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[at-l] *Fiction*, Parts 5&6

"Ummm, yea, there was a guy through here about an hour ago" he said.

"Going north?" I asked in my most puzzled voiced.

"Hell, I don't know. The same way you're goin'" he was loosing interest 
as mine was piqued.

Well, I was guessing it was my friend from the night before. I was 
certainly surprised to find that he was here an hour ago. I had only 
travelled about a mile or so. I thanked my doctoring friend again and 
headed out. It was close to noon and still very foggy. I stopped in 
Massie Gap for a quick bite to eat and to check out my new wound in a 
mirror. He really did a nice job on it. It was sore and throbbing, but 
didn't appear to be life-threatening.

The fog seemed to be lifting and it was getting brighter. I ate some 
trailmix and cream cheese on crackers. I couldn't help but wonder about 
the guy in front of me. Where had he stayed that he was still that close. 
Where is he now, and will he be tonight? The food was helping to relax my 
body, as some of the activities of the morning had left me somewhat 

As I was putting everything back in my pack, I realized that my stove was 
gone. This prompted me to pull everything out of my pack, cussing all the 
while. I had, indeed, used the stove this very morning. I take no steps 
without a cup of coffee, and I had had two cups in the loft at Thomas 
Knob. As I reloaded my pack, I became pissed, then confused, and even 
scared again. What had happened to my stove? Could I have left it at the 
shelter? Never. I check too closely. My stove would not be easy to leave, 
either. It nestles inside a small square aluminum box that makes it look 
like a bomb.

I finished loading the pack and headed to Old Orchard. I knew I had 
enough cold food to make it through the night and next day, less the 
coffee. I couldn't help but retrace my mornings activity. Had the 
seemingly friendly, doctoring stagehand set me up? I couldn't figure out 
how he did. I looked at every possible scenario.

My stomach was again knotted. It seems to like to do that. As I hiked on, 
the weather cleared and I was offered some nice views from Pine Mountain. 
I was making good time, simply hiking on emotion and frustration. I 
pondered what I would do if my new hiking enemy was at Old Orchard. 

I wondered why I considered him an enemy. He had said no more than 20 
words to me, yet I feared him, his persona, as I have never feared 
another man. I will never forget the way the air seemed to die when he 
came into the shelter. His aura was definitely swimming in some weird 
cosmos. The one good thing I could feel coming out of this day was the 
fact that I would never again have to think about what was my worst day 
of backpacking. It was obvious.

As I decended the switchbacks that lead to Old Orchard, I considered 
prayer. When the back of the shelter came into view, I become reluctant 
to continue. I stopped and watched for activity. I could see through the 
walls of the old log-style shelter. I could see movement. My heart sank. 
I continued on, deciding to face my nemisis. 

As I approached the shelter, I could hear the voice of a woman. A weight 
heavier than my pack ever was was lifted from my shoulders. 
As I walked along the side of the shelter I made out the words "I am a 
traveller of both time and space, to be where I have been". This can't 
be, I'm thinking. A Led Zepellin fan with a wonderful, lilty voice.

I came around the corner, trying to make some noise so as to not frighten 
her."How ya doin'?" I said, in my est'don't-be-afraid-of-me' voice.
"Great. And you?" 
"Oh, it's been a long day." I really didn't want to go into yet. I knew 
that I would later, after I settled in a little. I sat with my pack on 
the edge of the shelter floor and slid out of it. The temps were in the 
mid-30's, so I took off my sweat-soaked shirt and put on a nice, dry 
fleece-pullover. I was feeling better already. That would change, 

I started to look the shelter over to see where I would be best situated. 
She had her stuff fairly neatly spread out on the left, so I moved to the 
right. I was spreading out my Thermarest when I noticed, there in the 
corner, my stove. The chill that had danced down my spine this morning, 
just ran back up it, kicking every nerve on the way. I looked at her, but 
she was watching a pot of food boil, humming all the while. I went about 
my business of setting up for the eve, waiting for her to mention it. She 

Finally, I said "Do you know what that is?" pointing to the stove.
"Oh, yea. That's your stove. I forgot all about it." 
Well, I don't know if I wanted her to know what it was or not. It was all 
getting too weird for me. "How did you know that?"
"You're Felix, aren't you?"

I kinda went into a numb stare. I was looking deep into the aluminum of 
my stove's casing. I perched my lips and nodded my head, in a distant 
trance. I hadn't told anyone my name. I hadn't signed a register. I 
didn't say a word.

I slowly began to set things up. I was famished and wanted to eat before 
dark. I got my bed and clothing situated before I finally reached for the 
stove. I was hesitant to open it, but it was fine. I looked it over and 
could tell it had been tampered with. I pumped it up and lit it. Much to 
my surprise, it took right off. In fact, it burnt better than it ever had 
before. I had always had trouble with it flaming up, if not catching on 
fire. But now, it was purring along like never before.

When my food was finally done and I sat at the edge of the floor eating, 
I said to my shelter-mate "Where you from?"

"Paris" she said, matter of factly.

It ain't much, but try http://members.tripod.com/~Felixhikes/index.html

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