Trailblazing

“Trailblazing” appeared in the webzine Grimoire in 1999. I wrote this story after taking a vacation in Shenandoah National Park. If you enjoy hiking and rustic cabins, this is a good place to visit, especially during the off-season. (We went in early June, when it was still misty and cold in the mountains.) Just watch out for the witches.

The red Camaro roared up Skyline Drive, splitting the early morning silence with the growl of its engine. It was going much faster than the speed limit of thirty-five miles an hour, but Kevin figured that was okay. His vehicle really hugged the road.

“There’s another one!” his brother yelled, leaning forward to point out the window at a deer that had been grazing along the shoulder. Now it was scrambling up the steep hill into the forest, trying to get away from the onrushing car. Johnny sank back into his seat, wheezing with laughter. “God, you can’t swing a dead cat in here without hitting one of them things.”

They flew over the crest of a hill, not quite leaving the pavement. This brought them to one of the short, infrequent straightaways along Skyline Drive. Kevin gunned the engine. Trees and patchy mist flew by. As the road dipped and curved, a small white-tailed deer darted out of the woods. Kevin stomped on the brakes. The tires locked and the car skidded to a halt, but not before the startled-looking animal went down beneath it.

“Damn it!” Kevin put the car into reverse. The carcass thumped and scraped against the undercarriage before they finally cleared it. The collision had left a brownish-red smear on the road.

Kevin pulled into an overlook on the right and got out to check the car. Other than the bumper, the damage was minimal. He was bent over and checking the undercarriage when Johnny said, “Hey, Kev, there’s a trail here. Let’s do this one, huh?”

Kevin went to his brother, who stood before a vertical trail map of a place called Virago Mountain. The path ran a twisting line to the summit. “Okay, sure,” Kevin said.

“Great!” Johnny fetched the K-Mart bag full of spray paint from under his seat. He coated the sign with a brown squiggle to cover up the trail map. Then he turned to Kevin, grinned, and said, “Let’s go.”
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