I went camping alone a few weeks ago. I know it sounds crazy but I’ve done it before. I knew what to pack for safety, warmth, food, water, protection, everything.
As I sat at my campsite in the dark with the fire I had started, I wasn’t afraid. I felt calm with the smell of the open air, and I was captivated by the flicker of the flames. A bit of sadness hit me as I knew I would be leaving the following day, but I was also excited since I knew I would take one last hike the next morning to the nearby waterfall I hadn’t seen since I last camped here a few years ago.
As the fire died down, so did my energy, and I got ready to go to sleep. I sat by the fire to brush my teeth and take out my contacts so I had a light. I also decided that I would keep the fire going since I had it safely secured, and it would most likely put itself out naturally by the time I was asleep. It sounds dumb since I’m 25, but I’m still afraid of the dark.
I went to take out my contacts and cursed to myself when I realized I hadn’t brought my glasses. It wouldn’t be impossible to find my things to put my contacts back in the next morning but it wouldn’t be easy. I used my travel sized contact solution to fill my contact case and took out my right lens. I placed it in the case and took out my second one. It didn’t end up in the case.
It was hard to see with the dying fire and only one contact in, but it looked like a figure ran by just a few yards away. It spooked me so bad that I dropped the contact case that contained my right lens, and the left lens flew from my hand as I was in the middle of taking it out. I fumbled for the contacts, but it was no use.
I slowly looked around, careful to not make any noise even though my presence was now obvious with the fire and the noises I had been making just seconds before as I desperately looked for my contacts. I can see general objects, but details are impossible. I would have to rely more on my hearing if there was truly something threatening close by. My heart stopped when a flashlight blinded me.
I waited for the figure to speak as it moved closer.
“Don’t you think it’s dangerous for you to be alone out here like this?”
He said it in a way that insinuated he wasn’t talking about the threat of animals or the elements. Even though I couldn’t make out his features, his expression, his appearance, or even what he was wearing, his voice was all I needed to hear to know that I needed to get out of here.
Despite being nearly blind, I knew where everything was and grabbed my gun and its 10-round magazine. I fired off a bullet in his direction without waiting to see where it hit him, or if it hit him at all, and I ran in the general direction of the road.
I heard him scream behind me in surprise and pain, which was a good sign. I was glad he was hurt, but I still heard him continue to pursue me, even though he was slowed down. I kept running, hoping I wouldn’t run into a tree or fall in a ditch. Even with my contacts, I wouldn’t have been able to see since I was moving further from the campfire and my only source of light.
He said it quietly, but I could hear it with my footfalls and breathing as the only other sounds for miles.
I assume I shot him somewhere below the waist, because he hadn’t caught up to me when I made it to the road. There were no cars, so I continued to walk towards town. I left my car keys with my other things, so driving was out. I wouldn’t have been able to see properly anyway.
I regretted slowing down when I heard the rustling of leaves and groans. He had caught up to me.
I was on the road, so my walking hadn’t made noise. I quietly hid behind a tree and held my hand over my mouth. Hopefully, he hadn’t noticed me.
“I know you’re around here,” he said with a laugh. “This is the way you entered the woods.”
I’m glad I had my mouth covered because I would have cried out after finding out he had been following me for longer than I thought. He had waited for me to be vulnerable. If he had waited just a few minutes for my contacts to be fully out, I wouldn’t have gotten this far.
“There she is!”
The wind made my long hair move from behind the tree. I still had 9 rounds. It was my only hope.
“What do you want?” In spite of myself, I wanted answers. I had the gun aimed at the figure as I tried my best to blink the tears away. My vision didn’t need to get any worse.
“You.” He clearly wasn’t going to say more, so I fired three more shots. That single word sent a chill down my spine, so I missed twice. The third shot must have hit him in the leg because he fell down quickly.
After that, I ran without looking back until I got to a place where my phone had service. Leave it to me to take better care of my phone and a gun than anything else.
I called the police, and they took me to my campsite where I got my things. I didn’t have very much of a description to give the officers since I barely saw the man myself, and no signs of anyone were found that night.
It’s been a few months since then. I don’t camp alone anymore. I even feel jumpy now getting coffee in the middle of the day. I brought one of my favorite books, Stephen King’s “On Writing” to keep my mind on something else.
A cough from across the cafe made me jump as I had been so absorbed in the book for about 20 minutes. I looked up to find the source, and the man had clearly seen me flinch because he looked back at me apologetically. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders to show it was okay and went back to reading.
After another hour or so, I got another cup of coffee to go before leaving. I was about to get in my car when someone behind me tapped on my shoulder. I spun around, and the attractive man who had coughed inside was smiling at me. He looked amused.
“Does everything I do scare you?”
My blood froze as I recognized the voice from the woods. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was the brace on his leg.