Leaving the car at the trailhead, Jonathon shouldered his daypack and began hiking the steep, wooded path. He had walked this trail four or fives times a year in his youth, but now in his prime, he came only during the spring and fall.
Serpentine Trail, located along a ridge of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, snaked its way through head-high fern and old-growth fir and cedar. Jonathon paused after a couple miles, flicked his tongue in and out, while tilting his head upward.
“Not yet,” he said. He continued on.
The trail skirted a small lake, then began weaving through a tumble of enormous boulders. Jonathon stopped in the middle of the boulder field. Raising his head high, he flicked his tongue out and in once, smiled, and cut to his left away from the trail. A few hundred yards later, he walked into a small meadow with one giant hemlock tree at its center.
Eight of Jonathon’s kind were already laying amongst the tangled, exposed roots sprawling from the massive tree. All were wiggling and squirming upon the rough bark at the base of the tree. Tossing his daypack to the ground, he quickly undressed, placing the clothes inside. Carefully stepping in amongst the naked bodies undulating between the roots, he found an unoccupied spot. He laid down like the others, stretched out to his full length, and began wriggling from his integument.
Forty-five minutes later, Jonathon had completed his edysis. Breathing hard, and severely fatigued, he crawled to a sitting position on one of the large roots. A young female nearby offered him a cigarette, which he accepted gratefully.
“Thank goodness that’s over,” he said,” I’ve been itching a month in that skin.”
“Tell me about it,” she replied,” For six weeks I’ve been a nervous wreck, not knowing if I was going to shed in public by accident. I feel brand nicky new.”
“Me too. I don’t smoke, but each time I shed I’ve got to have a cig,” he said, “It’s better than sex.”
“Yes, but now we’ve got to consume the integuments.” she said.
“How about we swap?” he suggested.
“I was hoping you’d ask,” she said smiling.