Authors: A.M. Hargrove
Tags: #Teen Paranormal
He was a large, stout man. Not fat, but muscular and thick. He was tall and dressed in army fatigues. In his hand was a huge hunting knife pointed directly at me. A crossbow slung was over his shoulder.
Voices began invading my mind. I looked directly at him to find he wasn’t speaking. My mind continued to be blasted by the hideous voices, and they were saying all sorts of horrific things. It was as if his mind was projecting his thoughts to me.
This had happened to me once before…when I found out that my dad had died. I never told anyone for fear they would think I was crazy, and now it was happening again. Was he really thinking those things? If so, he intended to kill me, and those thoughts made me want to throw up. I became sick to my stomach. I knew I had to say something to try to dissuade him.
“What do you want? I don’t have any money other than $20. I’ll give you that and my credit card. I can also tell you where my car is, and I’ll even give you the keys. Please, just don’t hurt me!” I begged.
“You’re just like all of them, offering me whatever they can and then begging for mercy. You know I’m not interested in that. Get up and let’s go,” he said.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
No answer. For no apparent reason, I began to laugh hysterically.
“What’re you laughing at?” he snarled. “You better not be laughing at me if you know what’s good for you.” I could see this irritated him.
His anger intensified, as did the voices I was hearing. The next thing I knew, he landed a crushing blow directly to my right jaw that buckled me, bringing to my knees.
I hit the ground and couldn’t seem to gather my scattered wits about me. Suddenly, I realized he was crouching over me, and again, I saw the sun glint off the knife. Before I could so much as twitch a muscle, he brought the knife down and slashed my left cheek with it. I remember thinking how he must have missed because I didn’t feel any pain. Then I started to feel the warm stickiness of my blood as it ran down my cheek.
I brought my hand to my face to find it had been slashed from my ear to my nose. I began shaking uncontrollably from shock.
Who was this man? Why was he doing this? I was suddenly sick, bent over heaving.
He started circling me, much like an animal would his prey.
“That’ll teach you not to
laugh at me! Now get
, or I’ll do the same to your other cheek.
“Please, I...I’m sick.” I stammered, only to be backhanded across the face. I stumbled back to the ground and continued to tremble.
I struggled to my feet and swayed with dizziness. It took me a moment to gain my balance, for the weight of my pack was throwing me off kilter. He started shoving me forward, and I stumbled to my knees. He grabbed me by my pack and jerked me to my feet, wrenching my arms in the process. I winced in pain.
“Shut up!” he said as he shoved me forward.
I didn’t want him to touch me again, so step by step I started moving.
The blood was still pouring out of the wound, so I attempted to stem to flow of blood with the back of my hand.
It took us about another hour to reach our destination: LeConte Lodge. It was a cluster of rustic, primitive cabins, located on Mount LeConte, that was open from March to November. Since it was late December, there would be no help for me there.
We walked up to the main lodge, and he grabbed a fire log from the porch and broke a window, allowing him to unlock the door.
Once inside, I removed my backpack to get something to wipe off my face. He heard me, spun around and landed another blow to my right jaw. This time, I was sure I heard it break. I screamed from the excruciating pain. Waves of nausea rolled through me.
without my permission. Is that clear? Any more moves like that, and I’ll put an arrow in you. You understand me?” he growled with menace.
I quickly nodded my head. I was so terrified, and the waves of pain and nausea coursing through my body made it impossible to do otherwise. I lay there and prayed, for exactly what, I don’t remember. I was trembling so much that it was making my head pound. I tried to cradle my head in my hands, but any kind of movement was pure torture. I closed my eyes and started to concentrate on my breathing. I told myself that I must get my wits about me. This man intended to kill me, and if I were going to survive, I would have to buck up and come up with some kind of plan.
He left the main room, and I heard him rummaging through the kitchen looking for food, I guessed. I heard things banging around. I was still afraid to move because I was so unsteady from the pain. I focused on breathing to calm myself because I was an inch away from blacking out, and if that happened, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance.
He came back up to me and handed me a cloth. “Here, clean yourself up. You’re a damn mess, and you look like hell. And quit that crying! I hate a whiny-ass, and I’m not in the mood to hear you bawl. If you don’t want another little cut like the first one, you better not let me hear you make another sound.”
A little cut? Is that what he considered this? It felt like my face was split in half. I couldn’t open my mouth. This monster just called all of this a little cut. I felt the fire coming back into my head. I was
going to let this crazy bastard take my life away. I would come up with something, somehow, someway.
It was freezing in the lodge, as it should have been. Darkness was quickly descending, and the temperature had dropped precipitously. It was probably below freezing outside already, and I was beginning to shiver.
“Would it be possible for me to get my sleeping bag?” I mumbled, pain exploding in my head and face.
“Yeah, you can have it, but I’ll get it out. No funny stuff,” he said.
He dug into my pack. I hoped he wouldn’t find my knife because that would have to be part of my plan. “Here you go.” He tossed me my bag.
I unrolled it and got inside. I was now shivering so badly that my teeth were chattering, causing violent spasms of pain, and I couldn’t think of a single thing except getting warm. I wondered what his next move would be. I was on edge, but I didn’t want to open up a can of worms by asking him.
I stayed as still as possible and tried to calm myself with my breathing. I also started to formulate an escape plan.
There were several main trails leading down from LeConte Lodge: the Boulevard (the one I came up), Alum Cave Bluffs, and Trillium Gap to name a few.
I was very familiar with both the Boulevard and Alum Cave Bluffs. I had never hiked Trillium Gap, so that was out. I would have to go down one of the other two.
The Boulevard was about eight miles long but a more gradual descent. Alum Cave was only about six miles, but it was much steeper. With the snow and ice, I doubted I could make much better time on Alum Cave.
I chose the Boulevard. I would have to run most of it, but that would allow me to gain precious time.
I would wait for him to fall asleep. I had my bear spray in the cargo pocket of my pants. I would use that to disable him. I needed to get my knife out of my pack, along with my headlamp. I wouldn’t make it very far without my light out there. I decided to try to get some sleep now so that I would have some reserves for when I tried to make my break. This had to work; it absolutely had to work. I knew if it didn’t, I would certainly die up here.
I must have drifted off, because I suddenly felt someone nudging me. I opened my eyes to see him standing beside me. He offered me a drink of water.
“Drink. I want you around for a couple of days, and it’ll be much better if you’re not dehydrated.”
Considerate of him
, I thought.
I drank as much as I could before he grabbed the bottle away from me. Ten minutes later, I felt the room swimming around me. I started experiencing double vision, and that’s when I realized he drugged the water. Fear coursed through me. He saw it in my eyes and began laughing. That’s the last thing I remembered of that night.
I awoke in a state of confusion, surfacing from a thick haze. My memory came flooding back in a rush, and I realized I was a prisoner.
My bludgeoned face was on fire, and my tongue was dry and swollen. I couldn’t move my jaw or open my mouth, so now I had no doubt my jaw was broken. My cheek stopped bleeding sometime during the night. My sleeping bag was covered in dried blood, and my face felt like it was the size of a balloon.
I had to look at the positives though; I was still alive. My injuries, while painful, were not life threatening. My arms and legs were uninjured, so that gave me inspiration to continue with my escape plan.
I contemplated how I would put things in motion. Should I wait until his back was turned? I’m not sure how that would work since I needed to have a direct hit on his face with the bear spray. If I was even slightly off, that could mean precious minutes lost to me.
Seconds later, he headed toward me with some food. It wasn’t possible for me to even get my mouth open, so I wondered how he imagined I would be able to eat. Then I realized he never intended to give the food to me. It was for himself.
He gave me a big smile as he started to take a bite. He ate and stared at me with those emotionless, evil eyes. It was very unsettling. I had this feeling he knew what I was thinking…knew about my plans for escape. I tried to look away, but I didn’t seem able.
Suddenly, he stood up and walked away. Seconds later, he was headed back toward me holding a rope and a roll of duct tape.
“I’m heading out for a while. I’ve gotta scout out the area and see what’s around. I’m gonna have to tie you up. You know I don’t trust you to stay here,” he said with a vicious smirk. I started hearing those voices again—nasty and terrifying thoughts about how he would torture and kill me.
I knew my time had come. I had to act now. It was daylight. I could get down the mountain without my headlamp, so I didn’t need to get into my pack. My bear spray was in my pocket. As he began to unwind the rope, I slowly inched my hand into my pocket. I needed for him to get very close so that I could be one hundred percent sure of hitting my target. It would incapacitate him for at least ten minutes. That would give me my head start.
He reached for me, and I released the spray on him. It was a direct hit in his eyes. He stumbled backward, fell to his knees and started screaming. He covered his eyes and howled in anger and pain. He was yelling profanities at me, but I didn’t stop to listen because I was out the door and running toward the trail.
I ran as fast as I could, careful all the way not to slip and fall; a mistake like that would cost me my life. It wasn’t long before my lungs started to burn as I continued to push on. I was thankful for it at first because it took my mind off of the stabbing pain my jaw was causing with each and every footfall.
I kept repeating to myself, “Only eight miles. I can do this in my sleep. Stay focused, Maddie.”
The burning in my lungs that I was initially thankful for soon turned into my mortal enemy. I somehow knew my lungs would explode soon if I didn’t slow my pace. Thankfully, my adrenaline rush was still in high gear. It enabled me to push myself as hard as I could, even though I was gasping for every agonizing breath. Still, I knew I couldn’t take the chance of slowing my pace. This was better than the alternative that was undoubtedly chasing me by now.
I ran for what seemed to be hours, but in reality, only about fifteen minutes had elapsed. On the bright side, that put me at least a mile closer to my car and safety. I kept pushing myself forward. The pain in my jaw seemed to be easing a bit, most likely due to my desperation for safety. I started pondering about slowing down to see if I could hear him in pursuit, but my adrenaline wouldn’t allow me to do that quite yet.
After an hour or so, I looked at my watch to gage the distance I had covered. At the pace I was pushing, I was probably covering about a mile every ten to fifteen minutes. That would put me about a third of the way down.
I was approaching a fairly tricky spot that would force me to slow down. It was a point where the trail narrowed to barely a single footpath that literally clung to the side of a mountain. With the recent snow, it became all the more hazardous. There was a thick cable nailed in the rock for hikers to grab as a handrail. I had been on this trail in the past when it was icy, and it could get extremely treacherous. I didn’t want to take any chances here and risk losing my balance or my footing.
I decided to slow down, and that’s when I heard a twig snap in the distance. I gasped with fear. The noise turned my legs to concrete, halting my ability to move. I forced my mind and, hence, my legs, into action. I started running again. I had made it about halfway across the danger zone when I felt a searing pain in my left calf. The force of the impact spun me around. I looked down and at first didn’t realize I was looking at an arrow in my leg.
A second later, I felt another searing pain; this time, it was in my chest near my left shoulder. I gasped, not so much from the pain, but from the sheer shock of it. It threw me off balance, and then, the pain hit, leaving me senseless. I looked in the direction from which the arrow came, but I couldn’t see anything. I could only guess he would be upon me in minutes.
I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, and then, I felt my left hand going numb and losing its grasp on the cable.
I started to panic. I became dizzy and lightheaded, and my feeble hold on consciousness began to slip. I willed myself, ordered myself to keep moving forward, but my legs ignored my commands. My foot slipped, and the cable began to slide out of my grasp.
Reality barreled into me with the force of an earthquake. Survival was an absolute impossibility here. The fall was at least thirty feet, and that was a conservative estimate. If the fall didn’t kill me, the below freezing temperatures at nightfall and my injuries would; that is if my predator didn’t get to me first. The last thing I recall was scraping the side of the mountain, trying to grab onto to anything to stop my fall, only to come up empty handed. In slow motion, I saw my life pass before me. I don’t remember hitting the ground; I must have lost consciousness by then.