When she needed to clear her mind, Stacy went hiking. Something always felt different in the mountains. Whether it was the lower air pressure, the cooler air, or the way the clouds hung closer she didn’t know. The exercise was good for her and Blas. Especially for Stacy, though, there was always a thrill when one might just see something from the path.
“You’re not hoping we’ll find anything exciting, I know.” Stacy murmured, patting Blas on his curly head. He turned it left and right, eager not to miss whatever may be lurking in the shadows to strike. As the thick forest gave way to a cliff face and a steep set of stairs he relaxed. Stacy understood his mind well, she thought. Nothing for zombies to hide behind, and while they were doubling back and forth on logs halved to make steps, there would be hard rock on one side and open air on the other. Zombies could traverse neither.
The long climb afforded Stacy time to think. As she rose up the wall, she could look out over the dwindling treetops and the tiny houses and streets she could see in the distance. A little car puttered down a miniature road. An adorable little plume of smoke emanated from a toy smokestack. Everything seemed trivial.
Stacy was the premier reporter of the Romero Star because she did serious journalism. Yes, a bear in the school’s woods was an exciting matter, but it was also an important safety advisory. She had also brought peace to that boy’s family. What did Ethan do sending his bicycle hurtling into a lake?
It was just reckless, and it was successful. In this quiet place, sometimes the thoughts Stacy would rather not think came unbidden to her mind. “I would never have found that bear if Ethan had not been reckless and strayed off the path. The best story of my career thus far and I owed it to him.” The fact stung.
When they arrived at the summit, Stacy walked to the bench overlooking the view beyond and sat. There was no path after this, just miles of undisturbed forest. The correct way back was just to retrace your steps until you made it to the parking lot.
“He’s not right, though. I definitely don’t need him. I can take calculated risks all on my own.”
Blas nosed Stacy and she put her arm around him. “I don’t even need to ask if you think I should take more risks.”
He turned his good eye toward her to offer an unamused look.
She looked out again at the trees extending beneath her.
“All that space, and we’re here hiding on the path.”
Stacy felt Blas tense under her hand.
“I’m not a moron. I won’t get myself killed.” She stepped forward from the bench and let her legs hang down off the rock face. Beneath her, she noticed, was not a tumble to her doom, but just another rock. What was stopping her from taking a calculated risk?
Blas sat up sharply as he watched Stacy, in her thick, tangled hair and dirty blue jeans, slide forward off of the rock and vanish. He stood and barked and ran to where she was to see her sliding off another rock further down. Then she was out of sight again, and he put his short tail between his legs, whined, and leapt down after her.