At the edge of a long tilled field, bordering the once immeasurably deep forest, the sound of machinery rumbles in a hungry idle. How I ended up right here, in this spot, is a story for another time. One marked by an exchange of fire and a foot chase, tiny spatters of blood dotting the crisp autumn foliage like constellations brought down to earth.
Where once were sounds of gurgling water and the rhythmic rustling of squirrels gathering acorns now sits replaced by the metallic grinding cacophony of automatic garage door openers and air conditioning compressors. Wild streams now entirely encased in polymer coffins beneath foreign gravel and cheap macadam as they weave a nauseous network; redirected phosphorus potions carried on by gravity, slithering its cursed course to the Cheseapeake.
Darting between the newly framed partitions and setting concrete, animated by contempt, I deposit desperate parcels at critical junctures along the way. Slightly, and quite unexpectedly, disoriented I keep moving. I don’t recall all of this being here before; so quickly it spreads. Turning north I am guided by the whistling of automobiles climbing the side of my target mountain, up an old highway. Paths that once lead through this portion of pine forest are now almost entirely overgrown, dotted by abandoned cathode ray televisions with busted screens, antique beer bottles, and old mattresses. Stains of an infinitude of sin. My feet pick up their deliberate pace as if pulled along by hidden mechanisms of intelligence.
The sun is setting quickly and headlights begin to turn on, spontaneous flickering through the breaks in the last remaining leaves. As I halt to anticipate the right movements a chill descends upon me, the last hints of sunlight hit the few exposed parts of a masked face. It will be dark soon.
Approaching the highway at this stage is an unavoidable misfortune, given they must be looking for me by now. No stopping, I must get to the opposite side to reach the old hunting path that climbs the mountain. I have to rely on camouflage, training, and the guardians that have walked beside me, disembodied, through this fated mission.
The gear on my back is heavy but I pay it no mind, aside from making quick minor adjustments to its fit. Whence came a break in sparse traffic, I set to bolting across the three lanes of pavement. Diving blindly into a drainage ditch I wasted no time in gaining composure. Immediately to my feet, dipping my head under the yellow gate, I began making my way up the primitive pipeline access road. I know from memory, walking this route hundreds of times, the logging road the meets the hunting path exactly three hundred and fourteen paces if I hug the edge of the bare dirt along the ancient rock wall. It is unmarked and barely used except by the dwindling number of old timers still belonging to the club that maintains and utilizes the hunting club property at the far western border of the game land.
Three hundred twelve… three hundred thirteen… three hundred fourteen…
Its just about fully dark now and I take a moment to turn and look back toward the valley for any sign of being followed. Off in the distance, along one of the cancerous subdivisions roads below, I see blue and red flashing lights, racing off to the east. Not entirely a relief, but not headed directly toward my present location.
I turn down the path and resume at a slight jog, an insurance policy on my lead to the next portion of the climb. My muscles are steel cables, my mind a crystal, heart pumping the poison of a thousand years of vengeance. In completion of the task, the antidote.
Making a sharp turn in the switchback up the mountainside, quickly gaining elevation, there is a high-point of ground and a low break in the treetops. This clear vantage to the thoroughfare below affords me the insight that there are now flashing lights creeping the highway I just crossed a short while ago. I hastily, but calmly continue my ascent, no concern but the objective.
A short while later the evergreens begin to be replaced by wiry white birch and scrub oak, turning to heathland that lies at an elevation just below where treeline formally ends. My mental map of this place is impeccable. I know every boulder, every babbling spring, gathering news from the skittering movement of nocturnal mammals. A crossroad juncture onto the next path lies a few paces ahead.
I hear human voices off in the distance behind me. Can they be gaining ground on me so quickly or is it the cool dry air carrying the vibrations of their speech with reduced resistance. A light flurry begins to fall so I pick up the pace, not wanting to leave any easily tracked footprints if the snow turns heavy enough to blanket the trail.
Arriving at the junction I turn quickly down a smaller path, brambles and deeply rusted barbed wire reach out to meet me; a reminder of the nature of this place and my role of effectively barring the gate. The weight of a watchful eye above presses on my shoulders, and set loose bolts of lightning through my spine, lending swiftness to my feet. I break into a run through the dense dark, with little to guide each footfall but what prophesy can dictate.
They must have dogs on me by now. The overlook bald lies just ahead. The delay redundancies were quality control tested a dozen times. They will not fail.
In that moment of thought, slowing to a stop from my hasty summit, I approach the edge of rock shelf. Gazing down a sweeping wave of heat reaches my face riding the subtle northerly wind. I know not where the snow ends and the ash begins. Lingering no longer than a breath to absorb the orange glow, disappearing into the woodland.
(This story is a work of fiction. It is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not condone violence or unlawful activity.)