The fear of being awake.
I opened my eyes to a blue sky and white clouds. The wind rustled the leaves bringing with it the smell of apple trees. The sun was rising to my left warming my skin. I could feel the soft grass under my hands. It was a perfect day, one of those days that are usually only seen in movies and video games.
Something wasn't right. Sitting up, I looked around. This wasn’t my room, where was I? Grass was all around with a few trees here and there. A river bubbled quietly to my left and a small cave in a hill to my right. I stood up and turned around. Behind me was much the same, a flat prairie ending in hills about a mile away.
Climbing the nearby hill, I looked around to see if I could find any sign of civilization. There was nothing around, no sign of anything man made at all. The only sign of anything alive was a group of sheep gathered on the other side of the hill. I looked into the sky, there were no planes, no trails, nothing. I didn’t even see any birds.
“Hello” I screamed. “Can anybody hear me?”
I paused, holding my breath for any response. The only sound was the pounding of the sheep as they ran away.
Fear sparked deep inside me, I could feel my ears start to burn. What do I do, what do I do? I could start walking and hope I find something, but that could get me even more lost. What was I thinking, how could I get even more lost? I didn’t have any idea where I was or even what direction I came from.
I looked around desperately for any sign of how I got there. Tire tracks, foot prints, drag marks, something, but I find nothing. All I could see was the flattened grass where I woke.
My mind raced looking for some kind of sanity to grasp onto. A memory from my childhood floated to the surface.
When I was small, about six years old, I got separated from my parents in a mall. For two hours I searched, but couldn’t find them. A mall cop found me in a corner crying. He’d been helping my parents search. He called his central office to let them know I’d been found and we started back to where my parents were waiting. While we were walking he told me that I should never wander around when I’m lost, it’s almost impossible to find someone like that.
Grasping onto that memory, I felt the fear fade. I at least had an idea of what I needed to do; I needed to stay put. Just survive and wait, someone would come along.
Forcing my breathing to slow, I walked back down the flattened patch of grass where I woke. Looking around I saw the cave again and an idea flashed in my head.
I walked to the mouth of the cave and looked inside. The entrance was facing the rising sun so I could see the entire way to the back. It extended back from the entrance about twenty feet and to the left a little bit. There was no other way into the cave and there was no sign of bedding. Looks like nothing has claimed it as their own.
Now what do I do. I wish I payed attention to that survival show on TV. What was it called? It was the one where they guy kept drinking his own urine. Oh, that’s a good place to start. How about I see if the water is fresh, that way I don’t have to resort to that option.
The ground seemed flat to the river. I hoped it didn't flood, I didn't know what I’d do if my cave flooded in the middle of the night. Kneeling down, I didn’t see anything that would suggest the area flooded often, but I didn't exactly know what to look for.
I reached the river, about thirty feet away from the cave. It’s wasn’t vary deep, but it was flowing. I scooped some up in my hand and smelled it. It didn’t smell bad, so I took a sip. It tasted OK, not salty, so it’s fresh. Tastes slightly like algae though. I guessed I’d find out by the next day if it was OK or not.
Now what, where do I go from here?
I climbed back up to the top of the hill and looked around again. Nothing had changed except the herd of sheep was gone. I looked down at my cave, or at least where it should be. it was completely hidden from this direction.
That’s what I needed to do next; I needed to build a signal, something that showed there was more then sheep living here. I could build a bonfire, but I have no idea how long I’ll be here and there weren't a lot of trees around. I needed something a little more permanent.
An idea sprung to mind. I ran down to the nearest tree and started snapping branches off, as large as my arms were able to break. While I did that I found there were vines in the trees as well. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I grab a bunch and used them to lash together the branches I gathered.
Back at the top of the hill, I started working. I jammed two of the larger branches into the ground about shoulder distance apart and lashed the tops together with a third branch sticking up. Just below the top of the third branch I tie a forth branch perpendicular to the third. I bent a fifth branch into a circle and tied it to the top of the third.
Stepping back to admire my work, I sized up the stick man I had created. I grabbed it and gave a shake. Nothing fell off or even came loose. That should hold up to the wind and hopefully draw attention from anyone passing by. This is the highest point I can see from here, so the stick figure should be seen for a distance.
I sat down beside my stick figure and watched the sun. It had only risen a little since I started my project.
“Man, while this is a great sight, it’s going to get boring fast.” I said to myself. I had nothing else to do but sit.
My mind was soon lost in thought. I remembered yesterday, sitting at home alone watching TV. Wondering what I was going to spend my weekend doing.
As my mind wandered, it went further and further from reality. One moment I was walking across the prairie towards the hills, the next I was fighting a dragon.
Hunger snapped me out of my daydream. Looking up, I saw the sun was high in the sky. I had just spent several hours staring at nothing. Getting up I walked down the hill towards the river hoping to find a fish. They’ll probably be easier to catch then the sheep.
I didn’t see any close by, so I started walking down the river making sure I could see my signal the entire time. A little ways away, there was a small waterfall into a lake, a lake with fish in it. I reached in, but the fish swam away before I could even get close.
Looking around, I spot a tree. I could sharpen a twig and try to jab one. Ah, I’d never be able to hit anything. I got up and walked back to my cave.
An Idea hit me. I grabbed a rock out of the river and started hacking away at a branch. It takes a little while, but the branch breaks away and I got to work. After about an hour’s work I hold up the finished project. I don’t know how I did it, I’m not even sure why, but somehow I had made myself a wooden sword.
I hit the sword against the tree to test it’s strength; the sword didn’t even crack. This would do nicely.
I climbed back to the top of the hill and look around hoping to see the sheep again. I still didn’t see them, but I did see a pig in the distance. Looked like pork was on the menu.
I raced down the hill towards the pig. I got within a hundred feet and slowed down not wanting to scare it away. Kneeling down, I crept towards it. The pig looked up and I froze. We stared at each other for a few seconds. My fear of the pig running away wasn’t realized as the pig put it’s head back down and started eating grass again.
I sneaked to within a few feet and start thinking about what I was about to do. My heart fell into my stomach and I felt like I’m going to be sick. Here’s this pig, just minding it’s own business, and I was going to kill it.
Another jab of hunger reminded me that I had to do this. I raised my sword above my head, took a deep breath, and brought it down as hard as I can.
I heard a sickening crack and the pig staggered. I raised the sword again and swung it down. Another sickening crack and the pig falls over, twitching. One last swing finished the job.
I looked down at my kill who had, just moments before, been happily eating. I had to turn away as dry heaves came on. This is why I’ve never gone hunting before, this and what must come next.
It was hard with a wooden sword, but I was able to clean the kill. I had to stop several times while my stomach tried to heave up something that wasn’t there. By the time I was done my sides were killing me, my throat was sore, and my eyes were watering. The pig was heavy, I couldn’t pick it up so I had to drag it back to the cave.
Reaching the cave, I let go of the pig and fell over exhausted. After a few minutes of rest, I got back up to gather fire wood. I tried again and again, but was unable to start a fire for cooking. By this time I was unable to ignore the hunger. I cut out a small chunk of raw pork and smell it. It smelled just as nasty as I imagined, it didn’t taste any better. Oh, how I wished I didn’t skip dinner last night. I forced myself to eat it and keep it down; if I was going to survive, I needed to get use to it.
After I forced myself to eat more, I drug the pig away from the front of the cave. The last thing I wanted to see what that thing. I drank a little water to try to get the taste out of my mouth and sat down in my cave.
By then the sun was setting. I couldn’t see it since the cave was pointing the wrong way, but I could see the moon coming up and the stars coming out. Another breathtaking sight.
It reminded me of my days at my grandparents’ place. They had a farm out in the middle of nowhere, so there were no other lights. On a clear night, you could see every star in the sky.
With those comforting thought in my mind, I lied down and fell asleep.
I found myself standing on a hill overlooking the prairie. The sun was blocked by overcast skies and the wind was blowing cold. Shadows played across the ground making it look like living things were crawling around.
I looked at the hills to the north. A feeling deep inside started to pull at me, calling out to me. It drew me to the hills.
I was running towards the hills, dodging from side to side trying to avoid the shadows. Something was pushing me on to the horizon. Something deeper was pushing me away from the hill. These feelings twisted inside of me, turning my stomach inside out.
I reached the hill and started climbing. The hill was steep, I had to grab the grass to help pull myself up to the top. Keeping low, I looked over the crest. On the other side I saw a house.
It was small, just one story, with red brick and light blue siding. A warm light shown from the two large, main windows. I recognized this house, it was my home.
I ran down the other side of the hill and to the front door. I reached out to the door knob, but the door opened before I touched it. I looked up into the face of my mother standing in the doorway. She reached out with her arms and beckoned me inside.
She wrapped her arms around me and I closed my eyes. It was a bad day, being lost in the wilderness, but now it was over.
Something was wrong. I opened my eyes and found myself not in my home, but in a large hallway. The walls were made of gray brick and had doors of metal. The hallway stretched into the distance farther then I could see. Lighting the way were torches attached to the wall between each door.
I went to open the door to my left, but found it didn't have a knob. I walked down the hallway looking at every door, but none of them had knobs ether.
Further down I found a door that was different. It was wooden and did have a knob. Something told me this was a special door, and it wasn't the extra set of torches flanking the frame. That same something was pulling me inside.
I reached out, turned the knob, and pushed open the door. Inside was a grand library. Dozens of shelves held hundreds of books. Above the shelves was a large chandelier holding several lit torches. The light shined on a balcony overlooking the entire library.
I walked to the far left corner of the room where there was a latter up to the balcony. Before I reached the latter, a book caught my eye. It was black with gold trim, standing out from the lighter colored books surrounding it.
I pulled the book off the shelf. It was warm and seemed to glow with it's own light. The light got brighter as I touched the cover with my other hand. I flipped the cover open to blinding light.
I woke to glaring sunlight shining threw the cave entrance.
“Oh, I need to do something about that.” I said to myself.
Rolling over, I tried to go back to sleep; I never was a morning person. Just as I started to fall asleep again, I was jarred awake by a growling noise from just outside the cave.
My eyes shot open, but I didn’t move; I was frozen in fear. I could see my sword propped up against the wall of the cave just outside of arms reach. I could go for it, but whatever is outside might be attracted by the movement. I didn’t move for another moment, straining to hear anything else.
Staying still is probably a dangerously stupid idea. I needed to do something. My sword was right there, I could jump up, grab it, and face the beast in a fraction of a second. If I’m lucky I’ll startle it for a few moments. I just had to get over this paralysis that had claimed my body.
Mustering my courage, I jumped up, grab my sword, and spin around to face... nothing. All I saw was the sun still rising over the horizon.
Was it a dream? Did I imagine the growl?
Still being cautious, I creep forward to the entrance of the cave. Leaning my head out to take a peek, I saw a figure under the tree. Two arms, two legs, a head. It was a person!
“Hay, you there.” I called, rushing out of the cave.
As the figure turned towards me I instantly noticed something was wrong. The torn cloths I had ignored, but I didn’t notice the discolored skin when it was facing away from me. As the creature faced me, I looked into it’s eyes. It’s black, soulless eyes looked back at me. The creature started walking towards me and made that horrible growling noise again. Nope, not a dream, just a waking nightmare.
I was frozen in place just outside the entrance to the cave, my sword held low, not ready for an attack. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the situation. How was there a freaking zombie walking out of the shadow of the tree in front of me? God, it even had a stereotypical walk with arms straight out in front.
Just as it stepped out of the shadow of the tree, it burst into flames. The fire licked over it’s skin as it continued to stagger towards me.
Something was scratching at the back of my mind. There was something I should have been doing, something that was lost in the insanity of the situation. As the zombie came closer, that something grabbed hold of my brain. My body kicked into survival mode causing me to act without thinking. I raised the sword to the sky and brought it down as hard as I could on the zombie's head, splitting it open like a ripe melon.
The zombie stood still three feet away from me. I could feel the heat on my skin. It was like a cartoon where everything pauses after the final blow. The zombie fell stiffly backwards, hitting the ground with a sickening thud.
I took several steps back, trembling with fear. Taking a few quick looks around to make sure nothing else was around, I curled into a ball at the entrance of the cave. I watched the burning corps in front of me for what felt like hours. Once the fire burned itself out, all that was left was ash.
For a long time, my mind was blank. Then something stirred inside me. What else might be out there? What other kind of horrors could I face? And what would they do if they found me curled into a ball weeping?
That last thought managed to snap me out of my shock. Still weak from the attack, I leaned on my sword for support. I kicked the ash that was once a shambling zombie. There wasn’t much left after the fire. The ground around the ash wasn’t even burnt. At least that showed the zombies would die if exposed to direct sunlight. I wouldn’t have to worry about more of them during the day.
I looked around. The area didn’t seem any different from yesterday, but it was, wasn’t it. It wasn’t this peaceful prairie any more, that was just a facade. This place hid horrors that have never been seen before. Probably more then that.
I spotted the pig from yesterday. Then it looked like the worst thing I had ever seen. After the zombie, I had a new boundary on horror.
The wind changed and suddenly I felt sick. The pig did not survive the night. I guess I should have seen that coming.
Holding my breath, I drug the pig as far away as I could. I’ll have to find something else to eat, if my appetite ever came back.
I spent the next half hour washing my cloths and myself in the river. It was cold and didn’t work that well, but it felt good to do something.
Letting my cloths dry, I watched the sun rise. It was only about a quarter of the way up, probably about 9, 9:30. Now I wish I had a watch. I guess the time doesn’t really matter. It’s not like I have to go to work or anything. I was sure a lot of things I used every day would become worthless. Like clothing, somehow I don’t think clothing would be important out here. Then the zombie sprung to mind and checked to see if my pants were dry yet.
After I got dressed, I looked at my cave. The entrance was small, not much wider then I was. I should be able to make some kind of door.
I picked up the rock I used yesterday to make the sword and started beating away at the tree. It took a long time, but somehow I managed to cut it down. Don’t ask me how, I know I shouldn’t have been able to do that. What surprised me even more is when I started chopping the log into planks and succeeded.
A long time ago I had heard of people making nails out of wood. What the hell, I’ll give it a try. After a few hours of pounding, I had made myself a solid workbench. A few hours latter, I had a door at the entrance to my cave. It wasn’t perfect, It didn’t open all the way, but it was a door.
I turned towards the back of the cave and saw that it was vary dark with the door shut. I opened the door and looked out, the sun was already setting.
“I’ll live without the light for one more night.” I said and shut the door.
Sleep did not come easily that night. I tried, but was startled by every little noise. When sleep finally did come, I dreamt I was climbing the same hill as the night before. On the other side was my home, but to greet me inside wasn’t my family, but a group of zombies.
I woke in a cold sweat, my heart pounding so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest. I took several deep breaths to try to calm myself. It was just a dream I kept telling myself. The growling noises I was hearing from outside didn’t help any.
I stayed wide eyed awake the rest of the night until sunlight started prying threw the cracks in the door. I waited a little longer until the noises stopped before I dared open the door.
I carefully peered out the door and looked around. I didn’t see anything. The tree was gone so nothing could be hiding in the shadows.
Clutching my sword tight, I walked out of the cave. I still saw nothing.
There was a sudden noise behind me.
I swung around and brandished my sword at the noise. I’m sure the sheep was terrified.
“You scared the hell out of me.” I said.
The sheep bleated a response and went back to eating grass.
Still feeling the adrenalin rush, I leaned over and put my hands on my knees. Breathing deeply, I managed to slow my heart to a relatively normal pace. This level of constant fear couldn't be good for the heart.
My stomach growled. I looked at the sheep and thought of breakfast. I didn’t eat anything yesterday and the pig the day before wasn’t exactly filling. I raised my sword and the sheep looked up at me with it’s big eyes.
“Damn it” I yelled.
Putting down my sword, I turned back towards the river. If only I could catch a fish; they don’t look cute. Well, I better give it a try anyways.
Reaching the lake at the end of my little river, I looked out over the water. Something on the other side caught my eye. Walking around the lake I found melons, several of them. I cracked one open with my sword and smelled the insides. They smelled sweet, almost like honeydew. Three of them disappeared right there. I grabbed two more and walked back to the cave.
I felt so much better with a full stomach. I was even whistling when I got back to the cave. This might not be so bad. The days are safe, I just had to stay inside at night.
The sheep was still there.
“Look” I said to the sheep. “I found melons, I don’t have to eat you now.”
The sheep bleated a response.
I put the melons in a cool corner of my cave. Just before I walked out something caught my eye. In the cave wall are chunks of black on the gray stone. I look closer. The black sparkled a little bit in the sunlight.
“I think this is coal” I said to the sheep. “I could make torches out of this.”
How was I going to get it out of the wall? The rock worked on the tree, but somehow I didn’t think it would work here. I thought for a little while. What the hell, it worked for the sword.
I gathered up some of the spare wood I had around and got to work. Not long after I had a fairly sturdy wooden pickax.
I took the first swing at the coal expecting the ax to shatter in my hands, but it held up. Not only that, but it took a sizable chunk out of the stone. I kept pounding away until I had a nice chunk of coal.
Taking that coal and the last of my wood, I crafted some torches. Striking the first one off the wall, it light. The light wasn’t much, but it was steady. I jammed it into a crack in the wall and watched it for a little while. The light didn’t show any sign of going out.
I walked outside and looked at the sun. It was high in the sky; it was only noon. Maybe I should have waited until dark to test the torch. Ah, too late now. At least I can see how the torch works out while I still have time to try other things.
Several hours latter, I walked back into the cave. The torch was still lit.
Now I was confused. I’ve been able to do things these past few days that I should never have been able to do. I made a wooden sword to kill a pig and a zombie, I chopped down a tree with just a rock, I made a workbench with no wood working history, I made a wooden pickax that tore up the rock, and now I made a torch that’s lasted hours. Something’s not right here.
Shaking off the questions, I turn around to shut the door. The sheep from earlier in the day was standing in the door way.
“You want to sleep in here tonight?” I asked the sheep not really expecting an answer..
The sheep bleated.
“You won’t try to eat me, will you” I said jokingly.
The sheep bleated again.
“All right. Get in here, it’s getting dark.”
The sheep walked inside and I shut the door.
I lied down and the seep lied down next to me.
“You’re a friendly sheep aren’t you. You want to be my pet?”
The sheep bleated.
“All right, but you’ll need a name. How about Frank?”
The sheep licked my face, then put it’s head down and fell asleep.
“All right, Frank it is. Nice to meet you, Frank, my name’s Nathan.” I said and laid my head back. “Hell of a place you have here”
I fell asleep much easier then the night before. It’s amazing what having a friend around can do. If you can’t have a friend, something that’s not going to kill you is the next best thing.