Along the Forest Path
Welcome to the next installment of our current story. As I like to do for ease of reading and following along, you will find the link to the first section as well as subsequent sections below. If you find you need to catch up or you are just joining us now, don’t feel too left out.
Outside the Dairy Queen
Along the Forest Path
A Light Repast
Lost in Darkness
Fear and Confrontation
The Next Room
Rat in a Cage
Along the Forest Path
In the darkness, Eddie blended into the woods. His mother wanted him home over an hour ago. He didn’t care, not right now, not this time. His body burned with energy. Mrs. Green probably called his mother already and told her all about the Dairy Queen. If he stayed out long enough, mom would find something else to complain about, give him a break from their fight.
The Carver woods stretched through the far side of town. Trails ran through in multiple directions, nothing paved, but well maintained by hikers and runners in town. Eddie ran the loop some nights when he avoided his mother.
Voices sliced the darkness ahead of him, an indistinct buzz of conversation. He didn’t always have the woods to himself. Red embers from the tips of cigarettes glowed and shone the faces of the kids that took over his trail. Silent and quick, he could skirt around them and avoid any interaction, but he had to leave the trail to do it.
He slunk into the woods well before they might hear him. Slow going in the darkness, he fought the underbrush to get far enough away that his sounds wouldn’t travel back to them. It worked well, at least until he tripped over a fallen branch.
Eddie hadn’t counted on their dog. Excited by the sound of his fall, the dog burst into growls and barks. A flashlight’s beam broke the darkness and burst into his eyes. He considered running but the dog, he didn’t know if it would chase him down. He joined them on the trail.
“Lookie here Mike,” Barry said. “We have us a new playmate.” Barry and Mike grabbed Eddie by the arms and dragged him into the center of the group. “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?”
Barry and a few friends had made camp in a small clearing. Barry pushed Eddie into the center of the group and blocked him from any chance at escape. There were no friendly faces in this group, no one to break them up when things got out of hand. Eddie’s mind raced through plans and thoughts of escape. He needed a distraction. But the dog growled and snarled at him, even if he outran the others the chances of outrunning the dog were slim.
“I don’t think Bear likes him,” Mike said. “Who you think would win in that fight?”
Barry grabbed the dog’s leash and led him close to Eddie. The beast snarled and yanked its leash. “Never seen him hate someone so much before,” Barry said. “How bout we let him get you? You think you have a chance against a puppy?”
Eddie pulled away and was pushed back toward the dog. The group remained faceless shadows in the darkness. He twisted to break their hold on him, give himself some room.
“Scared?” Barry said. “He’s just a puppy. Look at this guy, scared of a little puppy. Get him Bear, bite him hard!” The dog frothed and snapped. Barry strained under the force of the dog fighting to get at Eddie.
Eddie pushed back at his captors again, a last effort to feel their resistance. As they pushed back at him he dropped down and slipped through their line. Eddie scrambled to his feet and raced down the trail. The dog ripped through its collar and shot after Eddie.
“Get the dog!” Barry said.
Mike laughed, a booming, echoing laugh in the darkness. “Let him have his fun,” he said. “Good riddance.”
The speed of the dog left him little room to get away, but he had gotten far enough away from the rest of them. The dog bit at his ankles and legs as he hoped to keep out of its reach. Eddie didn’t have long before the rest of them would catch up to him again. The dog snapped and nipped, attacks to herd him, not hurt him. But it did not push him back toward the others.
Its bite hooked the heel of his shoe and he went down. Tangled in brambles and underbrush, Eddie struggled to stand again. The dog braced itself beside him, its snarls threatened Eddie. As he pushed his hands into the dirt to stand he gripped a thick branch. With his feet under him again, Eddie pulled and the branch broke free of the underbrush. The full swing crushed the head of the dog and knocked it flat. He swung it down again and the dog didn’t move.
It mewled on the ground as the group caught up with them. “What the hell?” Barry said. “You killed my dog. Get him, kill that fucker.” The boys fanned out, an effort to surround him again.
Faster than the rest of them, Eddie used his advantage, he turned and ran, ran for his life.
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