She woke up with Benetnash still by her side. He had his head rested on his paws and must had been sleeping lightly because as soon as she gave a tired yawn, he woke up, not seeming that drowsy. He had his tail wrapped around her almost protectively but once he saw that she was awake, he swiftly slid them away from her.
She sat up, still curled in her blanket and just stared down at the glowing embers of the fire against the early dawn. The cloth she had placed against Benetnash's wounds fell to the ground, crusty and stained with dried blood. But at least his cuts looked a lot better now. She looked down at her arm to see that her old shirt was holding well wrapped around her arm.The blood stains had grown a little since the last time she checked, but she didn't really have anything else to replace her bandaging with. So she tucked her arm back under the blanket draped over her shoulders and behind her jacket.
She sat slouched in the middle of the tarp, her legs crossed, silently prompting her mind to wake up. Glancing up, she noticed how different the sky fashioned itself today. Covered in clustered nimbus clouds, only a few spots of blue sky making an appearance here and there as the thick, threatening, dark clouds made a steady pursuit across the sky. She realized how unprepared she was for a rain storm, but didn't want to care at the moment. She just needed to sit for a minute.
Benetnash was the one to truly rise, though his limbs were stiff as he did so. He stretched his powerful muscles lightheartedly as he let out a huge yawn, his pink tongue curling between a single row of short, jagged teeth. He made his way down to the river side to wash himself up a little since he hadn't gotten the opportunity last night. She still didn't know what he had been doing all day while he was gone, but it resulted in his dark fur being marked mud all over his body. The stains of blood, whether his, Atlas's or the enemy that he had killed, seemed like nothing compared to the rest of the mess. But it appeared to be washing out as he cleansed himself in the deepest waters he dare go.
Atlas finally got herself up and decided it would be a good idea to do what Benetnash was doing. She wasn't quite sure what Benetnash's tail had done too her arm but she couldn't quite say that it hat cleaned it. Maybe a bit of cold water might help it.
On her way down to the river she had to pass by the animal that Benetnash had killed. She stopped to look at it. Its body was stiff, the blood from the many wounds on its body had dried over its fur so much that she could barely see its original color. But she could see that its natural color was a light brown, and had dark stripes grazed into it. It looked kind of like a- a... a Tiger! Yes that's what they were called.
She focused on its face. Its pure white eyes were wide open and looked even more empty than they had before. Its mouth was also wide open, revealing the ghost of its last cry for mercy, its long fangs stained with her blood. She no longer felt sorry for the beast at the sight of its jaws as she felt the ache in her arm. Her eyes rested on his ripped throat where the death blow had been delivered and finally on her weapon that stuck out of the side of its neck. She felt a sort of satisfaction to see that she herself had inflicted some pain to this horrible animal, but she could see that it mustn't have caused much when she yanked the bone out of its cold flesh. It had only sunk in about two or three inches; which was really nothing compared to its thick stubby neck. But the blood at the end of her blade made her feel triumphant. She turned back towards the river now to see Benetnash watching her.
She didn't really go into the water today, considering that there was no sunlight to dry her and the water was icy at the touch. So instead she sat on her knees at the very edge of the shore, carefully removed her bandaging and gradually lowered her arm into the water gingerly. It felt very good as the cool water rushed over her cuts, removing the old blood. She let her arm sit under for a while until she noticed a familiar looking fish. A little silver fish. It slowly maneuvered its small body forth to her mutilated arm and seemed to peck its little mouth against one of her cuts. It did this for a moment until Atlas shifted her weight, startled the fish and it quickly disappeared with the current.
She pulled her arm out of the water, not knowing what exactly the fish had done, but she liked to think that it was eating away bacteria in her cut. She didn't really take too much time thinking about this because she was now distracted with the thought of the fish she had caught yesterday. It was gone now, obviously, eaten by savage tiger creature. But she didn't care. What she was fantasizing about was to eat real, fresh meat. Driven by the image in her head, she got up, took off her boots and trudged out into the water.
She now stood as deep as she could without getting any clothing wet, staying as still as possible. Her plan was working. The fish were flocking around her legs. They would stay a while until they grew bored with her and move on. But as a few moved along newer, still curious fish came up for a look. What Atlas was waiting for was the right sized fish to drift close enough to her hand that hung limp in the current near the surface. Benetnash seemed to see what she was up to and was careful to steer away from her as he was happily swimming around near the waterfall.
Atlas lugged the fish up to her tarp. She was not the one to catch this monster of a fish. Only the works of Benetnash's amazing tail could muster it. It was half her height, but probably more than her weight. It was so heavy she couldn't pull it with one hand. But when she grabbed it with a second hand, she shrunk back and winced at the pain in her arm. Benetnash noticed this as he followed close behind and retrieved the tail end of the fish to help her carry it the rest of the way.
Her fire was still burning, just barely. Low flames occasionally licked up from the glowing embers but it wasn't hot enough to cook anything. She still had plenty of kindling and lumber left over that she hadn't used last night though, so she managed to get the fire back up to a good flame within minutes.
But before she could become concerned about cooking the meal, she had to worry about the storm clouds rolling in. She was almost sure that it was going to rain and she hadn't even bothered to build a roof over her head. The ground had dried since the last rain so she didn't really need the tarp to sit on anymore. What she really needed now was to keep herself dry. She moved all her processions off to the side and lifted the tarp up.
She was lucky enough to find a branch above her that sat at a somewhat horizontal angle. It was, however a bit too tall for her to reach so after several attempts of trying to throw the tarp over, Benetnash caught on and helped her. Once that was done, she used the rope to secure it in place by lacing it through the eyelets around the edges of the tarp, then tying the rope to various branches around her. When it was all said and done, she had a decent sized tent like structure built just on the edge of the treeline. Though it wasn't as pretty of a picture as she had hoped for, Benetnash loved it. Since it was quite high off the ground, he was able to sit under it as well. It was a tight fit when they both sat beneath it, but it was warm.
She had never gutted a fish, nor had she learned much about it during survival training, but she knew from common sense that it wouldn't be a good idea to eat it in its entirety. So she took her knife and gently sliced open its belly and did the best she could to scoop out the guts without gagging. She threw all the guts in a pile which even Benetnash turned his nose up at. When she was done gutting, and her hands were covered with blood, she got up to go wash them in the river. When she seen that Benetnash had no interest in eating any of the guts, which she didn't blame him for, she decided it a good idea to get rid of them. Any extra smell of blood lingering in the air would for sure attract other predators, as proved by last nights events. Atlas had been kicking herself ever since for her stupidity.
Hands clean of blood and the guts thrown some where down stream, she returned up to the tent. Benetnash sat underneath it with his head held high, probably proud knowing that he had helped build the structure, letting his tongue hand from his mouth as he panted happily. Atlas smiled at him as she approached the pile of fluffy dinosaur bones, trying to find a bone to cook the fish with. Judging by the look on Benetnash's face, he wanted some of it too, and she didn't blame him. So she found the thickest bone in the pile that she thought would be able to hold the weight.
She sawed off the tail portion with her knife but left the head on because she found that it would be a good place to keep the fish balanced on the bone. So she shoved the bone through the mouth that hung open, down into the nearly empty body of the fish, holding it straight like a stiff spine. Grasping the end of the bone that still stuck out of the fishes mouth, she held the dangling meat over the flames.
Though it was probably only midday, it seemed as dark as the fallen evening. The thick, dark clouds covered every inch of the sky above them, floating eerily in place. The fish was nearly done. Atlas was planning on under cooking it slightly so the meat would be a bit juicy. She had eaten the dry space station food for most her life and wasn't going to make her first fresh meal in twenty years taste similar.
Finally she pulled the fish out of the flames and set it down, removing the bone. She removed the head with her knife and threw that over with the tail. Next, she sliced off the vast piece of meat on the side of what remained of the fish and threw it to Benetnash. He caught it in the air and began to bite at it.
While he was enjoying his food, she took the severed head and tail of the fish to deposit down the river. But on her way back was when the mighty storm above began. She had thought she might had seen the distant flash as she thrust the head and tail into the strongest currents. And it was confirmed when the mighty crack of thunder unleashed itself above head when she was walking back up the slope. Immediately the rain began to pour down. Atlas rushed back up to the tent.
Benetnash was already finished the meat she had given him by the time she made it under the cover of the tent. He had a smug look on his face as he watched her wringing her hair of the rain water, himself still remaining dry as he watched the storm from under the roof.
She plopped herself down next to him under the tarp and listened to the pitter- patter of the raindrops hitting their roof. Instead of sitting on the cold ground, she had decided to use the pelt of the baby fluffy dinosaur. She took a moment to catch her breath after having to run up the slope, but once her heart rate returned to normal she noticed Benetnash giving an eager look at the remaining half of the meat.
Although she had already given him half of the meat, she had no intentions of eating the rest for herself. First off, there was way too much of it. Second, an animal that was many more times the size of herself sat just next to her that was still hungry. She pulled the rest of the fish towards her and pulled the knife from her jacket pocket. She sliced the rest of the meat away from the remainder of the skeleton then cut that smooth chunk of meat in half, throwing the kinder half to Benetnash who she heard gobble it up within moments. But she cut her meat up in neat chunks one by one as she ate them. It took her about a half hour until she found that she couldn't muster another bite. So the generous amount she had left, she gave to Benetnash who had been watching her as she took eat bite with yearning. She herself was quite satisfied and hoped that Benetnash was too.
She lent up against his side like he was a huge boulder as they sat and listened to the rain, saw the blinding flash of lightning as it gave its next target a quick kiss, then the boom of thunder that closely followed. She turned her head to view the grassy slopes being soaked, her ear pressed against his body made her able to hear his booming heartbeat, resembling the thunder. She felt the beats flow through her as if they came from her own heart. The rhythms reminded her of a thing she once knew to be called music. Something that enhanced her spirit and made her feel as if she could do anything. Her chest seeming to swell with happiness at the entire present. Without thinking of the fact that Benetnash may not care or could even understand her by the slightest, she began to talk to him.
She told him her name, and how her mother had given it to her. The mother that was still up at the space station that was depending on her. She mentioned her father who she had very faint memories of. He never came along on the trip here and no one would ever talk about him. Which made things worse for her, having to imagine what had happened to him. Did he not want to come? Was he too sick to be able to come? Not qualified? Almost all of these theories lead to one horrible outcome that had haunted her forever. He was left behind on Earth to be killed by the sun that expanded in its final cry of life...
She told Benetnash about the space station and her beloved teacher, Alfred Tarik. She told about her now dead crew mates. They were her best friends on the station. There was Oliver and his sister, Thorn who both had bright blonde hair and beady black eyes. They were quite a beautiful pair of siblings. Then there was her good friend Ezra who had jet black hair, but his eyes shone a bright green.
The four of them together were a gang of golden hearts, is what everyone else would say. Born kind and funny and raised their whole lives to be brave and knowledgeable. Twenty years they were prepped for this highly important mission which had gone so terribly wrong. Tears came to Atlas's eyes as she discussed this, and she felt Benetnash wrap her in his tail comfortingly. She was snapped back to reality as she remember his presence after letting out all her feelings. She sat up quickly and looked at him. He had his eyes on her already, gazing upon her with pure empathy. He let his tail fall away form her.
Instead, he took one of the splayed ends of his tail and pressed it gently against the middle of her forehead. She felt herself dissolving from the world around her into a strange dreamlike state.
She stood alone near the edge of one of the immense plains of the planet. Even though it didn't quite feel like she was standing but floating. And she wasn't lone either. A pack of creatures were approaching. At first they looked like big black dots in the distance. But then she saw their long, splayed tails hanging in the air. It was a herd of Benetnash's species. They came closer and closer, their features becoming more and more distinct until they were almost upon her. She was about to dodge out of the way, but she was glued in place. Instead of swerving around her, they walked right through her like a ghost, not taking any notice of her.
In the middle of the pack she spotted a young one. He walked close to the flanks of who was obviously his mother. Atlas's figure now seemed to linger around this child, uncontrollably floating next to him as he walked at the center of the pack. Atlas did not try to resist at this point, she knew for some reason that what was happening to her was supposed to happen.
The pack continued in this fashion for a while until something caught Atlas's eye near the mountains. At first she didn't realize what it was, but it got closer and closer as they sprinted towards them. It was a pack. But not of the same species. Atlas saw that they were the same species as the tiger creature that had attacked her. Their pack was huge, outnumbering the others by at least two to one. Atlas tried to yell an alert about these newcomers when she saw that nobody had yet noticed. But she had no voice, no mouth to open and speak with. Only eyes to watch with.
This savage pack was on them quickly, and the bear-wolves noticed when it was too late. The tiger swatted with their huge, clawed paws and bit with their massive jaws lined with sharp fangs mercilessly. They had demolished half of the pack before they were even quite sure what was going on.
The mother was now pushing her son away from the battle, and Atlas's vision followed. She was pushing, urging him to turn to the plain and run, but he clung to her side, whimpering pleadingly. Over at the battle, only a few of the biggest males of the bear-wolves were still fighting, barely. The numbers of the tigers were surrounding the remaining few survivors who wouldn't last long. Atlas was surprised that none of them had seemed to notice the mother and child yet, but her thought was silenced when she saw one tiger turn its head and set them in his horrible white stare.
This specific tiger creature was by far the biggest. Atlas noticed this as it broke away form the rest of the pack. It lunged towards the mother who jumped forth to meet him midair. She put up a good fight for a moment until one of his giant paws met the side of her head. While she was disoriented for a moment, the tiger advanced on her and killed her quickly, her child forced to watch. But when the tiger creature delivered the death blow, Atlas noticed something happen to the tips of the child's tail. They began to burn red.
The tiger now turned towards the child with a malevolent look upon his blood covered face. When he leaped towards the child, the young one did the unimaginable and stood his ground, waited for the tiger to get in range, then whipped his tail across his face, burning two wounds across it. While the tiger was distracted, the child did the smartest thing and ran. The tiger creature did not follow him. He just watched him run off into the plain with his one good eyes, the other sealed shut from the cut sliced across his eyelid.
She now saw the image fading slowly from her vision. But once the battle scene disappeared, a new scene came to. It was the small bear-wolf, but no, he was much bigger. He was standing at the shore of the river that ran through the paradise that Atlas sat somewhere in the conscious world.
When the bear-wolf lifted his head from the water after he took a drink, it revealed that he was Benetnash. He was looking up at the sky with a look of wonderment and confusion in his eyes. Atlas turned to see what he was looking at. Soaring high in the sky was a small fireball shooting through the atmosphere. It disappeared from their vision when it passed the horizon of the forest up the slope. Before Atlas could turn back to Benetnash, she felt him run through her body that was apparently none existent. She watched him disappear through the trees in the direction the fireball had disappeared, but instead of following him, her vision faded into yet another scene.
She strode next to Benetnash who was approaching a huge fire up ahead on the plain. It wasn't quite distinct form where they were, but as they got closer, Atlas realized that it was the crash of their ship. At this moment, Benetnash stopped dead, and so did she, leaving them both standing and watching the scene play out intently. She saw herself waking from her black out to find her crew mates dead. Atlas wanted to cry all over again as she watched her reaction from afar, but she wasn't capable of it in her current point of view. She watched herself stumble away from the dead body of Oliver and fall on her back. She lay motionless for a moment on the ground, but noticed herself lift her head the slightest and stare right at them through the cracked glass of her helmet. But almost as soon as her head had lifted, it dropped and never rose again.
Atlas now found herself moving towards the scene along side Benetnash. He approached her limp body carefully, examining her as he was only about a foot away. He knew she was still alive, but as he gave a quick glance around at the other three members of the crew, he could tell that they were dead. When he returned his gaze back down at Atlas, he remained still for a moment, obviously thinking. The atlas that watched from his side did so eagerly, wanting to see what was about to happen. And just how she knew he would, he gently wrapped his tail around her limp body and carried her away from the crash. Atlas didn't have to be shown, she knew he was taking her to the edge of the bush forest.
Once again, her vision dissolved, and when it came back quickly, she sat back under the tarp tent with the current Benetnash, listening to the rumble of thunder. His tail lower from her forehead. He did not look at her, but into the low flames that slowly died in the rain. In return, she gave him a big hug, or at least slung her arms around as much of him as she could. She understood why he had shown her this. He showed her his life story just as she had told him hers.
It was to represent that he was an orphan, perhaps even the last of his kind. And that must had been why he decided to take her in. She was alone, barely alive among the dead of her kind, desperate for help. That is why he took empathy with her.
Both loners in a harsh world. She had become lonely just like he had. Left to fight the world without any comrades. Both separate, yet the same. Though their bodies took different shapes, they took the same profile to everything around them. They were both strange, without anyone around to call their own family, therefore taken as recluses, introverts- aliens...
"Benetnash," She said softly, "I need to get back." She wiped tears from her eyes. He stared at her almost blankly. "The space shuttle. The crash," She said as she made hand gestures to represent something falling and crashing into flames. There was a flash of lightening.
"I need to, Benetnash. Its extremely important, and you're the only one who knows where it is!" Her voice cracked. Atlas gripped his fur with the hand of her good arm. She curled up against him, listening to his heartbeat as it rumbled with the thunder above their heads. She remained here for several moments, listening to his heart beating faster and faster. Until suddenly she felt the familiar feeling of his magical tail wrapping around her waist. He lifted her up high as he got to his feet. Atlas looked at him awestruck. Before she had time to think, he had placed her on his back and was taking her away through the forest.