The trail wasn’t hard to find. If anything, the climb back up the hill caused more effort; at least physically. Daniel stared at the gaping hole of broken branches and flattened earth before him. It was if a road to hell had been paved specifically just for him and that certain death waited at its end. Shivering in the cold rain, Daniel hesitated. A flash of light, followed closely by the clap of thunder, forced his decision. Daniel hurried into the false shelter of the forest canopy.
“What are you doing?” A voice whispered inside his head.
Daniel ignored it as he trudged his way forward.
“It’s just the mail.” The voice continued.
“It’s my job.” Daniel said aloud.
“Your job?” Taunted the voice inside. “You saw the telegraph poles being installed along the trail. Your job won’t be here for long. Maybe six months, if that.”
Daniel’s foot slipped on a loose rock.
“Damn it!” He cursed aloud.
“Why go on?” The voice continued. “There’s nothing there. You know the bear ate all the mail.”
“No I don’t.” Daniel argued. “It’s my responsibility.”
The branches grew lower as the path broke left and up the hillside. Soft muddy soil slowly gave way to hard rocky ground.
The voice seemed to grow louder. “Your responsibility? You’re supposed to deliver the mail, not die for it.”
“There are important documents in there.” Daniel thought.
“Sure there are.” Said the voice. “Love letters from politicians to their mistresses no doubt.”
Daniel grabbed a broken sapling trunk for support as he climbed higher. “No. There are contracts, payments, and deeds that need to be delivered. People’s homesteads are at stake.”
Lightning flashed to reveal a cave roughly fifty yards away. The drag trail of the horse’s body led right to it. Daniel stood there and stared at the inky black abyss.
“Looks like you’re about to find out.” The voice teased.