for a long time.
Nevertheless, there it hung. It didn’t dangle over the water nor did it have a seat. Just a rope tied to a high branch.
The sunset grew ever nearer, so he decided he’d ignore it for the time being. He felt reasonably sure it would still be there later.
Tent assembly took little time or effort, as it advertised correctly a five-minute set-up. Pack tossed in, he set about gathering rocks for the fire border and twigs for kindling.
He sat leaning against a log and munched on an energy bar as the sky transitioned from blue to orange to red. After he rested a bit, he would make the fire and boil some water for the dehydrated meal.
The crickets and frogs sang a disjointed melody as he got the sticks to catch fire, then took his flashlight to see about the rope again. It could come in handy if he could get high enough to get a fair amount of it.
It had disappeared. He had the spot right, that stack of stones hadn’t moved. The rope had.
He shone the light around slowly, to see if maybe he did get it wrong. He saw a flash as he scanned. The rope hung in a tree directly across the water. He had not crossed the brook, but the rope somehow had.
Though he felt he could go over and get it, he knew it would be easier in the daylight. He returned to the camp, ate and prepared for sleep.
The pattering on the sides of the tent woke him to a slight morning rain.
He pulled on his boots and jacket, not bothering with getting fully dressed, and went out for the morning duties. Starting with prepping the coffee percolator and finishing with brushing his teeth, he rose to head back and felt something brush his hair. Thinking it a branch or a spider web, he flung his arm above to move it.
The rope had moved again, and sported a crude noose. It tightened around his elbow, then began raising him off his feet.
He had dropped everything, snatched at the loop around his arm as he lifted himself on his toes before being hoisted more.
He couldn’t quite grasp the coils, for he knew if he could, he had the strength to climb above and untie it from the branch.
A presence wrapped around his ankles, though he couldn’t see it, he felt it. Pulling him opposite the rope above, straining the joints of his upper arm.
He tightened his muscles, head to toe, trying to force his way out of the grasp he could not see, and climb higher to escape the noose on his elbow.
Unable to free himself, he could feel the tendons in his shoulder stretching past hurting into excruciating pain, then give completely with a tearing feeling that ripped a howling yell from him.
His eyes tearing over, he felt himself being lowered, as if causing him immense pain and irreparable harm had been the goal. His legs would not hold him, so when he lay fully on the ground, he slipped the knot loose and removed himself from its confines.
He pulled himself back to his tent, where he had a never-used satellite phone for emergencies. Glad that he made sure it had both a charge and current service before each trip, he turned it on with one-handed awkwardness.
He hit the emergency number, but before he heard it ring, he felt the noose yank against his throat, pulling him backwards and into the air.
With his good hand, he scraped and clawed at the offending obstacle, gouging his skin with his short nails, breaking them on the twine that felt like banded steel.
His vision blurred, splitting into two or more images of the same thing; the pot of coffee was ready.