April 2019. 23:22. Five hours before the disappearance.
Kiri rode far out into the plains. The light of the fire pit slowly diminished with distance. The lights of the town that lined the horizon, too, gradually became less pervading as the shallow hills blocked them out one by one. She looked back at the town every once in a while but continued relentlessly forward.
Was this an excuse to escape?
She rode on for several more minutes, legs aching from having to push through the dense grass and eyes beginning to water from the dryness. She kept thinking about how she would probably never leave this town. She clenched her teeth.
“I just want to leave already,” she seethed. “I’m so tired of waiting.”
She lifted herself from the seat and with a powerful push accelerated forward. Everything that had happened today whirled around violently in her mind. The wind picked up its pace in tandem with her and whipped her hair around. More galvanized than even when she’d traveled to another town for the first time as a kid, she put all of her weight into pedaling and yelled out into the night.
The light pollution from the town diminished further. The stars began to show brightly in myriads.
At some point, she glanced up and caught a glimpse of the spectacle. Her eyes brightened with the stars’ reflections and the energy that had suddenly bloomed in her. As she caught a downslope and the bike rolled with the gravity, she sat back down. Let the wind do the rest as she relaxed her legs.
As she continued biking for the next hour, she had totally forgotten about the dare and didn’t bother looking for traces of the carriage. Instead, she let her mind become void of thoughts. The only thing in the forefront of her mind was the immediate surroundings that lay before her, dark and uniform in shape. It was so empty. Or at least it seemed that way.
At one of the downslopes, the unsuspecting Kiri felt a jolt shoot through her bike from the front wheel. The sudden force threw her body forward and sent the bike into the thrall of gravity. As the bike fell sideways, she gasped and threw one of her legs to the side to catch herself.
She ended up with her knees and elbows planted in the ground. The back wheel of the bike spun around and its clicking gradually decelerated. She groaned.
She begrudgingly dragged herself off the ground and winced.
“Geez. What the hell?”
As she stood up on wobbly legs and brushed off the soil from her clothes, she looked not much further from the front wheel before spotting a strange object. She squinted. Edged closer to the object.
A coffin? No, it couldn’t be…
She bent over to get a closer look.
When she saw what it was, her eyes widened. It was even more unexpected than a coffin.
“A boat?” she whispered
What was, in fact, a boat lay there about her size—just a little longer than her height and wider than her width. Two oars were attached to clasps screwed on either side of the boat’s rim. She cautiously reached out. Touched the side of the boat. It was slightly damp. Taken aback, she snatched her hand away.
She shook her head and backed away. “No, it can’t be,” she said in a panicked voice.
Standing back up straight, she frantically juggled out the flashlight she had borrowed. Clicked it on and unveiled the boat from its provoking darkness. It didn’t look like a terribly old boat. It seemed a bit used, but not to the point of inutility.
“But then…” Kiri dropped her hands to her sides limply. “Then how—how do I explain this boat?”
She stood there for a solid 5 minutes, unable to wrap logic around this situation. She felt like there might as well have been equations bouncing around in her empty skull.
However, she began to feel the effects of her hour-long bike expedition biting at her leg muscles. She turned off the flashlight and sat down in the grass, defeated by both physical exhaustion and the illogical mess in front of her. She groaned and buried her head in her knees, just wanting everything to disappear.
“I guess I’ll just stay here for the night. People are camping out anyway, so they won’t notice.”
For several minutes, she sat there, motionless, staring at the boat with a blank expression from under her hair.
“I wonder what time it is,” she mumbled blankly. She patted her coat pockets. She’d forgotten that she’d left her phone at home.
She weakly stood up from the ground and climbed into the boat. It would be better than laying on the itchy grass.
As soon as she lay in the boat flat on her back, she placed her hands behind her head and stared up at the stars. The air was beginning to feel cold, so she wrapped her jacket tighter around her frame and did up most of the buttons.
At last, her eyes began to droop. The stars faded into black in her vision and she soon fell into a deep sleep.