It was early spring and the rain dripped from the branches of the alders, ash and sycamores teasing the leaf buds to awaken as a man might tease a favorite lover’s nipple. Even in the rain, Springer Mountain was alive will prospective Thru Hikers, spirited, ambitious and in many cases ill-prepared. This was the time of year to begin the 2190 mile trek along the Appalachian Trail (AT) from this knobby mountain in George to the surreal rock monolith of Katahdin. One particular hiker who as yet hadn’t earned her trail name was Dawn.
She and her closest friend April had planned this trip since their dorm days when they huddled over a beer and books against the cold wind and snow that blanketed the UMO campus for what seemed like 14 months out the year. They could have been sisters; they looked so much alike but their temperament didn’t always align. April could be cajoled and, beguiled by someone she trusted and swayed into doing almost anything. Dawn learned that their sophomore year when she first seduced April and they became lovers.
Life happens to lovers, poets and dreamers and in the years since college, they moved apart, both with serious careers, distant husbands, and children with dreams of their own. But now in the 40s they joined again to reminisce and should Dawn have her way relive their lives once shared.
The clouds were parted by a ray of sunshine splashing down from the heavens as the two joined a party of six others on the first leg of their journey.
Around the first night’s campfire as the individuals became friends, April and Dawn shared a smirk as, Josh and his girlfriend Tess bid a hasty goodnight and retired to their tent. Their love making was barely muted by the 20 yards that separated them from fire. George was a tall lanky blond man, who Dawn mused might be gay. While Porter on the other hand, was stalky like a football player. April offered Porter his trail name, linebacker. And Dawn bestowed George’s with his ‘Stretch’.
As the air cooled, the fire dwindled and the sounds of moans were replaced by a distance lone hoot owl. The four bid each other good night. George and Porter left for their separate tents, and Dawn and April to their shared tent.
“I thought they were going to do right next to the campfire.” April blurted out. It was their dorm all over again, talking into the dark, through the darkness until the veil of sleep overtook them both.
As you hike the steps you take are your own. You’re responsible for yourself first and your companions second. And everyone’s pace is different. By the end of the third day Porter and George had left the others, surging ahead in the flats between peaks. Dawn wondered if Porter and George might hit it off. But she was mistaken.
Miles from where Dawn slept a grizzly event left a man crushed between a bolder, still in his sleeping bag, having been flung 70 feet into a river soak ravine.
April and Dawn were perched on a large boulder amid a field of boulders resting as Josh and Tess climbed. Tess was complaining about the poison Ivy and Josh about the blister on his heel.
April began, “It’s been two weeks and the only time they seemed content was when we slept over at that Inn. I don’t think they’ll make it.
As usual, April’s people sense was right. That evening, around the campfire, Josh and Tess explained they were packing it in.
The following gloomy morning, shrouded in a damp suffocating mist, the two pairs separated.
Dawn and April scrambled out of sight along the high ridge overhead as Tess and Josh headed down the mountain towards a distant village and the hope for a ride to a much larger town.
Josh and Tess walked like as if they were in a funeral, slow plodding, failures and quitters. Their spirits were low.
“You go ahead I have to take a leak.” Josh blurted out. Tess obliged. She was preoccupied thinking about what her dad would say when she got home. He had been so supportive of this adventure.
Since his stroke, he lived vicariously through her. He would again be supportive but she knew she would let him down.
Tess’s dropped into a small stream bed and began to wonder where Josh was, she turned to look back and to her surprise saw Porter only feet away.
Before she could finish saying, “What the…” Porter’s fist turned out the lights.
She woke naked, in the twilight, tied between two trees. Across from her Josh was also naked and bound between two trees. His face bloodied and hung to one side. “Josh she shouted out!”
A cool decidedly calculating voice sounded behind her, “Josh isn’t with us right now.” But let’s see if this helps. Porter’s strode by, like the cock of the walk, wearing only his hiking boots and glistening with sweat. His muscles, tensing as he carried Josh’s pack which was now filled with water. He poured the water over Josh’s head. Josh sputtered to life and finished what Tess was trying to say earlier, “Fuck, what the hell.”
He struggled against the vines which only tightened further with his effort. “You probably don’t want to struggle against them, particularly the one around your neck. These vines will tighten enough on their own as they dry out. Just then, Porter threw some more wood on the now blazing fire. He said, “There that should take the chill-out.”
He turned towards Tess, completely engorged. I have something for you. Josh knew what was about to happen but before he could utter a word some foul-smelling plant was shoved in his mouth and another vine tied around his head so he couldn’t spit it out. Shortly, he was in a stupor, aware but unconcerned almost giddy. He smiled as Porter’s approached Tess with his huge cock.
Porter stood over her. Tess could feel his breath on her neck as he kissed her. She turned away but he slapped her hard, the sound rung out in the wood. He grabbed her face and forced his tongue down her throat. His fingers dug into cheeks and she could only comply. She felt his monstrous hard-on against her legs and thought she’d be torn apart as he entered her. After he finished he tied a soaked vine around her neck, gagged her and threw more wood on the fire.
Tess watched him get dress and turn the flashlight on and stealthy move off into the darkness. All she could hear was the crackling of the fire and all she could feel was the tightening of the vine.
It was a beautiful sunrise sparkling off the mirror like lake like fireflies dancing in the dark. They seemed to be the only two people on earth. Dawn stooped over the water washing the breakfast dishes as April decided to skinny dip in the lake. April called from the depths. “Aren’t you going to join me?” Dawn tossed aside the dishes along with her clothes and picked her way through the rock strewn shallows. Without another word they embraced, their warm bodies gyrating against the invigorating cold water. Their mouths pressed against each other’s with the long ago familiarity of undying lovers.
On the ridge over the lake, sheltered from sight by the firs and hardwoods, Porter trained his binoculars on their glistening bodies and handled himself through his shorts.
Since his dishonorably discharge, Porter had spent more time alone in his native Virginia woods then in company of people. In the service, he couldn’t tolerate the incompetence of his superior officer and that combined with his proclivity for violence lead to his court martial.
So it unleashed his demon when people broke his code. Quitting was one rule that cost the lives of George, Tess, and Josh. And there were other bodies, along the AT, that hinted to other radically held beliefs. Even as he stroked himself he angered mounted. Anger and eroticism is a dangerous combination as Dawn and April would soon find out.
Dawn and April decided to take a down day on the shores of the private lake. They lay exhausted on the granite outcropping warmed by the sun from both above and below and feel asleep in each other’s arms.
Dawn dreamt of water lapping up against her feet and the hot nose of a dog pressing against her leg. She didn’t wake until late afternoon, she felt euphoric sprawled out naked on her back, on the same rocks she had made love to April on. She turned her head to find April but a rope or vine kept her from moving far in either direction. She couldn’t see April’s body floating upside down in the reeds in the shallow. What she could see was Porter, dripping wet, standing over her.