By Tara Roberts
Now imagine me — curly brown hair trying to escape from my stocking cap, big hips stuffed into turquoise snow pants, clumsy feet strapped into snowshoes — flopped in the middle of it all.
“Just leave me here to die,” I say. “I’ll be food for the bears. They’ll appreciate it.”
The frosty-cheeked face of Jamie, my former college roommate and today my guide on this endless journey into the snow, appears above me. “It’s only been 3 miles, Rosie,” she says. “And I promise we’re almost to the cabin. You can do it.”
“I promise it’s been 5 miles. I promise we’ve been going in circles. I promise I won’t complain if you abandon me.”
Jamie sits beside me in the snow, sending up a puff of crystalline powder. “We can take a break if you want. We could tape a piece of my story.”
She pulls her phone out of her pocket and hands it to me. I’m happy to oblige: Even if I have to stand back up, not having to hike anywhere will give my knees a few minutes of relief. Jamie positions herself in front of a grove of spruces that edge a darker patch of forest and focuses on adjusting her fluffy hat.
“OK, roll whenever you’re ready,” she says. I give her a countdown and tap record.
“This is Jamie Clearwater, reporting from the Hoodoo Mountains.” Her voice is lower and crisper than usual, her motions deliberate. I’ve watched videos of her news stories on the internet, but it’s strange watching her transform into her TV persona in real life. It reminds me of how much distance lies between us at 22 and us at 32.
“I’ve traveled far from Seattle today to bring you the story of the Hoodoo Mountain Howler,” she continues. “Hikers and campers who have visited this remote patch of northern Idaho have been trading tales online of covertly raided campsites and an eerie, inhuman wail.
“But what is truly out here? Local legends tell of a swift and ferocious beast, but one usually clever enough to avoid crossing paths with humans. The West has long heard stories of Sasquatch — but perhaps the Howler has decided it wants a little attention of it own.”
She raises an eyebrow at the camera and smiles, then motions for me to stop recording. “How was it?”
“You’re a total pro,” I say. “People will eat it up. But it’s all fake, right? I’ve never heard any local legends.”
“Come on, every little backwoods place has a few good ‘mysterious creature’ stories,” she says. “When we’re done filming out here we’ll go … ” She goes silent and still.
“Jamie?” I whisper. “What’s going on?”
Then I hear it: a steady thumping, rapid and urgent, right behind me and getting louder.
Jamie doesn’t scream. She just mouths the word run.
To be continued next week …
Coming next week
Roberts is a writer and mom who lives and works in Moscow and is very slowly pursuing her master’s degree in English. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.