I live in a small town in Canada. The area is relatively safe, and I’m comfortable around it, having lived there all my life. This particular incident happened about a year ago.
It was late December, and the ground was littered with fallen leaves and snow continuously fell throughout the day.
Our town is incredibly forested and has a few trails running near streams as well as a large river, and since I was out of school for the holidays, I decided to kick myself out of bed early in the morning and take a hike and look for fossils and other interesting rocks along the trials.
I started my hike at around seven, bringing with me a small daypack with a snack and some water, my phone, a pack of matches, and a small axe. I grew up camping, so I was confident in my ability to navigate my surroundings and spend a prolonged period in the woods if need be.
By nine, I was in the heart of the forest, crouching near a stream looking through the pebbles. During the past two hours, I had only seen two or three people with their dogs, but that had just been within the first few minutes of my hike. As far as I could tell, I was completely isolated.
I was just about to get up, until I heard a branch snap behind me. Now, the way this stream was situated is a little hard to describe, so please bear with me. There is a slanted cliff, no more than three meters in height, surrounded by trees. There is a trail that runs parallel to this spot but never crosses it, and you would have to pass a decent amount of undergrowth and struggle through dead trees, so I had been quite confident that I was the only one that knew of it.
When I heard the rustle, I got spooked and shot to my feet, and almost slipped on the icy rocks. My heart thudded inside my chest, and a wave of nausea, or pure and raw panic washed over me. Amidst the naked trees, I saw the silhouette of a tall man, lingering among the shadows.
There was no doubt that he was looking at me, I felt his icy stare. I shuddered, the weight of the situation slowly weighing down upon me.
I shouldered my pack and took a step back into the water. The man moved forward. I could now see him clearly. He was older, probably in his fifties and bald. Deep wrinkles and the unshaven stubble on his pale face made him look older than he was. He wore a hunting jacket and jeans, but his choice of footwear surprised me. Instead of boots or something similar, he wore a ratty pair of sneakers. I tugged on my bag nervously, my eyes never leaving the man.
“What are you doing out here?” He called, his voice deep and raspy. I paused and then opened my mouth to answer, but before I could, he spoke again, taking another step forward as he did so.
“You know, it really isn’t a good idea for anyone to be so deep in the woods, especially for a girl of your age,” he chuckled.
I smiled nervously, backing further into the water.
“It’s fine,” I squeaked, “I was just getting samples for school.”
He grinned, and the corners of his mouth seemed to stretch all the way up to his eyes.
“I’ll give you a ride home, you must be tired,” he motioned behind him. “Walk with me,” he said.
I shook my head, walking to my right, following the flow of the stream.
“I’m fine; I can get home on my own. Have a nice day, sir.”
He stopped smiling.
His expression soured, and he began climbing down the cliff.
“Come here. I’m a good guy, I promise.”
Now, those words were what was what set me off. I mean, who the hell even says that? If I doubted him before, those words broke the deal.
I turned and sprinted, spreading my arms at either side to stop myself from falling. When I made it to the middle of the stream, I had to slow down. The freezing water was almost at my waist and made it difficult to run. I glanced back, and the man was still hot on my tail, screaming profanities as he waded through the water.
I was crying, pushing myself to the shore as the tears streamed down my cheeks. I clambered out, only to be faced with another slope to climb. I glanced back. The man was almost to the shore, a fire burning in his eyes. He stayed silent, and I could only hear his panting and my sobs.
I hoisted myself up on the ledge, pushing off the ground and pulling myself up. I managed to swing one foot over, but before I could follow with the other, I felt a hand clamp down around my ankle.
I don’t remember what happened next very well, but the most memorable part was fear. It was so strong, that I couldn’t even scream. I remember opening my mouth, but no sound came out. I remember him yanking on my leg, trying to pull me off. I held onto a root, digging my nails into its bark.
The man roared when I wouldn’t let go, and I took the opportunity to swing my free leg, down at his face. There was a loud crunch, and the man wailed. His grip loosened and I climbed back onto the ledge, and sprinted away, not once looking back.
It was three hours later that a forest ranger found me, crying, sitting with my back against the park’s bathrooms. I was half frozen to the ground, and he had to carry me to his rover. He called an ambulance, and when I got to the hospital, I had the chance to talk to two police officers to whom I was able to describe the man. When I was called back to come to the station with my mother, I was told that his description matched that of a convicted pedophile, who had only been released a few months ago after serving a fifteen-year sentence. To this day, I have nightmares of that day, and have never returned to that part of the forest since.