A Jaunt in the Woods
“Just admit it! We are completely lost!” Jack shouted angrily, adjusting his hood.
“Look, we’re a bit off track, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost! Just- give me a minute, ok?” Liz responded, hunched over in an attempt to keep the map out of the rain.
“Yeah, well. I’ve heard that before,” Jack grunted, slumping down on a partially dry log.
Liz shuffled over to him. “I’ve worked it out, see? If we take the next path northeast, we’ll get to the first checkpoint and from there it’s a straight walk down the open road.”
“Oh, and I’m supposed to believe you this time over the last three times because...” growled Jack irritably. “You can’t even work out where we are! How can you decide which direction- in fact, give me that-“ he said, making a grab for the map.
Liz pulled back. “Hey! You don’t even know how to read this thing properly-“
“And you do?”
“-we agreed, I do the map work. Now look! We are definitely around here somewhere. Got to be!” She said, indicating an area a few miles across. “Now I know it’s not precise-“
“You don’t say.”
“-but the point is, wherever we are, we keep going northeast, we hit the road and from there it’s easy! Or would you rather sit around complaining all day?”
“Fine!” Jack shouted. “Let’s go! Maybe this time we’ll get somewhere rather than turning aimlessly through the middle of nowhere! Wouldn’t that be nice!”
“If you’re not going to be helpful then at least stop shouting!” Liz exclaimed. “This isn’t exactly easy for me either, you know!”
“Fine. If that’s how you want it,” Jack grunted, dragging his feet as he followed Liz.
From their small clearing they descended down a narrow path, thick with branches and roots that lay in wait for the first sign of a false step or careless move. The trees that lined each side were tall and thick with dozens of branches that wormed their way across and over and all around the path, interlocking into a wall as thick and impenetrable as concrete. It seemed only an accident that the path could be traversed at all. An accident the woods seemed determined to rectify.
Though the tree cover was thick, it provided no relief from the endless downpour the skies had unleashed upon them. The rain caught on the branches and the leaves and slid, showering the path not in an even downpour, but in heavy cascades that soaked travellers to the skin.
The path widened, and forked. Liz scurried to check the map, hoping this might help them pinpoint their location, but found her efforts unrewarding. She shrugged, took a quick compass bearing, and directed them along the right fork.
“Just what are we doing here anyway?” Jack burst out.
“It’s called hiking! And it’s fun!” Liz barked back.
“Fun? Yes! Of course! Walking for hours through the middle of nowhere with no idea where we are, where we’re going, getting completely soaked – that’s exactly my idea of fun!” Jack growled.
“And what would you rather be doing? Sitting around watching repeats of trash on TV?”
“There isn’t a TV...” Jack interrupted, but Liz didn’t break stride for a moment.
“-wander gormlessly down some noisy beach filled with dumb tourists and screaming kids? Well I’m sorry if you want your life to be that dull and monotonous, but I happen-“
“Hey, shut up a second.”
“What did you say?” Liz screamed.
“No, seriously, just be quiet a moment and listen.”
Her gaze seemed ready to disembowel him at a second’s notice, but she stopped and listened. It was faint, but she thought she heard
“Traffic. That’s traffic, right?” Jack said excitedly.
Liz had to admit he was right. It did not sound like there was much of it, but the sound was unmistakable.
“Which way?” Jack asked.
“This way of course, come on!” Liz said, bright eyed, dragging him down the path. “We’ll be back in no time!”
A short walk through some brambles, two careful navigations around large, muddy puddles and a hop over a fallen tree later, they came out onto a small, dimly lit but obviously well used road.
“So, where are we? You said you could figure it out,” Jack asked, relief showing plainly on his face.
“Yes yes, just a moment,” Liz said, orienting the map. She had noticed a sign just across the road, which gave her an easy reference for their location. She placed her finger on where they should be on the map and scanned the area. Seeing nothing, she scanned areas slightly farther afield. Still nothing. After double checking those areas, she turned her attention to the rest of the page.
“Well? Have you found it?” Jack asked again.
“Yes, I have,” Liz said tentatively.
“What is it?” Jack asked apprehensively.
Liz showed him the map. “Well, you see here,” she pointed to where they were meant to be. “We’re um, here,” she finished, pointing to somewhere that was very definitely not where they were meant to be.
For a few seconds, Jack just stared. He began to open his mouth, but quickly closed it again. He got to his feet and shouldered his pack, ready to leave.
Liz stowed the map away in her bag and they were silent for a moment.
“So, did you want to say something?” Asked Liz.
They glanced at each other for a moment. Jack shrugged, and they began their long journey down the road.