It was cold enough out to see your breath but there still wasn’t any snow yet in this December. Jax parked his small pick up in a dirt parking lot that led to the paved trail he was about to rollerblade. Jax sat on his tail gate and pulled off his shoes tossing them in the back of the bed. The sun was just disappearing behind the Western Colorado hills leaving soft pink clouds. Jax fought his rollerblades on and tied them tight and then tucking his keys into the laces because his striped workout pants had no pockets. As he plopped out of the bed he became aware of the cold and pulled on a black beanie. He forgot gloves and so he pulled his hands into the sleeves of his blue hoodie. Ahh the fresh air, he thought as he began to skate the path.
He figured the last time he had been down this trail was when the leaves were bright yellow and he could still wear shorts. He watched all the familiar landmarks whiz by as he propelled himself on the fluid wheels. Why hadn’t he come out here more often? The feeling of being outside, even in the cold air, was exhilarating and only provoked by the sense of speed. His eye caught a brown rabbit that darted across the road and then disappeared with its camoflauge. There was that tree that had been so beautiful in the fall, and the jagged log painted to look like an alligator slothing out of the underbrush.
The path twisted and turned hugging the river and abandoning it. It rose and fell gently bringing Jax by a small field and then back into a more wooded area. He began to be aware of the coming dark. He thought if only his legs weren’t getting tired he’d like to follow the trail to the mountains and then to the ocean. Every time he skated this path he wondered why it was so hard to get himself to get dressed and drive there, it certainly wasn’t an inability to skate, In fact he was very good on his rollerblades and went into the winter on ice skates. It wasn’t because of any past experiences on this trail, every time had been nothing but enjoyment.
Jax came to a point where the path bent and circled to a parking lot not far from the highway. By this time he knew he should turn back as night was creeping in fast. He skated a circle and headed back with a little extra speed. He felt like he was floating down a short hill when suddenly his skate caught a rut. His body jerked but he managed to regain control by putting all of his weight on the other foot. He looked back at the spot in disbelief. He had never done that on this trail. He shrugged it off and continued through the familiar curves though they were getting difficult to see. He started thinking about life in general, about when he would go to the store for groceries and what his work schedule was that week. He came on one of the two wooden bridges that he dreaded because worn slats slowed his skates down so much. As soon as he hit the bridge it was as if one of the planks had grabbed ahold of his wheels. Jax went down on his side. His momentum making it impossible not to slide across the bridge. All at once he felt the splinters and the road rash along with his wrist which struck the ground first. He laid on the ground in stunned silence and then felt his leg in a reflex to see if it was OK.
He stood back up and lightly laughed before continuing. As he picked up speed again he became aware of an anxiousness in himself. It seemed to him that every next turn had some awaiting danger. The feeling grew progressively worse until he felt like there was a presence in the woods around him. His mind shifted to the time. It was now completely dark and he knew he ought to be back at his truck by now. “keep skating” he told himself, ‘the dark is making it seem longer’.
Jax noticed a leaf blow across the trail and the tall grass in the woods waving. Simultaneously he felt the sting of his road rashed leg. The wind picked up strength at an unnatural speed.