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Be sure to replace

your hiking boots

every 300 miles or so

for optimal comfort

huffs Gary, your trusty guide.

It’s cold comfort

to your swollen, aching feet,

but next time you won’t skip

the New Balance sale at Kohl’s,

will you?

After all, it’s not your first time

hiking Velmar Ridge with Gary;

you should’ve known better.

Should’ve remembered

he’s merciless.

Chris, your


sweat-soaked new hiking buddy


about how his dogs are barkin’.

You assure him

the descent will be much easier,

but he doesn’t seem convinced.

Gary reminds Chris that wellness

is about pushing through obstacles.

And lo, before long,

the forest parts, revealing

a real dagger of a cliff


over the verdant valley.

A funeral pyre sunset

outlines distant, jagged-tooth

crags. Chris mumbles how

it’s so beautiful, but you’re

already standing at the edge

with Gary, adding another stone

to the neat little pile

from all your visits together.

You beckon Chris forth,

just a little closer now,

and as he obliges,

Gary, your experienced guide,

dissipates into so many dried

pine needles and wriggling

worms and buzzing, stinging

wasps, and Chris is dancing

on the precipice, swatting and

crying out. He does not notice

how the wasps

ignore you.

Nor will he ever know,

for now, tomato-faced Chris tumbles

end over end, screaming, toward

the foggy, bramble-choked


He crunches

to a halt.

A guttural lowing

from deep within the woods

drowns out his bellowing moans.


emerges before long,

shambling forth on four thick

legs like tree trunks thudding

into the sodden earth. Her countless


distended udders sway

with every lurching step,

red and bulbous with

stagnant, pooled blood.

And as she lowers her ragged

torso-mouth over your

gibbering hiking buddy

and begins to feast, you look

at your little pile of rocks

and wonder

if this is really who you are.

Once she has finished,

she calls her children,

and the forest teems

with translucent spiderlings

rushing forth to cover




Then sunset’s last blood-orange rays

alight upon you,

filling you with optimal comfort,

and you realize you will need new boots

before your next hike.


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