Tonight begins my annual Halloween fiction series. I endeavor to keep all stories family friendly for your enjoyment. The series will run for as long as I am inspired but should end by Halloween night.
The sign read “Do Not Leave The Trail” as the day hiker strode cheerfully into the dense Appalachian forest. He did his best to avoid snapping twigs or scuffing his boots in the dirt. That would be a sure way to frighten wildlife he might encounter. In his day pack he carried the basics. An optimist first aid kit, water purification pills, a decent hatchet and Swiss Army Knife as well as string, wire and plenty of snacks. His plans were only to knock out a few miles and get some fresh air so he felt a little over prepared but he didn’t want to look out of place if bumped into another hiker on the trail. After a while he began to take some pictures with his cellphone. There was plenty of plants and strange insects to identify later when he had a network signal. The trail led past a cliff and even though it wasn’t particularly high it was on a steep embankment and offered a great view of the mist covered valley below. He decided to get a better look and dropped his pack at the base of a huge hemlock tree for better balance on the edge of the cliff. It was only a few feet off the trail and the bright colors of the pack would be a visual anchor to lead him back to trail. The edge of the cliff was on a slight downhill grade and it gave him butterflies in his stomach as he scooted on his butt towards the precipice. He quickly figured out that if he wanted the best shot he’d have to stand and when he did he felt an acorn rolling under the tread of his boot just prior to his ankle rolling slightly. The next thing he remembered was looking up as the edge of cliff moved away from him in slow motion along with the sensation of falling. When he came to the light was beginning to fade. He’d been unconscious all day. He first slowly moved his arms and there was no pain. He tried to move his left leg and it seemed to okay. But when he tried to move his right leg the was a sharp pain in his calf. He carefully angled his head to find a stick that was slightly larger than an arrow shaft had penetrated his leg. One of boughs that had broken his fall had a twig sharp enough to go through his leg. Instinctively he placed a hand on his forehead and found his face was covered in dried blood. As far as a survival situation goes this was about as bad as it gets. He noticed that his phone had landed within reach. He picked it up and other than the cracked screen it seemed to working. Unfortunately he was also outside of the signal range. He powered the phone down to conserve battery. The air was really cold and getting colder when he saw the white deer step out of bushes. He struggled to get a good look at it but he was really weak from the fall and began to pass out. His eyes fluttered and then there was a brilliant white light and the next thing he noticed was the old work boots step into view. When he came to he was bound to a frame and heard the steady sounds of footfalls in dry leaves. A young man’s voice told him to be still or he’d start bleeding again. The hiker had no choice but to be still because he was lashed to a primitive travois. He could do nothing but stare at the clear night sky as the youth drug him along. Still weak from the loss of blood the hiker soon lost consciousness again.
Wen he came to he was in a hand built one room cabin on a timber frame bed. The only light came from the fireplace on one side of the room. The light was enough to reveal the beautiful Appalachian pattern quilts that hung on each wall. They were as much for insulation as they were decor. He could smell a stew that was simmering in a cast iron pot in the low flames and from somewhere outside the cabin a fiddle softly drone out an old gospel tune. The music stopped suddenly and he could hear those work boots move towards the door. The door opened to reveal a boy. He couldn’t have been any older than twelve. He was ungroomed but otherwise clean. He held his fiddle and bow in one hand and closed the door. Without a word he placed the fiddle on a hand hewn dinner table next to an antique carbide head lamp. The boy stepped over to the pot and with a carved wooden ladle dipped out some broth into a blue ceramic mug. As he offered the broth to hiker he explained that it was bone broth with wild herbs that would help him heal. The hiker thought about the day pack up on the mountain trail somewhere with it’s payload of energy drinks and protein bars. Then he remembered the antibiotic ointments and what they would do for his injuries. He asked the boy if he would please go back to trail and retrieve the pack but the boy just smiled coyly and said “Thems herbs will fix ya up just fine. Pa swears by ’em”. With that the boy the boy stood up and opened the door. A bluetick hound trotted inside and crawled into the bed next to hiker. The boy spoke again, “Rex here will keep you cozy and watch over you all night. If you need anything just holler. I’ll be right outside. The boy closed and latched the door and once again the heavy sound of work boots walking on the wooden floor could be heard. The boy began to play his fiddle softly again and when the music started Rex thumped his tail on the bed about three times and he and hiker drifted off to sleep again.
Well Friends, that concudes part 1 of this year’s Halloween story. Until tomorrow night thank you for spending time with me and be blessed throughout your days.
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