A Stop in the Woods
Jersey Pines Ink 11/18/2022
An Anthology of 37 short stories by 36 authors
Forests! Swamps! Stumpy trees!
Throw in some moss, mushrooms
and a ghost or two.
Join us for a walk in the woods,
if you dare.
He handed her a bottle of water. Carina took it and drank half the contents before laying back on the stump and closing her eyes. Jared took deep breaths to control his impatience. If he approached her the wrong way then she’d insist she’d be fine where she was until morning. He knew better. She would be pissed if he took her at her word and continued on. Women. He would never understand them.
He had no alternative, not if he had any hope of convincing her to share a sleeping bag later. Despite the shortage of time and their need to get to their destination, they were going to stop. Right here, right now.
“We must have gone miles and miles and miles already.” Her voice had that ugly edge he disliked. “Can’t we just call rideshare or something? This isn’t fun anymore.”
He’d believed it a good idea to get out of town for a weekend where they were away from social media and the influence of so much electronic stimulation. He was delighted when she approved of the outing.
“We’re close.” He gazed toward the direction the compass pointed. He pulled out his cell, but as before, it didn’t register any bars. The campsite had a tower, and he should be able to get a signal there. Until then, he was stuck. “If we go now, we’ll be there in no time and I can set up the tent. I’ve even got wine for when we are settled.”
His words elicited nothing more than a sigh from her. Jared’s hands twitched as he strived to keep calm.
The leaves near them rustled, like a creature was moving under their feet. Carina’s eyes flew open, but she didn’t move from the tree stump. Her decaying perch was damp, but she didn’t notice. She must have been tired indeed to get her favorite hiking pants dirty with moss and dirt.
“What was that?” She sat up, squinting at the sun that came in from the trees far above them.
He glanced around without interest. “There’s lots of wildlife in the woods. It didn’t sound big, like a cat or a bear. It might be a chipmunk, or a vole.”
“Vole? What the heck is that?”
She was gearing up for a fight. It had been a mistake to suggest camping. He wasn’t sure why she had decided to come.
“Looks like a mouse but with bigger teeth. Maybe it’s not a vole. They don’t hang out in forests. Anyway, it’s not dangerous. This wouldn’t be a problem at the campsite. There are bathrooms there, and paved areas. You can use your cell there.” Jared picked up his pack.
The rustle came again, louder this time, and closer. Carina let out a squeak, akin to what he imagined a vole would sound like. Her gaze darted about, and she shuddered. When something squeaked, she emitted a similar high-pitched shriek.
“There’s the noise again. What the fuck is a vole, Jared? What the fuck is a vole?”