Welcome to Tuesday Tales!!
So Marshall’s off to the emergency room. Let’s see what happened with Jaiden.
Jaiden tried to flex her ankle but the swelling hindered any movement. Her fear of the huge guy on the trail and her confusion about the animal–stump, thing, whatever–she saw had blocked out the pain until she scrambled into her car and was halfway home. When she started to climb out of her car, however, there was no doubting that something was wrong with her ankle. One step and she tumbled back into her car seat, gasping for breath as pain shot toward her knee.
Luckily, it was her left ankle, so she could drive herself to the emergency room rather than try to hobble up the stairs to her duplex. Once she arrived, however, she wasn’t sure how she would traverse the distance from the parking lot to the exam room.
The valet parking attendant was still on duty when Jaiden pulled her car up to the entrance. She relinquished the keys thankfully and hop-stepped through the double doors. By the time she checked in at the front desk, her ankle throbbed. She hopped on her right foot and collapsed into a chair, wavering between wanting her name called right away so she could be put out of her misery or wanting to wait a few minutes so she could catch her breath. Running eight miles barely broke a sweat, but hopping across the room had her heart thumping and her lungs heaving.
She chose the closest chair which was neither in reach of a table with magazines or in view of an actual television station. The screen in her view cycled through advertisements for services available at the hospital. One iteration was more than enough.
Jaiden twisted in her seat to view the other occupants of the waiting room. An elderly couple occupied a bench on the far side of the room. They both looked like they were ready to fall asleep until the man coughed. By the time the spasm stopped, Jaiden was sure they were going to see his lung at his feet. If he didn’t have a broken rib before, he surely did now.
Directly behind her was a huge man and a woman about ten years older than him. The woman had a nasty cut on the back of her head. She’d seen more than her share of huge men and huge creatures today, but she was pretty sure the man was the same one from the trail and not whatever she had seen lurking behind a stump after she’d grabbed a branch for defense.
With the pain in her leg, she hadn’t given any thought to identifying the creature. She still didn’t know what that was. Probably a bear rearing up on its hind legs. They roamed the woods around the park occasionally. Her lost pepper spray was intended as her defense, but she suspected it would only giver her a spicier flavor. The shape of the animal didn’t make sense for a bear. It seemed larger and broader, more gorilla-like, but then she’d never seen a bear on its hind legs in the wild. They might look completely different in real life than they did on National Geographic. It had to be something other than what she first suspected, what had had her booking for the car on uneven ground with a swelling ankle.
A cougar on a stump? As she rehashed it, her mind likely distorted the memory into something more indistinct than what she actually witnessed. Sightings reported at work usually turned out that way. Tracks reported to be larger than a dinner plate where actually no bigger than a tuna can. Adrenaline and fear warped perceptions.
The huge man turned her way and gave her the don’t-I-know-you-from-somewhere look. He’d removed his jacket and cap, but how could she forget?
“How’d you get out of the woods so fast?” Jaiden asked. “I practically came straight here.”
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