Contest #181 winner 🏆

Out of Place on the Appalachian Trail

Submitted into Contest #181 in response to: Write about a character who’s climbing a mountain, whether internal, external, or both.... view prompt

269 comments

Adventure Contemporary American

My backpack weighs 31 pounds, and it barely fit into the trunk of Jen and Steve’s Honda. I don’t think they believed I was actually going through with this until I called and asked for a ride up the mountain. Jen gave me that look, that pitying, tight-lipped smile, but she helped Steve and I load up my things, and then they bought me lunch before dropping me off at the trailhead. Jen cried, and Steve gave me a can of pepper spray and an awkward side hug.

So here goes nothing. I’m at Springer Mountain, Georgia, with zero miles down and only 2,190 miles to go.

See you on the other side.  

Mile 8

I can feel my heartbeat in my feet, but I made it to the first campsite. I’m exhausted, but in that good I-did-a-hard-thing kind of way. I had trouble setting up my tent—broke a nail just getting it out of the bag—but there was another group at the campsite and some nice college kid saw me struggling, jogged over to help, and then had the whole thing up in under a minute. He looked at me funny, and I’m sure he was wondering what I was doing all the way out here instead of lounging on my sofa with a glass of chardonnay and an Oprah’s book club novel, but he didn’t pry.

Mile 19

Well, I pooped in the woods today. You would have laughed at me as I hunted for the perfect spot, then deposited and buried my own waste like some dainty, purebred housecat.

I laughed at myself too.

Mile 49

I’m already behind schedule. I wasted hours repacking my bag yesterday to redistribute the weight, as one hiker told me it would be less strain on my back to move the heavier items to the center. So I took everything out and repacked it as tightly as I could, which took forever. The hiker hovered nearby the entire time, obnoxiously commentating on all my belongings, and when he finally left, I sat down to write, only to find I’d somehow buried my journal. So, I unpacked my whole bag again, rummaging through my gear like a madwoman, just to then see the journal had been sitting on a rock next to me the whole time.

Even in the cold spring air, I was red-faced and sweating.

Mile 65

My feet are killing me, but I think I’ve finally broken in these fresh-out-of-the-box hiking boots.

I fell asleep last night listening to the crickets and thinking about you.

Mile 87

I met an interesting hiker today who said this was his second thru hike. He looked at least 10 years older than me and called himself “Pinetree.” All skin and bones with a long scraggly beard, he looked like a castaway stranded in the woods, though I got the sense he liked the solitude. He’d jutted out his bearded chin at me and said, “Nobo?”

“What?” I huffed out.

“North bound?”

North bound? Oh. Yes. I am.” I had to pause and catch my breath after each sentence. “Just getting started.”

He looked me over and clicked his tongue. “You’re carrying too much weight.”

I was momentarily offended before realizing he meant my pack. “How?! I left so much behind. I need all of this.”

He was quiet, chewing his lip. “Give it a few more miles. You won’t feel that way then.”

We continued walking; his stride was twice that of mine, but he slowed and matched my speed, and we hiked in companionable silence until I stopped for lunch.

He kept walking. “When you’re ready to let some of that go, you’ll feel much lighter. Trust me.” Then with a final, “take care out there,” he disappeared around the next bend.

His reprimand irritated me, but the frustration kept me going for a good four or five more miles.

I envied him: so confident and free.

He reminded me of you.

Mile 112

I pulled eight ticks off my legs yesterday. There were probably more where I couldn’t see them, and that thought kept me awake all night, tossing and turning and twitching in my tent until the exhaustion pulled me into fitful sleep. I dreamt that my hiking boots jumped off a cliff, and I had to walk the rest of the trail with my feet covered in orange plastic ramen noodle wrappers.

Mile 148

I met some thru hikers from South Dakota (which I had completely forgotten was a state) who were both in their 80’s! We talked the whole way, and it helped the miles pass quickly.

They told me the secret to longevity is to never stop moving.

Mile 162

I’ve been making better time; today was my record so far—14 miles. A rather uneventful 14 miles, though I did see a porcupine, which was interesting. I always thought they’d be…spikier…?  

At the shelter, I removed three shirts, a book, and a tube of lotion from my backpack and left them in a giveaway box. It made a surprisingly noticeable difference.

Mile 169

Well, those 14 miles about killed me. I slept late today, then took two ibuprofen before even getting out of my tent. My back hurt, my feet hurt—even my earlobes hurt.

The last thing I wanted to do was put those boots back on my swollen feet and walk.

Mile 202

Regret tastes sour and so do the dry ridges of my dehydrated gums.

What am I even doing out here?

Mile 327

I hiked 18 miles yesterday but took today off. I needed to replenish my food, as I guess there’s going to be a good stretch before I reach another town (I’m still learning how to read maps and plan ahead). I bought groceries and some new clothes, as my pants are starting to hang on me, then checked into a motel and took the first real shower I’ve had since leaving Georgia. I stood there until the water ran cold, then laid down on the sheets and passed out until my grumbling stomach woke me up. I ordered a large pepperoni pizza and ate the entire thing myself.

Then I called the pizza place back and ordered another one.

Mile 463

Made it into Virginia. It’s been raining for three days. The trails are slush, my boots are filthy, and I feel like a wet rag.

I want to go home.

Mile 567

I made a small group of friends who have sort of pulled me into their circle and let me tag along the last 50 miles or so. Melons is a vet tech from Florida, whose cleavage makes introductions before she does. Huckleberry is a lanky 22-year-old who wears his pants rolled at the ankles and hikes in crocs. Seems impractical to me, but he says it’s comfortable. Aunt Jemima is a hulking middle-aged Norwegian man who loves breakfast food and lugs around a flat top campfire griddle. He’s made us pancakes almost every morning, and it’s become one of my favorite parts of each day. Easily the largest man I’ve ever met, Aunt Jemima often smacks his head on low hanging branches as we hike, eliciting a string of game-like sound effects from Huckleberry like “doink” and “boing.”

Their company has changed everything, and I’ve laughed more in the last few days than I have in years.

Mile 653

Today was HARD. The terrain was rugged and uneven. I made a game, tracking how many hours ago I could go without tripping.

I never actually made it a whole hour.

Mile 713

Melons, Huckleberry, and Aunt Jemima decided to take a detour; Huckleberry’s family lives nearby and invited everyone to stay for a few days, but I wanted to keep going.

We all exchanged contact information, then parted ways.

Mile 806

You don’t feel the blisters until you stop.

Mile 878

I’m tired of hearing my own breathing, tired of TREES, tired of freeze-dried soup, tired of having nothing but time to think about everything I should have done differently in my life.

I don’t know who I thought I was, why I ever thought I could do this.

Mile 900

I almost quit yesterday, and then I met an angel.  

I was 7 miles into the day, feeling like there was no possible way I could make it to the next shelter, nevertheless all the way to the tip of Maine, when I walked straight into a spider web, tripped over a rock, then faceplanted in a patch of ferns. I was so angry, I hurled my backpack against a tree, pulling a back muscle in the process. Then I sat down and just sobbed.

Everything hurt; I was sunburned, hungry, and ready to call it quits and admit to the world that I couldn’t do it.

Then the next thing I knew, I was on my back, staring up at the floppy, wet tongue of a gigantic Great Dane. I struggled to sit up, and when I did, it nuzzled its massive head into my shoulder, and without thinking, I draped my arms over its neck. I realized then it was the closest thing I’d had to an embrace since Steve’s stiff-armed goodbye hug.

Shortly after, I heard someone whistling and calling for “Karen,” then saw a gray-haired woman heading down the trail. She took one look at me—at my pack thrown into the ferns, my scraped-up knees, and her dog (which was indeed named Karen) with its head on my shoulder—then looked me right in the eye and asked if I liked lasagna.

She introduced herself as “Zippy” as we walked a side trail up to her place. I could smell oregano before I saw the cabin. She’d made two bubbling-hot pans of the best lasagna I’d ever had and never asked if I wanted seconds of anything, but just continued to load food onto my plate the second I’d cleared it.

After dinner, we sat on her couch and talked about the hike—the solitude, the friendships you make, and the boredom too. I’d gone a few days without really talking to anyone and when she asked why I was doing it, it was like a dam broke within me, and I cried—ugly, shaking sobs that rattled our teacups on the side table. She let me cry, let me talk.

I told her that hiking the AT was never my dream, that I never wanted to put my life on pause to traipse up and down mountains and live out of a backpack for half a year.

Then I told her about you—how this was always your dream, your adventure, how you begged me to hike it with you…bought me my own gear and everything…because I had told you I would.

Then I told her how every time you brought up the hike, I shut you down—put you off with a “maybe next spring,” and “things are so busy with work right now,” or “how about when we retire.”

How naïve I was to think time would wait for us; sometimes hearts stop beating, and they never start up again.

I know I can’t blame myself for that, but I blame myself for giving you the false hope that I’d join you when I never had any intention of looping my arms through that purple backpack you hung in the garage next to yours. You waited for me, and now it’s too late for you. We should have been doing this together, and now you’ll never have the chance.

This hike has been hard—the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but you would have loved every minute of it. And I would have loved to do this with you.

I felt lighter the next day than I had the whole trip. Even with a belly full of lasagna.

Mile 989

How am I STILL in Virginia?

I left a multitool, some too-big hiking shorts, and an extra flashlight in a shelter box.

Mile 1057

This muggy dog-breath summer air is making my skin crawl…

I dropped the gasket of my water filter in a creek today and stood staring into the brown trickle for several minutes trying to find the thing before I realized I was standing about a foot away from a coiled-up copperhead. My blood turned to ice—a momentary reprieve from the suffocating heat—and then I spun myself away from the thing with the agility of a woman 20 years younger.

So, I didn’t get bitten by a snake, but I never did find that gasket.

Mile 1132

You wouldn’t believe who I ran into today: Melons, Huckleberry, and Aunt Jemima.

I must be that slow of a hiker.

Melons gave me a big hug, squished me right in between her giant bosom. Huckleberry was wearing real boots—said he’d lost his crocs in a river and had to walk a mile and a half in socks before he could buy new shoes. Someone made Aunt Jemima an apron with a picture of a giant backpacker flipping pancakes. He said he wears it every morning.

Mile 1281

Almost through Pennsylvania.

I know I’ve complained a lot, but today was one of those days where all the blood, sweat, and tears felt like they were worth something. I woke up before sunrise, made hot coffee, and climbed to an overlook where the valley stretched below, still shrouded in shadow. I watched the sun rise and shed light on each curve and dip of the land. Birds chirped all around me, leaves danced in the breeze, and I felt you there with me.

For the first time, I couldn’t wait to get moving.

Mile 1359

Did I tell you I’ve been given a trail name?

Scribe.

Mile 1422

We’ve made it to New York! Melons and I hitchhiked into town today and got pedicures, mostly just to see the looks on the beautician’s faces when they saw our feet (that and I was dying for a foot massage). I picked out some bright red nail polish and sunk down into a massage chair, but when I peeled my socks away, my left pinky toenail came clean off and landed right in the sudsy water.

I didn’t feel a thing.

The poor lady painted the nail-less stub of my toe anyway, and now you can hardly tell anything is missing.

Mile 1614

The terrain has been fairly steep the past few days but absolutely gorgeous. We’ve made it into Vermont, and the gang and I stopped for a much-deserved night at a motel. The motel served scrambled eggs at the continental breakfast the next morning, and between the four of us, we must have eaten two dozen eggs. Aunt Jemima wasn’t impressed with their pancakes, but he still ate enough for a football team.

Mile 1736

I’ve made it to New Hampshire. From Georgia. WITH MY OWN TWO FEET. I can hardly believe it. There have been so many days when I’ve wanted nothing more than to give up and go home, but now that I’m getting close to the end, I’m almost afraid. What happens when it’s over?

Mile 1901

I beat my own record and walked 24 miles today. Every muscle in my body is screaming, and I barely have the energy to hold up this pen, but I just had to say one thing: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you never got to see what I’ve seen or walk where I’ve walked, but I hope you know that I have carried you with me every step of the way. I know it doesn’t change anything, but wherever you are, I hope you know that you are what has pushed me through these mountains.

Mile 2032

We’re in Maine! We celebrated crossing into the last state with way too much beer, and Huckleberry, in his inebriated condition, forgot to pack up his food. Well wouldn’t you know, around 1 in the morning, I started hearing this huffing and rustling, and I thought maybe it was Huckleberry getting sick, so I ran out of my tent to check on him and came nose to nose with the ugliest black bear I’ve ever seen. It was missing one ear and had a ragged scar across his eye.

I froze, panicking—what was I supposed to do again? Run? Play dead? Scream? I just knew I was about to be mauled to death, when suddenly Aunt Jemima stepped down from the shelter, walked up to that bear with his chest puffed out, and started yodeling. Yes. Yodeling. Deep, reverberating, melodic howls. I’d never heard anything like it in my life, and that bear must have thoroughly hated it, because it took off.

I slept like a rock knowing that ugly bear was off telling all his friends about the terrible yodeling monster I call Aunt Jemima.

Mile 2178

Tomorrow, we hike Mount Katahdin—the last leg of the Appalachian trail!!

Mile 2191

It was a grueling trek up 4,000 feet of rocky elevation, but I made it.

I MADE IT!!

There’s a picture of me, Melons, Huckleberry, and Aunt Jemima, our arms outstretched at the big wooden “Mount Katahdin” sign, and I’ve never seen such a wide smile on my face.

I looked confident—free.

The four of us lingered at the top for a while, reveling in our victory, then the others left me alone:

So you and I could have a few moments to ourselves.

And that’s when I set you free.

I lifted the cap on the small, cylindrical urn I’d carried with me through sunshine and rain for the past 2000 miles, and I sprinkled your ashes into the wind. You spread your wings and flew over the mountain, settling yourself in the rocks and rivers and valleys of beautiful, wild Maine.

We’re thru hikers now, you and me.

And I couldn’t have done it without you.

January 20, 2023 16:06

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269 comments

14:53 Jan 22, 2023

Aeris, you are a wonder, painting with words. You capture the micro-emotions we all feel perfectly, artfully, and in as few of words as possible. The characterization was fantastic. Would love to see this as a feature film! These are my fav lines: - Jen gave me that look, that pitying, tight-lipped smile (I know this look. I HATE this look...) - I’m exhausted, but in that good I-did-a-hard-thing kind of way (The definition of satisfaction.) - Regret tastes sour (Never thought of it before that way. But 100% accurate. Can confirm.) - St...

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Aeris Walker
23:11 Jan 22, 2023

Saying something in “as few of words as possible” is definitely a skill Reedsy has pushed me to hone. Hyphens are lifesavers. I love hearing your thoughts on/reactions to all the lines you pulled out. And thank you for reading so intentionally; I greatly appreciate it!

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Timmy W
04:55 Jan 28, 2023

em dash*

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Lady Beth
00:48 Jan 31, 2023

Oh my. Great story I see why you won!

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J.C. Lovero
02:03 Jan 27, 2023

Wow. Just wow. The writing here is so simple, yet it pulls you in effortlessly and you get lost in it. You did a nice job of introducing the ups and downs, kind of like how it would be to hike a mountain trail. Kind of like life. Ending was breathtaking. I had a feeling that would happen, but it still felt good to read. Some of my fave lines: I fell asleep last night listening to the crickets and thinking about you. - oooh I had to walk the rest of the trail with my feet covered in orange plastic ramen noodle wrappers. - my favorite fla...

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Aeris Walker
19:10 Jan 27, 2023

I think your sweet comment was my good luck charm, J.C. Thanks for taking me through *your* range of emotions as you read 😉

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J.C. Lovero
01:13 Jan 28, 2023

congrats on that win! well-deserved.

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Rebecca Miles
17:59 Jan 22, 2023

Just beautiful. The journal format makes this very relatable; how a lot of it is the day to day tough stuff but along the way we learn the backstory and build new connections with the trailblazers who see her " thru ". I liked how many things were not what you'd expect: even the bear was ugly, even the earlobes felt shattered, but she worked through her regrets and there was a real sense of joint achievement at the end which was very poignant. You led up to that inspirational momemt so well; it's never too late to say sorry or turn things ar...

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Aeris Walker
17:08 Jan 24, 2023

Thank you very much, Rebecca. I appreciate you reading, and I love your takeaway from the ending.

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Rebecca Miles
18:14 Jan 27, 2023

Poignancy done loud and proud and rightly acknowledged. Well done. It's long overdue; you should have won for a couple of other recent ones (the remake of the Bare Necessities springs to mind). Raise a glass for this one; very well deserved.

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Aeris Walker
22:33 Jan 27, 2023

Aw, thank you so much, Rebecca. I was thinking that about your mountain story and surprised not to see it today. It definitely deserves another chance, and I’m sure there plenty of literary journal that would scoop it right up. Truly.

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Rebecca Miles
09:46 Jan 28, 2023

The thing with all magazines or platforms is they'll always restrict how often you can even be shortlisted. You could write like Austen, Shakespeare or Poe and if you'd been shortlisted the week before you'd still get nowhere! Any chance you'd know of any other sites/ journals I could submit to? I only know of one British magazine! Need to get more market savvy!

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Aeris Walker
17:53 Jan 28, 2023

I’ve really only found luck through local journals specific to my state or by happening upon something through submittable!

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Liv Chocolate
02:15 Jan 24, 2023

(CONTAINS A SPOILER) Wow, wow, wow. Where to begin? "I cried—ugly, shaking sobs that rattled our teacups on the side table." It's the little details like these that sets your work apart. My boyfriend is a survival enthusiast, so I knew I had to read this. That but mainly the fact that it's by you. From the get go, we're asking, why is the MC doing this? We know there must be a reason someone who isn't your typical hiker is taking on one of the hardest hikes there is. We're instantly hooked. Adventure stories are difficult to write...

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Aeris Walker
02:36 Jan 26, 2023

I love the energy of your comments! You pulled so much from this story, and I truly appreciate your close reading. This is also one of my favorite POVs, and I know I tend to overuse it. I don’t know why, but 3rd person makes me feel so disconnected from my characters. Haha glad the outdoorsy aspect sucked you in! (My hubs is a also survival enthusiast, so I found myself yelling a lot of backpacking specific questions up the stairs during the editing phase). Thanks again for reading, Liv. I sincerely appreciate it!

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Liv Chocolate
21:56 Jan 27, 2023

Legend!

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Polly Orr
00:08 Jan 28, 2023

I was curious if it was you or someone else in your world who was a hiking enthusiast. The details are so accurate! Cheers to your husband for giving you some tips. You made an incredibly rich and realistic world that truly mirrors the process I have seen many new hikers go through- albeit usually over more than one hike. What a beautiful world you made!

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Aeris Walker
00:29 Jan 28, 2023

Yes, he has quite a few more adventures under his belt than me! I thoroughly enjoyed hiking in my corner of the US, but have never taken on a trip like this. Someday!!

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Edward Latham
14:06 Jan 23, 2023

Such great characters crammed into so little space! Melons and Aunt Jemima are hilarious names and the humour that you interspersed throughout the story is probably what helped the MC get through the ordeal. The ending was beautifully sad. You brought to life the lengths that the MC went to for lost love.

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Aeris Walker
19:37 Jan 25, 2023

I have no idea where these characters and their quirky trail names popped up from, but I enjoyed creating them :) Thank you for reading, Edward! I greatly appreciate it.

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Edward Latham
22:02 Jan 27, 2023

Congrats Aeris, a worthy winner!

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Aeris Walker
22:30 Jan 27, 2023

Thank you, Edward!

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Carla Ward
05:19 Feb 05, 2023

But that's what the AT's all about. Everyone who thru hikes ends up with a trail name, and they're often wacky ones like these. It's part of the deal. You've captured it so well.

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Zack Powell
08:57 Jan 23, 2023

Forgive me in advance, Aeris, as this comment probably won't be as long or well-constructed as my standard fare. Usually, I take notes on stories to help me structure my thoughts and feedback, but I was so absorbed in this narrator's journey that the notes and the structure went out the window and I just allowed myself to enjoy the prose. To no one's surprise, I most appreciate the structure of the story. Typically, I'm a stickler for having the whole piece follow the format that it sets, but I think the opening few paragraphs before "Mile ...

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Aeris Walker
01:48 Jan 24, 2023

Did you know they’ve rebranded Aunt Jemima? I was looking for the bottle of syrup in the grocery store the other day, and it’s now “Pearl Milling Company…” now the *youths* will have no idea what I’m talking about 😆 Hey, I don’t expect anyone to put in half the effort you do in reading and interacting with these stories, so I’m pleased just knowing you’ve read it! I always enjoy hearing your take and especially your critique. I keep updated/edited versions of all my stories in a “living” doc, and have implemented your suggestions in most all...

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Zack Powell
04:16 Jan 24, 2023

I actually had no clue about the Aunt Jemima rebrand, which is especially wild because there's some Aunt Jemima syrup that's in my pantry right now (which should tell you something about how my relationship with pancakes). That living doc idea is so good! Definitely gonna steal that. Not surprised to hear this was over 3,000 words. This could totally have gone to novella length if word count limitations didn't exist in this contest. That being said, I appreciate how you were able to fit so much into just a few thousand words, and maybe brevi...

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Aeris Walker
19:13 Jan 25, 2023

Completely understand being a rut--happy to beta for you if you ever need it!

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Zack Powell
18:33 Jan 27, 2023

Aeris! Congratulations on the win! Well-earned, well-written, well-deserved. 🏆 🥂 (And a huge thank you for the beta offer, which I'd be glad to accept, if I ever stop being lazy and waiting until the last minute to write my stories. 😂)

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Aeris Walker
22:30 Jan 27, 2023

Any time! Aeriswalkerwrites@gmail.com

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Amal <3
18:56 Jan 27, 2023

Immediately, when I read your story and saw the name "Aunt Jemima" I was like wait? Isn't that the syrup I used to eat with my pancakes? My mom always used to buy it until they changed the name and when she's making us pancakes she still says "I'll get the Aunt Jemima!" XD it's also ironic when you said the "youths" because I'm 14 years and part of Gen Z😂

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Aeris Walker
22:31 Jan 27, 2023

Amal, well now you’re in the know 😉😉

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David Ader
21:34 Jan 21, 2023

I don't think I can add more than others have said about how your details are so, umm, on the right path but echo such views with my honest comment that I had to rub my feet to alleviate the ache inspired by your words. While a short story, you portray a visceral sense of time and effort and just the slog of it all. I was touched by this line, "I’m tired of hearing my own breathing, tired of TREES, tired of freeze-dried soup, tired of having nothing but time to think about everything I should have done differently in my life." That was the...

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Aeris Walker
21:19 Jan 22, 2023

Thank you so so much for your kind words, David! I really appreciate you stopping by to read my story.

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Thom Brodkin
21:20 Jan 21, 2023

Aeris, there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said but I wanted you to know how easy you make it to read. I am a writer but for the most part I don’t enjoy reading but I do enjoy reading you because when I do I feel as if I’m reading downhill. You are a true talent. A real writer. A teller of stories. Great job.

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Aeris Walker
15:03 Jan 22, 2023

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Thom! ☺️

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Riel Rosehill
18:25 Jan 21, 2023

I cried on this one (Karen and lasagne section - You're good at this!) - such a well-written story, not that I'd expect anything less from you, but it was beautiful. I love how, for the amount of sadness and regret and tragedy, there was still so much fun to this story. I LOVED the dream about the hiking boots running away and Aunt Jemima yodelling at the bear. "I’m sorry you never got to see what I’ve seen or walk where I’ve walked, but I hope you know that I have carried you with me every step of the way." - this was the sentence when I re...

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Aeris Walker
16:20 Jan 22, 2023

Riel, you're just my favorite, thank you so much. We have quite a few black bears in North Carolina, and unless it's a mama with her cubs, they will apparently run away if you scare them. So I don't know where the yodeling idea came from, but I definitely had fun with it! Best of luck to you with Midnight this week!!

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Riel Rosehill
18:11 Jan 27, 2023

Congrats for the win! I bet you made the judges shed a tear too :D

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Aeris Walker
22:37 Jan 27, 2023

Thank you, Riel! 😉😉

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Kelly Sayre
19:56 Mar 17, 2023

I've read your story about three times now. I just keep coming back to it. Thank you so much for sharing! It's by far my favorite story I've stumbled across on this site so far! Kelly

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Aeris Walker
22:05 Mar 17, 2023

Kelly--so humbled by your comment. I really appreciate you reading my story (more than once) and sharing your thoughts. It means a lot, and I'm so pleased to hear you liked it :)

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Justin Hyatt
17:17 Feb 07, 2023

First, bravo! Incredible story that pulls on the heart strings and reminds us of what's important in life. Second, I just wanted to share that I'm a Young Adult educator (helping young people get their GEDs), and I shared this story as a Group Read with my class. They absolutely LOVED it in all its entirety, and if you've ever worked with young people, it is difficult to keep their attention. Thank you for sharing this with us, and I can't wait to read more of your incredible writing.

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Aeris Walker
01:26 Feb 10, 2023

Justin, Your comment *completely* made my day. Thank you so much for taking to the time to read, to SHARE with your class, and leave your kind comment. It truly means a lot. I don’t know how to talk to high schoolers anymore, so I’m glad to hear your class enjoyed it ☺️☺️

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Andy Sinclair
21:26 Jan 29, 2023

Ms. Walker, I don't know if the story you shared was based on anything real or not, but it was wonderful. My wife was reading it and turned around with tears running down her cheeks and said "You need to read this!" I asked if it was going to make me cry and she just said "Read it." and so I did. Now, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. It was hard to not imagine myself in your character's position and I hope I never am. Keep on writing thru Ms. Walker and may the literary journey you make, take you places far and wide along with memori...

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Aeris Walker
23:54 Jan 29, 2023

Andy, While not based on real events, I think I wrote this as almost a “what if”/cautionary tale. My husband is the kind of person who would move a mountain to help me achieve my dreams, and for him, this hike is indeed one of his dreams. I thought about how I never want to be the “thing” that gets in the way of that, and hence this story was born. I sincerely appreciate your kind and heartfelt comment—I was just telling your wife that it truly made my day. ☺️

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Kris Sinclair
21:22 Jan 29, 2023

Aeris, what a tapestry of love you wove into the words you crafted within this beautiful story. This was amazing, and I am in tears. I will be following you as well as looking for other things you've written. I love the writing style, technique, and emotion you put into this. Kudos. You deserved the win by far. Do you have anything published? I'd love to check it out.

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Aeris Walker
23:50 Jan 29, 2023

Kris, You and your husband’s comments have just absolutely made my day! I am so touched you hear how the story impacted you. One of the greatest compliments is when someone reads my work and feels compelled to share it with someone else. So thank you. ☺️ Beyond short stories, no, not yet! I wrote a story for another competition which did end up winning, and if you liked this one, you might enjoy the other! https://www.writingbattle.com/past-winners

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Rama Shaar
05:11 Jan 29, 2023

Absolutely brilliant, Aeris! Not much more I can say that hasn't been said. You have such an engrossing style that even the slowest, most unfocused reader can't stop reading! Well done.

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Aeris Walker
14:13 Feb 01, 2023

Hey Rama! Thank you, I really appreciate that 🙂

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Sophia Gardenia
04:25 Jan 29, 2023

What a well-deserved win! I kind of want to hike the Appalachian Trail now (well, not really). First off, the character development is so clear in this story, especially with the journal format. The mile markers are a great touch; the miles rack up, but the MC's load gets lighter. While the descriptions are sparse, the ones you do include are effective at painting a vivid picture (ex, the sunrise, bright red nail polish). I love how the backpack represents the MC's grief/guilt. The MC goes on this trip to make up for not going with her h...

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Aeris Walker
14:12 Feb 01, 2023

Sophia, You saw everything in this story that I was coming would come through to readers: “I love how the backpack represents the MC's grief/guilt.” Yes—exactly! Thanks for reading so intentionally and for sharing your thoughts, I greatly appreciate it! ☺️

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John Augustine
01:41 Jan 29, 2023

Where do I begin? Well it sure took us an adventure beyond the AT. It was an adventure of people and emotions. There was humor, suspense, drama and sadness and at just the right amount. So a lot of people wrote in their favorite lines but I just couldn't. I couldn't pick one or two or three, I just loved it all. Was longer than most of the winners in recent weeks but it was worth every second of the read You in a way made us all "thru" hikers

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Aeris Walker
19:11 Jan 31, 2023

John, I really appreciate your comment!! I always worry that readers won’t want to hang out for 3k words, but I’m so glad you felt this was worth the read 😉 “made us all thru hikers,” I just love that! Thanks again!

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:06 Jan 28, 2023

Aunty Jemima, a bulky fellow. Congrats on the win.

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Aeris Walker
12:59 Jan 29, 2023

Thanks so much, Philip!

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Philip Ebuluofor
07:30 Jan 30, 2023

Welcome.

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06:41 Jan 28, 2023

As a trail runner, I relate to so much of this story! (Esp the oddness of not having any pain when a toenail falls off.) So many fun details and characters in a short story, this is great writing. Happy you won. I think my favorite parts were when the reason was her trip was revealed, and watching her have fun the obvoiusly good natured Melons, Huckleberry and Aunt Jemima. Congrats!

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Aeris Walker
12:58 Jan 29, 2023

I think I knew you were a runner, but I didn’t know you did trail running! That’s on a whole other level. Thanks so much for reading, Scott, I really appreciate it.

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Benjamin Gibbs
03:03 Jan 28, 2023

Congratulations on the win! I have to say, this story pulled actual tears out of me. "... when she asked why I was doing it, it was like a dam broke within me, and I cried—ugly, shaking sobs that rattled our teacups on the side table." I broke down with the character in that same moment. "We're thru hikers now, you and me." So intimate, so sweet. I cried some more. Simply amazing. You inspire me. The whole thing felt so concise and easy to read. Your characters are vivid and interesting. A well-deserved win. Truly. Congrats again. Lookin...

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Aeris Walker
12:46 Jan 29, 2023

Hi Benjamin! I sincerely appreciate your comment. I’m so glad this story struck a chord with you ☺️ Thanks for reading!

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Pamela Brown
23:10 Jan 27, 2023

I was tired, still working at 11.00pm when I read your story before closing my laptop. Thank you Aeris. I loved it, and I felt as though I walked with you all the way. You made the journey so real, so immediate, that I was one of the party. All the references to the physical acts and incidentals like walking into a spiders web, and the blisters, and the nail parlour al tiny examples of immediacy that made the journey so real. The lead up to the ending was subtle and didn't give the game away and finally, the purpose of the walk was beauti...

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Aeris Walker
12:44 Jan 29, 2023

Hi Pamela! I appreciate your comment so much. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts ☺️

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