In the previous episode, Mark hiked to the old Indian Cave and found evidence Tim had stayed there recently. He also found Tim’s shredded, blood-stained clothing and smelled a rancid stench in the wind. Readers chose Mark’s next step; He finds a sharp, strong pointed stick and goes deeper into the woods in search of his friend.
Guess I owe you an apology. I’ve lied to myself so many times about what happened in those woods, guess it’s become a habit. I have to remember that I’m done with lies.
I almost charged blindly into the woods, screaming for him, but somewhere inside of me, my common sense rose up.
Shredded, bloodied clothes? Looked to me like a bear got Tim. How did I think I could save him from a Pennsylvania black bear? I couldn’t. It wasn’t possible.
But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying.
I scrounged around in the brush surrounding the cave until I had a good stick. I tested it with my weight and, despite my shaking hands, cracked off one end to a point. Now, with all the stupidity of my youth, I figured I could somehow protect myself.
All I had to go on was the rancid smell. More than anything, I wanted to turn and run the opposite way from it.
I won’t lie to you again– this time I’ll tell you right out: I bent double in the weeds more than a few times as I followed that stench. I had been hunting enough with the sheriff to recognize the smell of rotted meat. I was pretty sure what I’d find.
I walked as quietly as I could, poking under clumps of dead leaves, in bushes, around fallen trees. I muttered threats,
“Gonna stab me some bear MEAT, make me some bear SHOES, wear me a bear BLANKET, cut me a bear COAT…”
You get the idea. I had probably crossed the line into hysteria back at the cave.
I didn’t need to walk long. There was a clearing not far from the cave. I saw a moving mass of black fur about fifty yards from me under some pine trees. I moved up behind it, just as sneaky as a farm cat stalks its dinner-mouse.
My eyes were glued to that fur, so I never saw the branch below my foot. It cracked hard and loud.
Fear stabbed me. I crouched low with my stick. He would turn and charge. This was it.
But he didn’t turn. He didn’t charge.
My fear sharpened all my senses and I could see now that what I thought was shifting black fur was, in fact, a teeming mass of black flies, rolling like waves. They were all fighting over some prize in the grass.
A prize of rotted meat, the smell announced.
I forced myself to move closer. The shape on the grass confirmed it.
It could only be Tim.
Whatever liquids and acid remained in my stomach left then, stinging every inch of my esophagus. I staggered, lurched, and landed in the grass.
I didn’t stay there long, though. If a bear was edging close to Rivertown, the sheriff needed to know.
But on the way out of the woods, something happened that made me think it might not be a bear at all… Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.