1. Discovery

It was raining, it was always raining in the forest. Jack had been lost in the endless stretch of trees for over a week now, and the rain had been with him for every day. He found it comforting though, it was the only thing that seemed familiar in this alien sprawling forest. There was something not quite right about it, it had an eerie feeling to it, not once had he heard a bird in the seven days that he had been lost here, or in fact heard any sign of life. The only sound was the relentless pounding of the rain, and the creaking of the old oaks that surrounded him. He looked around him, he was on near the top of a hill and had a good view around him, for all the good it did him. For miles around all he could see was tree upon tree upon tree, no signs of life, not even a bird flying in the sky. Before him lay a long winding valley, down the middle of it flowed a fast moving river, about a good days walk away. If he could make it to that river, and follow it downstream, then maybe he could find a way out of this place, and civilization. 

He decided to camp here for the night, the sun had already disappeared hours ago and if he wanted to make it to the river by nightfall tomorrow he’d need to get a good night’s sleep. He wearily took the sodden, torn, backpack of his aching shoulders and dumped it down on the carpet of moss below him. He fell back onto the damp rotting stump behind, it moaned but stood true. He pulled over his backpack, he slowly undid the rusty buckle, with his bloodied hands, and pulled out his stainless steel water bottle. That’s the only thing he had enough of, water, bloody water, why couldn’t it rain burgers? He unscrewed the lid and let the cold cool water run down his throat, at least he wouldn’t die of thirst. Hunger was another matter however. In the seven days he hadn’t even seen an insect, let alone a rabbit. He had to survive of what he scavenged, roots, leaves and if he was lucky berries. He pulled out the plastic bag that contained what remained of his scavenged before, a few blackberries and a bunch of dandelions. He wolfed them down, they did nothing for his hunger, in fact they made it worse, but at least he wouldn’t starve. After finishing his meagre meal he laid his bag behind his head as a pillow, pulled out his worn waterproof blanket, found the comfiest spot and instantly fell into a deep sleep.

Jack was woken abruptly by something that he had never heard before in the forest, a low threatening roar. He quickly looked around him, what was it? There was nothing there, he was in a small clearing, surrounded by oak and beech trees, the sun had just risen above the horizon and rays of light penetrated the leaf cover, illuminating the clearing. He touched his right pocket, he felt the cool handle of his hunting knife, it reassured him to know it was there, its presence was somewhat soothing. He scanned the edge of the clearing again, all he could see were small bushings, staring innocently back at him with their deadly red berries. But wait, there was something else there, something moving amongst the shadows, a flash of motion. He immediately scrambled back up into a crouched position, all of his survival training came rushing back at him at once, most of it irrelevant. He slowly creped to the edge of the clearing, aware of every noise he made. When he made it to the tree cover he darted behind a tree, he peeped around the corner. There it was again a furry brown mass darting between trees. He darted back behind the tree, breathing deeply. He brought out his long black knife, his knuckles white from gripping it so tightly. It was near now, he could hear its loud, humid breathing, and the soft padding of its paws upon the damp leaf ridden ground. Jack slowly moved round to the right of the tree, trying to get behind the bear. Jack’s breathing was hard and fast, he could hear his heart beating away inside him. He walked round delicately, placing each foot with car, but when he was half way round the bear his foot snapped a brittle twig. The sharp snap was unmistakable he winced as the bear lazily lifted its huge head towards him. For a second Jack thought he would be alright. But then the bears red eyes locked with his, and he let out an almighty roar, shaking the whole forest, and marking Jack’s death.

Jack acted instinctively, as the bear began to charge he kept down lowing, his knife at the ready in his right hand. At the last minute, when the bear was upon him, he leapt to the left, slashing at the bears belly as he went. The knife sliced through the flesh like a knife through butter. Hot sticky blood gushed from the wound, the smell overpowering Jack. The bear howled with paining, rearing up on its hind legs, its once magnificent coat now stained black from its only blood. It charged again at Jack, blind from fury. This time Jack was not fast enough. As he fled to the side the bear caught him in the shoulder, sending him flying into the tree behind him. The pain hit him instantly, overpowering him. The bear slowly approached him, triumphantly, almost sneering at him. Jack held the bloody knife in his hand, he had one chance, if he missed that was it, he was dead. Jack waited till the bear’s head was right next to him, its sickly breath pouring over him, he could see the saliva coating its teeth, spilling out of its mouth. Jack quickly launched himself forward, stabbing quickly with his knife, plunging it into the bear’s throat. The soft squelching sounded so satisfying, the bear took a step back, stunned, and then bowled over, dead. Jack fell back, exhausted from the fight, and blinded from the excruciating pain in the back of his head.

When he eventually opened his eyes again the sun was up full in the sky, bearing down on him. But there was something missing, something he couldn’t quite place. Then he realised, the rain! It had stopped raining! The heavens had stopped their relentless pounding and now the sun took its place. Jack smiled, it was the first time he had smiled in weeks. He looked towards the bear, its blooded pooled around him, he got up, slowly, everything was swimming before him. He shook his head and approached the bear. He considered trying to take the meat from the bear, but he had no way of cooking it, everything was soaking wet and he had used up the last of his matches weeks ago. He stumbled back towards the clearing. He reached for his back pack. He pulled out the cleanest looking of his shirts and tore of one the sleeves, and tied it around the wound on the back of his head. He’d just have to hope to hell it didn’t get infected. After taking another swig of water, and washing his hands and knife, he set of towards the bottom of the valley.

            It was quicker than he had expected, he managed to get to the bottom of the valley, and the river, before sunset, even though he had wasted half the day. He ran towards the river, he’d already used his water on the trip down and was starting to miss the rain. He cupped the water and poured it over his face, letting the cool water refresh and invigorate himself. He took of his makeshift bandage and washed his wound, before retying it. He looked down the river, it seemed to be pretty deep and fast, perhaps if he made a raft he could flow down it. Then he saw it, the cabin, sitting there, no more than thirty feet away. He couldn’t believe it! Finally he had found signs of life! He was saved! He could feel a tear falling down the side of his face as he sprinted towards the cabin, throwing the bag onto the floor. He smashed into the door, which gave way instantly under his weight. He stumbled into the room, looking wildly around him, no-one, it was deserted.

“Hello?” he shouted. No reply. He collapsed onto the floor, full out crying. How could he be this unlucky? But then he noticed in the corner of the room, a radio tranceiever standing there solitary. He rushed to his feet, his eyes wide with hope. He slowly approached it, he picked up the mouth piece, he noticed that he his hands were shaking. He pressed the button.

“Hello?” he asked, he noticed his voice was wavering.

Then he heard it, the reply, “Hey”.


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