Jonas was about three miles out from the ranger station, but it seemed more than just an hours walk away. He tied his bandana around his head, and stretched in the morning air. He was lanky and tall, and arching his back made him feel lanky and tall. He popped his knuckles on both hands, and went over to his hanging bear bag to get oatmeal for breakfast.
He was taking a side trail north towards the center of Coven Forest today, and had to stop by a clean water source, a stream, along the way. It wouldn't be terrible. Jonas was only planning on putting in seven or eight miles that day.
After cooking and eating, he broke down camp, taking down his tent and repacking his bag. He gave the site a quick inspection, then started moving north along the trail.
Things stopped going as planned when Jonas approached the stream. A person was laying in it, face down. She had long, brown hair that the stream's current played with idly. Jonas stopped, and nervously drew his hand down the front of his face and beard.
“Hello?” He didn't expect a response.
He didn't get one.
Ummm… Jonas took out his cell phone. No signal.
His mind took a break from the immediate problem, and he wondered for a second where he was going to find clean water. He couldn't drink it if a dead girl had been lying in it for who knows how long…dead girl. How was he going to get someone out here? To get the body?
Okay, I'll walk back until I have cell service again, and call it in.
Would they ask him questions? Of course they would. If nothing else they would need to know where she was located.
He should at least…look…
Jonas crept up to the stream. Maybe he could lift her up and check her face. Then he might be able to give a description. He could use a branch to move her, maybe push her over so he could look.
Yeah, that's respectful. Poke the dead girl with a stick.
He crossed the stream on the narrow wooden bridge that followed the trail, holding onto the railing as he looked down at her. He crept up from the other side of the water, then crouched within arm's reach of the body. He still couldn't make out any thing about her other than the red hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans she was wearing. He hesitated.
“Okay, let's do this,” the hiker mumbled.
He put his hand out to touch the body's shoulder. It made contact, and the body rose to it's knees screaming. Jonas fell back, soaking his feet and covering his hands in dirt as he crawled back away. The girl just kneeled there screaming.
“So wait, what?” Jonas gave Lauren an incredulous look.
“We need to go further in.” She was beginning to dry out, but still was damp. There was determination in her voice. She was in her mid-twenties, with a tired look on her face.
“It took a half hour for you to remember your name. You were laying face down in the water when I found you, and you can't remember why, or for how long. I really think you need to be checked out. You need to go to an urgent care or something.”
She shook her head. “No…I need to find the cave.”
“The cave? What cave?”
She stood up. “You don't have to come with me. I can get there on my own.”
“That's crazy talk. Come on. Let's get you checked out.”
“No. I'm going north.” She started walking.
Jonas threw his hands in the air. “Fine, but if you pass out again I'm calling in rangers. They can take care of you.”
“You don't need to babysit me.”
Jonas grunted. “I was heading north anyway.”