Side roads.

(This post is a writing exercise from last Saturday’s writing prompt. Join us every week for #WriteFridays – read, write, post, and share!)

Side Roads

I lock the door behind me. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s nothing in the car worth taking, but it’s a force of habit. My sunglasses immediately fog up. The air conditioning in the beat up old Ford works just fine, but the Southern summer humidity has me immediately breaking out in a sweat.

The dirt road stretches out before me. The lush green from the water-laden trees presents a thick wall, arching up and over us, cutting out most of the blue. It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of South American rain forests, but I wouldn’t know. Never seen them in real life. I slap my neck.

“Mosquitoes are thick.” The phrase isn’t much more than a grunt.

“Yup.” I wonder at my traveling partner’s sudden chattiness. He doesn’t go in much for small talk. It’s mostly been sports talk radio when he drives and classic rock when I’m behind the wheel for most of this trip. “Shall we?”

He nods, the forty-five Sig Sauer held pointing down, but ready to go. Squinting against the sweat beading on his forehead, dripping down the side of his face, he moves forward. The impenetrable green seems to open before him as he slips into the undergrowth.

Grumbling, I follow. Immediately, branches reach out and snag my clothing. A thorny strand wraps itself around my leg, leaving a welt through my cargo pants. I heft the shotgun, keeping an eye on the path as the brush closes behind us. The insect whine grows louder. I’m soaked with sweat. I smell rich loam, rotting things, and the intense aroma of green under the sun.

Then, I smell something different. Something dead, that brings the taste of copper to my mouth. I swallow against the sudden dryness.

My partner doesn’t say anything — just catches my eye and points at a spot about twenty yards in front of him. He holds up three fingers.

Three. It’s almost not even worth stopping.

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