By Tara Roberts
For a second, I can’t do anything but gape at it. I’ve always made fun of people in movies who can’t figure out to just move out of the way when something terrible is barreling down on them, but now I get it. My brain is trying to tell my legs to go, but they’re not listening.
Jamie’s voice cuts into my panic. “Rose! Run!”
I see my friend in front of me, ready to dash out of the meadow where we’ve been standing and into the thicker forest. I’m glad she’s waiting. My legs get the message, and I run.
Or I try to. But I’ve forgotten I’m wearing snowshoes.
I stomp the back of my right snowshoe with the front of my left. All the momentum I tried to put into sprinting instead goes into flinging my whole body forward and out, head first, tangled feet flailing behind me.
I hurtle into Jamie, slamming us both into a 10-foot-tall spruce. Snow bursts from its branches, a sudden blizzard.
The moose is so close now I can feel the weight of it spreading out through the snow with each pounding hoof-fall. We can’t run now. Jamie and I cling to each other, ducking our heads beneath our packs, waiting. I keep my eyes closed. What’s it going to feel like to be pummelled by a furious moose?
But the hoofbeats pass. They’re loud a few moments more, then echo into the distance.
Jamie pushes herself up on her elbows and brushes the snow off her face. She gawks at me, her eyes bugging out, and we lose ourselves in a fit of relieved laughter.
“Man, I don’t know what ticked that guy off, but I’m glad it wasn’t us,” she says.
I stand up and find I’m shaky, but the rush of adrenaline has given me new energy. “Just a little farther to the cabin, huh?”
We’ve spent most of the hike to this point updating each other on the minor points of our jobs and families, telling funny stories from our college days, but Jamie turns solemn.
“I’m sorry for dragging you out here,” she says.
“Hey, if you were dragging me, I wouldn’t have to walk,” I say.
She shakes her head. “No. It wasn’t fair. Begging and pleading and bringing you gear and setting it up so Mike would stay home with the kids. I didn’t ask what you wanted to do at all.”
“It’s OK, really,” I say. “You convinced me. Made it easy to say yes.”
“But would you have said yes if I’d asked, really asked?”
I think about my day before Jamie showed up: Taking care of my sick toddler, catching up on work. A little more stressful than a normal day, but still well within my routine. The thing is, I like my routine. No wild moose. No wild goose chases after mythical creatures in the woods.
“To be honest,” I say, “no.”
She sighs and looks away. I try to think of what to say, but as we round the corner an unexpected color catches my eye: green, but not quite a natural green. A tent, tucked into the trees.
And beside the tent, a creature.
To be continued …
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 at email@example.com.