Cracking Woods

(serialized fiction)

My watch had just chirped marking thirty minutes into my run, so it must have been about half past six in the morning.

A gust of wind shoved its way through the wooded ravine. The trees responded in a wave. A roar of a hundred million rustling leaves built in crescendo puncutated by the groans and cracks of old tree limbs straining under the percussive bassline. A tiny bird erupted from the undergrowth and startled me. The waxing dawn light filtered through the stand of trees and lit the trail with an ambiant glow that cast shuddering shadows on the rough and twisting path. I was wearing my red shoes and there was a grape-sized splotch of mud on the left toe.

These are my memories.

The mind is funny and selective about the things it recalls.

In fact, I felt the punch of the branch hitting my shoulder and back even before my mind registered the noise of the nearby cracking wood.

Does sound actually travel faster than shattered chunks of wood, or did my mind prioritize the events of that moment?

I tasted the acid bite of mud mixed with my own blood simultaneously to understanding that I was face down on the narrow path.

The moments after that were even more ethereal. These memories of those fleeting seconds before I lost consciousness were a mix of curiosity and frustration. The gust of wind had passed. The trees were creaking as they swayed with residual momentum. My arm seemed to be nailed to the ground by a splintered piece of tree. And I couldn’t seem to reach up to pause the tracker on my GPS watch. The last thing I remember was thinking that the pace on this morning’s run was going to be shit.

(cracking woods - part 01)

Gaige Gildon is a fictional trail runner who lives and trains in Edmonton. After a trail accident, he quit his tech job in 2019 to focus on his recovery and his passion for outdoor adventure. In 2021 he partnered with The Cast Iron Guy blog to write and post about his upcoming pan-Canadian multi-sport trip.

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