Haunted Terrain Park
by Pat A Physics
Fir trees were turning and vanishing through the sides of my head.Â My sled
was off the ground some of the time, but when on the ground, it gripped the
snow securely.Â The azure sky was cloudless and I was wondering if I had time
for another climb up the mountain.Â Laetitia told me that if I was late that
I could have no more time alone for the rest of the week.Â She was serious
and it was a risk that I couldn’t take.Â I bent my head down even more.Â The
hissing of my sled against the snow increased in volume.Â I focused on the
sound and started day dreaming about rockets.
When I came to, a park ranger was seconds before me with a bright orange flag.
“Have you seen an old lady in the woods, son?”Â he asked when I stopped.
“No sir, I haven’t seen anyone up there,”Â I took off my goggles and began
defogging them.Â “Well, be careful to look for her.Â You had better get going-
it is getting late.Â Here, use this walkie-talkie,” he threw me a phone which
I caught and immediately hammered on the Morse code button.Â “Turn it into
the Red Cross when you get to the base.”Â “Alright.”Â I ran and shoved off
back on my course.
I looked at the phone as I coasted through a dense patch of trees.
There was no way that Laetitia was going to let me go skiing tomorrow,
unless I found this old woman.Â I began scanning the forest with intent.
Some deer, a rabbit, no humans.Â The whole feeling of this run had changed,
now it was as if I had a purpose, as if I were some sort of spy.Â I didn’t
like spies as much as astronauts.Â It would be incredible if I could somehow
win the lottery and buy a ticket into space.
I started to slow down as I came out of my reverie to glance behind some rocks.
There she was!Â It struck me so hard to see her that I kind of yelped, “Hey!”
I jumped off my sled, dragging it behind me.Â But it was not her.Â It was a mass
of yellowed lichens that had formed a sort of face on a jagged piece of rock
with snow clinging to it like hair.Â An old lady was lost up here?Â She must
have gotten lost.Â She was probably dead.Â Fear stuck its pins and needles
into my follicles.Â The morbid images flooded into my brain.Â For some reason,
I pictured a half exposed skeleton with tufts of gray hair and gigantic dentures.
Then I tried to put it all out of my head as I sped away down the incline.Â There
was no use in this.Â I clinched my teeth. I wasn’t going to find anything.
I had let Laetitia know I was ok.Â This was ruining my vacation.Â There
wasn’t anything wrong not too long ago, and now I was upset.
I looked at the phone.Â “Are you there?”Â I said into the receiver before
I knew what I was doing.Â “… wouldn’t worry, son, she isn’t dangerous.”
It was the ranger.Â “What is she doing up here?”Â Now that I had this
communicator, there were answers.Â We were going to clear this up.
“She was- zzzst- was last seen climbing this way.Â We don’t know know why,
yet.” This guy didn’t know anything.Â What kind of wild goose chase was I on?
“Well, do you know what she looks like?”Â There was nothing for a long time.
I hit the receiver and then,Â “…should be close.Â Her face is made out of
yellowed lichens *zzzst* and she has snow for hair- zzzst!”
I stopped my sled with a skid and looked around wildly through the falling
snow that I had scraped up with my maneuver.Â Night was falling.Â The guy
was watching me.Â He was following, and I had to be careful, now.Â Who was
this psycho? “Who are you?”Â “Zzzst- Paul, you are not far from where you
saw her. Go back *zzzst* and give me your location- zzzst.”Â My mouth had
run dry. I could feel sweat running down my back.Â I knelt down in the snow
and watched the trees sway for a moment.Â Should I cry for help?Â How far
away was I.Â Night was coming fast.Â I was shaking and feeling a little sick.
“That was a rock, not a woman!Â How do you know my name?Â What is going on
here?”Â There was nothing but dead air.
My heart was pounding in my ears, I had to get out of here.Â I heard the
sound of a snow mobile and I sprinted.Â I flung myself onto the sled and
hurtled with my chin touching on my handlebars.Â He was not going to catch me.
I was tempted to yell curse words into the receiver, but I was smart enough
to sublimate that energy into my descent.Â Soon I could hear the motor
blasting and I knew that I would be overtaken.Â Would he try to ram me or
run me into a tree?Â I was crying.Â The tears made it difficult to navigate.
I blinked them out and took a deep breath.Â The motor steadily went on for
the rest of the way down the mountain.Â We made good time.Â I was surprised.
The trees cleared up and I could see the rec park and people.Â The sound of
the motor was gone.
“Paul!Â You idiot!Â Where the fuck were you?Â It isÂ eight o’clock- what the
fuck, man?”Â Laetitia was there at the ski racks pointing her finger at me.
I ran up to her dragging my sled and gave her a hug.Â I sobbed into her belly.
“No, you aren’t going to cry your way out of this one.”Â She knelt down and
looked me in the face.Â She took in my fear and her expression changed.
“Paul… Paul what’s wrong?”Â I stopped crying and reached into my ski bib
for the walkie talkie.Â I pulled it out and told her the story.Â She
looked at the phone and switched it on.Â “Hello?”Â The walkie talkie did
not work anymore.Â I went to the Red Cross and told them my story.Â A man
there nodded and apologized.Â “We are sorry, Paul.Â We are going to find
him.Â He won’t bother you anymore.Â He’s been harassing people all day.
He knew your name because of Laetitia.Â We were told to look for you.”
“But what about the lichens on the rock.”Â “That I don’t know.”
Haunted Terrain Park