I’ve seen you before. That’s why I like to come here. In fact, I’ve seen many like you– here before — so focused on the gravel road in front of you, you don’t notice much around you. You never look past the first layer of trees and ferns, eyes glued to this dirt treadmill. I could have you at any moment and you’d never see it coming. The sun isn’t too high, yet. I could nap here, and another one of you will be by moments after I wake.
You’re special though. Maybe it’s your ponytail. The hypnotique way it moves with each stride of your legs as you push the pedals down. Maybe it’s your legs. The way they take turns doing the work, and tremble in between. Maybe it’s how oblivious you are, or how focused. Maybe it’s how strong you believe you are, yet how vulnerable I know you are. I’ve been waiting for someone like you. You are just what I like and I need to get closer to you.
Each step could give me away. I pick each one quickly, and tactfully. The forest floor is so full of sounds. Fortunately, your steady pace makes it easy to match your stride. The trees block my view of you, from time to time. I dart between each one, so as not to miss you for very long. Your pace quickens; mine does, too.
I freeze. I hold my breath and glance down at the ground. A small branch has betrayed me. A squawking bird joins in on the mutiny. You’ve heard them both. My confidence got the best of me. My excitement. Will you come for me now, in a twist of events?
Stop. What was that? Perhaps two birds fighting? A rodent and a bird? Something else? Someone else? All right, don’t get paranoid now. It’s probably just too quiet, and you need something to break up the silence. How about that song that’s been stuck in your head all week? One more listen couldn’t hurt. Or maybe a phone call. If there is someone out there, then they’ll hear me talking to someone and get discouraged, right? Okay, that actually SOUNDS dumb. No. You came out here to enjoy nature, just enjoy it. The silence is part of it. The noise is part of it.
You look scared. I love you when you’re scared. I can see you second guess your fear, and wipe it off of your face with a shake of your head. You continue up the once-long road. It gets shorter with each effort. The top of the ridgeline creeps closer. I’ll give you some room to forget me. I wouldn’t want this game to be over so soon. This is the part that makes victory so delicious. I could do this for hours, but you’ll get tired.
Almost there. It’s always a little further than I remember. The road is flattening. I’ve done it! Faster than I ever have! I’m definitely feeling my strongest. I could take on any climb, any feat, at this rate. I’ve worked so hard this season, and it feels so great to feel this invincible. This is going to be a great ride down. Fast, confident. I’m going to hit these two corners hard, and pedal out of the last one.
Perfect gear. Gloves on. Exhale.
You are radiating. It’s intoxicating. Now. Now is the sweetest moment.
My ears are suddenly ringing. I can hear my blood pumping through my head. Tingles on the back of my neck, up to my temples. My chest is fluttering. I don’t see anyone, but I need to get moving. I’m going to hit these two corners hard, and pedal out of the last one. I need to. There’s someone here.
You entered the trail. Unlucky, for you. You think you’re quickest this way. That this is your strength. No. It’s your weakness. My strength? I have no rules. You snake through the first two corners, doubling your ground. I sprint straight. Straight through them. I catch you in less time than your heart takes a beat. You inhale, but don’t have time to exhale. I wrap around you. Take you all in, and down at the same time. We hit the ground together. My teeth find your salty neck. You are so soft. Softer than you ever thought you could be.
You scream. The forest eats it up. You scream again. It devours it faster.
I wasn’t expecting my own blood to be so warm. Warmer than your hot breath in my ear. The trees look so tall as they lean in to get a better look at me. They’re eager to watch me die. The warmth washes away with an ocean-like wave of coldness. I can reach you. Your fur is so coarse. Pull it. Pull harder! Why can’t I pull harder?
Your fingers feel so useless on my fur. Your attempts are feeble. Weak. Weaker by the second. Again, you attempt to grasp me. Your fingers fumble into my side. It’s annoying. I raise my legs to your back. Each kick catches softness, and tears through. Your useless fingers stop. Your breath. Your rhythmic heart — stops. Now, you’re truly mine. Come with me to my favorite spot. I’ve had others here, but I’ll share it with you right now. We can hide here while others eventually look for you. They’ll be optimistic and think you’re just lost. You’re not lost though, are you? You’re with me. We have hours together. Days.
I’ll let them find you eventually. But for now, it’s just you and me. I know I won’t get to keep you, but I have you in this moment. When your bones are clean, that’s when I’ll leave you forever. That’s when you’ll be found. Someone will see. They’ll realize what they’re looking at. The forest will eat their cries, too. Or, you’ll never be found. And the forest will swallow you, too. Your kind always forgets. The forest consumes everything. One way, or another.