Sasquatch, Baby! (Excerpt)

sasquatch baby 2

By Bethany Browning,

The boredom was real.

The chatter in my mind was a scurry of chipmunks, running one self-destructive idea after another through every inch of my brain.

Call them. Call them. Call them,” my brain—a naughty devil—urged.

Either I couldn’t sit still or I could only sit still. Who knew that cutting off the internet, ditching your cell phone, and cutting yourself off from everyone you ever knew would result in infinite free time?

I’d been indoors for more than a week now, save for smoking outside and obsessively checking the water tank levels.

I was alone with my memories, and my memories were being bullies.

I was essentially unlovable. Not in the oh-woe-is-me way, but something fundamental about me was off. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how to be in the world. I winged it with a mix of try-hard, overcompensation, dishonesty, and joking.

And all I had now was a wine-shaped hole that I had done a very good job of filling on that particular day.

I could barely walk, much less go for a hike in the woods. Wasn’t that the point, though? To die here? It seemed a waste to not spend time in my private aerie, but there was also no need to drag this out if this is how I was going to feel every day.

What, exactly, was there to live for?

I had nothing to look forward to.

Today’s the day, I decided. I slogged back half a bottle of wine followed by four or five shots of vodka. I grabbed a handle of vodka, stuffed a pack of smokes into my pocket, and took to the woods.

What better way to die than hammered and surrounded by ferns?

I thought I’d wait until my health woes were irreversible, my skin jaundiced the sickly yellow of old paper, and my desperate liver and singed lungs crying uncle. I’d walk out into the unforgiving wilderness, fall asleep, and never come back.

Come on in, little critters, my decomposing corpse would say. Lay your eggs in my ears. Plant your fungal spores in my nasal cavities. Build bacterial colonies as complex as our universe. And nibble my organs from the inside out. I’m useful. And I’m all yours.

Walking, according to the experts, was the universal cure-all. If I could implement about a half hour of walking per day into my routine, I’d remove negative thoughts, eat healthier, have a positive attitude, be more productive.

Or get murdered on a trail.

It’s what we call a win-win for someone in my circumstance.

I pulled up my big-girl panties, laced up my sassy sneaks, and strode out to die.

The first few hundred yards were shaky. Walking through mostly untouched woods wasn’t at all like walking the mall.

I’d never been alone in the woods. Never had to contend with the silence that wraps around you like a sopping wet blanket. Nothing but the sound of trees creaking to keep me company. Nothing but my own dark thoughts to urge me on.

I stumbled onward, not sure what I was looking for—only that I needed a place to sit comfortably. The handle of vodka was getting heavy. Small movements from the corners of my eyes—birds, probably—startled me.

I was fully shit-faced; the trail undulated before me. Roots popped up out of nowhere, tripping me, causing me to cradle the huge bottle of vodka like a baby to prevent it from breaking and ruining my plan.

My knees were muddy. My hands were scraped.

I vomited more than once and washed out my guts with more and more vodka.

It burned. My throat was ablaze.

I could sense the event horizon. Blackout was imminent.


For a brief, incandescent moment, I changed my mind.

I could turn around right now and blunder back to Kevin. I could make a proper dinner in my Nancy Meyers kitchen. I’d wear a caftan and roast a chicken. Whip up a salad. Perhaps take up barefoot trail running, like that tall guy in Mexico or Peter Sarsgaard or whoever it was. I laughed out loud at that. I don’t think I’d ever run more than fifteen steps in my life, and that was only because I was trying to get to the bar before last call.

No, a voice deep inside my mind said clearly. That life’s not for you.

Resigned and ready, I tromped away from anything that could be considered a trail and crouched down behind a boulder. I lit a cigarette. Drank some more, even though the alcohol was strafing my guts.

The tears flowed; my eyes swelled. I couldn’t stop. I was utterly overwhelmed with the beauty of this place, of my place in it, and all my failures.

I took a few more deep breaths, apologized silently to my dusty lungs and my poisoned heart.

And that’s when I saw it.

An object caught a sunbeam and sparkled.

“Ooh, shiny,” I slurred.

I felt a small pang in my chest. That’s what the girls and I used to say when any of us showed up with new jewelry.

That’s when I noticed the smell. Sickly sweet. Garlicky. It was equally pungent as the smell I’d noticed around the house, but different. Meatier. Rottier. Fleshier. Now with more gag-inducing chemicals.

I moved closer.

The shiny object was a watch.

The watch was attached to a wrist.

The wrist was missing its skin.

It was also missing the elbow, shoulder, and the rest of the body.

I gasped.

I was surrounded by body parts and the remains of what appeared to be two tracksuits, torn to ribbons.

And flies. Everywhere flies.

Three hands, a foot still snug in a Merrell trail boot. A length of tangled strawberry blonde hair that had cascaded out of a copse of blackberries. Some bones picked clean, wet, and shiny from dew.

An empty eye socket, bone peeking through, surrounded by small, brown mushrooms. Maggots writhing in a blue-green male torso a few feet away.

The smell threatened to overwhelm me. Waves of nausea, painful like a stab, pounded my abdomen.

I thought maybe two bodies altogether, but possibly more. Parts were scattered about. A gooey toenail atop a fern. A finger covered in mold.


This is what I craved for myself.

Wasn’t it?

This is exactly how they’d find me.

If they found me.

For the first time on my walk (in my life?), I had no words. My mind was a perfect blank.

And for the first time in my life, I ran home.

Bethany Browning was once named Most Likely to Lie on Her Resume. Her hobbies include collecting her thoughts and spending her time. She has excellent credit and a need for speed(ers to be pulled over and ticketed. A car is not a toy). Her latest book is Sasquatch, Baby! Follow her on Twitter @buzzwordsocial.
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