|< Back to Phoophie Tales||Tales from the Dark Side >>|
It is a normal day. The sunlight peeks through the cave and washes over his face. No one greets him as he wakes. No face or kind words. Silence. He stands and stumbles to his latrine hole. He is sick. The animal he had eaten the night before is toying with his stomach. He vomits quickly and lies in the cave afterwards. He must get well soon.
Miserably, he sets off in the brush. With him, he carries a makeshift bow and plentiful arrows. The weapons feels foreign in his hands. Even after a month's practice, it feels odd in his palms. The lush, green plant life swarms around him as he takes aim. A tree focuses in his vision.
His trembling fingers clasp around an arrow and raise it to the bow. He places it against the string and pulls back. Then he lets loose. The arrow soars and pounds itself into the tree; a solid mark. It juts out from the bark, quivering.
He feels better. He is finally becoming skilled with the bow. Normally, he would take his rook rifle, but his supply of bullets is dwindling, and arrows can be salvaged. So the bow and arrow is a reasonable choice.
He stalks like a great predator. He does not track or move with the animals, risking making noise. He sits on a tree branch awkwardly until his toes are numb. He waits for the animal to come to him. Sometimes, it never does. But today it does. Today is good. He can feel it. He sits, tranquil, awaiting prey.
Finally, it comes.
It is a deer. It walks slowly, bobbing with each step. He does not stir. A single bad movement could cause him to lose his meal for today. So he waits. And waits. And waits.
Silence. The deer pricks its small ears and they gingerly quiver in the air. He prepares to strike. The bow bobs in his fingers as he shifts it to the bow. He lays flat against the tree limb, aiming for the killer shot. He never likes wounding an animal, because then he would have to follow the trail of crimson blood it left on the ground and finish it. Then he felt horrid.
The arrow rockets towards the deer. It buries deeply in it's left flank and penetrates the heart. He smiles. The animal had felt no pain. Relieved, he leaps from the tree. The body of the deer is bony, yet weighty.
Eventually, he brings it back to his cave. It tastes good. After cleaning and skinning it, the cooked meat is very nutritious and tasty. He enjoys the delicacy before another animal can pick up its scent. Then he dumps the remains in the river. The fish can have it now.
Then he does the daily chores. Eating, building up his cave, surviving.
Then he lays down and sleeps.
The day is over.
Wash, rinse repeat.
Chapter One: A Day In the Life
IT HAD BEEN FOUR MONTHS.
The cave marking's Alex had made told him so. He had marked how long he had been stranded. It all came flooding back to him. Four months. Four months since the plane crash, killing the pilot and Alex's father. It still pained Alex, to think of his father. The last words he had said to him.
I don't care, Dad, just leave me alone. You're the one flying me to military school, and I'm supposed to say I'm sorry? I don't want any lectures, just leave me alone! I'll see you in a few months, I don't need goodbyes!
Then the plane crashed. The pilot had gotten a rock impaled through his body and Alex's dad had suffered the brunt force, and was slammed against the wall. Alex had been strapped in his seat, making his father go away. A thought passed through his mind like an ice storm in a silent tundra. If I had let my dad sit down next to me, he would've buckled up. And survived.
Alex banished the thought. Now was not the time to accuse himself of all the bad things in the world. He could pity himself later. Now, he needed to get up. He needed to get off his makeshift bed and into his chores. Ugh, the chores. Get up, clean up the animal droppings all over your cave, get water from the river, get food, invent a way to escape, signal a plane, build better shelter, goodnight. He was getting tired of his routine. Especially picking up animal crap, he thought gloomily.
Alex sat up, glum. Today wouldn't be a good day. No day was a good day. Every morning he told himself the same thing. His mother would do the same thing when he said he had a bad day.
I'll tell you what. Today is going to be a bad day, sweetie. A horrible day. Every day is. You have to make it a good day. Fate isn't going to do it for you, you have to.
The words played on his cracked lips. Mom. She was still back home, going insane, knowing her husband was dead but unsure about her son. Alex got to his feet. Last night's rabbit had made his stomach queasy. Now he was feeling the after effects. Clutching his belly in one hand, he stumbled out of his cave. The bright light hurt his eyes. He shielded them against the sun.
He had left his rabbit out last night! The remains were scattered about the cave, sloppily peppered around the floor. All the bones were rotting in the river. Yum. Now he could drink chum water when he was thirsty. A joke rattled out of his mouth, and he chuckled. "Good for you, new hydrating ChumWater will keep you hydrated, and it gives you all the nutrients and protein of meat!" Alex never laughed; there were no jokes to hear, so he had a habit of creating his own. He laughed harder, not completely sure if it was that funny.
Miserably, he picked up the chunks of leftover, trying to ignore the stench flaring in his nostrils. When he was done, he washed his hands in the creek, careful to use the already-dirty water so as to not pollute any more. Then he set off. Today’s first activity: Carry the water from the river to the cave. He needed water close by, so he wouldn't have to trudge back to the river for a drink. He tossed the empty bucket he'd salvaged from the wreck up in the air, catching it in his stride.
It was heavy. Carrying it back to the cave was much harder with it filled. He hauled it awkwardly with both hands, taking slow, planned steps. He had memorized a path through the wilderness. Rather than the fastest route, he chose the route with the easiest terrain. He preferred flat, smooth grass to the twigs and rocks of the other route. He still had shoes, but there were so many holes in them his feet still ached. And it was hard to run from a predator with wounded feet.
Eventually the water was sloshing around in his cave. Next, on the agenda: Food. Getting dinner took forever. Maybe today he should mix it up. Try to signal for help and build shelter, and then hunt. Usually when he hunted it took hours, and then he had little or no time to build his hut. But no, it couldn't change. It was a winning formula.
So he took off his shirt and rolled around in the mud. He gathered a few twigs and leaves and stuck them to his chest. Makeshift camouflage. Not perfect, but seemingly innocuous to animals. Now for the scent. He could direct which way the wind was blowing and make his smell go with the wind, or he could disguise his scent with urine from the animals. He had tried the latter and it worked tremendously, but it was as fun as it sounded.
Today he would hide his scent with the wind, rather than against it. No animal could pick up a scent that was moving away from it. Licking a finger, he raised it in the air, trying to interpret where the wind was blowing. It didn't work as well as in movies. Sure, the saliva was cold on his finger when he turned it against the wind, but it wasn't accurate enough. More often than not, his finger would turn cold no matter where he turned it. The wind would go crazy, blowing his scent all over.
He eventually found the safest route to food. The wind was with him, hiding his scent completely. Virtually undetectable, not counting basic animal instinct. Sometimes, his prey just knew he was there, and they were off like a bullet. It was a sense. Like when someone's behind you, and you just know it, and the hair on the back of your neck stands on end.
Now for the weapon. He basically had two choices. It was mandatory at the military school he was sent to, that he buy a G336XLR Marlin rifle, complete with wooden stock and a lever action reloading system. He was forced to buy it, and it used up nearly all of his savings. All six hundred dollars: poof. And even after that, he had to mow lawns for two months to get thirty more dollars to afford it.
Now it was complete with a silencer, and since it had cost him his own money, he was proud of it. It was beautiful, its stainless-steel barrel glittering in the sun. Unfortunately, guns required ammunition, and ammo was dwindling. He had five rounds left. Five. And sometimes it took two to take down an elk. Being a good shot was not enough now. If he missed, it was unforgivable. If he struck, sometimes it wasn't a killing blow, and he had to use another bullet to take it down.
Even so, he took the gun over his bow. The bow was too inaccurate and slow. Tonight he wanted food. Tonight, he would not starve. Alex grabbed all five bullets and loaded them one after another into the gun. He lifted the gun up and pumped one round into the chamber as he cocked the lever. With a flick, he flipped the safety off. And he began his stalk.
It was getting dark. And chilly. Alex did not move. He did not falter, or even think. He did not slosh around in the muck as he saw the elk approaching. He waited for his moment, and he raised the gun to his chin. The stock was firmly planted in his shoulder, and his eyes lined up the sights. The deer's flank was gently fluttering, sucking in lungfuls of air. It's last breaths.
His finger faltered over the trigger. He had to prepare himself, or he would vomit afterwards. I am going to kill this animal. It has lived a good life, and it will feel no pain. I do not hate it, it does not hate me. We understand this is the way of life. I must survive. It must die.
The gun kicked back in recoil, jamming Alex's shoulder. A scalding shell jumped out of the gun, onto the ground, where it sizzled. Alex instinctively popped another round in the chamber. The deer was not there. It was not where it had been. Alex crawled from his hiding spot and looked at the ground, painfully aware of what had happened. Blood was pooling on the ground, around leaves and soil.
Sickened, he glanced to his right, where the elk had vanished. A trail of blood oozed across the ground, leading to the deer. The trees rustled as a mighty wind blew over. It could've toppled Alex. His knees were suddenly weak. He started to follow the trail, breaking into a worried sprint. He kept a wary eye on the trail of redness.
It stopped at an opening. A passage to the left was clear of trees and shrubbery. Alex turned his head. Sure enough, the deer was on the ground, trying to staunch the wound on the ground. Blood was pumping out from underneath it rapidly. Alex felt his eyes become moist. He had not cried since his father died. That was four months ago. Nearly half a year.
He knelt down beside the animal. It's breathing was harsh and shallow. It was struggling for life. Alex would have to end that struggle. He thought about doing it easy, just shooting it once more so it would feel no more pain. But that would leave him with only three bullets.
Or he could. . . He could use his knife. Just one little slit across the throat, a little pain, but no more after that. . .
No. He couldn't do that.
Without a word, Alex stood up and aimed the rifle. His heart ached as he settled the sights on the poor creature's head. "It's okay," he whispered, almost inaudibly. "You're gonna be fine."
And the muzzle erupted with a flash.
Death is a part of life.
He kept telling himself that as he carried the corpse back home. The elk had lived it's life. Now it was over. That got Alex thinking. I'm living my life. Death will be a part of it. But when will that come? When will I die, starvation or loneliness? When and how will I end?
Like your father ended, he told himself. Like father, like son.
His father hadn't really died from pure force. His body had been smashed and broken when he hit the wall, but he survived. Something inside his body had ruptured. He died a few hours later by hemorrhage. They had been lying among the wreckage, covered in debris and fluff from the seat parts. Alex had been lying next to his dad when his father said, "Talk to me when you get back from military school." His throat had gurgled with every word. The sentence seemed foolish, seeing as how his father was dying, but in that trance of death, that state of mind, it seemed chillingly logical.
Before he could respond, Alex's father was dead. Blood had drained from him completely, through his mouth, through his nose. It was all over his lips, his cheeks. On the ground, oozing towards Alex. He had cried and tried to crawl away, but he was too weak. The wave of crimson touched him.
Alex often thought about blood now. Such a curious, disturbing thing.
Why do we need blood? Why couldn't we be dry? It's just liquid. Red liquid that comes out of us.
He shook it off. Why did he have to think of these things while he was busy? Why couldn't he just focus! With anger, he prepared the deer by skinning, cleaning, gutting, and bleeding it. The thoughts came back to him while it bled. Just liquid. . . Fluid draining from the deer's neck, just bodily fluid. . .
The deer was good. Much better than rabbit. He drank heartily from his water bucket to wash the deer meat down. He should've cleansed the water by boiling it, but he drank it anyway. He was thirsty. He didn't care. He gulped it down and then ate some more. He ignored the outside world, ignored death and violence and loneliness.
He became delirious.
So, good men, I implore you to find a way to get me out of here. The one man who can help me escape from the dreadful place, whether it involve me risking life and limb or nay, I reward them a Marlin rifle. And some dear meat, chap. Don't forget the meat. Build me a flying machine, build me a yacht, just bestow me transportation! Thus and furthermore. . .
This whole scene sounded very lyrical. A song rasped from his throat.
"Build me a flying machiiiiine, build me a yaaaaccchht, build me a way oooooouuuuuuutt, and then gimme a shot!" He got up and aimed the gun above his head, pulling the trigger. A round exploded into the night air. "A shot, a shot, gimme a shot, give me a shoooot!"
He kept pulling the trigger but the lever wasn't pumped. He insanely jumped atop a log and dropped the water bucket, spilling the water over the floor. He jumped off and landed on his face. The dirt stung his eyes. He rolled over and vomited, emptying the contents of his stomach on the floor. His anger faded, and he could think. His mind restored sense.
When will it end? he thought.
Oh, God, when will it end?
And then he realized it.
Chapter Two: Local Animal Life. . .
ALEX SCRABBLED FROM HIS SHELTER.
It was night. A rustling sound was emitting from the brush. It worried him. Alex emerged further from his haven and stared with alert eyes at the shivering plant life. A new noise replaced the shuffling. A roar. A guttural, rasping, malevolent roar. Not mammal. Reptile.
But what kind of reptile roars? Like that?
Something revealed itself from the bushes. Sleek and muscular. Scaly. Almost mechanical. Every form flowing and smooth, not a misshapen part or blemish. The dark mass stepped forward. It was reptilian. It rested on it's fat hind legs. Its front limbs had sharp claws protruding from probing fingers, held close towards its chest. A tail was high in the air behind it. Its eyes sparkled above a snout containing sharp, gnashing teeth.
It's a. . . It's. . .
It looked just like a velociraptor. It sounded absurd, but it was a clear resemblance to the dinosaur. It couldn't be. . . But it was. . .
Alex did not make a sound. He slowly and silently inched backwards. The creature immediately recognized him. Alex could not understand how it had noticed him, but it was rapidly sprinting at him. Full force. Alex stumbled quickly inside his cave and fell to his knees, searching for a weapon.
It was behind him. Very close. Still running.
Desperately, he fumbled and felt a hot pain in his palm. Slick blood ran oil-like across his fingers. His knife had slit open his hand. Running on pure adrenaline, Alex snatched up the knife and turned just in time to see the raptor feet from him. He swung the blade downwards, burying it in the animal's snout.
There was a horrible screech.
The monster faltered backwards, screaming loudly. The knife was lodged just below its eyes. It shook its head, causing the knife to fly across the room and tumble to the ground. It sprayed blood all around.
Alex scrawled backwards. He felt something cold poke his back.
Epinephrine coursed through his veins and his adrenal glands pumped as he took hold of the rifle. And aimed. And fired. The animal fell to the ground, writhing madly. Above its jaws, right in between its eyes, above the knife, a dark blood was flowing from a round bullet hole. Wriggling and squirming, it flopped on the ground and tried desperately to propel itself closer to Alex. Attempting to fulfill its dying request.
Its legs scratched against the floor. Its chest heaved. It let out one final shriek. The scratching slowed, stopped. And then it was still. Alex laid flat against the wall. His breathing was shaky and labored. He did not move. The hormones in his body drained from him. Alex curled up in a ball and turned on his side. Rocking back and forth, he tried to calm down.
It wasn't possible.
Alex fell alseep.
It was morning.
When Alex woke, the velociraptor was still on the floor, long dead. Cold. So it hadn't been a dream. He sat for a long time, not eager to approach it. The vile thing stared at him with dead eyes. Finally, he concluded he must get up and examine. Alex wormed from his uncomfortable position and slowly approached the monstrosity. It was lizard-like and lengthy. Shaking, he placed a hand on its neck. Clotting blood stained his palm as he probed the unmoving flesh. It was definitely reptile. Lizard-like, but with limbs. Just like a dinosaur. But how? How on Earth could a dinosaur come back?
Alex shivered. They were all around him. Why hadn't he seen them for the first four months? He remembered the Jurassic Park movies he had seen. Scientists reincarnating dinosaurs. The thought halted in his brain. No. Impossible. Alex sat up. He would go out today, and it would be normal. He was still hallucinating, that's all. Just in case, he packed his one bullet in his Marlin Rifle. One bullet. A perfect kill required to have a meal tonight. Alex brought the bow and his rifle. He would need more protection than ever. If there were any real dinosaurs.
Which there weren't.
Alex finished setting his trap. He tied the last knot in the rope and felt the tightness. It bounced when he touched it. Very tight. The contraption was a simple one, used in many capturing sequences in movies (although Alex wasn't sure how well they actually worked.) He had placed a net on the ground, tied ropes to the net, tree branches, and a peg he had planted in the ground. When something stepped on the rope or net, whoosh. Automatic meal, no bullets required. Alex stared at the sky while he leaned against a tree branch. It might rain. You had to take everything into account.
Alex still pondered about his bullet. One round. What would be the use? Meals? Defense? When would he use it? Alex shifted against the rough bark. I guess it will be used when it needs to be.
The rope bulleted upwards, and a screeching noise rang out. The net collapsed in on itself, crushing the animal within. Nervous, Alex glanced downwards. He leaned over and threw up. In the net was a dinosaur--a deer head clamped in its mouth. Intestines and blood were splayed around in the net.
It's okay it's okay it's okay nothing is wrong don't look down look away kill the dinosaur calm down shhhhhh. . .
Anxious, Alex clamped his mouth shut, holding his breath. He retrieved the knife from his pocket and carefully positioned the jagged edge above his target--the neck. Closing his eyes, barricading the stench, he stabbed downwards. His wrist jerked around as the creature violently fought back, screeching in pain.
Alex ripped the knife out with effort and swung down again.
Everything was lost in the blur, nothing else mattered. The knife slashed in and out of the creature. He didn't stop until long after the demon was lifeless. Something burst in his brain, all sense shattered like glass--
I want to kill I have to kill Let me kill
Blood was dripping from his fingers, but he felt it dripping in his mind, his knowledge broke into pieces. The bodies slumped in the net as he cut it loose. It dropped to the ground, and he leapt with it.
It's still alive It needs to die
But it wasn't. With nerveless fingers, Alex sliced open the net and it spread out, displaying two corpses and guts. He vomited again, all over the deer and raptor, emptying his stomach.
It was like nerve-shattering truth, a horrible discovery. A morbid confirmation that there were deadly reptiles, namely dinosaurs, and the obvious sickening sight of the deer. Alex let the knife fall and he did as well. On his knees, Alex pounded his fist on the dirt in anger, in fear, in misery. Alone, he thought.
Alone with vicious creatures and no food and little supplies. And no company.
Alex lay down next to the net. No company. That was the problem.
He put the rope on the head of the makeshift mannequin for hair. It was all cut up anyways, so it was useless for now, so it helped his doll. He had formed it from twigs and branches and leaves. It was a girl. Alex set it up in his cave, and sat next to it, thinking of a name. Sarah. That was the name of a girl at school back at his town. He had been too afraid to talk to her, and now he had the chance.
He sat there.
The silence was immense, deep. The doll stared back at him, its eyes blank, empty, its head unmoving. Alex shifted. He was shy, even to a freakin' mannequin! I'm an idiot! Just talk to her! He looked downwards, eyeing his toes wiggling on the dirt. He expected Sarah to make conversation. More silence.
"So," his voice croaked, as he had not used it for a long time. "You wanna-- Um, how's it going?"
The doll stared back. No response. He lowered his head again, bashful.
I'm talking to a doll. Am I insane?
He started up again. "I--" he started, but abruptly stood up and exited the cave.
He worked the rest of the day with Sarah itching at the back of his mind. He wanted to talk, but it wouldn't cooperate. He'd just have to do the talking, he guessed. He vowed he would say something tonight. He worked quickly then, and for some strange reason, he felt a bizarre feeling in his stomach? It wasn't pain. Or misery. Grief. None of those.
No. How could he find happiness here? That was impossible. Why did he even think of happiness? He scolded himself for getting his hopes up. He continued his work.
He sat next to Sarah. He didn't make eye contact. "Umm," he croaked, "how are you?"
Her mouth didn't move. But he could hear the words in his mind, the smooth, high, girly voice. Was it his imagination? He didn't know, he didn't care. The words echoed in his mind.
He let the words flow out of him like an endless ocean, not in his mind but vocally, testing his voice, his pitch ebbing and breaking. His speech was sad, happy, rough, thankful. He didn't stop for her reply, he just talked. And the voice responded. It said:
Wow! That's quite a story.
He looked modestly at the ground, grinning foolishly. This whole scene would've looked stupid to anybody else, but never mind them. He had a companion. A girlfriend.
Will you talk to me every day? Promise?
"Well, I'm busy, Sarah."
"Yes. I promise."
Thank you, Alex.
They talked. They shared, they argued, they made up. Alex did most of it, and she listened. He told her his needs, his life, his parents. He cried, he laughed. Sarah remained emotionless. She did not change, but only comfort Alex. His eyes strayed around the room until he had the courage and his eyes locked into her and he gasped; she wasn't moving. It was still just a mannequin. Not Sarah.
His eyes flickered, searching for life, grasping a possibility of company.
No such luck.
He called her name, trying to hear the voice again. "Sarah? Sarah?" He felt tears rolling down his cheek. He didn't sob, but just sat rigid and shook, nerveless. He stared at her, trying to bring her back. All was silent. He didn't move or make sound. As it got dark, he heard the dinosaurs roar. He nestled himself in Sarah's arms, but she fell over, lifeless. At this, he could not take it, and a horrible whining sob escaped his throat. In misery and despair, he recoiled from the doll laying on the ground, staring at the cave wall. He let out raspy cries, crying, his face a waterfall, his throat burning from the hot air of his sobs.
Sarah was gone.
Chapter Three: Alone. . . Again
"PLEASE SAY HELLO TO ME," HE BEGGED.
Sarah did not respond, in his head or in physical reality. It was morning. He had laid Sarah down on a pile of leaves and stroked her hair, her real hair, not rope, it was real, with palsied fingers.
Something broke in his mind.
"Please say something," he said blankly, not crying, not screaming, just calmly pleading. His eyes were empty orbs staring down at her. It seemed if he looked at her he would snap out of his trance, and he couldn't hear her.
But if he looked away. . .
"Sarah?" he asked desperately, closing his eyes.
The voice was quiet, a whisper among a silent field of blossoming pink flowers and all things nice--
Alex? I think I know how you can hear me--
"How?" he asked quietly, not knowing why he was so.
Two words, barely audible. He opened his eyes, looking down at her. It hadn't worked. It was all in his head, he was alone, he was insane. He wasn't right. "I'm not talking to you tomorrow," he announced in a rough voice. "I'm breaking the promise. Then you will leave me alone." He wanted the voice out of his head.
He left the doll there, not daring to pick it up. He may be a mental mess, but it was going to end. He worked all day, and fell asleep at it. He didn't eat or drink. He never woke up when the raptors screeched. He didn't cry. He didn't think. He worked.
The next day he drank, at least. He didn't catch any food. So he didn't eat. But he needed to stay hydrated, or he would really feel bad, and you could go weeks without food. He didn't talk to Sarah, or even look at her. He needed to rid her. . .
So he kept his eyes off the still form lying in the brush as he lay across from it, preparing to sleep. He forced his eyes closed, shutting out curiosity and sadness. It was for the best. Everything faded into a solid black. Pitch black.
Alex, why won't you talk to me?
Alex felt something rumbling, growling. One word rang out in his mind.
ALEX, WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOIIING?
And he woke up.
Sarah was gone. He'd killed her in his mind, the voice was dead, Sarah was dead. He'd made her miserable, tortured the poor girl, beat her to death with harsh words and violent curses. Bludgeoned her with insults and commands.
It seemed like all he did was cry now. But he needed to release it right now. He had just killed someone, just so he could be alone again.
The silence. Oh, the silence.
No one to talk to, to love, to hold. She was begging him, pleading him to not kill her, to not cause her more pain, and he killed her, painfully, grotesquely. Inhumanely. And the little form in the corner was curled up in a tiny ball like a baby, like a lost, frightened child crying in her cave.
Alex was alone again.
The next morning he hunted early. He caught a rabbit that the raptors had not yet eaten, and he feasted on it, along with water. He encountered another raptor as he did the daily chore of signaling help. It didn't notice him, thankfully, although he did get to witness it pounce on a helpless rabbit and tear it to pieces.
Alex ate and drank, letting the depression sink in. He didn't care about his health, his life. What did he have to live for? He thought of the last bullet in his rifle. He could use it. It would be worth it.
Alex gasped. Snap out of it!
He had never considered suicide. He had never even thought of it. He needed help. He would kill himself if he didn't get some soon. But as he worked, the thought of suicide became less and less taboo. It would be easy, a way out of the torment, an end. It was possible, he had the courage, the bullet, the chance, the reason. But then the thought of dying sank in. Not seeing anybody ever again. Not seeing the world. Dying alone. The two thoughts battled each other, suicide and a reason to live.
A fitting end to a killer.
He had committed homicide, why not suicide? What the heck, maybe even a genocide. That wouldn't be a change from this horrible lifestyle, with all the lives taken.
He cursed; kept signaling for help, waving in the air.
The day got worse as he went on. It rained, so he stayed inside and had time to think, which he hated to do. More scary thoughts worked their reason into his brain, making reality blur, making sense suddenly become distorted. He sat, elbows on his knees, chin on his hands. The Sarah doll was still on the ground, limp.
It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
He couldn't help it; the words just came out of his mouth. He sat, gloomy, in the corner, staring at Sarah, his only companion, his only source of acceptance. He thought of home and his mother and father and Sarah and his friends and all the things he missed. He would transition between grief and rage, from crying to cursing and kicking the walls.
Finally, he picked up Sarah and hoisted her out into the rain and left her there. The precipitation spattered down upon the fragile, shaking frame. Alex could almost hear a quiet sobbing, but the rain pelting on Sarah was loud. Alex sat and looked out at her, (not her, it, he kept reminding himself) and felt guilty, but at the same time angered. Sarah was like a little sister he had just hurt and left crying in the rain, and he felt remorseful and sad and guilty. Carefully, he picked her up like a baby, like a little four-year-old sister, not caring about getting soaked. Drenched, he carefully layed her down in the cave, hugging her, whispering words of assurance and love. For a minute, Alex was happy. For just a moment, Alex was a big brother, a protective boy.
For a second, Alex was not alone.
Gently, cradling her in his arms, he awoke. Sarah was no longer fake. Her skin was a natural tan, her eyes were a piercing blue, her hair a bright blonde. Her lips writhed about her teeth, forming words: Hello, Alex.
Alex hugged her, and she didn't pull away. They embraced, Alex on the verge of tears, Sarah laughing with happiness. Alex let go, absorbing her beauty, confirming she was real. He smiled, and she returned the favor, and they were together, alone, the two of them, stranded, with freedom and an open world to explore.
And they held hands tight as they exited the cave, into the bright world, into the sunlit, lone world.
Then Alex woke for real.
Sarah was in his arms.
But she didn't have skin to show, or blue eyes to shine, or hair to glow.
Chapter Four: Efforts to Escape
SARAH WAS DEAD.
Not to say she had ever lived. Alex's eyes flickered to and fro, searching for life, grasping desperately for a sign of human nature in Sarah. She lay down on the ground, and Alex hovered over her, his defiant retinas try to register if she would ever come back. Alex wasn't sure if Sarah had ever lived. In one way, he was positive she was fake. In another, he was sure she had lived, but died. Died from his lack of belief.
And what about love? Did he love her like a sister or like a girlfriend? Or did he love her at all? So many question, including the question of his sanity, were going to be left unanswered.
Burying her wasn't the pain he had expected. His stoic face stared down in the deep hole he had created with a spare shovel. It seemed as if acceptance had finally been delivered. Sarah was dead, and that was that. He still couldn't help feeling a tinge of sorrow as he dumped the soil back in the hole. But the dirt covered her up, and that was the end of Sarah, he decided.
The rest of the day was good. He did the chores: signaling, hunting, gathering, cleaning, repairing. He was finally back to his old self. He went to sleep early and woke late.
As he was hunting that day, he noticed movement in the brush. Quickly, he climbed a tree, his legs scrambling up the bark. Knife in hand, bow on back, he planned on pouncing from a low-hanging branch. He anticipated a rabbit. But instead, he got a raptor. The vicious beast barged into the open and detected Alex almost immediately. It sprinted to the tree, and, using its propelling legs, jumped up to Alex.
Its snout nearly snapped on his hand.
Alex stabbed down with his knife, burrowing it in the right nostril. With a horrible shriek, the creature landed on its hind quarters and wildly shook its head, dislodging the blade from its slit of a nostril. The knife scattered over to the base of another tree. Again, after regaining its fury, the dinosaur leapt up and its teeth caught Alex's (who was equipping his bow) pant leg. Alex, petrified, screamed a horrible shriek as he hurtled downwards.
He landed hard on the dirt, nearly losing consciousness. His vision faltered. He could sense the creature looming over him. Alex had a sudden realization.
I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it.
So this was the end. All this suffering, finally, finally over. He steeled himself for the final pain. The creature's jaws opened and clamped down on his leg. Alex found incentive to fight back. The pain was horrible, unimaginable, indescribable. He couldn't go through that again. He kicked, and the creature's maw released, and Alex crawled out. Teeth holes in his thigh were spouting dark arterial blood. He crawled over to his knife and snatched it up and the second he turned around, suddenly the blade was jutting from the raptor's eye. It fell to the floor without a sound, the knife embedded in the pink tissue of its brain.
And at this moment, Alex finally went insane.
So many horrific sights caused something in him to snap, eviscerating his sense. Suddenly, everything seemed logical and within reason. He crawled from the body, holding his bloody thigh, limping. He stumbled to his cave, crazed and confused, and sat in his corner, rocking back and forth in a classic insane fashion, all night.
When the moon started to fade, he heard a metallic whirring, a loud hum. A strange object settled awkwardly outside his cave. The blades on its top ceased. When the sunlight buttered across the horizon, he found that a helicopter had landed on the ground.
A man emerged from it. His brown hair was slicked back. His sunglasses flashed in the sun.
"I was flyin' over here off course," he said. "I saw your signal."
Alex shook his head in disbelief. This MAN had just intruded on his territory. What was this MAN thinking? Stepping onto his land, ostracizing him?
"Um, I can take you back home. Are you lost?"
Something erupted inside of Alex. Fury and rage caused his whole body to quiver. "NOOOO!" he screamed, and retreated to his cave. The MAN followed him, defiant, curious. Without a word, Alex found his weapon: the Marlin rifle.
He placed the stock upon his shoulder and aimed at the MAN, his arms steady.
"Whoa, there," the MAN said, raising his hands in surrender. "I can just go back--"
"NOOOOO!" Alex yelled, and used his final bullet, and the muzzle erupted, and red blood stamped the MAN'S chest, and he fell back, onto the ground.
He lugged the body to the creek and deposited it there. It floated downriver, limp in the green water. As he trudged back, he realized something. He needed company. The SARAH. He could find her. They could rule this world together. He picked up his shovel and dug deep in the soil. But she was not there. He dug another. But she could not be found. He had lost her. Cursing in futility, he created many holes, digging up the entire area in front of his cave. But she was not there.
In a final upwelling of grief, Alex looked into the sky and cried out in misery and pain, in sorrow for his love, in defiant rage of his mistakes, it was all his fault SARAH was dead and lost. Behind him, he detected a slight movement, a hushed breathing.
SARAH was there.
Her flowing hair swung in the breeze. Her blue eyes greeted him. Her mouth formed two words, and he nodded, and they set off into the world, together, alone. Alex was finally happy, accompanied, safe. Finally.