This was her favourite part of the run - the “cream” she promised herself whenever she left the house to tackle a long slow run. To get here, she had to run along a busy highway for several kilometres. She hated the car fumes, the noise and the leering gaze of too many male drivers. Here, running on her favourite trail through Shubie Park, she felt free and light - unselfconscious, like a gazelle. Okay, maybe not quite a gazelle, but like someone who’d been running a long time and was reasonably good at it, which she was in fact.
The trail she ran on, Vivien’s Way, wasn’t long. It looped for only a kilometre off the main trail out to small point of land that jutted into Lake Charles but she looked forward to it because she nearly always had it to herself and she enjoyed the challenge of propelling her body up and down hills, around rocks and tree roots. In order to avoid falling, she had to focus on nothing but running - which was very meditative. Whatever else was going on in her life, a couple of laps around Vivien’s Way always soothed her heart and her head.
She’d reached the far end of the loop now and paused at the bench located there to stretch her adductors and drink in the view of the Lake Charlotte. In the early morning light, the reflection of trees dressed in late autumn leaves created orange and gold Rorschach images on the surface of the lake. It was too early for much traffic on the road that hugged the far side, and the small fishing boats that dotted the lake in summer had gone for the winter. Aside from an occasional bird flitting from tree to tree, the scene was completely still.
She changed legs now and reached overhead to stretch her arms and shoulders as well. They felt tight after a long night at work so it felt good to feel them let go a little as she leaned first to the right, then to the left and finally forward towards her foot resting on the back of the bench. That was when she noticed it - a running shoe sticking out of the tall, dry grass that grew on a sunny knoll a short distance from where she stood stretching - and it appeared to be attached to something - a leg?
Heart pounding, she dropped her foot from the bench and took a few steps towards the shoe.
“Hello? Hello? Are you okay?”
No response. The voice was hers but she could barely hear it above the rushing sound in her ears. Something was very very wrong. She could feel it.
Telling herself whoever it was might need her help, she straightened her shoulders and called out more confidently,
“Hello. Hello. Are you okay. My name is Jane and I’m trained in first aid. Do you need help?”
She couldn’t believe she’d just said that. Apparently, she’d learned something in the St. John’s Ambulance first aid course she’d taken at work a few months ago.
Hearing no response, she began walking slowly towards to the shoe. As the ground beneath her feet rose towards the edge of the knoll, she got a better view of the shoe and the body attached to it. It took a few moments for her brain to make sense of what she was seeing. When it did, she turned on her heel and ran retching and sobbing back along the trail.