Up ahead, between the creek and the trail, she saw an odd shape hidden beneath layers of leaves and moss. A spark of curiosity illuminated her mind as, subconsciously, she drew ever nearer to the odd shape.
The early morning sunshine filtered through the evergreens as soft sounds of the creek were joined by the calm chirping of birds. These details of nature intertwined to create a brilliant ambiance. This was the reason why Carpenter Harris took these pre-dusk runs. In fact, it’s the reason why she bought that rickety old house at the end of the woods. Whenever she wanted, she could go explore the secluded forest.
After living in the house for over a year, she found herself in a certain routine. Every morning, before the sun peeked over the mountains, Carpenter would go for a run. At first, she played it safe. She had found an odd flashlight in the old home when she first moved in and was able to attach it to a sweatband she used to wear in her college days. She only wore this makeshift headband light a handful of times but quickly realized how uncomfortable and useless it was. There was something so liberating, so animalistic about running in a pitch black trail that weaves through a densely vegetated forest. She’d never run in the dark for too long, however. Some mornings, the first rays of morning light would filter through the tall trees a few minutes after her routine run began. Other times, the light wouldn’t appear until she was already working up a sweat, 15 minutes in. On mornings when the sun took its time, Carpenter was forced to face the forest as it was. Dark, mysterious, uncertain. After enough attempts, Carpenter Harris had memorized the trail and could run it with her eyes closed if she tried.
The trail weaved through the forest, getting steeper and steeper every few yards. Once the path plateaued, she could hear the creek below, about 20 to 30 feet on the right side of the trail. The valley which led to the creek was at a sharp incline, although not sharp enough to be life-threatening. A few times, Carpenter miscalculated the distance of her foot’s trajectory and lost her balance, stumbling for a moment and almost tumbling down the valley on the right. Thankfully, she caught herself before rolling into the creek (which was probably freezing cold at that time of day).
Normally, she’d be the only human in this side of the woods. She was used to the sound of the creek, the chirping birds, and the sounds of twigs breaking under the weight of her running shoes. On one of her very first runs, back when she tried to illuminate her path with that odd flashlight, she spotted a beautiful albino fox a few yards ahead. The fox had spotter her too and looked at Carpenter (or, more specifically, at the bright light that hopped up and down in the distance). A flash of red amidst an eloquently arranged cloud of white fur caused Carpenter to stop in her tracks. She’d never seen a fox before, let alone an albino fox. Are foxes dangerous? She asked herself. Should she run back home as fast as she could? Or should she stand still and wait for the fox to go on her merry way? Before Carpenter could come to a realization, the albino fox (which had held eye contact with Carpenter all this time) briskly sprinted into the darkness of the forest, like a ghost or a small patch of fog quietly evaporating in the morning light.
Carpenter Harris had found herself in another routine. But unlike her two jobs or her graduate school degree, this routine was solely for her. A routine where she knew exactly what she’d see through every step of the way. That routine came to a swift halt when she noticed an odd shape on the trail’s embankment. She had decided to go investigate. Slowly and steadily, Carpenter bound over to the shape. The steep incline was much more difficult to navigate than she initially realized. She used her hands to keep herself steady, grabbing onto exposed roots and dry branches for further stabilization. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Carpenter arrived at the odd shape.
She approached the shape, as delicately as possible. Carpenter was able to ascertain more details of the mysterious mound. It was much larger than she first realized. From up above, in the safety of the trail, it looked like an odd shadow but now that she was about two feet away, she was astounded by its size. It was an unnatural dome shape, covered by dry, dark orange leaves. Moss, thin twigs, and seeds were strewn above it as well. She held her breath as she got as close to the shape as possible. Her left side was resting on the embankment’s steep incline. She maintained her stability by holding on to a particularly strong exposed tree root. Carpenter reached out her hand, which was trembling ever so slightly, towards the shape. The shape was rising and falling as if it were breathing. Carpenter placed her hand on the shape and, almost immediately, she felt a cool, smooth surface beneath the misplaced leaves. Her heart beat fast as she wiped the leaves and twigs away from the shape. There, beneath the underbrush, rested a luminous, metallic dome. The sunlight had flooded the forest at this point and, as such, reflected off of the smooth surface of the dome (which still rose and fell, much like one’s chest rises and falls every time one takes a breath). Carpenter pushed herself up on her feet to get a better look at the dome. Within the opalescent surface, she could see a grayish outline, a faded silhouette. Now that she was standing, she could see the full size of the odd dome. It was about eight feet long by six feet wide. It wasn’t reflecting the light of the sun. Instead, a soft, illuminating hum emanated from the dome’s radius. Something in the back of Carpenter’s mind assured her that whatever she was looking at wasn’t of this earth.