“What’s the matter Callum, cat got your tongue?” Sarah joked, punching me playfully in the arm. I rolled my eyes at her. She wanted to see a mountain lion and had been making the worst cat jokes the entire trip.
“No but these trails are killing my legs,” I groaned.
We had been walking for hours and I was coming to regret hiking his far into the backcountry. My legs were exhausted only two days in and we had another full day of hiking ahead of us. But I had told myself I was down for anything this trip, after all, this was what Sarah wanted. Sarah loved hiking in the backcountry, and this was our third year doing it for her birthday.
“Just a second I have to pee!” Sarah exclaimed running a bit ahead on the trail. I watched as she disappeared behind some bushes. I whistled to myself quietly waiting for her to come back. After a bit I started to wonder what was taking so long. At least fifteen minutes had to have gone by., a little bit too long for a pee.
“Sarah you, okay?” I called out. No answer. I walked back to check on her, wanting to make sure she was okay. When I got to the spot where she disappeared behind the bushes, there was no sign of her.
“Sarah!” I called out again, retracing our steps on the trail. I couldn’t think of a reason she would leave me here alone and it was unlike Sarah to wander off. Looking around I was desperate for any clue to where she was or had gone. I shuddered to think at what might have happened to her. The trees overhead formed such a thick green canopy that it was hard to see in the forest. What was once a natural paradise, felt like a prison.
Feeling hopeless I sat down for a minute to think. Looking at my watch I saw it had been half an hour. There was no way I could walk to the nearest town in good time to get help for Sarah. We were far from the nearest town. At least a twelve-hour hike away.
Calling Parks was my best option. I grabbed my pack off my back and started searching for my phone, only to remember it was in Sarah’s pack. She had a waterproof pouch and thought it would be best to keep both our phones in it.
“Damn it!” I said out loud sighing. Looking down I noticed there was a hiking boot a few feet to the right of the trail. Dark brown with lime green laces. They were Sarah’s! Quickly I got up, wondering how she lost a hiking boot.
We had just got them for this trip after her old ones wore out. The store didn’t have quite the right size in the style but she insisted on getting them. She got them a size too big. Somehow her shoe must have fallen off.
I looked around for footprints or any clues to where she might have gone. A few feet further into the woods was Sarah’s other boot. I picked it up and started walking further to the right, hoping to find Sarah. The further I walked the more aware I became that the sun was going down.
Finding Sarah by nightfall was a grim possibility. I stumbled through the bushes, tripping over roots. Frustrated. I was ready to cry. That’s when I heard a woman’s scream.
“Sarah?!” I yelled out, “Sarah, I’m coming!” I heard the scream again. It was coming from just up the trail, down the hillside. I started to run. Then I heard a women’s voice. “Hurry, someone help!” I ran farther and farther until the voice sounded only a few feet away.
I looked left and right, seeing nobody around me. “Sarah?!” I yelled out frantically. I was surrounded by trees in the thick of the forest and there was no sign of Sarah. I heard the scream again and grew panicked. The sun was dipping down and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find Sarah. Backing up against an aspen tree I drew out an exasperated sigh. How stupid this trip had been I thought. Why hadn’t we stayed home this year.
The sound of crickets started and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I felt like I was being watched. Glancing around nervously I saw nobody around. The sound of a woman’s scream sounded again, this time sounding as if it was above me. “Sarah?!” I shouted out again, looking up through the dark into the branches of the tree. Could she be up there? I thought hopefully.
Suddenly I felt hot breath on the back of my neck. The women’s scream sounded so close I knew whoever was screaming would be right behind me. “Sarah?” I whispered nervously as I quickly spun around.
To my disappointment and horror Sarah was not standing behind me. I was staring into the emerald eyes of a mountain lion. All the air left my lungs as I shuddered in horror.
“What’s wrong Callum, cat got your tongue?” the mountain lion said perfectly in Sarah’s voice. The lion licked its lips, flashing a toothy smirk as it lunged forward.
Submitted a little too late for the talking animals challenge, but I still wanted to publish this one!
Thanks for reading :)
This was fascinating! I have so many questions. Was Sarah a were-cougar? Was the cougar a skinwalker? I did not expect that ending and I love it. Well done!
I enjoyed this - and that ending snuck up on me! I'm glad you published anyway. Deadlines suck. :)
This was definitely an interesting take on the Tall Tail challenge. I'm glad you still published your story even though you missed the deadline. My stockpile of missed entries is larger than I hoped for.
Too bad this was a late submission I really enjoyed the story. If you have a quick edit ' Sarah was no standing behind me.' Again really good story.
Wow, that was a really intense and scary story! It definitely had me on the edge of my seat. 👌👌💗💗