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Thought I’d share a fiction treat for Wednesday. Last year for Story a Day I wrote a story comprised of tweets called One Hour. I had always planned to return to this story, to fill in the blanks. Today, despite being under the weather, turned out to be the day. If you’ve not read the original, the link above will take you there. Below is the new version of One Hour (rough draft).

One Hour

Terry parked her Corolla behind the Chestatee B&B and stepped out into the blazing, late afternoon heat. The Blue Ridge Mountains spanned the horizon in waves of cool azure greens. Above them, swirls of oranges, reds, and pinks danced across the sky. For the first time in months the hint of a smile tugged at the edges of her mouth. She let her life as a journalist in Atlanta fall away, a second skin she no longer needed to keep sharp and lean. Instead of a suit, she sported her most comfortable jeans—Saturday jeans—and a loose cotton tank. She’d also decided to wear those Merrell hiking boots Megan had insisted she needed. Megan, her younger sister, was more the outdoorsy type, but she hadn’t been able to convince her to put down the paint brush and come on a week vacation in the mountains.

Terry pulled her long, black hair into a pseudo-bun and grabbed her bags from the trunk.

“Oops!”

Her fingers fumbled through the bottomless pit of her purse till she produced a shiny, new iPhone. A flurry of strokes brought her back in touch with the real world.

Yay! Just arrived at the B&B. Nearly sundown, but still time to explore a bit.

She’d promised to keep everyone in the loop, but the truth was she couldn’t stay away from her social networks. Twitter and Facebook meant she was never alone.

I can’t believe how beautiful it is here, even in the twilight. This is going to be the best vacation.

Terry stuffed the phone into her jean’s pocket and glanced at a small path she’d seen driving into the lot. She still had an hour left before she had to check-in, more than enough time to explore.

“Unpacking can wait a little longer,” she said, and closed the lid of the trunk.

What she’d thought was a path, was more an overgrown space between the trees. She took a step back and found what had caught her eye. Hidden beneath the scrub, a wooden sign marked this as the entrance to the Swallowtail Trail.

“I wonder.” Terry pushed aside a low lying branch and edged her way into the opening.

Briars had long ago claimed the nature trail. They’d grown massive, towering on either side of the forgotten path like a fortress wall. Where two vines met the unforgiving plants joined, spiraling upwards as they competed for what little sun reached the forest floor. Further down the path the sun broke through an opening in the trees. The light, like magic, illuminated the green hues. Everything seemed to glow and shimmer. Butterflies weaved in and out between the trees and the bird’s summer melodies echoed all around her. Terry needed other incentive to push through the prickly vines.

Twenty minutes later when sun’s last rays glinted off the tops of the peaks, Terry pulled out her phone again. Her fingers gripped the smooth plastic tight, to stay the trembling in her hands. The buttons were not responding fast enough.

Okay, don’t laugh. I think I’m lost. Walking 20 mins and can’t find my way. Help!

After snapping a few photographs of the butterflies, Terry had decided to continue down the neglected path—oblivious to the setting sun. The failing light now made the path all the more obscure.

She glanced back at the illuminated screen; lips pulled tight, and rolled her eyes.

@SurvivalGuide Um, thanks for following but I don’t need your zombie apocalypse guide. I’m lost    in the N GA Mnts.

“Fraking spammers.” Another message appeared on the screen, and though genuine, it was of no help to her now.

@denniscook I can’t see anything really. It’s pitch dark and GPS says I’m in a coffee shop in  Atlanta. :-/

“Why is it technology only saves the day on TV? Why am I talking to myself?” Her laugh echoed into the darkness, sending a shiver through her limbs

“Okay, time to start thinking.” She tapped in a series of numbers and waited.

Ringggg. Ringggg.

“Ugh. I don’t believe this!”

Just tried calling the B&B and there’s no answer. WTH?

@amysart Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be laughing about it later.

“Not.”

A mournful, deep cry shattered Terry’s irritation. Her legs seemed to have a life of their own, sending her two feet up into the air before logic could tell her brain it was only an owl.

“Oh my, god!” Adrenaline coursed through her hands. All around her the night was coming to life. But further on, beyond the sounds of scurrying rodents and insects she heard something else too. Something far less innocent. Her phone was her only comfort.

I keep hearing noises. It’s probably just little critters, right?

Her eyes strained and squinted against the darkness, but it made little difference. The forest around her was drowned in a black emptiness. A distant childhood memory told her she should stay put, but anxiety urged her onward. Using her phone as a flashlight she stretched her arms out to be her guide, walking deeper into the forest and farther away from the B&B.

Terry had not traveled far when a pale glow poured over her skin and across the wooded valley. Maybe luck was on her side after all.

Thank God! The moon has come out from behind the clouds. :-D

Terry’s eyes raced back and forth across the thickly forested landscape, not knowing how long she’d have the moon’s help. Two hundred yards away sat the undeniable shape of something manufactured. The vice which had gripped her heart loosened its hold.

I think I see something. Going to take a look, wish me luck!

By the time she reached the structure her anxiety had returned. She stared at the slipshod hunter’s shack in disappointment. The tarp which covered the plywood building had long since eroded. It blanketed the roof like a spider’s web.

Terry’s nose crinkled and she whipped a hand over her nose and mouth. “Great. Comes with its own security system, Scent of Death. God, this sucks.”

She twisted the knob half expecting the door to be locked, but it gave way with little pressure.

It’s some sort of hunting shack. Not much here. Some empty shells, a table and chair.

“Some vacation this has turned out to be. I’m such an idiot.” She sunk into the wooden chair to contemplate her next move, but instead feel asleep gripping the phone in her hands.

When the howling registered in Terry’s consciousness it was on the tail end of its harrowing solo. She didn’t know what to be more afraid of, the fact that a wolf might be in the Blue Ridge Mountains or the somersaults her heart was performing in her chest. Maybe it was something that sounded like a wolf? The shape of the mountains could carry sounds far and distort them too.

OMG! I swear I just heard a wolf howl.

@denniscook I know, I know! But I swear it sounded like a wolf.

When it began its song again Terry found she couldn’t breathe. Pin pricks spread down her arms and legs, and rustled the hairs at the nape of her neck. She hoped it was only a dog, but something deep inside her knew otherwise.

The sound of crickets echoing from her phone broke the trance. She canceled the alarm.

“Looks like I won’t be checking in tonight at this rate.”

I heard it again and it sounds closer. I think I’m going to stay in the shack. Calling the B&B again.

But first, she needed to secure the one way in and out of the shack. Terry pulled over the chair, which happened to be of more sound structure than the shack itself, and wedged it under the knob. A perfect fit. The ornamental cut in the center of the chair’s back would make it impossible to dislodge.

Curled up against the wall she cradled her only connection to friends and family to her ear.

“Please, ring,” she begged.

Instead of reaching the check-in desk at the B&B her ear met the last sound she wanted to hear—a busy signal. Redialing didn’t help. Her coverage jumped sporadically from zero to one bar. No matter how many times she paced the room she couldn’t find a strong enough signal for the call to connect. Internet service, on the other hand, was not a problem.

“I can’t make a phone call, but I can tweet to my heart’s content. I should have stayed home for a week and just pretended to be on vacation.”

I lost signal here for a few minutes. This might be the worst vacation ever.

Responses to her last tweet were rising by the second, but she ignored them, her interest captivated by an odd sound coming from outside. It began as a soft pattering, almost like someone tapping their fingers on a desk, but it grew louder and louder.

Shit! There is definitely something outside the shack. Someone please call the Chestatee B&B and tell them I’m lost.

The tapping turned into a rustle, like a small animal foraging through the forest floor debris. Fear jolted Terry from the chair. She edged slowly toward the back of the shack, never taking her eyes from the door.

I can’t believe I’ve gotten myself into this situation.

“I can’t believe I’m still tweeting,” she whispered.

@megreads Will you call Mom and tell her to call the B&B, police, who ever can help?

“Okay, Terry. Get your head on straight.” She glanced around dark room, using her phone as a light, searching for anything she might use as a weapon. Who ever had been here last had not left much behind. If it came down to the line she might be able to break off one the table’s legs.

She made a move toward the table, but stopped mid-stride. Something was scraping against the side of the shack. She could just make out the low rumble of a growl. In one long leap Terry positioned herself against the back wall, knees pulled tight to her chest.

It’s growling and scratching. I don’t know what to do.

A second set of growls and scratching chimed in, as if in response to the first. Terry’s throat began to swell as the terror rose up inside her.

Now there’s more than one. Somebody please help me!

The door rattled with the first deafening boom. The walls shook.

They’re trying to break down

Terry had hit enter by mistake.

She cursed her clumsiness, even as the wood splintered and whined under the pressure. A soft whimper escaped her lips when the door fell inward. Glowing eyes surrounded her, their stares bored into her fear. In the minutes that followed Terry remembered very little, except the feel of their razor teeth and the tears that washed away the blood.

©  Amanda Makepeace

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