The Narrow Way by John Dougherty

March 1, 2012 Comments Off on The Narrow Way by John Dougherty

What began as a day of leisure ended the moment Andrea peered under the tarp. It was frayed and covered with the first leaves of autumn. The sheet of vinyl looked out of place buried among the foliage. Andrea was ten minutes from the city, but felt a world apart among the sycamores. The blue tarp was a crude reminder of the ecotone.

Emma trailed a few feet behind. She approached her sister with caution. “Somebody’s tent?” she asked, winded.

“No, it’s a tarp…probably a homeless person’s,” Andrea replied as she picked up a corner with her manicured hand.

“Well don’t lift it. There might be a dead hooker under there,” Emma joked. “I can’t believe the homeless just leave their stuff everywhere. It’s so disgusting. Can’t there be one place on this planet we don’t use as a garbage dump?” Emma was set to press onward. The last mile of the trail was downhill. She could be home in time to watch the sunset from her balcony. A hot shower, a light salad, and a glass of chardonnay would have capped the perfect day, but Andrea peeled back the tarp and found strips of leather and clumps of matted yellow hair clinging to shiny bone.

“Oh Jesus,” Andrea screamed.

The smile disappeared from Emma’s face. “Oh my god, I was only joking.”

Andrea let the tarp fall back to the earth. A gust of air wafted up the smell of decay. It clung to her pallet and erased the pleasant taste of her morning latte.

Emma stood frozen with her mouth in an O of terror.

Andrea returned to the trail. She placed a hand on her sister’s sweater. “Do we call the police?” There will be questions, statements, and interrogations. There will be a parade of hikers in their wake. Why couldn’t they discover the body under the tarp? Why did it have to be them?

Emma paused and shook her head. “No, Andrea. Let’s just go.”

The pair walked silently down the narrow way. The birdsong and afternoon sunlight, which dappled the forest floor, had lost their magic. Andrea’s thoughts were consumed by darker things, hidden things. Things left undisturbed, things that were sacred.

© 2011 John Dougherty

John Dougherty works odd jobs to support his writing habit.  His fiction has appeared in Aphelion Webzine.  He dedicates his free time to pursuing his passion, writing short stories from his home in Santa Barbara, California.

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