Wilderness - A Flash Fiction Short Story.
Richard woke from his short pain filled attempt of sleep, shivering in the harshness of the oncoming winter. His shattered right leg the real cause of such sharp pain, it kept him from sleeping longer than an hour or two at most. His thoughts returned continuously to whether anyone would know where to find him or where to begin to look for him. Of all the times he left notes of where he was going, this wasn’t one of them and he was now kicking himself for not doing so. He was thankful however, for always having a full pack with him where ever he went with the essentials that he might need, which always included extra food rations for emergencies.
As the last remains of the fading sun filtered through the heavy canopy, Richard shifted his weight and struggled to manoeuvre himself into a position in which it was easier to light a fire with. Not only would it provide him with a stable heat source, but it would also become his own mini cooker in which to provide himself with something hot to eat.
But despite being hungry, there was only so much he could eat through the clenched teeth of agony. He tried extremely hard to keep his leg still, but the cold closing in around him only intensified the pain. So much so that he started to drift in and out of consciousness. He soon struggled to differentiate between his reality and the hallucinations that danced before him. One minute he was basking in the sweltering heat of the desert sun, the next he was in the middle of a blizzard with snow drifts forming all around him. The cold, like an icy death grip, reached out towards him as he tried in vain to escape its reach, not even the heat of the fire could shake this one from him as it threatened to come closer. Fear filled his eyes as he fought as hard as he could to block out the pain as he shuffled further back until he could go back no more, a tree rooted deep prevented that. But as his back landed against the rough cold bark of the tree, the blizzard vanished into the deep setting darkness of night. In its place however arose a pair of glowing cat like amber eyes, just off the now frosty path. Once more he could feel the cold air reaching out towards him as he froze solid at the startling sight.
As he watched with no hope of escape, the glowing eyes had formed dark slits in place of pupils. Twice they blinked before him and then somehow they seemed to almost lunge towards him before stopping. Still they remained just off the path, in the shadows where the dark night held fast. There was no way Richard could tell what was now in front of him without moving, his mind flashing between it being reality, and imagination. His heart hammering against his chest as fear coursed through his veins like a river of a fire. Sounds of the forest had all but left him to fear the eyes alone, until the shrill screech of an owl filtered through the air, sending nothing but cold chills rippling over the surface of his skin.
Richard’s eyes shifted from those in front of him and searched for the source of the screech to no avail, he was all but blind in the dark of the forest now. Not even the stars could be seen below the thick overhead canopy. The fire in front of him only hindered his eyes from adjusting to his surroundings, and made him feel even more disorientated than he already was. Suddenly the sound of snapping twigs had him turning sharply back towards the frosty path. No longer were the glowing cat like eyes present from the shadows, he couldn’t see them no matter how many times he scanned the surround area. Relief washed over him in waves, each passing one bringing his heart down to a more reasonable pace until another sound of snapping twigs caused it to quicken once more.
“Death by heart failure, one man lost in the wilderness, a fool that’s all I am, unable to return home because of some blasted ice on the path. What a way to go.” Richard uttered quietly to himself as he watched the frosty path intently. His hand searching the ground around him for anything he could use a means of defence if the need arose.
Just then a voice could be heard before the outline of a man came into sight.
“Richard is that you?”
“That’s right Richard.”
“Oh thank god, I thought I’d be left to perish out here.”
“Not a chance mate. Let’s get you home.”
© Jennifer Don 2012