Hearing her scream, Sassy came charging out of the thick trees and ran into Madeline. The puppy began licking her face out of love, then out of hunger as it tasted the raw, rotting offal. Overjoyed to see the puppy, Madeline pulled Sassy to her as she got up and held the puppy tight, kissing him over and over. Madeline rose and put Sassy on the ground. Getting the dog’s leash from her back pocket, she clipped it around Sassy’s neck.
“Never going to make that mistake again, my friend,” she said. Relieved that she had found the dog, Madeline’s repose was short-lived. She still had no idea how to get home.
With Sassy safely back at her side, Madeline walked along into a thick patch of leaves that covered a small drop in the forest floor. She stumbled down a few steps and forward a few more until she reached flatness. She looked up to find that the moon had moved six inches two the right of where it was the last time she looked.
I’m going south, she thought, drawing from her many gazes at the same moon during her walks in Central Park during her years in the city. Since her house was east of the preserve, she knew if she headed in the opposite direction the moon was traveling, she eventually would hit the 2-lane road that meandered back to her house.
She was right. After walking for about 30 minutes, Sassy’s leashed wrapped twice around her wrist the whole time, she came out of the woods and on to a grassy area beside the road. Her knees relieved to be on paved surface again, Madeline turned back north, keeping on the opposite side of the road as her direction so the lights of any oncoming cars would cast directly on her. No cars did come at her, but a few came up behind her. The last one cast light onto a reflector she saw on the road up ahead. She could barely see it, but she could tell that the reflector was low to the ground. It was on a kid’s bike. And there was no other reflectors around it. As she approached, Madeline could tell from the speed with which the reflector grew that whoever was coming down the road towards her wasn’t riding the bike but pushing it alongside them. She walked a little farther until Sassy found a rock on the side of the road and felt the need to mark it. When he was finished, he shook mightily. When he did, he rattled his tags that were on his collar enough that whoever had been coming at her stopped. Madeline continued forward until suddenly whoever had been walking towards her scrambled off of the road side and into the woods.
Considering how late it had gotten, Madeline was concerned that it might be a kid that was lost and needed her help. She jogged up to where she thought whoever it was had left the road, then walked into the trees back in the direction she had just come. Back in the forest now, she banged her shin on the bike’s frame where it lay against a large oak tree. She looked around but saw no one.
“Hello?” she called to no answer. “Hello!” she called again. Nothing. No other sign of anyone. She heard what she thought might be someone rustling through branches deeper in the forest, but she had absolutely no desire to go back where she had been. She had gotten her bearings, thank you very much, and she was going to stick to it until she got home. She walked back to road in the direction of her house until she could see the floodlights casting their glow on her home and she had never been so happy to see it. She turned and walked up the winding drive to her front door and rang the doorbell.
There was no answer.