Beyond the Trail

A story of one who has heard the voice of the ancient world. Within whom a seed of darkness grows and pulls them away from humanity. The product of a fragile human mind, or something of a more unknowable nature, that’s for you to decide.

If you like short storieshorror, cyberpunk, fantasy or fantasypunk, I have plenty of stories you might be interested in checking out.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron

The leaves rustle softly in the slight breeze of the morning. The suns glorious yellow rays drift luxuriously down onto the rainforest, but by some magic the distant atmosphere seems to cover the ground in a deep, ephemeral blue. All this beauty. For miles, only the other hikers share this tranquil experience.
With the gradual shift in temperature I can feel spreading through my muscles, warming me to my bones. The thin early morning fog that characterised the drive here has faded, altering the feel of the air. My blood already pumping from the exertion of the walk, I can feel the gentle radiating heat on my skin developing a sheen of sweat. Stopping to sip from my water, I take the moment to admire the strange quiet beauty of these Blue Mountains.
The valley below manages to seem small in the shadow of the mountains, but I know from experience that it covers many miles. Reaching as far as I can see in all directions the rainforest is a dark and mysterious expanse of nature beyond human comprehension. So many people have walked this same trail every day; tens, hundreds, even thousands during tourist seasons. Wisely most keep to the trails. For the most part common sense and guidance from officials of the park keeps people from straying from the paths, and beyond that is the deep instinctive understanding we all carry deep inside us of the primordial danger that exists in the wild places of the world. Still, some choose to ignore both the explicit and implicit warnings given to them and walk beyond the reach of civilisation. Perhaps these are people who honestly wish to die, perhaps they carry some vestigial trait held by our ancestors that compel them to scout beyond lands we control or perhaps some madness beckons to them, singing a sirens song from the deep places. Whatever reasoning drives us, I have never been able to completely deny that little voice that compels me.

I return my water pack and heft it back over my shoulders. Silent claws of anxious disquiet scratch inside me, bubbling up with an animalistic desire. The feeling is always there, but when I come here it is like a living thing has awoken and strains at its chains. Moving forward soothes it but when I stop it grows fierce.
This trail is more familiar to me than the lines of my own face, I have walked it more times than I have looked at my reflection, after all. I don’t remember how young I was when I was first brought here by my family. It was a family holiday with my parents and my brother, I don’t have strong memories of it, but something about it planted a seed in me that spent years waiting.
I came back for the first time when they died.
At my parents funeral, memories of that holiday came back to me for the first time in years. At first they were just passing memories, but as the days went by, executing their will, dealing with the well meaning attentions of family, I couldn’t stop thinking about the mountains. It was strange, of course, I’d never cared much for hiking, nor really thought of the mountains. In the end I decided to come, feeling it was perhaps my subconscious mind telling me to seek closure with a fond memory or something.
That first trip was just for a weekend. I took a bus, got a hotel, did the tourist thing and went home. For a time I thought that was enough, the feeling faded and I felt refreshed. I still grieved my parents, of course, but it was easier now. Like I’d laid them to rest somehow by following their memory.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The memories came back, this time with a deep gnawing hunger to them. I felt like I was starving. I didn’t recognise it at first, I thought I was depressed. Drugs and counselling didn’t help, other than to help me realise the source of my emptiness.
The second time I came for a whole week. I rented an airbnb, but hardly saw it. I felt more alive that week than I had ever remembered feeling. I walked the trails, and drank in the serenity. I filled myself with the energy of the place and was content.
When I went home I was hollow. Like someone had scraped away everything that had made me whole and left just a shell.

When I came back this time I brought a camper. I’ve been happy here. I don’t know what it is that drives people like me to come here, to seek out deep places beyond the reach and sight of civilisation. I know I am not the only one like this. I have seen others who walk the trails, I can recognise them by sight now. There is something in our eyes, or in the way that we walk, something I can’t quite define, but something quite real.
There is a woman, I don’t know her name, I’ve never spoken to her, we rarely talk to one another, we understand well enough without having to say anything. She was here before I came, I first saw her walking the trails on my second time. She’s further along than I am, her hunger is deeper and more visceral. I don’t always see her on the trails any more, I suspect she doesn’t stop and turn back when she reaches the deepest points of the trails, like I do, any more. She just keeps walking.
She always comes back eventually. I wonder what exactly she is looking for. What she is finding further in the forest than I am brave enough to go. I wonder if her hunger is sated. If one day she won’t come back. If one day my fear of leaving the trail won’t be greater than the hunger that urges me to keep going.
But I don’t wonder too much. These beautiful blue mountains are far too tranquil to loiter on such thoughts for long. For now, I enjoy the weight of my pack on my shoulders, the gentle sounds of nature, and the pleasant exertion the hike puts on my body.

For now I am happy, that is enough.

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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