Chapter 9. The Shack

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There's always a certain shame in admitting you're a city kid, right? I'm sure everyone would love to be that girl with sensible shoes who knows how to make a bonfire and various outdoor skills I couldn't even name. I was willing to bet Johan would never believe me if I told him we had gone hiking, I would never go hiking for kicks. Then again, though, neither would Johan. I suppose, on a hand-drawn Washington postcard, you could envision a family like the Derricks out camping, a nice, white pack of happy campers. But I deemed the reality of it unlikely. What other theories were there besides Johan taking Scottie camping, though? I mean, aside from the grim ones. If there was one thing even a city slicker like me could understand about these woods, was that it wasn't a place you ended up in randomly.

"Friday, October 9th, 1987," Sam spoke into his tape recorder. "My partner, Marcia Hazan and I are hiking the so-called Grenada Trail, off the interstate in Southeastern Washington. We're following the clues left behind by one Mr. Johan Derrick, and his son Scottie, doing so under the suspicion that they may have come under harm."

"Lower your voice, will you?" I ordered. "What, are you announcing our arrival?"

Sam moved the tape recorder closer to his face, proceeding his broadcast with a mere whisper:

"Speculations are all we have in regard to how they disappeared," he continued. "Let it be said, if should we die on our mission-"

"Who are you even making those for?" I asked, hoping it would shut him up. I didn't want to hear the prospects of my death.

"I don't know," Sam said. "Myself if I ever get around to listen to all of them."

"How long have you been documenting your life like this?"

"A few months, I like remembering everything."

"That's a weird thing to do," I commented, coming to regret it only seconds later. Thankfully, Sam just shrugged it off.

"What can I say? I'm forgetful."

The trail started moving upwards, slowly ascending to a steep hill that made me thankful the muddy ground was still frozen. I spoke with shortness of breath from there on, revealing my poor physical shape to my partner. Where Sam was quick and neat, I was weighed down by puppy fat from skipping PE the past two years.

I won't say the Grenada trail was in any way more inviting this time around, but being in good company fought the notion that steering slightly off the path would get me killed by an unknown observer. Oh God, why did I have to start thinking about that?

A worn rope tied between two firs - one the top of the hill and one at the bottom, was there to help us up. I latched on to it, but even then I found it hard making it all the way without feeling the taste of blood in the back of my mouth.

Sam passed me, trekking up the hill without a struggle as he continued his taping charades.

The path began to lack in dense vegetation, going uphill I was I only surrounded by a few, brown shrubs and leaves of frozen saplings, along with the occasional, thick-bodied fir.

Looking up I was reunited with the afternoon sky; it was somewhat reassuring to see daylight again, though, I didn't like the exposure. Looking down, the trail was cleared by footprints pressed down on the dead plants beneath them, not too old at all.

From the top, I heard Sam's broadcasting making an announcement I had difficulties believing.

And I still didn't quite believe it when I made it all the way up, and my own eyes were met by the same sight.

Off in the distance, there was something brewing. The darkening night sky that would soon be upon us was reflected on a quiet, still waterfront that seemed to swallow the forest whole.

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