It was supposed to be a wonderful experience, a new start for Frank. Well into his mid-forties, Frank had allowed a bad lifestyle to take a toll on his health over the years. He felt sick and sluggish, his bones ached and he felt his heaviest at 300 pounds – Not a good thing for a shorter man, or anyone else for that matter.
He stood over the bathroom sink that Saturday morning, looking at himself in the mirror. He wore nothing but his underwear, his bulging belly hung down, partially covering them. His underarms rested uncomfortably on the flabs of fat that had accumulated over time, his neck disappeared from view altogether. He no longer resembled the man he used to be, full of appeal and self-confidence. That was over fifteen years ago.
No more! he told himself. I will not allow myself to end up like this!
He purchased a scale the day before from Walmart, promising himself he would make changes to his overall health. He had made that promise to himself many times before, and many times before, he failed miserably in following through to keep that promise.
The first thing he swore to let go, was fast food and sugary drinks. This was the hardest part for him, he lived off of Mc Donalds and loved to pound four to five Coca- Cola’s a day. He would replace these unhealthy foods with a variety of Fish, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. As far as liquids go, nothing beats water. This would be his new discipline.
He stepped on the scale, it sunk and creaked from all of his weight. The red LED display Spiraled, scrolling random numbers, until it slowed down, revealing the correct weight on the tiny screen.
He got off, let the display reset itself back to zero, then stepped back on it, hoping for some type of mistake.
310lbs. No mistake.
Later that evening, Frank arrived at the mountain. The houses and streets around the trail site, trickled off and scattered, rather than sitting next to one another like they normally did. This was because the closer one got to the mountain, the more rock covered the land. Larger rocks, over ten feet tall in some places, encircled its perimeter. The trail ascended up the mountain 1,400 feet from its base, a popular destination for serious hikers and bicyclists for its beautiful views overlooking the city, and its many trails along the way.
Frank hadn’t climbed that particular mountain in over a decade, he was reminded of it by how difficult it had been just getting to the starting point. It was five o clock, and even though the trail did not officially close until nine, not many people ventured up past six. Already, Frank noticed the parking lot was clearing out and saw a good amount of people making their way down to their vehicles. Frank did not care, he wouldn’t climb more than he had to, just enough to feel he made a dent in his new commitment. He had his water bottle, towel and a folding knife clipped to his pants pocket, everything he needed, in his mind, to get the job done. He took the first steps up the trail and began his journey up the mountain.
When he had reached the mid-point, he was already taking deep long breaths. His shirt absorbed his sweat like a sponge, leaving a stain of white residue behind. He felt light-headed, so he took a knee and poured water on his head to cool off. A woman walking a small dog came up behind him.
“You gonna be alright there?” she said.
He looked up at her, water and sweat found their way into his eyes, making it hard for him to open them fully.
”Yeah…” he said, catching his breath. ”I guess I underestimated the trail a little bit.” He straightened himself up, trying to not let his exhaustion be so obvious.
” I’ll be okay…I just need to take a break for a minute.”
” I’d take more than a minute if I were you, ” she said, chuckling lightly.
He pressed his lips together, smiling with embarrassment.
”It gets harder from here, trust me. So be careful, it’ll be dark soon enough and the trails get a bit dangerous in the dark. Especially so so close to the edges.”
”I will, Thank you.”
She gave him a smile, took a swig of water from her container and continued her walk down, the dog led the way.
He stood, looking up at the trail winding up the mountain, contemplating whether to continue or not. He made the decision to press on, he had come too far to give up now. He made frequent stops the rest of the way up, the path getting steeper the higher he got.
After a fifty-five minute climb, he finally reached the top, collapsing on the ground from exhaustion. He laid on his back, eyes closed, the sweat ran off him and landed on the dirt under him.
Not bad baby! he said to himself. Not freaking bad!
After a long rest on his back, his legs were on fire and his soaked shirt was smothered from the dirt as he rose to his feet. Frank was ready to make his way down. But before doing so, he decided to take a trophy picture of himself along the edge of the cliff, overlooking the city below. It would make a nice Facebook post for all his friends and family to see. They would be shocked, they knew his habits well, and climbing to the top of a mountain is the last thing they’d expect from him.
Holding the cell phone above his head, he tilted it, making sure he was in the frame and the desired backdrop was in view. He planted his feet firmly on the ground, stabilizing himself.
The camera on the cell phone mimicked the sound of a shutter going off, he lowered it, placing it close to his face. He looked at the picture and approved.
As he stepped away from the edge, the ground beneath him gave way. A large section broke off and plummeted down to the rocks below. Frank went down, hitting his side on the edge of the cliff, he grimaced in pain. He began sliding off, his weight pulling him down fast.
Reaching and digging his nails in the dirt, he grasped on to whatever he could, anything to keep him from falling. There was nothing to hold him, he slid off completely and fell twenty-five feet to the rocky surface below.
He landed hard on a large boulder, his right leg taking the brunt of it all. His side and back followed, slamming into the rock, his head bouncing off leaving him in a daze as he tumbled to the ground below. He screamed in agony, the pain was unbearable with every movement he made. He felt faint and passed out shortly after the impact.
A coyotes wailing howl echoed through the night. The trees swayed gently, whispering in the wind as another coyote wailed in the distance. Frank opened his eyes, slowly, the night sky with its stars came into focus. His head pounded, the searing pain from his leg made him jerk and grimace. he lifted his head, it spun in circles, then slowly focused on the source of the pain. It was broken, it laid twisted, bent out of place. His ribs, shooting sharp pains up his spine, forced him down on his back again.
He looked around at his surroundings, huge jagged boulders towered over him, large trees swayed above him, obstructing the view of stars beyond them.
My phone! he thought quickly. Where’s my phone?
He reached into his pockets, carefully trying to avoid moving as much as possible. The phone wasn’t in his pockets. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and tried not to freak out more than he already was. He stretched his hands out against the ground and felt around for the device, perhaps it was laying nearby. But the more he extended his reach, only rocks and dried up patchy grass came across his palms. It was gone, probably resting at the bottom of the mountain as far as he knew.
He attempted sitting himself up against the base of the nearest boulder, but the pain was too great – everything felt broken.
Someone has to know I’m missing by now, he thought. They are probably out looking for me right now. No. Nobody knows I’m here, no one is looking for me. I haven’t spoken to anyone today….
Today? What time is it? How long have I been laying here? There was still light out before I fell…
He attempted several times to stand, but without the assistance of some kind, he wasn’t going anywhere. he looked around for something that could support his weight, but there was nothing around but rock and dirt. He collapsed, sobbing for a long time.
Help! he yelled from the top of his lungs. Please, somebody, help me!
He screamed until his throat hurt. His voice echoed throughout the mountain.
Someone had to of heard that, he said softly. Someone will hear it and come looking for me real soon. You just have to wait and have a little patience, you’ll see…
An hour went by, then two. Without a sign from anyone, he decided he couldn’t wait any longer, He braced himself and attempted to stand, his hands gripping the jagged edges of the mountain, he lifted himself grimacing in pain. Hopping on one leg, he looked up at the large boulders that towered over him like prison walls, preventing him from escaping. In frustration, He banged his forehead on the rocky surface.
I’m going to die here, he thought. I’m going to die on this miserable mountain!
Above him, where he once stood victoriously, came a rustling sound. Someone or something was up there walking through the shrubbery. He looked and listened intently.
The rustling sounded again.
Help! he shouted. Please help me!
The noise stopped, silence followed, Franks’ eyes scanned the rim of the cliff. For a brief moment, the pain was gone, non-existent in his hope.
Hello? Please, I’ve fallen and…my leg, I think its broken!
The rustling of dried shrubs being trotted on continued once again, getting closer and closer.
Two bright greenish orbs came over the edge, a dark outline of an animal obstructed the stars twinkling beyond. The animal let out a loud howl, raising the tip of its nose towards the night sky – a coyote!
To its left, appeared another one, it peered down at Frank. It growled, a third appeared next to it. They both howled, one first, then the other. They circled in and out of view, attempting to climb down from where they stood, but were unable to do so. One of them ran off, Frank could hear it going around, looking for a more accessible way down. Another took off the opposite way, searching for its own path. But the third, the first to appear, remained at the top, watching him menacingly.
Oh shit! he mumbles under his breath. Shit!
Stumbling back against the large crevices, he felt around for a grip desperately that might allow him to climb over, but nothing was in reach, it was too dark to see anything. One of the coyotes now stood at the top of one of the boulders, looking down at him, the other was clawing his way up on the other side. They locked eyes momentarily, a vicious snarl came out, revealing its deadly fangs to him. It lowered its posture to a striking position.
Pressing himself back against the mountain, Frank braced himself for the worst. His right hand brushed against his pants pocket, scraping it against something cold and firm. A knife, his pocket knife! On instinct, he pulled it out, flicked it open, and raised the tip of it as the heavy impact of the coyote struck him, sending them both to the ground.
The coyote wailed as the sharp end of the five-inch blade pierced its chest. It jumped back, crashing violently against the rock behind it. Frank swung the knife wildly, the second coyote now looming over him. A pain that made him squeal came from his injured leg, the coyote now had its teeth sunk into his flesh. It thrashed his head back and forth, tugging on his leg with full force.
Above, the coyote threw itself on top of Frank, sinking his teeth into his side. Both animals pulled and tugged, yanking Franks body back and forth. He stabbed the coyote that had him by the side repeatedly, but the beast only grew more aggressive. It released his hold on him, only to lunge at his swinging arm, biting down on it as it came in contact with it. It pulled back, yanking and shaking it. Frank lost hold of the blade, it went flying and smashed out of reach against the jagged rocks.
Helpless and in pain, Frank felt as the animals ripped and pulled away from the flesh, only to sink their teeth into him once more. His screams turned into moans, weak and faded. He was passing out – dying. The two beasts continued to ravage his body, snarling with mouths bloody under the moonlight.
The third coyote watched and howled with approval. It did so with dominance, as if it were the pack leader, watching his recruits prove themselves predators, capable of hunting, and killing. Tonight, it was Frank who was the prey they hunted.
A shot rang out, the bullet penetrated the coyote right between the eyes. Their brilliant glow dimmed at once, and its body slumped to the ground – dead.
The shot had alerted the others, they released their grip on Frank and clawed their way up and over the boulders. Frank laid mangled in his own pool of blood.
Another shot, this time hitting a coyote as he appeared over the top, it yelped before tumbling to the ground several feet below. A third shot fired, but missed the last coyote, ricocheting off the stone. It scampered off into the night.
A man, an officer aiming his pistol at a possible fourth threat, looked out on the scene. After inspecting the surrounding area, he made his way up the large boulder where Frank laid.
He found him at the bottom, twisted up and not conscious. Flashing his light down on him, he could see chunks of flesh missing from his side. The dirt absorbed the blood with hunger. He called out to him, but he got no reply.
”I found him!” he yelled out to other officers making their way up to him below. “it’s him, the lady with the dog was right, that was his car in the parking lot. It seems she wasn’t over exaggerating after all. Tell the medics to get up here fast, the poor bastard got ripped apart something awful! It might be too late already.”
That woman, the same one that passed him on her way down the mountain, had driven by the parking lot later that night. She noticed a single car parked, it struck her as odd. She entered the lot and pulled up right next to Franks vehicle. It was the same one She’d noticed on the way down to her own. She had gotten an awful feeling something was wrong, and that Frank was the one in serious trouble. She called the authorities and after some pleading, a number of officers volunteered to hiked up the trail to look for him.
Sometimes, the healthy thing to do is to stay unhealthy. That, at least, had been the case for a man named Frank.