Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chapter 13, Day 5, part 3, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)

What follows is an entire chapter.  I realize that's a lot to read online. First draft, still many things to be fixed. And somewhat out of order.  I hope to assemble the chapters in order somehow, somewhere.

Chapter 13, Day 5, part 3, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)

Saturday, September 10, 11:15 PM

Chapter flyleaf illo:  raccoon

“You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” ― Alice Sebold

 “It already is bigger than everything else. It lives in front of me, behind me, next to me, inside me every single day.” ― Daisy WhitneyThe Mockingbirds

            When the festivities of the Mycology Picnic were dying down and the stragglers were leaving, Rune said goodnight to Elizabeth and McHaggerty, who were themselves still saying goodbye to last departing guests, shouldered her backpack, put on her headlamp with a red gel, but didn’t turn it on, and headed up the trail to the lean-to.  Once she was out of sight from the lights of the house and party, she paused to allow her eyes to adapt to the dark.  She knew that in twenty minutes, she’d be able to see as well as a cat in the dark—or, nearly as well, close enough. But she didn’t have to wait that long.  The trail was wide.  The McHaggerties kept it mowed until it became too steep, and by then, she could see well enough to navigate the trail, which was still well-trimmed against encroaching branches that could poke an eye.
                      Rune had stayed at the lean-to before, on a number of occasions over the last few years of her undergraduate work, and remembered the first time.  It was in the fall of the year she had first taken Mycology 158 with Dr. McHaggerty.  It was during her first McHaggerty picnic when McHaggerty had taken her, Larry and about 5 other students including Jody and Bart out at the end of the evening to the lean-to.  Almost everyone else had left, and McHaggerty built a fire and he, Larry and the six students ((Name the others?)) had roasted marshmallows and made s'mores with supplies that McHaggerty had secretly brought in his backpack.  They drank a little wine, sang some songs and went back to McHaggerty's and on back to campus flushed with happiness and good feelings.
           Some time later, Rune had told McHaggerty that she liked to camp and had camped all her life.  She'd asked if she could stay in his lean-to sometime, and he'd readily agreed.
           On a fine sunny afternoon one weekend in October, Rune rode out on the Indian.  It was Indian-summer warm, the fall colors resplendent.  Elizabeth had invited Rune for dinner, and they'd grilled round steaks with thin slices of garlic in little slits in the meat and parsnips and carrots from the garden, wrapped in several layers of foil with butter and garlic chunks and laid on the coals. A colorful tossed salad with radishes from the McHaggerty’s garden and mushrooms from their yard and small cooked bits of summer squash complemented the meal.  One of McHaggerty's favorite meals, Rune recalled.  They'd sat out back admiring the sugar maples, which were bright red at the top, orange in the middle, yellow at the bottom and in green inside. Rune had set up her small tripod and taken pictures, first of the trees, and then of Dr. and Mrs. McHaggerty, first in their Adirondack chairs and then standing with a pitchfork in front of their house glowering.  That picture had been put on the flyleaf of the school yearbook that year.
           McHaggerty and Elizabeth walked Rune out to the lean-to just before sunset, and they'd all three carefully climbed on the roof to watch the sun set over the hills. It has been the reddest sunset Rune had ever seen.
           Then Elizabeth and McHaggerty had left, and Rune had set up camp in the lean-to.  It didn’t' take long; she laid out an air mattress, a sleeping bag, and a canteen.
           Suddenly, it was pitch dark, and Rune heard appalling noises in the woods, screeching and shrieking and howling and the send of footsteps, sometimes quite loud and close.
           Rune was terrified.
           She'd been camping all her life, since she was 6 weeks old, but it suddenly occurred to her that she had never before camped alone.  Never. Family or friends have always surrounded her.
           She told herself to stop being so foolish, and that she was a big girl now, and not afraid of the dark.
                       But she was unaccountably terrified of the dark.
                       She wondered if there were ever any bears around here, or wolves or coyotes or wild dogs or escaped convicts.
                       The woods were alive with sound.
                       There were hoots and whistles, cracklings, stampings and snortings.  Did bears snort?
                       Wild pigs?
                       Rune was in wildlife management at the time, and tried to remember everything she'd read.  Wild pigs were dangerous, but she didn't believe they lived around there.  There weren't supposed to be any dangerous animals nearby.  But what about rapists and murderers?
                       Rune shivered.  It was incredibly unbelievably cold. It had been such a warm day.  She curled into a ball inside her sleepingbag with the bag’s thick hood over her head and the drawstrings pulled tight around her nostrils. She listened to the night noises, the loud clatterings of branches and twigs and leaves, the snorts and screeches.
                       She laughed now, remembering.  Now she knew that the sounds were made by screech owls, deer and raccoons, none of which normally dangerous.  But that night, they seemed monstrous in her mind.
                       She had wanted to go home, desperately.  Not just back to the dorm, but home to her parents.
                       But she embarrassed to leave in the middle of the night.  Ashamed to admit her fear.  So she stayed, and eventually slept.  And woken up to a hard rain.  She was soaked and bedraggled by the time she’d hiked back to McHaggerty’s for breakfast, but secretly exultant that’s he’d camped alone for the first time ever.
                       She'd like to think that that was last time she'd ever been afraid. But it wasn't.  She wasn't afraid of the dark most of the time, but if she'd seen a scary movie or read a scary book or was just feeling low for some reason, she could work up a good fright not only in the woods, but also at home.
                       Still, Rune generally felt much less afraid in the woods at night now

            Rune folded her sleeping bag and sat in the dark and meditated, counting breaths and letting her thoughts float through, observed but not followed.  That was the idea, anyway.  She floated along on the surface of her thoughts, hearing the screech owls and the great-horned owls and barred owls calling back and forth.  She knew more owl calls now than she had that first time.  She named the sounds without losing herself in them.  Then she suddenly surfaced to realize she had been dragged below by an errant thought to which she'd inadvertently attached herself.  She'd float up, observe and slip away again.  
            The darkness grew velvety and rich.  She became increasingly aware of smells, a smell of soil, the smells of mushrooms and worm castings, a musky smell of some animal, maybe a woodchuck.  The sweet fragrance of an autumn flower or a very sweet grass or fern.  The crashings in the woods behind the lean-to were probably raccoons.   She could smell the damp and slightly rotted smell of the old logs of the lean-to. The memory of the shower scene in Psycho, the knife going up and down, the hands frantically covering the breasts, which ironically, McHaggerty had taken her to see a the Manlius in some rerun festival early in their friendship, flitted through her mind and she felt a momentary sense of panic and dread and then watched it drain away again as she slowed her breathing.  She’d never let anyone take her to another horror movie.  Breathe in; breathe out.  Why would anyone want to be frightened intentionally? Adrenaline rush.  No thanks.  Breathe in; breathe out.  The fear lingered around the edges of her thoughts, and then vanished as she inadvertently followed a more cheerful thought of the big breakfast Elizabeth would prepare for her in the morning.  Smiling, she returned yet again to her breath.
            She didn't time her meditation, she just decided the moment had come to lie down, and crawled into her sleeping bag and closed her eyes.  She'd taken off her jeans, folded them carefully, and put them under her head for a pillow.  She wore the rest of her clothes, including her sweater and socks, because of the chilliness of the night.
            She woke some time later, listened to the night, turned on her side and drifted away again.  Later, she turned to her other side, waking only enough to notice the chill air on the skin of her cheeks.
            The next time she woke up, she was not alone.  

            Sleepily, Rune started to sit up, to look around the dark lean-to, to listen. But someone pushed her down and laid on top of her, fumbling for the sleeping bag's zipper.  All Rune's fears from the first time she stayed here flooded back and she screamed.  A hand clamped over her mouth.  Another hand snaked into her clothing from the top of the sleeping bag.  Rune struggled, but she was trapped, held tight in the bag, and whoever held her was stronger than she.  The hand wriggled among the layers of clothes until it found her skin, the skin near her collarbone.  
            The hand stroked in an odd way, pressing rhythmically, then slid down into her bra to cup her breast.  Rune struggled and fought.  She felt herself becoming sleepier, lethargic, and wondered if she'd been drugged.  She went limp, lay still, and the hand came off her mouth.  The weight lifted and the sleeping bag was untwisted and unzipped.  Suddenly, Rune rolled to the side, scrambled up, and ran, tripping over the edge of the lean-to and sprawling on the ground.  She was desperately sleepy and dizzy, but she had to get away. She crawled on her hands and knees and managed to get up and run into the woods.  She crashed through the underbrush.  Someone followed, with a flashlight.  
            Rune stood, swaying, weak and woozy, with her back to a large tree and reached up to her collarbone.  Just under the collarbone, she found a patch of some kind, stuck to her skin. She peeled it off and folded the sticky sides together, wrapped it in a leaf and jammed it in her bra.  She wasn't wearing pants, and had no other pockets but wanted to save it to examine later.  She didn't move.  She waited.  Whoever was nearby was waiting too.  
            Rune clung to the tree.  She had managed ever so slowly to turn around without making a sound.  She could feel moisture seeping into her socks.  A flashlight scanned back and forth through the woods. It arced toward her and away, without coming quite to her tree. When the circle of light, broken by leaves and branches, was at the far end of the arc away from her, she peered around the side of the tree.  Faint light reflected back from the trees and bushes showed her McHaggerty’s face, looking both anxious and evil from the weird lighting.  It was so much like something from a horror movie that Rune almost screamed.  She covered her own mouth, biting her fingers.
            Then she calmed slightly, as she realized that McHaggerty wasn't planning to kill her. Probably. No, he wasn't, he wanted to have sex with her, and she hadn't encouraged him, so he was taking it into his own hands.  He wanted to make love to her.  No, he wanted to rape her.  He had given her something to make her sleep or at least relax, it was on her skin, where he had rubbed his fingers, and he had intended to take her without her permission.  Maybe even without her knowledge.  
            A great rush of anger flushed through her, anger, rage, shame, and disgust. Fury. Her head was clearing, she felt less dizzy.  She considered grabbing a branch from the ground and attacking McHaggerty, but instead, she stayed absolutely still.
            McHaggerty came into the woods, but she knew he couldn't see her, he could only see the circle of light where his flashlight fell.  She knew this from a series of activities she had participated in at Poconos Environmental Education Camp (PEEC).  They had a had night walks and night activities all without the use of flashlights, and Rune had come back to Syracuse with a new love of the night and a new respect for it. She had taught a series of the workshops as a projects course at Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville.  Funny, she thought, that with all McHaggerty's knowledge and experience he didn't seem to know this simple fact.
            He looked back and forth, and then called her, "Rune.  Rune?  Rune!"  Rune thought that if she hadn't peeled off the patch on her chest, she might be passed out on the cold damp ground with no covering and no jeans.  She could be getting hypothermia.  She was pretty cold, though her anger warmed her some.  But if she was passed out, and McHaggerty didn't find her . . ..  She could become ill or die out there in the cold.  But she wasn't.  She wondered, though, if he were now worrying about her safety and well-being. Too bad he hadn't thought about that sooner.  Before he tried to . . .rape her.  It was hard for Rune to even think the word rape in conjunction with McHaggerty, whom she had loved for several years.
            She found herself thinking, would it have been so bad if I had just let him? And then was disgusted and shamed at the thought. She felt a tear trickling down her cheek and angrily wiped it away.  Dammit, I love him, she thought, but not that way.  And now, how am I supposed to feel about him?  Always afraid and angry?
            She began to shiver, and shivered harder until she was afraid she would make enough noise in the bushes for McHaggerty to hear her.  She steeled herself against the shivering, which was more than just cold.  McHaggerty cast back and forth, back and forth, with the light, tromping further into the woods.  He was making enough noise that Rune crept back into the lean-to and grabbed her jeans.  She crossed the trail to the other side, pulled on her jeans and ducked into the woods.  Since she'd obviously gone into the woods on the lean-to side, McHaggerty would be unlikely to look for her on the far side.  Hopefully.   She could hear him calling, sounding more and more worried.
            Finally, he came out, and taking one cursory swipe of the flash light and glance into the lean-to, retreated down the trail toward the house.  He was abandoning her limp, drugged body to hypothermia, she thought, angrily.  
            As soon as he was out of sight down the trail, Rune went back in the lean-to, shoved her hiking boots on over her damp leafy socks, crammed her sleeping bag into her day pack, tossed her canteen and her few other things in on top, zipped it, and put it on her back.  She tied a bandanna around her head and followed McHaggerty down the trail.  He had a good stride and a head start, and she only occasionally caught a glimpse of his flashlight at a distance.  Good. He'd know soon enough that she was safe.  
            But when they got back to the house, Rune discovered that McHaggerty had, sometime earlier, blocked in the Indian with his Land Rover.  McHaggerty was in the garage, rooting around in piles of stuff.  
            The Indian was heavy. It was blocked in by the Land Rover behind it and by a row of boulders on either side of the driveway.  Rune pushed it toward the two lowest boulders, tugged a wheel up, pushed it.  The engine made a small scraping sound and Rune waited, holding her breath, but McHaggerty was clanging around in the garage still.  She pushed it a little further and then hoisted the back wheel over the rocks.  She pushed it around the Land Rover and back up onto the driveway through a gap in the rocks.  
            The garage light went out, and Rune held her breath, but McHaggerty was temporarily blinded by the sudden darkness.  She saw he was carrying a suitcase-like object, only different, sort of like a sewing machine case.  A small generator, maybe, because in the other hand, he had a (()) of electrical cord and a large light.  He apparently intended to search the woods for her, imagining her to have passed out, she guessed.  In a moment, he'd notice that the motorcycle was gone, but if he was thinking clearly, he'd know he hadn't heard the sound of its starting up.  
            Rune jammed the helmet on her head.  It was cold and damp with dew from hanging over the handlebars.  Then she prayed and jumped on the starter. The Indian did not like starting when it was cold and damp, but miraculously, it fired up immediately, and she roared down the driveway and out onto highway 13.
            She flew into the night, twisting in a dance on the night highway.  There was not another car in sight.
            She imagined McHaggerty chasing after her in his Land Rover, but what would that accomplish?  No, he'd be relieved she was safe and not passed out in the woods dying of hypothermia, and would go inside and go to bed.

            As she drove back toward Syracuse, the thought that McHaggerty had intended to rape her raced through her mind over and over.  How was she supposed to feel about that? How could she continue to work for him?  What should she say to him? How could she keep herself safe?  She wondered if she should report the incident to the police or to the Dean of students at ESF, or to anyone.  What would happen to him if she did?  What would happen to her?