Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year

“It’s searching?”

“For a signal. I guess there’s bad service out here,” Marta sighed.

The phone was warm. I stowed it in the cup holder and went back to watching the road.


The road into the park that we’d taken back to the playground and Marta’s favorite trail was still, for the most part, covered in snow. It didn’t look like anyone had driven in or out since the snow—like anyone had passed that way at all.

“Marta,” I said as she turned onto the road, “if anyone was out here, we’d see their footprints, or tire tracks.”

“They might’ve come from a different direction,” she argued, pressing forward.

“Is this . . . normal? Did this happen last year?”

“Of course it’s not normal,” Marta said.

We were quiet again, listening to the tires crunch and compress the snow. A few times the car hesitated, but Marta always hit the gas enough to keep us going. There were signs along the way—markers that said to go one way or another—that helped us keep our bearings, but sometimes I don’t think we were even driving on the road.

“Do you see anything?” Marta asked sometimes. She just kept driving, doubling back on places we’d already passed. It was so bright in the snow—even with just cloud-cover—that I wished I had brought my sunglasses. I always answered “no”—all I saw was open fields and then trees. No tire tracks, no footprints.

After making our circuit a third time Marta stopped the car in the parking lot near the playground. “We should walk around a little,” she said, “just to check.”

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.