A ripping pain jolted from his left ankle to his head. He continued on. He swam through the branches, leaves, cheeping insects singing to the moon and rocks hoping to catch him as he soars onto the rubble beneath him. A faint cry of a wolf is heard bellowing to the starry sky from among the old hovering trees. He stopped and glanced down at his trembling body and the moon provided him with just enough light to notice blood streaking down from his ankle, soaking the rim of his sock. His head pounded like a bass drum keeping the beat to an allegro musical piece. His dry mouth thirsted for hydration; the humid, dry weather left him craving water. His hollow stomach ached for food. His body had never had to endure such stress, mentally and physically. The night left him feeling nothing but loneliness and hunger.
The morning greeted him with a helpless hope but he knew he must continue on. After wandering around in what seemed like circles, he felt the last of his strength and energy drain from his weak body. He threw his dirt-stained backpack on the ground a few feet away in frustration. He sat down on an old log in the path and rested his head in his hands. The woods felt so peaceful. The wind sent a light breeze through the air. A squirrel strolled along in front of his feet with an acorn in its mouth. A butterfly fluttered over to his knee and landed. She sat there for a minute and he stared, envious of the seemingly careless life of a butterfly. The sun’s rays made their way through the trees and the butterfly’s delicate wings glistened in the light. The dainty patterns of deep blue and black speckles glowed as the sun gazed down on her. He couldn’t believe the beauty in his presence at that moment when his life was in such dismay. The butterfly took flight and headed down between the trees and out of sight.
He decided it was time again to continue on. He put his backpack on and walked down the path the butterfly decided to take, limping from his left ankle growing increasingly sore. His shoes crunched through the leaves and pushed on. He thought about his five year old daughter and how he couldn’t wait to hold her close to him, lifting her into the air and staring into her smiling eyes. He was growing impatient and craved to be in his wife’s arms once again.
He walked through the woods for about another mile and decided to stop again. His body was becoming weaker and he didn’t want to push himself too hard. He rested against a tree trunk and sat his backpack next to him. Hunger was enveloping him. His mind couldn’t think straight. He looked up to the tree tops and everything became dizzy. His eyes went blurry. He closed his eyes and that only made his head pound more than it already was. He decided to search through his backpack once more for any ounce of food or water. He moved his hands through the various items: pens, his wallet, receipts, and an empty water bottle. There was nothing to be found. He sat in disbelief, just waiting for something to happen, anything to happen.
As he sat in his silence, he thought he heard a small stream trickling nearby. His ears lead him around an old brick wall, a large leafy bush and down a small hill.
Maybe there is hope.
Instantly, his mind forgot about his sore legs, bruised arms, torn shirt and bleeding ankle. His eyes focused on the running water and he made his way closer and closer to one of the most natural necessities nature can provide for us. His hands plunged into the stream and a chill ran through his veins. The ice cold water stung the cuts on his hands but that didn’t matter. None of that mattered; survival just became an option, a possibility…mandatory.
He cupped his hands and filled his mouth with icy water, feeling the sensation of it slipping down his throat. He splashed some onto his face, smiling for the first time in five days with a renewed hope that everything will be okay. He laced his fingers through his hair with wet hands, attempting to remove the dirt and leaves since the first day’s journey. His head stung as the fresh cold water met his scalp, dripping down his cheeks and creating a puddle on his shoulder. He tore off his shoes, exposing his throbbing, exhausted feet to the world. He dipped them into the water and paused, wiggling his toes, reviving them back to life. His left ankle thanked him as the blood washed away and the swelling went down.
For a moment, the woods went silent. No birds chattering, no crickets chirping, no wind blowing. His body went numb. His ears popped and his hands began tingling. The excitement sent his head spinning, the world flipping upside down. His heart rate increased, his breathing became faster, heavier, taking in breaths as though his lungs no longer wished for air. His chest tightened, he felt a muscle spasm in his leg and cramping in his side.
“Good morning, hun”, his wife’s voice whispered to him.
His body jolted with excitement and he opened his eyes. He felt the soft mattress underneath him and the familiar fuzzy sheets wrapped around his shivering body. He felt a warmth approach him and he turned his head to see his wife sliding closer. The corners of her mouth formed a smile and she moved her hand to rest on his chest.
“You’re shaking, what’s wrong?” her voice grew with a concerning tone.
He rolled over to face his wife and slipped his hand around her waist, grunting as his joints ached from the last night’s sleep. He placed his hand on her shoulder, massaging the back of her neck and moving the light wisps of hair from her face. The light blush of her cheeks reminded him of her natural beauty that he’s admired for so many years. He could feel her breaths puffing against his bare chest; his chills subsided.
“Just a bad dream, that’s all. Good morning”, he pushed out through his tired diaphragm. It was complete bliss to be where he was right now. Nothing could spoil this moment.
Soon after, the couple decided to get up and start their day. He made his way to the kitchen, still groggy and craving a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee. As he scooped crushed coffee beans into the coffee maker and filled it with water, his wife entered into the kitchen and flipped on the television. She kept the volume low as to not wake up their daughter and turned to the morning news.
Under the mumbling of the coffee maker brewing, he heard the news reporter informing them on the latest news.
“Today we received a report on a hiker who had been missing for the past five days in who was just found at 7:00 a.m. this morning. He has been reunited with his family and is now recovering in the hospital. He does not have any life-threatening conditions; however the doctors are working on a serious infection that formed on his left ankle that is spreading to his foot. We will provide an update on his recovery tomorrow and we wish the best of luck to him. Until then, this is Sarah Woods, reporting. Back to you, Bill”.
He laughed out loud and cut himself off, realizing how loud he was.
“What’s up with you?” his wife asked.
He walked over to his wife and put his arms around her. He kissed the top of her head.
“Oh, nothing. I’m just a little tired is all. So what’s for breakfast?”
“PANCAKES!” a tiny voice screeched from down the hall. His daughter ran around the corner and joined them in their hug, her small arms attempting to fit around both of them.
“Pancakes sounds fine to me!” he exclaimed.
The coffee pot beeped. He turned off the television and poured his cup of coffee. He then made his way to the cabinet for the pancake mix. All of a sudden his left ankle gave out and he nearly fell to the tiled kitchen floor. He caught himself on the counter and stood up straight.
“I can’t imagine why that would have just happened”, he muttered to himself.
This is a piece I wrote in college and had it published in the school’s literary magazine in 2013. Hope you like it!