Katie spotted the signs on the path. One read Opportunity and the other Betrayal. She pulled out the ancient, folded map and carefully opened it. She had looked at this map so many times that deep, well-worn folds smeared entire towns and roads from existence. She pinpointed her location and, as she already knew, only one of these two paths was on the map.
It was also the location he father went missing.
The five years since it happened had softened the pain of his disappearance, but the gnawing need to know what happened to him was like a malignant tumour.
She was on a pilgrimage to follow in his tracks and find the answers she desperately needed. The police exhausted their search four days after her mother reported him missing. A mere six months later, her mother lost the will to move on, and ultimately to live. Katie discovered her floating in a bath of her own blood. But at least she knew what happened to her.
At 16, Katie found herself living with her mother’s sister, Aunt Suzie. Suz meant well, but was just not cutout for motherhood. Katie cut her loses and left.
Her journey from her home in Kentucky had brought her to this unmarked fork in the road in northern California. She’d followed the path her father had marked on the tattered map she now held. It was the only thing of her father the police recovered during their search and returned it to her.
On it her father had marked the area where the Betrayal path should be. This was her path.
It was getting dark as Katie started down the path. Unseen things made unseen thing sounds all around her. For the first time since she’d lost everything, she felt truly terrified. But she knew nothing could be more terrifying than losing both your parents and pushed herself onward. The dense, green foliage closed in on her; the air grew heavy. The forest became silent.
Katie gripped the map and knew the time had come for her to say ‘betrayal’ three times just like her father had written on the map.
Her voice hung like a solid mass in the dense woods. She said the word again and then again. The quiet rustled just behind her and she felt the breath of a word brush the fine hairs on her neck. “Katie.”
She turned to see a man. “Dad?”
“Katie. I have something to show you.”
She took his hand and disappeared into the night.