Broken Bits

By: Kel O Connor

DAG Team Series

For JK

Chapter 1

This trip had to be in her Top Ten List of Bad Ideas, Kit realized as she gazed up at the starry sky. Well, she relented; the idea itself had been solid. It was just that it had not provided the solution she had hoped for.

A week alone in the woods, hiking and camping, was supposed to give her insight into what to do with her upended life. She had hoped to reclaim the part of herself that she had misplaced this last year. The part that made good choices with sound judgments. That innate trust in herself had taken a beating this last year. She had been woefully wrong about someone.

Friends understood that she needed this trip to reclaim herself. She needed to prove to herself that her instincts were still functional. That believing in one wrong person did not mean her gut was faulty.

Despite her skills, people had cautioned against this jaunt. However, Kit had been adamant. In order to think, she needed to be alone. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have backcountry experience. She’d led several camping expeditions on this very trail. Since it was off-season, she had assumed she might pass a handful of hikers, but so far, she had been alone. Which was what she had thought she had needed.

She’d spent the last few months in denial and avoidance, piling on activities and visits to ensure that she was rarely alone to worry. This trip had been a way to force herself to look at reality. She had to change careers, but to what? Moving to another state might help, but that involved making a choice. Where to go?

Now that she was over halfway into the outing, she still had no answers. She needed to face the fact that she was no closer to a decision than before. Perhaps she should just go home, open an atlas and blindly pick a town. She looked from the sky down to the contents of her thermal cup. Too bad she couldn’t read tea leaves. Kit sighed and rubbed her forehead. She’d had enough time to see that this trip was not going to give her the insight she needed.

She started the day by looking for anything to break the monotony. She was bored, and, unfortunately, the animals she crossed paths with did not respond to her greetings. Back when her destination had been selected, the idea of being alone to think was appealing. However, right now, she would give anything to have someone to talk to.

Kit snarled up at the clear sky filled with twinkling stars, “C’mon universe! Give me a clue!”

Then she snorted at her own folly. It wasn’t as if the universe had been kind to her during the last year. Why start now?

She sighed and dumped the dregs left from her after-dinner drink. She had put out the campfire, so she cleaned the cup by the glow from her lantern. She was dawdling, and she knew it. The fact that she was putting off a decision itched like a wool sweater. But this was the new, cautious Kit. She would just adjust to the irritation.

Before entering the tent, she spoke one last time to the brilliant sky. “Send me a sign by daybreak. Otherwise, I’m outta here.”

The next morning, Kit admitted to being disappointed. There had been no sign that she was on the right track. No sign that she was finally making good choices. She had awoken to just another cool, foggy dawn. It was time to admit defeat and head back to civilization.

Ugh! She threw her pack across the site, scattering its contents. She finished her power bar and began taking apart her tent. The bright blue and yellow material burned her eyes. She should have chosen black or gray. Those were appropriate colors for a failed trip. She blinked back tears and bared her teeth in frustration. Yes, it was definitely time to get on with a new life. The idea left her feeling hollow instead of energized. She wanted her old life back, damnit.

Kit heard the helicopter long before she spotted it. The whirl of the blades was thunderous. As it came closer, she watched the branches overhead twist violently, loose leaves fluttering down to land around her boots. She tried to identify the bird, but the tree canopy around the campsite was too high for her to see it.

What the hell was it doing, flying so low over the isolated forest? It could be a rescue team, searching for a stranded hiker. She had trekked through the eastern half of the forest for the past week and hadn’t seen a single flare or even a remote sign that someone else was in the area. Only an idiot who deserved to get lost would venture this far out without emergency flares.