Even though the sun was now down behind the tree line, sweat beaded at my temples and ran down my back. The weight from the full sled pulled on my arms. Every rock on the ground jarred the wooden poles and radiated up my arms. I was beginning to lose the feeling in my fingers, but I had to go on. It only strengthened my resolve.
The trail along the water bank took a sharp turn and headed up a slight incline. I stopped at the bottom, looking up the twenty or so feet that I had to pull my unconscious ward up. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”
The light was nearly gone and the path up the hill was narrow. The right side of the trail dropped away sharply as the left side met a wall of hard dirt and debris on the other side. There would be no room for error. If for some reason one of the poles of the sled slipped off the side of the trail, Chris would fall into the swift moving river and I would be unable to save him.
“Ok. I can do this. I can do this.” I spoke to myself, but it didn’t help my nerves from taking me over. My arms shook as I took the first steps up the hill, pulling with all my strength on the sled. “You need to lose some weight, Chris. This would be so much easier if you were one hundred and fifty pounds lighter.”
My breath came in heavy puffs and my injured leg threatened to give out. Rocks crumbled away from the weight of the sled on the edge of the trail. I didn’t want to look back, fearing that if I stopped moving up the hill for even a split second, my momentum would be lost and I wouldn’t be able to pull it the rest of the way up the hill.
Step by step we ascended, the light all but gone by the time my feet touched the sold trail at the top of the incline. I carefully set the sled down in the dirt and dropped to my knees and rolled onto my back to catch my breath. Even in the dim light I recognized The Midnight Trail. It was twice as wide as the sled and smooth enough to pull it easily. I couldn’t help but laugh from the joy of finding my way back to something familiar.
I swung my backpack off my back and pulled a bottle of water from the inside, taking a large swig of the cool liquid. There was still a long way back to the parking area, but at least I knew where I was. Stuffing the bottle back inside my pack, I rummaged around the bottom for the head mounted flashlight that I had taken from Chris’s pack. Placing it snugly over my head, I turned on the light to illuminate the trail.
It was bright in the nearly dark world around me. The trail was clear as it cut through the night like a beacon of hope. “Well, buddy. It’s going to be a long night. We should probably get going.”
I spoke to Chris like he could speak back to me, but it was the only thing keeping me from freaking out in the silence of the forest. Lifting the poles back up to my waist, I set off again into the night, but I didn’t make ten steps before the quiet was pierced with a long howl off in the distance. My heart began to race and my hands were shaking as I listened. The howl was followed by a growl that was closer. Something was out there and I didn’t know what it was.
What is in the forest and do you think it’s coming for Shelby and Chris? Make sure you come back next week to find out if our characters will survive The Midnight Trail.