When Atlas awoke the next morning, she only had one thought in her mind: I can't stay here. Not that she didn't love it. Quite frankly, she wished she could stay in this very spot forever. But the thoughts were lingering in her mind at all times; haunting her dreams and eating her up inside. An entire space station full of people were dependent on her and her mission. They were waiting for her, or perhaps, already left without her. These ideas made her sick to her stomach. She had to go back, but the only problem was that she didn't know how. Only Benetnash did...
Last night she had dreamed about the crash. It was all so vivid as if it were a film playing in her mind. She watched as she fell unconscious, seeing the figure on the horizon. And the dream didn't end there. It showed the figure coming closer and closer to her until she could see that it was Benetnash. He had lifted her limp body up onto his back and took her to the stream next to the dead tree and bush forest. It all seemed to fit so well and she wanted to believe it, but she wasn't one to fully trust her dreams.
When she had woken up midday, Benetnash was gone, out venturing around, leaving Atlas with her thoughts. Reliving the crash in her dream reminded her what she had to do. In the back of the shuttle was an unbreakable, flame proof box. And within it was an emergency GPS. All she had to do was twist a lid off the top of the devise and it would send an alert to the space station above showing her location. She just needed to get back to it.
Atlas had cracked open another food package and container of water for lunch. She sat up on the tarp, gazing around the land as she nibbled, waiting for Benetnash to show up. But hours had gone by and he never made an appearance. She was beginning to feel worried, but constantly kept reassuring herself that he could take care of himself perfectly fine.
When her legs were becoming stiff she decided to get up and walk around, get herself used to the gravity. She was doing a little better now, but if she decided to move too quickly, she would often lose balance and stumble. She stopped for a break at the rivers edge and decided to clean herself up a little. She took off her jacket and boots and walked out into the water until her knees were submerged under the surface. She was careful not to go too deep and get swept away from the strong currents closer to the center. She dunked her head under and scrubbed the dirt off her face and away from her scalp with her fingers.
She eventually abandoned the plan of trying to keep her shirt and shorts dry. They were just as mucky and dirty as the rest of her body. It was another quite sunny day as well so she would dry quickly, and if she didn't, she had extra clothes just in case. So she just let herself hall into the water with a huge splash, leaving only her head bobbing above the surface.
She became a little reluctant about submerging her whole body in the waters when she felt something brush up against her leg. She froze and looked down through the clear water to see what it was. She felt relieved when she saw that it was only a small, silver fish investigating her pale legs. She sat as still as she could in the soft current and watch the many fish come up and visit this new comer in their waters. Eventually, a big, plump fish lazily drifted over a little too close to her hand, so she snatched it.
She hung the fish up on the tallest branch that she could reach, hoping the smell of freshly drawn blood would come to Benetnash's nose if he was in the area. The trio of suns were now descending towards the horizon, and Benetnash had not made an appearance all day. She was missing him. She was worried about him.
Without this carnivorous ally with her, she realized how vulnerable she was to the bizarre world around her. If any creature were to wander out of the forest and notice her, if it wanted to attack her, it could and would probably kill her. She had no weapon except for her small pocket knife which she doubted would do any real damage.
About an hour later when Atlas accepted the fact that Benetnash probably wasn't coming back before nightfall, she realized that she wasn't going to have his warm body to snuggle up against. She needed fire. She ventured into the woods behind her, careful not to go too far into the shadows and collected handfuls of dried leaves and twigs that the forest floor seemed to be littered with.
Next to her tarp bed, she dug a small crater in the dirt which was where she constructed the fire. She lit the tepee of logs and it grew into tall flames that licked the darkening air above it, vanquishing the darkness around it like a cocoon of light. It was perfect.
She occasionally threw a log on top of the burning embers to keep it fueled. As she waited for the night to fall, she had taken one of the largest bones that was left from the fluffy dinosaur and carved it into the biggest, sharpest blade she could. Benetnash still had not made an appearance. She needed a real weapon.
The sun had slipped behind the horizon now and Atlas sat on her tarp, curled up in a blanket, clutching the bone that she had carved a sharp point into; the flames were the only thing to keep her company. Her eyes were becoming heavier and heavier as the orange horizon faded darker and darker. Just before she fell asleep, she glimpsed up at the stars to see the constellation of Benetnash. Her heart gave one last lurch of fear for his whereabouts as she drifted off into a dreamless sleep...
Her eyes opened into slits, was she still dreaming? No, her vision was too real. She squinted towards the lopsided image of the low burning embers of the fire. She listened to the distant sound of movement above her head which lay flat on the tarp. It was coming right from where she had placed the fish she had caught.
"Ben...?" She muttered as she lifted the side of her head from the ground slightly, her eyes nearly swollen all the way shut with fatigue. "Benetnash?" She called a little louder.
She heard the movement move away from the bushes and a little more out on to the lawn of tall grass. They were definitely footsteps. Heavy, padded footsteps. And among the noise as the paws hit the ground, she heard the heavy, deep breathing. It had to be him. She pushed herself up slightly with her arm, her movements as slow as a sloth.
"Benetnash?" She called once more. But he didn't seem to acknowledge the sound of her voice or the call of his name. She was becoming suspicious, and for good precaution, reached for the sharpened bone she knew was by her feet. She looked out past the fire, her eyes opening a little more. But everything that wasn't in a foot radius of the flames was pitched black, except for the flickering, green-blue light of an aurora that danced across the sky.
She had the bone at her finger tips when she saw a figure merge into the firelight. It was a head. A head that at first seemed just like Benetnash's. But then she noticed that his big, brown eyes weren't as big as the were before, and instead a pure, soulless white.
She lunged forth to grasp her fingers around her only weapon, and as she did, the creature leaped over the fire towards her. It opened its mouth as it let out a fierce growl, revealing a set of sharp fangs. She let out a shriek of terror and lifted her left arm in front of her face, which was the first thing that this animal locked its strong jaws onto.
Atlas screamed in pain and tightened her grip around the bone with her free right hand. She lifted it and stabbed it into the side of the creatures short neck with all the force she could. It gave a groan deep in its throat, but this only caused it to tighten its grip on her arm, piercing its jagged back-teeth deeper into her flesh. She waled once more in great pain, now left defenseless. She felt one of its immense paws on her chest as it advanced on her, probably aiming to bite something much more vital.
Its grip did release on her arm, but as it did, its whole weight was lifted from her body. She sat up quickly, cradling her arm gingerly. She looked out into the darkness and spotted their faint silhouettes in the grass before her. It was Benetnash! He was facing off with the animal that had attacked her. She could see how she mistook this animal as Benetnash for a moment because the two took a similar shape. Except this animal had pointed ears, a short little tail and the fact that it was a reasonable amount smaller than Benetnash. This newcomer didn't really stand a chance in this standoff.
Atlas seen it try and square up with Benetnash for a moment, but it must have been Benetnash's threatening growl growing in his throat, or his big muscular shape on the verge of pouncing, and the enemy shrunk back fearfully, and looked as if it were about to turn, tuck tail and run away, but Benetnash didn't let him. He launched himself on top of the enemy, a series of growls and snarls were heard by Atlas as he mauled the creature and piercing squeaks and yelps rung over the night. Quickly, the shouts of the animals distress were put to a stop, as did Benetnash's snarls of attack. She saw the lump of the limp body of the enemy laying on the ground, dead as Benetnash backed away from it...
Benetnash came towards Atlas slowly, the look in his eyes gave pure concern and empathy at the sight of her tearful face. The deep gashes in her arm were so painful that it felt like nothing. She thought she might go in shock. Benetnash felt pressured to do something at the sound of her pained sobs, so ever so carefully, he brought forward the splayed ends of his tail and slid them around her injured fore-arm. Atlas gave a yelp at the contact, but it marked the end of her pained crying. The intense pain in her arm eased away until it was only a throbbing ache.
She stare awestruck at his tail as it slowly coiled around her arm. The gushing blood from her wounds was beginning to slow and nearly stopped completely. As Benetnash slid his tail away from her arm, he wiped the excess blood away.
She was amazed at this, as she lightly ran her finger down her fore-arm, the cuts barely hurt and only gave small trickles of blood. The gashes were still pretty deep and wide, so, being careful to stay close to the fire so she didn't freeze in the quick exposure, she took off her shirt and used it as a bandage for her arm. She tied it as tight as she could, and as she did, the white fabric was soaked with a spurts of blood.
Retrieving her spare T-shirt to put on, she noticed Benetnash sitting over next to the tarp, tending to several wounds on his shoulder. They appeared to be claw marks, Atlas assumed he received them during his tussle with the dead enemy that now lay somewhere down the grass slope. She tried not to think too much about the it.
It seemed that the wound didn't bother him too much. They didn't appear deep and he was doing what he had done to her arm a moment ago, slowing the bleeding and probably easing any pain he was feeling.
Atlas took her blanket and knife and cut a decent square of fabric away. She approached his wounded shoulder slowly, held the cloth up to the wound and gave him a quick glance as if looking for reassurance. He looked straight ahead, not seeming to acknowledge that she was there, but he knew her presence next to him by giving a soft hum that grew in his throat. So she gently pressed the piece of blanket against the cuts. He didn't seem to mind. If anything he liked it.
Atlas retrieved the rest of the blanket and wrapped herself in it, now sitting next to Benetnash, leaning her back against his bandage to hold it in place. They both stared into the low flames for quite a while. It was the last thing she remembered that night because she must had fallen asleep...