Corey smiled to himself. He felt leaves crunch underneath his feet as he walked over the soft forest floor. The sun was shining down on him politely, and it felt warm on his skin. It was nice. He stopped walking for a moment, and closed his eyes. With his hand flat on the top of his head, he could feel how warm his hair had gotten. He liked it a lot. His hair was straight, and brown, and the sun had been shining down on it for upwards of twenty minutes at that point. Corey combed his fingers through his hair, the way his mom did sometimes, and smiled. He let his eyes wander up to the sky, where he could see the clouds shifting and lazy in the bright blue. He watched them move, just little by little—the way they did—and he wondered why they didn’t just stay in one place. They always changed, and Corey wondered about how no shape would ever stay the same. Once a year, usually sometime late in May, Corey and his family would leave the cold but familiar grays and blacks of the big city for the new and inviting greens and browns of the forest and its remote (yet still decently accessible) little campground. He always enjoyed the ride as he sat in the backseat of his parents’ old station wagon. The city and all of its straight lines would steadily melt away, giving into the beautiful new shapes, colors, and textures of the forest. Corey floated into it like a lost kid into a parent’s arms at the grocery store.
Now, as he carried his little shoes in his right hand he could feel the dirt between his toes, soft and pockmarked by the occasional twig or burr. He had been walking for about an hour, now. He didn’t know it (his red watch was in the tent), but the sun was that much closer to going down. Pushing forward, Corey briefly thought about how alone he was. His mom and dad had taken him camping several times before; he knew the rules well, and his parents afforded him a respectable degree of trust. It was for this very reason that Corey took it upon himself to go a little bit farther from the campground than usual. Something inside him knew that Mom and Dad would probably not be very happy with his decision, and remained perpetually braced for impact. He knew that they were pretty far away from him at this point, but he didn’t exactly realize how deep inot the forest he had actually gone. All he knew was that he had always wanted to explore the old, faded path that subtly veered off the one he he had walked with his parents and by himself so many times before. He had always seen it there, partially obscured and clearly unused for some time. Today he had decided he would check it out. Now, as he walked along the path, he thought for a second about the last time someone else had possibly explored it.
The trail was getting thinner and the trees were getting thicker as Corey continued along. He couldn’t see very far in front of himself, as their massive trunks continued to grow closer and closer together. The forest was swallowing him.
What happened next was far too fast for Corey to understand. He had no idea what was going on. In one moment, he was walking happily along that strange trail, his bare feet enjoying a soft pad made mostly of pine needles and fine earth. It felt good to explore. His foot found itself on something strange, though. There was a click. He heard a snap. In the next moment, a pair of rusted metal jaws was closed around his lower shin, just above his ankle. Corey stood still for a second, his brown eyes wide and staring straight in front, mouth partly open. Then he hit the ground.
The bones in his leg were crushed together instantly, shattering between the rusty teeth of the forgotten bear trap. Blood seeped out and pooled on the ground as Corey lay on his back where he had fallen. He opened his eyes and stared at the tree canopy above him. Everything was very, very quiet. He could only see green; the sky and its clouds had been eaten whole. He took in a deep breath and his vision tunneled in front of him. He propped himself up on his elbows quickly, gasping for breath, then turned to his right and retched. Panting, he looked down at his mangled shin. He wondered if his mom and dad would be too angry to come looking for him. He reached down and gingerly touched the rusty metal trap whose jagged and angry teeth were buried in the flesh of his right leg.
He pulled at it, just a little. It wasn’t going anywhere. He let his head fall back on the soft bed of pine needles and his chest heaved. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks.
The blood continued to flow. Corey lifted his head and looked down at it, puddled under his leg. He dipped two fingers in it and brought them to his nose, sniffing like some kind of animal.
His head fell backwards suddenly. Corey felt dizzy and the treetops were spinning. His eyelids fluttered, and he thought about when the next person might explore that secret path.
It was going to be a very long day indeed.