TALES OF THE MISSING TRAVELERS
The sun was shining through the evergreens like fairy dust glittering the tops of the wet trees. It dusted the trails making today feel a little more special. It was the perfect day for a hike. A determination had crept in Becky’s young mind, and there would be no going back now. The hike was long, but there were plenty of places to stop on the Old Oak Trail.
Becky put her long dark blonde hair in a knot on top of her head and then bent over to tie her shoe for the twelfth time today.
The sun beat down on her back as she took out a water bottle and gulped down a sip hard and fast.
Becky used the porta-potty and then lathered her hands with Purell. She jogged towards the trail and stopped. Her car was in the parking lot. If she left now, she could go home, shower, go on that date she canceled last minute. Becky’s unwavering fear of rejection made her return to the woods and continue on the planned six-mile hike.
Nature was relaxing; there were no obligations except the ones she put upon herself at this moment.
The air was fresher up here than down by the river. The stagnant rainwater was a mosquito breeding ground and smelled like shit in the beating sun. Even now, in late March, the smallest hint of hot air bringing the temperature close to sixty gave those little bastards life. Becky thought it was odd that on this gorgeous day, there were no other hikers, runners, or photographers, as you often found in the Cuyahoga region.
Still, she kept on moving towards Riverview rd. There was a dip where the trees got darker, and she took off her sunglasses so she could see better.
Whatever fears brought her here today regarding the world around her didn’t give her a reason to go back into the city where all the people lived like those that had hurt Becky.
It was two weeks since Becky had found out Jessie was going behind her back and sleeping with her boyfriend, Matt. Becky kept thinking about how Matt had been the safe kind. He was a nerd who hung out at cosplay conventions for Star Wars. She would never have guessed that he was the type who liked to be treated in the manner by no less a woman in full BDSM garb. The animated texts she found discussing their illicit encounters proved otherwise. Matt wore ball gags and smiled for kinky photos that Jessie had taken on her phone.
Becky’s best friend, Jessie, had always been sexually adventurous. She had threesomes with guys and girls all the time. She had taught Becky how to kiss when they were in the ninth grade.
“It’s easy, Becky. You just put your lips together and then open them slightly and touch tongues.”
“How?” Becky giggled.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake Becky like this,” she had put her lips to Becky’s and opening her mouth, pushing her tongue up against Becky’s until she opened wide enough to let her tongue slide inside. Her mouth was soft, her lips full and tasted like cherries. Becky recalled losing herself as she swirled her tongue gently against hers, and she heard Jessie breathing heavily from her nose as she stopped abruptly and tapped her nose with her index finger. “See, wasn’t that easy?”
“Yeah,” Becky stammered, trying to understand what had just happened.
“So when Beau kisses you, that’s what you do with him.”
It had always been easy for Jessie. It had made Becky feel jealous. Even when Becky found the texts Jessie had sent to Matt confronting her, she didn’t deny it. Instead, she claimed she was only helping her friend out. Becky detested her now, thinking about how gross she was. Jessie was selfish, cruel, and unfeeling, and Becky was done with her for good. She was done with Matt too. How could they both hurt her like that? Becky had lots of opportunities to cheat on Matt, and she thought as she stomped her way up the muddy trail. She chose not to cheat because she loved Matt and thought he loved her too. The things Jessie liked to do and Matt had let her. Becky looked down, realizing her jeans and hiking boots had become covered in cold mud. Becky was angry as she tried to tear her mind from the pain of losing two people she loved. Yet, the violation was stuck in her mind now. She had trusted them both. Grief broke in, and she struggled to begin to feel anything other than the sadness she felt.
Becky didn’t believe she would ever find someone again, not like the version of Matt he had presented to her. Matt was the first guy she had ever been in all manner of speaking. Matt was the first guy ever to tell her he loved her.
Jessie was still Becky’s roommate until the end of the month, and then Becky would be living over her parent’s garage again. Becky had decided that was not going to be an option at twenty-eight, and it meant going backward in life, not forward.
The beautiful scenery all around her made her realize that today was perfect. The weather was warmer, and the sun was shining. Not a soul was in sight; it was a day not like any other.
You see, today Becky would kill herself. She would never have to look back upon her life and continue those pent up regrets.
Overall, life for Becky had been pretty shitty. She lived most of her life in the shadow of her successful parents. They owned a famous club called Charlie’s, that hosted entertainers, musicians and the like. They had people from all walks of life come from far and wide to Charlie’s. It wasn’t the life a shy introverted girl like Becky had ever wanted to be a part of. They had always encouraged her to do better, to be better, and with their encouragement, it cast a dark shadow over Becky.
Becky wasn’t her parents, no matter how hard she tried. She had moved out and taken on an internship at a design firm outside of Cleveland. Adele’s Emporium was known for its prestige and its clientele. Jessie was Adele’s niece, and both girls, sharing a love of the arts and interior design, took on the role effortlessly.
Sadly, for Becky, when the friendship ended, so did her internship. Jessie made sure of it. Jessie was spiteful when Becky first accused her of cheating with Matt. A casualty of the ended friendship was Adele having to let Becky go.
“I’m so sorry, you have more talent than Jessie, but being family, I have no choice but to let you go. I’ll make sure you have excellent references.” Adele had said in as empathetic a tone as one could muster.
Becky hadn’t told her parents about her disgrace.because, according to them, it would be her fault for not being more assertive. Becky did not fight her.
She came upon a rock that she could sit on for a spell and rest. She closed her eyes as she took in the air. There was a silent breeze making her wish she had had other days like this in her life. Why couldn’t life be simple? The modern age that most of us lived in was so saturated by social media, quick fixes, and guys who had lost their honor. They no longer cared about being gentleman she thought still fixated on all the guys she had dated on tinder since Matt. It made her hopelessness feel all-encompassing and made her feel as though there was nothing to look forward to in her life. Becky resigned that she was alone and always would be alone. She was an old fashioned girl living in the wrong century.
Becky looked around her and felt comfortable enough to take out her makeshift suicide kit, which was a book bag filled with the supplies she would need to end her life. In her book bag were a large rope, a folding stool (one of those you’d find at a Five and Below store), and a first aid kit in case things went awry. It pleased Becky how easily the stool folded into her back for carrying and convenience. She should rate it five stars online. Becky chuckled to herself, thinking about what the reason could be. “Fits great in a suicide kit!”
Becky looked around and searched for a spot in the woods that was safe from prying eyes. If she were going to kill herself, she would instead do it without someone coming along and stopping her. There was a silence in the woods that she wasn’t expecting. The quiet spot she had chosen was almost too quiet. Her thoughts were as loud as the forest was now silent. The birds had stopped chirping, and the emptiness of even the wind gave her an uneasy feeling that she felt someone or something watching her. The paranoia she was now feeling was no doubt her questioning her decision to end her life.
Not going through with it wasn’t even an option. She looked around and decided that there was a quiet spot not far from what looked like a mini cave. Becky walked closer to it and realized there was a large rock under a medium-sized oak with a perfect outstretched branch. It was perfect for climbing up and hanging up her rope.
Becky used the footstool to balance her other leg as she checked for the sturdiness of the thick tree branch. She managed to wrap the rope around the branch and tied it in a perfect knot that she had learned from girl scouts as a pre-teen.
Becky stood up, tying the knot into a noose that she could adjust as she slid her neck in between the rope. She finished stepping back to the ground and then looked around. Becky removed her jacket so that her neck would be more revealed to the tight rope and shivered from her body’s temperature change.
She stuck her neck inside the noose and began to tighten it around her neck as she stood on the tiny stool. She took a deep breath, unsure of how it would feel about dying. She had not thought of that at all. What if it was too painful? What if it took too long? Maybe she should have stolen her mother’s pain pills and made it easier. She couldn’t take a chance though of someone finding her. If she jumped off quickly, maybe her neck would snap rapidly enough that she would go in the blink of an eye.
Becky closed her eyes, and she looked up at the branch and then stood up to the stool, and as she did, she realized there was suddenly a breeze that seemed to blow in like a mini cyclone all around her. Dead leaves rose from the muddy ground. It caused the stool to wobble, and she lost her balance. The stool disappeared from her footing as the noose wrapped around her neck in a painful razor-sharp sting. It was happening too quickly, and she wasn’t ready for it yet. Panic now stirred inside of her. She was unable to breathe, making her see stars as the pain set in around her neck. The wind blew again, covering her eyes in dirt and hitting against her skin with jab after tiny jab. Becky grabbed the rope, trying to lift herself from it so that she could get to the tree branch. She tried to prop her leg on to the tree to walk up, but she wasn’t able to reach it. She swung again, losing her grip on the noose as she was unable to lift her body.
That is when she saw him.
A tall black shadow loomed in front of her. He was tall, and all you could see where the white of his illuminated eyes. He stepped closer to her expressionless as she realized there were two other figures behind him. He was nearly eight feet tall and had a slightly menacing expression upon his shadowy face. Behind him, Becky managed to make out a swirling of smoke that they appeared to be coming from. Directly behind them, it was as if she were watching herself travel backward in time. She could see horses and tee-pees. Was this a reenactment? Somehow she knew that it wasn’t. She became afraid of the figures as the one in the center became closer to her.
He was slow, and his pace was almost like that of a floating ghost. He had a darkness about his gaze that made Becky wish she were already dead so she could escape his gaze. He was terrifying as he floated up towards her.
When he got closer, she was able to make out his features of a Native American Indian. The tunnel swirled around her and him, and she struggled with the lack of oxygen. Was this a hallucination? Becky closed her eyes, and then she felt him grab her from the waist and pick her up, and she felt the air go back into her lungs slowly as the stranger cut her down. She felt one of her shoes fall off as he did as if she had loosened it in her struggle to escape her noose.
Becky fell into his arms, and he looked down into her eyes. She felt him ask her telepathically if she wanted to go with him?
From the gentleness of his touch, she nodded up at him.
The forest became black as if all of the sunlight went out of view. The man carried Becky with him through the wormhole, and when it closed behind them, the forest went back to normal leaving only traces of the rope, Becky’s book bag, and one of her shoes.
A few days later, a park ranger and an employee of the park found the remnants of her suicide kit and saw the rope in the tree where half of it was now missing. It was a fluke her items had been found as a blizzard hit the night before nearly covering up everything around the area where Becky went missing.
One of the strangest things was that the tops of the trees were missing above where Becky’s book bag now lay.
“What do you suppose happened, Butch?” asked the park ranger to the young man.
“I don’t know, but it is almost like something came from above and just took her,” he said, looking upwards towards the treeline.
“I’ll call it in,” said the older man. “Make sure you keep this to yourself.”
Butch nodded, saying nothing else and going about his day.
A news bulletin went out later that evening, and it was assumed the young hiker went missing in the blizzard after losing her way.
Becky was never found or seen alive again.