3 0 0

 Cadet had died. He was a good cat. A damn good cat. Luckily, he was L'anze's mom's cat, so L'anze didn't have to grieve. A quick visit on over, a hug and a kiss, and she was back to work.

"It was only a matter of time." her tearful mother reassured the air around her. He was 25 and an adoption later in his life, so it was a miracle he lived even that long. Even past 10. Her mother was lonely since she moved away, to go to school, to start her life, and Claire just wanted some company. Someone that would actually listen and talk to her, unlike her husband. He sat in the den, drinking beers and raving over CNN. The man rarely left the room, and when he did he couldn't stop talking about "the end of the world."

L'anze hugged Claire one last time, brushed the tears off of her wrinkled face, and got in her car. Today she was at the library. While in college she knew her degree in Anthropology wouldn't get her a job down here, so she studied Library Studies as well. It got her a steady librarian job and she consulted those few that came in while working through their gen ed research papers. She still had a semester of grad school to pay off, which the job helped with. A 25 year old woman living below her means just to pay off the governments dollar. She didn't take any help, she gave it. But driving down these winding roads on the opposite end of town always got her thinking of what could have been. She'd be a doctor by now probably. She'd have more money than what she's ever seen in her life. But dreams came to die in the Smokies. Dreams died in the land of dreams when your mother has cancer and there's no healthcare.

Her office was in the back corner. Every day she came in, set down her bag, and then went to the circulation desk. Today, from the looks of it, it was not well, for Deborah and Susan had gotten sick after a late night party that involved too much alcohol and bad meat.

"Stan broke his arm again" Deborah yelled as soon as L'anze was in the door. He was Deborah's son, and broke his arm what seemed like once a year. She could pay for it though, her husband was a bridge builder or something of the like. Not someone on retirement scraping by.

"Certainly serves him right. He jumped outta that tree, you know, the tree in the front? And he was up in it higher than the house. His father comes out screamin 'you idiot you're gonna hurt yourself', and next thing ya know he's reachin for god knows what and falls right out. He's lucky he didn't break nothin worse or that his daddy didn't break nothin in the ass whoopin." She trailed on. Deborah was loud and spoke more than she didn't.

L'anze pulled out her notebook and started going to town. Her main focus was culture. Culture, more in relation to folklore. Her brush with that of fiction solidified her interest for her. You see, L'anze had had enough one day, and decided that a vacation filled with pain and sweat was more up her alley. She went into the mountains, and by the time she had entered, she wished she had never considered it.

The first day, she walked in, and it turned dark. It rained, hard. She couldn't have picked a worse time of the year for it, but that was beside the point. She stayed until she got close to home, but on her third to last day was when it happened.

She walked about a mile, when she came to a clean meadow that was unusually lively and bright compared to what she had been through already. Something shuffled in the distance, but she figured it to be a fox or squirrel, something manageable.

She trudged through the meadow, and came to some bright green woods. The only thought that came to her head was "the forest is made of green M&M's". When she thought this, she chuckled to herself. She hadn't had M&M's in years. Back in the day when no one was sick, she did. Those were better days. L'anze figured torturing herself in the forest would be a good way to forget about those days, but it just made her remember them more. She remembered her mother before, when she was so happy. Then the coughing up blood. Calling L'anze. The ambulance ride. The diagnosis. The chemo. Thankfully, the recovery. Unthankfully, the debt.

All the memories made L'anze tear up. She didn't notice the forest around her. She didn't notice her boots squishing into the soil. Or the increase in insects. She just cried.

"My life is a shitfest." she stated to the trees made of chocolate candy.

There was a shuffle, and she looked up from her wet shoes. And there he was. About 10 feet tall. Something that she couldn't describe.

"B...bear?" she asked the creature. He stood about thirty feet from her. She asked as sort of a comfort for herself. He breathed heavily and turned to face her, almost hovering over the ground. But as soon as it was there, it had vanished. Her heart stopped and she looked up. The abhorrent figure was above her, hanging. From a tree. In a trap.

A million thoughts ran through her mind. She didn't know if she was safe. If something huge gets caught, imagine what would be dining on it. She was drenched in fear, just as wet as the rain. So she ran. 

"I'm gonna order a pizza, Lon, what would you like on it?" Deborah's hyena voice broke the silence and the harshness of L'anze's thoughts. 

"Whatever you'd like, Deb" she said. L'anze was never one to join in on lunches. She thought of these women as friends, sure, but they were just too loud for her liking. On a normal night she would be watching movies in, taking care of the plants with Dustin, not hitting children and stuffing her face with casserole. 

Deborah huffed and started her cackling again. 

A Clean, Well Lighted AreaWhere stories live. Discover now