Approaching midnight of day six, Claire cranked the volume on her MP3 player, hoping the noise would keep her lucid. She rocked with the Bee Gees to "Stayin' Alive," belting out made-up lyrics. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, stayin awake, stayin awake. Hey!" she shouted to her dogs, "We're stayin awake!"
They panted along, keeping pace with the beat.
"Huh, huh, huh, huh," Claire grunted, "stayin awake, stayin awake."
The song faded and staying awake felt like too much work. The next song began, her own mix – she preferred older tunes over the newer stuff – a heart-tugging ballad by Eric Clapton about heaven and tears. Her head drooped and her eyelids drifted shut. Just a few seconds, she thought. What can it hurt? Her body relaxed forward over the handlebar as Clapton's low, soothing voice sang her to sleep.
The sled dipped and she jerked upright. Her headlamp flashed on a steel cable stretched neck-high across the trail, coming straight at her.
Powerline! her mind screamed.
She ducked hard and slammed her forehead on the handlebar. The MP3 buds popped from her ears, cutting Clapton off mid note. "Ow, shit!" She winced at the explosion of pain across her skull. "What maniac put that there?" Tears sprang to her eyes. "Whoa! Please. Whoa."
The dogs stopped and looked back.
To her amazement, her headlamp was still intact. She twisted and shined the light on the trail behind her, hoping to spot the guilty culprit lurking in the dark. "You could kill somebody!" she hollered. "You know that, don't you?"
No response. She squinted through the tears blurring her vision. Nothing but empty trail and trees. Fine. I know the law. Whoever's responsible will pay. In the meantime, she should mark the cable somehow so other mushers would see it.
Setting the hook, she pulled half a dozen florescent dog booties from the bag and walked back down the trail. She went several yards before she realized there was no cable. Lots of trees and snow. No maniac and no cable. "Oh man."
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