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Steve Rylor

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Nightmare Trail
By Steve Rylor
Saturday, June 15, 2002

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The Nevada sun shone brightly as Sharon Arton drove toward Widow Mountain to rendezvous with her friend Marla. She reflected on her passion; running. Running was the one past time that balanced the heavy negatives in life, and eased the stress of everyday problems.

Sharon’s pager beeped lightly as she arrived at the base of the mountain. She at once recognized Marla’s phone number, followed by the digits, 22, which meant Marla could not make it this morning. Disappointed but determined, she decided to go it alone rather than turn back.

Still mildly upset at Marla’s cancellation, she got out of the car, and as the door was swinging shut (locked of course), she realized the keys were still inside. Quickly she grabbed at the closing door, accidentally pushing it harder instead, helping it slam shut. She decided to take a little known trail instead of Spinner trail since it only looped back to the parking lot. She remembered hearing that someone lived down in the small canyon where the trail led. Perhaps they could help.

The going at first was fine, but the farther she went, the more strange things became. The trail began to twist, deeper and deeper as her pace quickened. Suddenly, she had the strange sensation something was keeping pace with her. Glancing back over her shoulder, she saw nothing. Turning her head back around, still running, she caught a glimpse of something running through the sparse brush alongside the path, keeping abreast of her. She stopped. It stopped.

There, partially camouflaged by scrub brush sat a huge Gila Monster resting on its haunches, gazing at Sharon with alien eyes glistening with ill intent. Her heart leapt to her throat as she sprinted to a quickened pace. The big lizard no longer ran through the underbrush. Boldly, it now skittered on the path, behind Sharon, purposely inching closer with each stride of its squat reptilian legs.

Sharon was too terrified to stop or look around. She could almost feel its crawling, cold, slimy touch, its flicking tongue darting out from its pointed, scaly snout to touch the backs of her knees. She looked around anyway, but it was gone.

Still, she jogged on, now through a narrow canyon passageway, her mouth agape from exhaustion. Suddenly her face and mouth were awash with something sticky, yet feathery. She tried to spit some of it out, but it clung like strips of scotch tape. Something moved in her mouth that felt like hairy mucous, balled up, something with legs that flitted over her molars and tongue, frantic for escape. She closed her esophagus to keep from swallowing whatever it was, but in so doing, she accidentally bit down a little. Spasmodically, she spat the vile contents out of her mouth; mucus, saliva and a wolf spider the size of a silver dollar with a couple of spindly legs missing showered to the ground.

Shaking beyond control, she came upon a rest stop consisting of a wooden bench in a shady alcove just off the trail where she stopped to rest, half falling to the bench. After a moment she felt something touch the back of her exposed legs, through the wood slats in the bench, from underneath. She screamed and scrambled from the bench, slapping at her legs with open palms. Nothing there. She heard a clicking noise and turned to see a rattlesnake grinning at her from underneath the bench, its black tongue darting in and out, somehow relishing her fright, and then it slithered away, having finished the game. Sharon fainted.

After regaining consciousness she slowly moved on, unable to jog any longer. The trail suddenly dropped sharply, and the walls of the canyon closed in again, hugging her on both sides with dark crevices in the rock. She held her breath going through the worst of it, but it wasn’t enough. As if on cue, a thousand tarantulas came at her from all those dark crevices. They came like a sea of black crabs on a million hairy legs. They jumped in her hair, on her face, down her jersey. Many tried to get in her shoes. Sharon jumped around like a spastic puppet controlled by a lunatic puppeteer. She flung her tarantula covered shoes off in morbid disgust. She couldn’t breathe because the filthy, grotesque spiders plugged her nostrils with their furry legs, and she dare not open her mouth to breathe. She scrambled to her feet and ran as fast as she could, crunching some of the tarantulas underneath her bare feet.

Suddenly in the distance a small building appeared, Charlotte’s Cafe read the overhead sign. She rushed in, pieces of tarantula still clinging to her.

At one of the tables in the middle of the room she sat down hard, exhausted from her ordeal, careful to avoid the darkened booths where more terror might hide. “Hey! anybody here,” she called out, her voice trembling. “Please, anybody.”

Abruptly, an elderly woman appeared, carrying a glass of water and a menu. She had kinky grayish hair and severe wrinkles in her face, and a gait that was not human.

“No need to get all huffy youngin’, I’m coming. Now then, what can I get ya?”

“Look, I’ve been through a terrible ordeal out there on that trail. It’s filled with every sort of nasty crawling thing you can think of. Why, they nearly killed me out there. I’ve got to get out of here. Do you have a phone I could use?”

“You don’t say. Likely as not, you pestered them some I reckon. They don’t bother you unless in’ you bother them first. I should know.”

“Yeah, well, I’m getting the hell out of this place. Now where is your phone?”

“Hold tight, there a moment. Here, take the menu, likely you ain’t ate in awhile, am I right? I’ll fetch the phone while you make a selection. Be right back.” The old woman shuffled off to the kitchen like she was on a tightrope.

She opened the menu. You guessed it, she shouldn’t have. There, printed neatly, were the specialties of the house.
· Wolf Spider waffles (Fluffy and crunchy)
· Linguini Lizard (served in a rich beetle sauce)
· Tarantula Teriyaki (served with hand tossed scorpion salad with cricket croutons)

Putting down the menu, she again saw the old woman approaching, gliding on several coal black, hairy feet that peeked out in turn from underneath a full length dress of black silk. Sharon had no doubt as to what were attached to those eight feet. In the old woman’s spider like hands were two gruesome looking spinets from which a white fluid flowed, turning semi liquid as she wove a web. And as she spoke, her facial features slid into grotesque formations of aged skin and hair stubble.

“I guess you’ve figured out there’s been a change in the menu this evening.” she said, the words spewing from a hairy mandible.”

“Of course there has”, Sharon answered, with resignation. “let me guess. I’m the new entree tonight, right?”

“How discerning of you, sweetie,” the old woman continued. “Now come this way. All those you pestered today want to get to know you, uh, how shall I say, better?”

With that, the huge spider woman lifted Sharon and carried her to the kitchen, despite her high pitched screams that filled every listening ear within a hundred miles, which no one heard.
“Sharon, Sharon, snap out of it.”

“Marla, is it really you?” Sharon finally managed to say, groggily.

“Yes, Sharon, it’s me. What in the world happened to you? You look completely spent. Did you run the trail without me?”

“But you beeped me, saying you couldn’t make it. Don’t you remember? Code 22?”

“Listen hon, I never beeped you. I’ve never missed this run with you have I? I just got here a few minutes ago and found you standing by your car, screaming to high heaven.”

“Oh Marla, you wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through. I accidentally locked the keys in the car and had to take that other trail, hoping to find some help. It was horrible. I was attacked by snakes and big spiders.”

“Well, Sharon, the only spider I see at the moment is this little fella here on the car window, but he’s just a baby daddy longlegs and can’t hurt you. In fact, he’s adorable, don’t you think? And look, your car is unlocked, see? And there ain’t no other trail up here, you know that. Now, come on, we still have time. Let’s do our run!”

With that Marla turned toward the trail, and Sharon saw a piece of a black silk slip hanging from underneath her jogging suit.

Sharon collapsed.

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Reviewed by Barbara 7/1/2002
Completely spine-tingling. I found myself looking under my chair to make sure there were no spiders.
Reviewed by Kitty 6/29/2002
Steve's use of metaphors and other parts of speech was great.

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