It wasn’t meant to end like this. The day had started perfectly. They’d woken together in the log cabin that had once been a miner’s home, according to the blurb on the Airbnb site. It was rustic from the outside, but the interior had been modernised so it was functional, if compact. There was a fireplace which had been laid with kindling and small logs in a nearby basket. It had been mild last night but they couldn’t resist and had lit the fire, drinking wine and telling each other things that surprised themselves, as if the remote location diminished the usual reservations.
And maybe it was the wine that affected his judgement today. There had been some pamphlets with local walks in the cabin, and they’d decided to head out this morning and work up an appetite for lunch. They’d brought a selection of tasty treats from the surprisingly well-stocked delicatessen in the nearest town on their way through yesterday. Callum hadn’t thought they’d find such a wide assortment of produce outside of their usual inner city orbit. Lexie had called him a snob, but she was more comfortable outside of the city and suburbs than he was.
Which is why he should have listened to her earlier when she said they had missed a turn on the walk. The track had been easy at first, and he’d felt the fug of the hangover lifting. The shrubs alongside the path were fragrant and studded with small white and soft pink flowers, and further back he could see the glow of wattles, all the brighter on the overcast morning. Lexie had rattled off the names of some of the plants, and had pointed out a few birds, but Callum was too distracted by the sheer scope of the landscape they were walking through to really absorb what she was saying. He’d ploughed ahead, enjoying the sensation of space and movement. He’d even shouted a few times to see if the valley would send his words back to him. A sudden spurt of energy lifted him and he ran up the slope of a steep incline, feeling as fit as one of the wild goats that they’d passed yesterday.
Lexie had cried out and he’d skidded on some stones, twisting his ankle as he turned to see what was wrong. She was flapping the pamphlet, saying that they’d gone too far, had missed one of the turns. He’d limped back down the slope and had snatched at the paper, the pain in his ankle making his tone sharper than he intended. He’d never been any good at reading maps and reached for his phone. No signal. It would be all right. They just needed to head back the way they came.
But the track had been swallowed up by the scrub. They headed one way, then another, everything looking familiar and yet different. They hadn’t left a note at the cabin. Who would know they were lost?
This piece was written to a prompt on the Writer’s Digest website.
Cliffhanger. Leave your story open-ended.
Photo: Capertee Valley, NSW
2 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: Cliffhanger”
I recall as a child in Girl Scouts I learned to always pay attention to my surroundings, and to call anything of interest out and turn it into a memory game or a song to find your way back.
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What a handy skill to have, and not just in outdoor settings 😉
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