Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us. – Peter De Vries
Honey marched forward into the maw of the mountains despite the growing gloom of the canyon. Despite the persistent feeling she was being swallowed alive. Despite the fact her feet were killing her.
So was her back, her knees, and her lungs. Honey was out of shape. She could stand in a kitchen for hours at a stretch, but hiking up steep inclines wasn’t a normal part of her day. She trailed behind Booker, her husband, who was as fit as she wasn’t.
Booker was a firefighter, but she bet she put out more fires than he did. If she had his schedule, she’d exercise all the time too. Honey tripped over a rock, put a hand on his shoulder, and righted herself. Okay, she probably wouldn’t, but she would exercise more than she did.
“You okay?” He gazed at her with concern. The look in his eyes made her ashamed of her attitude.
“Yeah. Thanks,” she added.
“The cut off for the falls is right around the bend.”
“But how far to the falls?” She couldn’t seem to get the adolescent whine out of her voice.
“We’ll take a break when we get to the boulders.” Unlike her, Booker sounded energized. He was enjoying his new role as her personal trainer, and anything that made Booker happy these days was something she’d go along with. Which wasn’t to say she didn’t wish it was something else. Something else like a good movie, dinner out, or wine tasting. Most of the time, she was grateful her husband was a hunk. Not today. Today it was downright irritating.
At the end of last year, Honey’s doctor had announced she was insulin resistant, which could turn into type two diabetes if she didn’t make changes. Dr. Hillary also said Honey’s cholesterol was high. If it got any higher she’d have to go on medication. The doctor recommended regular exercise and cutting back on animal fats, simple carbs, and sugar.
Of course, Honey didn’t do anything about the proclamation before Christmas. How could you bake cookies without butter and sugar and white flour? Booker wasn’t happy about it but agreed they could start Honey’s lifestyle makeover in the new year. It was now January, the month of resolution hell, hence the hike in Black Star Canyon.
Before they reached the path to the falls, Honey noticed the entrance to another trail branching off the fire road they were on. A barricade decorated with several pockmarked signs stretched across it. The signs read, “Keep Out,” “Beware of Dogs,” and “No Trespassing.” Were those pockmarks made by bullets? Guns were also outside Honey’s comfort zone. Guns were one of the reasons she and Booker had left Kentucky fifteen years ago. There were too many of them in Kentucky. Hunters shot up the hills every fall. They aimed for deer but took farmers’ cows and even large dogs. It didn’t seem like a safe place to raise a family even if she and Booker had made it out of childhood alive. Thinking about Kentucky reminded her of Joe and their lost money. Her mood soured more if that was possible.
“Friendly around here, aren’t they?” Honey said.
“Well, you can’t blame them. They’ve had their share of troubles.”
“Like what?” She wasn’t especially curious, but a story might take her mind off her feet.
“You know everyone thinks this canyon is haunted, right?”
“I heard it was something to do with Native American burial grounds.”
“Sort of. Back in the eighteen hundreds, the natives were stealing horses from the Mexicans. Some fur trappers rolled into town and offered to take care of things. They found the natives eating horse meat over there.” Booker pointed up the mountain. “They slaughtered everyone who couldn’t outrun the bullets, and returned the live horses to the señors.”
“On your right.” A voice behind Honey made her jump. She turned to see five women in full riding gear pedaling up the hill. She moved to one side and watched them pass, admiring the definition of their thighs. It would be wonderful to have muscles like that. If only you didn’t have to exercise to get them.
“Trail angels,” Booker said.
Honey glanced around, looking for wildlife. “Where?”
Her husband jutted his chin at the cyclists. “Them. It’s a group of mountain bikers. They call themselves Trail Angels. You should look into it. It’d be good for you.”
She didn’t respond. He couldn’t be serious.
Booker made a right onto a dirt trail overhung with branches. The pungent odor of sage and wet leaves pinched Honey’s nose, but the shade was pleasant. She was sweating despite the cool weather.
Booker said if you perspired, it meant you were healthy. She strongly suspected Dr. Hillary had exaggerated her condition. Her thoughts wandered to the frittata she’d make when they got home.
“The dead are said to haunt the old mines and trails of Black Star. The story attracts a certain element.” Booker’s words interrupted the bacon or turkey sausage debate running through her mind.
“Who bothers the locals up here, teens or crazies?” she said, pulling herself out of the kitchen.
“Both.” Booker pushed a branch that crossed the trail aside and held it while she passed. “There are the usual ghost hunters, but there’s also a fair amount of crime. Two girls were gang-raped and their boyfriends beaten to a pulp.”
Honey’s foot slid forward. She grabbed a tree branch to stop herself from falling. The past week it had rained for several days in a row, which was great for the environment, but the ground was slick. Honey’s tennis shoes didn’t have much traction.
Booker stepped around her and resumed his position as leader of the pack. “There are also Satanist wannabes who’ve been known to steal goats and sheep off local properties and sacrifice them on the rocks.”
Why did he sound so cheerful? He’d been as somber as a turkey on Thanksgiving since Joe had disappeared. Honey shook her head. If she’d known all it would take to perk him up was rape and animal sacrifice, she’d have dragged him to a horror movie.
“The Sheriff’s Department has cracked down on things,” he continued. “But sometimes the locals get a wild hair and take matters into their own hands.”