FictionRants & Raves

Wolf Like Me

Well, I suppose I ought to publish some actual fiction, since that’s mostly what I do… the following short story appeared in Route by ARQ PRESS, along with some other amazing poems and short stories. You can purchase it by clicking the link.

Arq is an amazing small press–PLEASE SUPPORT THEM!

The books are also available at POWELL’S IN PORTLAND!!!

 

WOLF LIKE ME

She didn’t like her options.

This is what you get for going cross-country, she thought.

If she went down toward the creek it would be possible to stay hidden in the foliage, but if there was a deadfall or a place where the water narrowed it could become a trap.

On the other hand there was a real chance she’d be seen on the ridge, and if he couldn’t see her he could practically smell her up there, wind coming from the southwest over the top and down into the canyon.

But there she’d be able to move more quickly. Run and scramble. And even if he did see her up above she might even have a chance to outrun him, though she had no certainty of that.

After a few more moments to consider she picked a path to the left that ran north and up toward the top. The trees thinned as she went, but in some ways that was an advantage; down low the scrubby little alders and close-knit pines constantly dug at her thin jacket—thank God she went with the green one—and brown hiking boots. If she’d been in her orange jacket… well she wasn’t.

Keep moving.

The path became more rocky as the slope steepened and then disappeared altogether. But now it was easy to pick her way past the odd clusters of pines. She sprinted between them like a hobbit, remembering their flight from the Nazgul, Weathertop to Rivendell, using them as a screen to stay hidden.

She was different like that.

Part of her always wondered if she’d just done it to rebel and part of her knew that that was exactly right (the lip and nose piercings—the tattoos), but there were other reasons too. For one, she didn’t want kids. Why would anyone want to be a mom for crying out loud? They could have a girl that turned out like, well, her—and there were worse options, like a boy who grew up to become a maniac chasing women through Mt. Hood National Forest…

Focus. She told herself. Focus damnit.

Before the trees ended she ducked behind a large cluster and peered out to the southeast, scanning left and then right.

Shit.

She could see him moving through the brush down below and behind her. He was well off in the distance—choosing to bull his way through the middle between the ridge and the creek—but she was impressed at how quickly he moved despite the heavy brush.

And terrified.

Move, she thought, and as fast and silently as possible she broke into a lunging dash, leaping along as she stretched from rock to rock, legs pumping and pulling her forward.

She didn’t look back but after a few beats she heard him quicken the pace. Faster, faster, faster, ripping through the brush. She thought she heard him call out but it whatever he was saying was inaudible.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!

Up ahead she saw the trail again and shortly beyond the parking lot opening up past a ring of Douglas Fir. Reaching the trail, she accelerated to full speed. She used to be able to run a sub sixty 400—not good enough to get a scholarship but good enough to win league. Good enough now too, she thought as she gained the parking lot, stopping her momentum as she reached the door of her car. She dug in her pocket for her keys and—and—and—where the fuck were they?

Damnit what an idiot! Of all the times—

“Hey,” she heard him call. “Hey!”

She checked her left jacket pocket again while peering through the window to see if she’d locked them in her car.

“Hey, you—”

In a panic she screamed and began running toward the freeway. The only chance she had was to hail a car.
“Hey—come back—”

She was almost there. 50 yards.

20.

10.

“Hey!” she felt something tug at her arm from behind. She turned violently and whipped her fist at his face, but he stopped short, ducked, and put his hands up, “Hey! Whoa, chill out!” he smiled, then dug into his pocket: “Are these your keys?”

For a moment it didn’t register and she continued backing toward the road until a car passing in the right hand lane nearly hit her, honking its horn as it sped away.

She stepped back and diagonally—now safely on the shoulder and away from the stranger. He was still holding out her keys. “Yeah,” she admitted, then reached forward to snatch them out of his hand.

But something still didn’t sit well with her. Her eyes narrowed—that was it: “Why the hell were you chasing me then?”

He grinned. “I wanted to keep hiking, you know,” he motioned back behind them, “up the canyon,” then to spell it out more clearly, “I was hoping to catch you earlier.”

“Jesus Christ,” she blew out her breath. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“What the hell?” he joked. “Did you think I was a serial killer or something?”

“You’re a large man running through the forest after me? What the hell was I supposed to think?”

“True. True,” he held up his hands again. “But I swear I just wanted to give you your keys.”

“Thanks,” she managed. He was probably a perfectly nice guy, but… better safe than sorry. “Well, thanks, I guess. See you later,” she waved, trotting quickly to her car.

***

“No problem,” he replied.

She was cute! He’d always had a thing for nose rings and women with tattoos. For a moment he thought to ask her if she wanted to get a beer or coffee or something, but the way she was hurrying away made it impossible.

Ahhhh… it’d be so nice to meet women in real life, he thought. But it was hard. They were all so flighty and skittish and skeptical; a generation more comfortable staring at a screen than looking someone in the eye.

He began to walk to his car. For a moment he thought about resuming the hike, but he’d been at least two and a half miles up the canyon when he saw the keys glistening on a rock just past where you had to jump the creek to get to the other side of the trail—well, such as it was.

He was actually surprised to see anyone because about a quarter of a mile up the main trail, he cut cross-country through the brush on the west side of the creek, the main trail crossing to the east and then halfway up the opposite side. Apparently she’d done the same thing because they passed a half mile earlier, exchanging polite smiles and sidling past each other.

When he saw the keys he knew they must be hers and turned around immediately, but it was slow going through the brush. He was only hoping to catch her sooner, but apparently he’d spooked her. He hadn’t thought about it from her perspective, but it made some sense.

Some… Oh well. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.

He grabbed his keys out of his pocket, unlocked his car door and sat down. After tearing ass through two plus miles of brush he was worn out and figured he’d grab a burger and a beer at a brew pub a few miles down the mountain.

Pulling out of the parking lot, he turned on his phone and checked his messages and notifications.

A new match!

He clicked on the app and began to turn at the same time, but didn’t see the logging truck barreling up the hill in the right lane.

There was a loud tearing sound of metal on metal, the powerful blow throwing his head sideways against the window and then he was spinning across the road and his vision went black.

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