It was kind of like Little Red Riding Hood, but with no goodies and crippling fear instead.

My Grandma owns a huge farm in which no animals other than her multitude of cats actually live. My cousin and I, at the graceful and philosophical ages of 11 and 13, decided to go on a nature walk to better identify ourselves with the world.
That’s no lie, and it’s legitimately what we had in mind when going on the walk.

We thought somehow we were going to have adventures like in those soft hiking movies. We would find a baby bird who had broken its wing and nurture it back to health. We would find some box turtles who were stuck on their backs, struggling because of their tiny arms and unable to turn over, and we would turn them over.

I don’t really know what the hell was wrong with us. We walked about 4 miles into the woods, in no real direction except “up this hill, I know a cool spot where we can look and see things” I don’t know what things we were going to see, but they were going to be cool.

Once it had been an hour and no cool things were to be seen, and no babies were saved or turtles turned and it began to grow dark, my cousin started to freak out. It came out of nowhere. He just stopped, and his eyes grew wide, and he cried out “WE’RE LOST”

I’m not entirely sure how he decided this, because I knew where we were. We had been following the creek to the top of the hills, because it led directly down to the house. He just decided, in his terrified mind which became terrified for no apparent reason, that we were lost, and that he needed to scream and run aimlessly through the woods as fast as he could. Luckily, he was not terribly graceful and his legs were pretty short whereas mine were long, so it wasn’t terribly hard to keep up with him.

Me: DAKOTA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Dakota: WE’RE LOST AND I NEED TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET HOME AND I THINK IT’S OVER THIS WAY *proceeds to run uphill*
Me: ….we came from downhill
Dakota: ISN’T THIS DOWNHILL?
Me: Are you tired?
Dakota: I’M GETTING PRETTY TIRED
Me: Then it’s not downhill.

He then proceeded to run sporadically in different directions for 2 or 3 minutes, before changing direction randomly and continuing. Nothing I said would stop him from running. No matter how much I tried to convince him I knew where we were and what we needed to do to get back home. By the time he finally calmed down I could no longer see the creek, and we really were lost.

Being the paranoid psychopath that I was (am?) I started to think about murderers that hide in the woods of private property so the police can’t trace them. These thoughts, coupled with the fact we were legitimately lost, sent me on a terrified rampage. Now my cousin was trying to calm me down.

Dakota: There are no murderers here and even if there were they would only hide during night
Me: WHAT IF THEY KILLED SOMEONE ACCIDENTALLY LIKE DURING WORK ACCIDENTALLY AND NOW THEY’RE SCARED BECAUSE NO ONE WILL BELIEVE IT WAS AN ACCIDENT SO THEY’RE TRYING TO HIDE BECAUSE THEY LOVE THEIR FAMILY BUT THEY DO NOT LOVE WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.

It didn’t take me long to calm down. I just needed to realize that we had to get back home, or we really could end up being murdered by something legitimate, like bears or mountain lions or coyotes. (We live in West Virgina, so those were really a serious threat, because we have all of them here and none of them are very nice. Which leads me to wonder what the hell my mother was thinking allowing two preteens to be-bop around in the woods.)

Finally I pulled myself together and realized there was a simple solution, run downhill. We had been hiking and running uphill for 2 hours, and the house was downhill. Even if had somehow gotten to the other side of the hill, if we ran downhill we would get to the road and we could just walk along it to home. So we ran downhill.

Just before we got in sight of the house I saw the creek we had been following. While I stared at it and re-evaluated my 13 years of life choices, my cousin shrieked out in joy as the house entered view and bounded down faster than he was already running.

My cousin at the time had the legs like a bear, short and stubby. He was already running downhill very ungracefully at a decent speed, so when he started jumping down the hill and running as fast as he could, his legs finally said “Fuck you” and gave out. He went flying. He narrowly avoided trees and rocks, and I don’t know how, but he was perfectly fine. At the end of his impact he tucked and rolled and jumped right back up and started to run back downhill.

He got out of the woods first, and myself, not wanting to look like a try-hard, casually sauntered to the house. Well, as casually as you can saunter while still having the fear of murderers and bears eating at the back of your mind while awkwardly walking down a steep incline with your hands jammed into your pockets.

Come to think of it, I’m sure I looked pretty psychotic at that moment. Then again, when don’t I?

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