October 25, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

The man in the blue jacket 

Spooktacular Story 4

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"Hiya," he says. "You look lost."

"Yeah. It's a little embarrassing, but I can't seem to find my way back up to the main trail. It's like it disappeared or something."

He laughs. It's a horrible cackle, hoarse and dry, like he just smoked a couple of packs. "Why, m'dear," he says, "it's right behind you."

I turn around and, sure enough, there's the thin path of trampled brush.

"Oh man," I reply. "That is so weird. I just walked by here twice and somehow missed it."

He shrugged, awful grin still plastered on his face.

"Thanks," I say, glancing sheepishly at my running shoes. When I look up again, he's gone.

Entirely creeped-out and facing nightfall, I decide just to head back to the parking lot. My mother, as always, was right. I shouldn't have come down here unprepared, alone. I won't tell her that, though. Next time, I'll bring running buddies. Strong ones, capable of fighting off a bear — or a wiry old man.

Legs pumping, arms swinging, I take short, stiff strides up the side of the bank, anxious to get back. It's as if it's never ending. "Of course the way up feels longer than the way down," I reason.

But after a few minutes propelling myself uphill I realize something isn't right. My stomach sinks. The main trail, too, has disappeared. It's dusk now, even darker in the forest with towering trees blocking the remaining streaks of sunlight. I can feel tears of frustration and fear forming at the corner of my eyes. What will I do if I can't find my way out in the dark? The thought makes me shudder and I push it out of my mind. "THIS IS RIDICULOUS!" I shout to myself out loud, painfully aware there is no one around to hear.

From the corner of my eye I see a flash of blue. I look to my right and spot the man perched on a tree stump, arms outstretched and eyes closed. Eighteen different expletives run through my head at once. I'm frozen in terror and confusion.

"Hello?" I say.

"Heeeelloooo," he replies, stretching out the vowels and sounding how I imagine a fairytale warlock might. "Didn't your mother ever tell you little girls shouldn't be alone in the woods at night?"

"I'm hardly a little girl," I say, annoyance momentarily displacing my fear.

"Little to me," he shoots back. "You are young, should I say, to someone who's been wandering this forest for a century or so."

He must be kidding. He's just one of those eccentric B.C. hippies people from Alberta, like me, make fun of. I let out a nervous laugh.

Speaking of Halloween, Spooktacular Stories

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