Friday, May 19, 2006

Alone In The Grove - Part 1

It was turning out to be the perfect day. Chris stood still for a few moments, drinking in the lush, green landscape of the forest surrounding her. Her bike was straddled between her legs, legs that were tingling from the length she’d ridden already that day.

It had been a fleeting idea that had turned into something grand.

“Why not take a vacation and bike to Illinois for Stitches Midwest?” The comment had been left on her blog, mostly as a joke she was sure, but the idea had true merit. Chaos hadn’t agreed, but after receiving promises of copious amounts of tuna, kisses and SRMs upon her return, he had given her his permission to leave.

And so she had, three days prior. Everything had fallen into a wonderful rhythm; bike from first light until just before dusk, while away the nights knitting and enjoying the deep sleep that only comes from being thoroughly exhausted, wake the next morning to do it all over again. The weather had been perfect all the way, warm sun, mild temperatures, no rain and a cool breeze to refresh her whenever it tickled across her face.

She pulled out her map and considered it for a long moment, tracing the back road that she was on, the one that had led her deep into the picturesque wood. If she continued on it, it would lead her straight into Midlothian, where she could stop for the night. The ride would take her the remainder of the day, the road seemed to snake through the woods, as if it was a sightseeing trail more than a thoroughfare.

Once the map was tucked safely away she continued on, iPod playing in her ears, the dulcet tones of Hanson urging her on. “Mmmbop bawah do wop…” How she loved that song.*

A few miles down the road she slowed to a stop, pulling out her map once more. The road in front of her rather abruptly forked to the right and left. She wondered, for a moment, why she hadn’t seen the divide before, but the road to the right was there, large as day. Where the main road winded through the woods, the street to the right went straight through, passing through a place called Bachelor’s Grove before rejoining the main road and heading straight into Midlothian. She could cut hours off of her trip and actually have an afternoon to relax, let her legs rest up, before she reached Stitches.

Grinning, she took the right road and continued on her way, eager to get into town. There were a pair of socks she could finish knitting with the extra time and she was impatient to get started.

The road was obviously less traveled, with potholes and broken pavement, but she couldn’t imagine why. It seemed silly to take such a long road when a perfectly good shorter one was there.

But a mile or so down she realized why it was the road less traveled. A huge fence had been built, with gates blocking the road. Only the gates had been forced open, creating a space large enough for a grown person to walk through. She walked her bike up and hesitated for a long moment, looking from the gates to the road that had brought her there. She could go back, take the longer road and just hope that she reached her final destination in time to get a little rest. But she allure of being able to relax that night was impossible to ignore and, against her better judgment, she pushed her bike through the gate before continuing on. The gates were probably only there to keep hunters out.

She told herself that the forest only seemed darker because she technically wasn’t supposed to be there, that the feeling of eyes watching her was just paranoia, and perhaps a few curious possums or deer hidden out of her sight. Tugging her earbuds out, she frowned at the stillness, the silence that seemed so heavy around her. The road was overgrown at parts and the ride became rough, as if the road itself was trying to discourage her from continuing on.

Just as she’d made her choice to turn around, take the safe and smoother path, the road flattened, her bike tires humming audibly in the silence. Weeds grew so high on either side of the path that they were bowed over, hiding the ground from sight. She started to slow, but the ground sloped downward suddenly and her bike sped up. “Hey!” She yelled and clenched both of the brakes, but the bike still gained speed.

She saw it all in a strange, clichéd sort of slow motion. The weeds blocking her path parted around a large object speeding towards her. The front wheel hit it with such force that the bike flipped into the air, throwing her off. She didn’t even yell, the whole thing seemed far too unreal. That is, until the ground came rushing up so eagerly to meet her. She thought for a moment that she was going to land on her feet, and in a way she did. Her right foot hit the ground at an awkward angle and her ankle crumpled with a sudden flash of pain that radiated along her body as the rest of her landed, the force pushing all the air out of her chest.

For a few moments she laid there, struggling for breath, her mind reeling from shock and pain. Finally she pushed herself up with shaking hands, checking herself over for damage. Both hands were scuffed up, her cheek felt swollen, her knees were bloody and she was positive her ankle was sprained, if not broken completely. “Shit… shit!” She yelled angrily and turned to glare at the object that had caused the collision.

It was a tombstone. She was sitting in the middle of a cemetery.


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