Upon some reflection, Ashley concluded that she should have asked someone to meet her at the bus stop when she arrived at 10 o’clock and guide her to the picnic site. “One would have thought that a clearing would be, well, clear,” she grumbled, as she looked around, lost in the forest. The greenery refused to reveal any spots that looked different or to betray any sounds of human activity. I will just go back to the bus stop and call Mike or Ann, Ashley decided.
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There was only one small issue interfering with that resolution: she did not know which way led to the edge of the forest. Remembering the horror stories about the people who got hopelessly lost, Ashley concluded that the best choice was to stay put and let her friends find her. The call went through, but Mike did not answer, and the ring eventually went dead. “God, will this guy ever learn any responsibility?” Ashley sighed as she dialed Ann.
However, she got the same reaction, which was decidedly odd. There were other people at the picnic; surely someone would have heard one of the two phones ringing, even if the owners were careless enough to leave them out of sight and hearing range. That in itself was strange, as Ann always carried her phone, a trait that even informed her clothing habits. Besides, should the group not have started worrying about Ashley’s lateness by now? The beginning of the picnic was scheduled for 10:30, and the phone indicated that she was over half an hour overdue already. The phone still displayed three bars of coverage, and she had just seen it was capable of making calls.
It would have been considerate of the party to check up on her; they did not forget about her, did they? A variety of possibilities, growing grimmer by the minute, began racing through Ashley’s mind. What if she got the date wrong and was now alone and lost while her friends were sleeping happily? They were both the types to sometimes wake up late on their days off, and she would not put silencing and ignoring their phones while sleeping past them.
What if they were there in the spot, but could not answer their phones for whatever reason? What if wild animals had attacked them, and they lost their devices while escaping or got hurt? Calm down, Ashley, stop panicking, get yourself together, please, she thought as she tried to think logically. She would call both of her friends again, and if neither answered, she would contact 911. She started putting the plan into action when she heard rustling in the bushes about ten meters away. Ashley was convinced that this much noise could only be caused by a fairly large animal, one she had no wish to encounter.
The fight or flight response took control, and she began running away while still trying to dial Mike. In her panic and distraction, she did not notice the sudden drop, attempted to step on thin air, and tumbled down a small incline. A little later, the pain woke her up, and Ann, who had been treating her scratches, began apologizing profusely for pranking her and explained that Mike had been watching her and made the noise accidentally.