Even though we had gone camping in the winter, it was colder than I had expected it to be. Emily had talked me into it, along with several of our friends, who had backed out after the first night. They had retreated back to the warmth and safety of their apartments, and I had tried to join them, but Emily had told me she was staying with or without me. I couldn’t let my best friend camp alone in this weather so I stayed.
On the fourth day I woke to single digit temperatures. I had overslept again, it was nearly nine in the morning. I put on a few extra layers and left my tent to light the fire. I instantly saw Emily’s footprints in the snow, fresh since last night’s storm, circling the tents and off into the woods. I looked around and didn’t see her, so I went to tending to the fire, assuming that she either went to the bathroom or had laid back down to catch some extra sleep.
“Emily?” I called through the door to her tent.
I opened the door to see her backpack sitting next to her sleeping bag, but she was gone. Instantly I felt anxious. I didn’t know when she had left, but it had been too long. I checked that my knife was on my belt and left the campsite, following her footprints.
Her tracks looked like she knew where she was going. They made a straight line down the path. My mind was quickly running through all the scenarios that could have happened. She could have fallen, or been hurt, or worse.
After a few hundred yards her footprints grew wider apart. I knew she had been running, so I did the same. My breath quickly came out in large clouds of vapor in the air, I wasn’t in the best of shape.
I saw her footprints veer into the woods as I noticed another set of tracks. My stomach tightened when I saw them. Wolf prints set in the snow along side hers.
I drew my knife, just in case, but still felt that it had been too long. I hoped I wouldn’t find her body. I continued further into the woods. They became so thick that the sun was partially blocked. It looked like sunset even though I knew it had been only a half hour or so.
Her prints were still fresh, the wolf’s prints were still next to them, but now I noticed a second set. My heart raced in my chest. Partly from the running, but mostly from the fear for her safety.
Another hundred yards or so and I stopped running. Frozen in place. Where her foot prints had been, a third set of wolf prints appeared. I stood there, looking at the last of her boot prints followed immediately by a paw print. Looking around for blood or anything that would have told me she was in trouble. Nothing.
That’s when I heard it. A series of low growls echoing from the shadows.