October 25, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

The man in the blue jacket 

Spooktacular Story 4

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Well, I am definitely never going to be able to sell my car now. The crater-like holes carved into this old logging road are forcing me to slam into the ground, ruining my shocks, or undercarriage, or whatever it is potholes wreak havoc on. I glance at the dashboard clock: I'll only have an hour to run before the sun sinks behind the mountains.

My mother's voice creeps into my head, "Bear spray? Bells? A cell phone, at least?" I forgot all three. I was more worried about bears in the months leading up to my move to Whistler than I am now.

"There's just black bears," everyone says with a dismissive wave. "You'll see them everywhere. They're usually harmless."

I am pretty certain that, statistically, I am more likely to veer off this horrible road and over the cliff to my right than I am to be eaten by a black bear. Probably. Maybe. Either way, I'm not turning around now. I spot the parking lot at long last, pull in and dart out of my car, anxious to catch the last bits of daylight.

It's empty for such a warm Sunday. There are only two other cars in the lot. As I set off down the trail, past the last-chance outhouse and massive pile of boulders, I see two couples trudging back up. We smile at each other. I forgot what it was like to live somewhere where people say things like, "Good morning!" without some sort of ulterior motive, like convincing you to buy a handbag you don't really need.

But it's just the trail and me now. My treaded shoes make a satisfying "crunch, crunch, crunch" on the rocks and roots while the river rushes by. The trees are already casting dark shadows across the mountain. I am alone. I am a wild animal. A deer, maybe, jumping — no, skipping! — through my forest home. I spot a path that leads down to the noisy, impossibly beautiful river and, despite the setting sun, turn down it.

I marvel for a moment at the pale blue depths, winding through the valley. Meandering down the rocky shore my heart rate begins to slow, sweat dries and I remember the 10 km I still hope to traverse today. I turn around and look for the opening that snakes back up to the main trail, but I can't seem to spot it. It's as if the underbrush swallowed it up while I had my back turned. Maybe it was further down the river by that boulder — though I don't remember walking that far. I keep going, at a more frantic pace now, head darting up and down, scanning the steep bank. Suddenly, I spot a man in a blue windbreaker with long grey hair. He flashes a toothy grin that makes my stomach feel uneasy.

Speaking of Halloween, Spooktacular Stories

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