Tracks, a short story : Part 1

It was a joyous feeling, knowing that you were the first one to pass this way. There were no tracks to be seen. He had been walking for a while now, and even though the snow was fairly fresh he would have thought that somebody would have been this way by now.

He wasn’t an early bird, although he often wished he was, and it was already 10 am. Usually another walker or jogger would have been here before now. But, no, there were no prints of any kind, neither human nor animal.

The forest path ran straight off into the distance and he loved the feeling it gave him. It was as if he could see into the future and gain comfort that he knew that everything was going to be OK.

He wished that he could see so clearly into his own future. Then, perhaps, he would have known that Leah would leave him. He would not have allowed himself to dream, to have believed that things could ever have been so perfect. That was the hardest thing now, he had dreamt of a perfect life, but that dream had died.

Now wasn’t the time for these thoughts. This was his time for relaxation and calm. Everyone kept telling him that getting out into nature would help with his moods, but switching off his brain was still proving difficult.

The sound of the crunching snow was soothing, the rest of the world seemed to be pure silence. Occasionally he would stand and just listen, nothing. That changed when he rounded the one corner that he came to, after he had been walking for about thirty minutes. Suddenly there were birds in the sky. Flying in a clockwise circle about 100 metres ahead of him. There were maybe around one hundred of them, seemingly chasing each other. It certainly wasn’t normal group behaviour.

As he approached they were actually fairly silent, but the furious flapping of their wings, as well as the speed with which they were moving, created a rushing in the air which seemed deafening after the previous silence.

It made him nervous, and he stopped in his tracks to take it in. They were circling directly above the path in front of him. Another straight, snow covered track, surrounded on either side by dense pine forest. Snow decorated the trees, so it looked like a Christmas card, apart from the crazy birds that is.

As much as he wanted to turn around and get away, there was also a curiosity which was beseeching him to move forward and investigate. He simply had to get closer and see what was going on. 

So, he moved long the track until he was only a few metres away from the circling birds. That is when he saw something in the snow, the first prints he had seen all morning. Getting closer he could see that they appeared to be manmade. But, strangely, they seemed to be in a circle too. A clockwise, perfect ring of footsteps. But with none outside, or within, the ring. It was as if a person had dropped from the sky, walked around, and then been transported away again.

The birds above him continued to wheel, either chasing each other, or somehow being drawn into the formation of a whirlpool. Looking up at them made him feel dizzy. Since he was staring up he didn’t notice that he was wandering closer to the circle of prints. Before he knew it he was standing dead in the centre of them, and that was when the birds seemed to change their formation. What was once a perfect circle was beginning to lose its form as the birds began to surge up and down in waves.

Then, they dove. All at once the whole flock was surging down towards him. He froze in panic, closed his eyes, and gritted his teeth. Then everything went black, blacker than the darkest night.

to be continued…

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites

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