I have always been somewhat of a wanderer, if something catches my interest I tend to wander away from the group or my family. This has led to many close calls and near emergencies throughout the years. One such instance happened in the summer when I was ten or eleven, hiking with my older brothers in a State Park forest.
I can’t quite remember what caught my eye and caused me to stop walking with them. It was probably either a large butterfly or a praying mantis. Anyway, I got off the trail and pursued the insect. Eventually I lost sight of it. I went to turn around and head back to the trail, but I didn’t see the trail, nothing looked familiar! So I did something really stupid, I continued on ahead, figuring that I would come across a hiking trail at some point and try to find an adult who could help me locate my brothers.
I saw several small deer-trails, some of which I followed, only to lead to dead ends. I kept walking and no matter how far I walked I could never seem to find a hiking trail. After what must have been several hours, I gave up and sat under a large pine tree which formed a sort of shelter with it’s long branches. I remember crying at the thought of never seeing my brothers or family ever again, that no one is going to find me out here, you know how kids catastrophize things.
Curled up with my legs drawn to my chest and crying into my knees I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see what I first thought to be a person, but something wasn’t right about it, it’s features were blurred, like a camera not focusing. As if it was more ethereal than physical. Before the thing could speak I told it I was lost and just wanted to find my brothers and go home. The thing took my hand and led me out from under the pine tree, I was surprised at how much time had passed. The sun was much further down in the sky than I remember it being and the cicada’s were loudly buzzing.
It led me through the forest, seeming to know where it was going. The further we went though, the more uncomfortable I felt and the more scared I was. As we were approaching a dense thicket, my fight or flight kicked in and I let go of the things hand before darting back the way we came. Now I should mention that I was rather skinny as a kid but also very active so I could sprint for quite a ways before becoming winded.
I refused to look behind me while I was running, terrified at the thought of that thing pursuing me. Despite how much my lungs burned and my legs ached I did not stop running until I entered what I figured was a campground, judging by the many tents that were set up. I must have looked like total hell. Everything else afterwards is sort of a blur, I recall many people asking if I was okay, some park rangers, a car ride, and reuniting with my brothers. Both of whom were pissed like hell at me but nonetheless relieved that I was alive and okay.
So I asked my brothers to fill me in on the rest of the story as I totally forget what happened between reuniting with them and waking up the next morning in a hospital bed. Well after the park rangers brought me to my brothers and led us to the State Parks Parking area, there was some EMT’s on standby which the rangers themselves had called in, not to long after hearing about me going missing. The EMT’s told my brothers that I was going to be okay, but that I was very dehydrated and needed to be given IV fluids along with some other minor things. So I was taken to the closest hospital, and had X-Rays performed along with the IV fluids. Nothing was broken (thankfully) but I did have a sprained ankle, several cuts on my legs, arms, and face, a plethora of mosquito bites, severe sunburn, and severe dehydration.
I still have no idea what that thing that tried to lure me deeper into the forest was. But one things for sure, I stay on the trails when hiking in State Park forests!