The Old Logging Road
Neither of the men share a single word as they bumble up Fricker Drive through the pouring rain. At first Dallas was enjoying the sensation – down in Florida (in the rare event his Grandmother was asleep and he could sneak outside and experience it), every rainstorm that wasn’t a full blown tropical hurricane felt like a warm, steamy shower – but up here in the Jersey jungle, it’s cold. It was nice at first, but the novelty’s worn off. Dallas is definitely going to be sick tomorrow.
If he makes it to tomorrow, that is. After all, Dallas is blindly following a stranger up the backwoods road he used to live on, a stranger whose house he broke into, an unhinged stranger armed with a breakable glass bottle. All Dallas has is a dusty coaster.
At the top of the steep hill at the back end of Fricker, the bottle toting man goes left and starts across the saturated lawn between the street and the algae-laden pond. Dallas follows. When they’re halfway across the concrete path running alongside said pond, Dallas finally speaks up.
“Excuse me, Sir?”
No answer. He probably just didn’t hear, the rain is pouring pretty hard.
Still nothing. Dallas looks to the pond, then back at the man. He’s not that big, if Dallas got him by surprise he could probably shove him into the water. That’d give him plenty of time to get back to his car and drive away forever… but let’s be honest, Dallas doesn’t want it to come to that. Dallas doesn’t like violence, he doesn’t even like thinking about violence. So he tries again, this time tapping the man on the shoulder, the right shoulder, the one with the bottle gripped below it.
“Hey man, hold up. I have a couple questions.”
The man holds up, but he doesn’t turn around. “What? Speak loudly, I can hardly hear you.”
Dallas hustles in front of the man, thinking it’ll help him hear better. It probably won’t, as the man’s hood is plastered to his head from the rain, but now that he’s up front, it would be dumb if he jogged back around. “Well first, what’s your name?”
The man blinks. “Hilter Odolf Williamson. I have a question for you, too: how well do you know the trails back here?”
“Uhh… well enough, I guess,” Dallas guesses. “Where are we going?”
“Somewhere I’ve never been to before, but I have it on good authority that the place does exist. Somewhere back along the old logging road there’s a junction that’s rather muddy – if you follow it one way it’ll take you to the Wanaque Reservoir, and if you follow it the other it will take you to a ratty wooden shack with a door made of plywood. From what I understand, it’s quite easy to miss the turn if you’re coming back from the reservoir in a hurry. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
A blank look is all Dallas can muster. Raindrops pour down his cheeks in deep rivers. “I didn’t know there was an old logging road back here, Mister Williamson.”
Hilter blinks again, three times in rapid succession. “It’s just another name for the wide trail, this one right ahead of us.”
Dallas turns and looks into the forest. The low branches of the trees give the mouth of the trail the appearance of a luscious green cavern. “Oh, you mean the quadding trail. Yeah, sorry, I should have known. Nothing else leads to the res’. I think I know the turn you’re talking about.”
“Good. If it’s not obvious to me, you’ll have to point it out. Remember, we don’t want to go to the reservoir, we want to go the other way. The way to the old ratty shack.” Hilter then resumes his plunge into the drenched forest.
“What’s at the ratty shack, Mister Williamson?” No answer. “Do you think my brother’s dagger is really out there?” Again, no answer. Dallas jogs to catch up, then falls into pace with Hilter.
They march past the heads of the trails which zig and zag back and forth through the shallower parts of the forest. They carefully march down the rocky hill, trying not to twist their ankles on the abundance of loose rocks. At the bottom of this rocky hill are three trailheads, two of them much wider than the third. Dallas suggests the rightmost, as the left leads back to Stonetown Road.
The rightmost trail is excruciatingly muddy, as muddy as the hill was rocky, muddier even. Dallas said this is a quadding trail, and that explanation will have to do – the ATVs tear up the forest with their tires, converting well-walked trails into impassable pits of mud which will eventually turn into ponds like the bend they just trailblazed around. Eventually, Hilter imagines, when enough time has passed and enough rain has fallen, these quad trails will become ruts through which rivers flow. That’s all well and good, just as long as they find the ratty shack before it happens.
Both men are covered in mud up to their shins by the time they come to the junction. Dallas doesn’t need to point it out to Hilter, but he does anyway. Hilter ignores him. Pulling down his hood so he can think clearly, Hilter surveys the area – the left bend of the junction is a pool of thick, brown water, while the right is rocky enough to walk through without having to dip off the trail.
“We should go right, correct?” Hilter asks without turning to face Dallas. Dallas hears him clearly, as the rain is much quieter in the woods what with the canopy catching the drops and all.
“Yep. You want me to go first?”
Hilter answers by proceeding over the slick, mossy rocks. He almost loses his footing a few times, eight times to be specific, but he manages to cross the steppingstones without breaking his legs. Dallas follows suit, albeit much more gracefully. They continue along the old logging road, neither party making mention of the thick track running down the center of the trail, a track reminiscent of the shallow rut left behind from the dragging of a body bundled up in blankets and duct tape. Dallas doesn’t notice it – he keeps his eyes on Hilter, just in case the dude decides to turn around and bring that bottle down on his head – but Hilter does, and Hilter knows exactly what made that track. He once saw the serpentine creature in a dream, and though it was under the surface of some cloudy water and he couldn’t get a good look at it, he’d very much like to never see it again.
This last stretch of the old logging road is fairly flat and solid. Dallas and Hilter walk side by side up until the very end, where they both stop in unison. Standing in a clearing twenty feet ahead of them is the ratty wooden shack.
Hello Commons, this has been the sixth subchapter of the fourteenth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~