Saturday night I was in a trailer full of dogs and drunks. I remember stepping into the black, absurd cold of 11 a.m. to watch someone I didn't know fire a shotgun blindly into the snow-stricken nothingness. I remember playing beer pong and a few people were passed out in the bathroom so I had to piss outside. I stumbled out under the starless sky, bumping in between crowded cars to reach the edge of the forest. I saw lights going on and off across the street. It looked like someone was on their porch. Suddenly someone burst out from the front door of the trailer, jumped into a car, and started driving. People streamed out, drunkenly piling into cars and blindly riding into the dark. I started running, stumbling, while pissing, into the forest. I remember (vaguely) running on what I thought was a trail. Branches cut my face, and I fell on ice a few times. I ducked down behind an ancient, rotting tree. It was lightly capped with snow, and lay at the top of a leafy ditch. Through the trees, I saw lights; blue lights, flashing. I heard a scanner, and saw a flashlight shine through the parallel gaps between the slender bodies of the trees. Exhaust plumed into the driveway, and I heard arguing voices. As quietly as possible, I went deeper into the woods.
I awoke with a poisoned hangover. I rolled over and the absurd moonlight shined in my nervous eyes. I was freezing, and stained with mud and dirty snow. I had drunk too much – every movement caused a violent movement of bile and booze in my stomach. Nausea drowned my torso, and I was in the forest. I couldn't hear anything else. I felt in my pockets for my phone, which was not on me. It was next to me, on the ground, in three unassembled pieces. I put them together, and turned it on: the welcoming jingle sounded eerily out of place in this kingdom of trees. 4 a.m.
I decided I should simply make a phone call. However, I needed to lie longer. My nausea was holding me onto the ground. How long had I been here? I looked at my phone again. It was still the 14th. I must have left the trailer at 11pm, maybe 12am. In spite of my state, I remember mostly everything. There were a few older men there; walking around with half-empty thirty racks and smoking the cheapest cigarettes money can buy. I felt in the brim of my hat – one of them was there, unbroken. I had bummed it when somebody was firing that shotgun. That explains the police. I remembered dogs, probably seven of them – walking around with confused, excited looks. The older ones slept on piles of coats.
I had gathered up the health and stability to call. I dialed Neil's number. No answer. I dialed a friend named Eric's number. No answer. Taylor: no answer. Caddie: no answer. I went through most of my phonebook before my phone finally died. I threw it to my side, and decided to stand up.
The moon was still behind the clouds, but shone through in one spot, illuminating the broken edges of the clouds like a cigarette burn on an arm. The rest of the sky was a seamless field of sable, streaked with wispy, vapor-like clouds. Chasmic and ancient echoes bounced between the tree's skinny bodies, absurd echoes from the holy black zephyr. These were not Thoreau's woods – these were not an icy Eden. These trees were menacing, the snow had a corpse-like frigidity, and the sky did not go to heaven. This was surely not Eden. Puritan souls haunted these forests, they thought this was Eden.
How did I even get out here? How do I get out of here? The logical decision was to follow my footsteps. I took a tiny, dying pen light out of my coat pocket. Shining it across the snow, I found only the drunken snow angel I had made, wallowing in my nausea on the cold ground. There were no footprints. It hadn't snowed; there would have been some on me when I woke up. I searched the pallid expanse of the snow. Tiny Christmas trees pointed to the sky out of the whiteness. I saw something on a patch of ice; it looked like an owl pellet. I kneeled down next to it, and saw a stringy, dirty tail twisting out of it. Tiny feet supine in moribund motionlessness, and a gaping mouth of jagged teeth: it was a dead mouse. Its fur was matted and frozen, like a used and ragged cat's toy. I puked.
After reassuring I would not puke again, I stood up. There was some on me, on my hand. It almost felt like the spleen would burn through my icy flesh. Where was I? I've heard of places you can walk five feet from the tree line and not know which way you came in. It seems as if this happened to me, as if the trees had taken off with my footprints and I was lost. If I was only ten feet into the forest, I don't know which way I came in, and I could end up digging the wrong way in this avalanche. The best thing to do was to wait for the sunrise, as opposed to stumbling through the black, snowy woods half-drunk. I lied back down on the ground. I looked over at where I puked, and steam rose off of the fluid pile of vomit as it melted through the snow.
I took the cigarette out of my hat and rested it between my chapped lips. I hadn't smoked in months, but I might as well do so like I'm facing a firing squad. I took my lighter out of my jacket, and rolled the flint. A tiny spark flashed from the lighter. I tried again, cupping my hand against the gentle, yet persistent wind. A dead spark jumped from the lighter. I tried again, and again, and it was dead. The sparks had lightly burnt the tip of the cheap cigarette. I threw the lighter in the same direction of my cell phone, dead. Somewhere near the dead mouse, and puddle of gastric vomit.
I dreamed, not surprisingly, that I was in the woods: a springtime, tame, close-to-civilization "forest." Rows of ankle-high fir trees were growing in parallel rows like supermarket shelves. I walked down the aisles of these trees, and mice and squirrels darted underneath their miniature branches. Caddie was walking with me, telling me about some kids from a nearby town that drove a car into a watery abyss. As the car filled up with water, they all made phone calls to tell everyone that they were drowning, that they didn't know where they were, and that they would miss them when they were dead.
"How do you get reception in a watery abyss?" I asked, laughing, stepping over a scurrying mouse. She looked back at me behind her glasses, which I guess she did need. She started to walk in the other direction, crossing over the rows of trees and walking four different ways into the sun, that rested on the tree-spotted horizon.