Ground rushed up to greet me. A darkness. I dont know where I was in that inky swirl, but at least it wasnt here. Only my shadow for a companion. Funny thing about companions, they tend to haunt you. I almost prefer the mosquitoes, even the occasional wild cat. They have a purifying quality, drawing my attention like a priest. A priest drawing a malevolent spirit from a human being. An exorcism on four legs with wings.
My last cigarette is nestled in my pocket in a cocoon of cellophane and card stock. Lord knows Im writhing to smoke it. I can feel it in every breath, my throat rasping for it, wanting to bask in its warmth. They used to mark the passage of time, one cigarette every five days. I had two packs after the crash, mine survived as well as the co-pilots. Too bad he didnt. The cigarettes used to mark time, but this last one is gonna mark my way out of here. Im losing days, losing her. But the days dont matter.
Hunger claws its way out of me, guiding every muscle in my body. Every move is calculated inside some far away chamber in my mind. Adrenaline floods my system, a needle in my heart. Im not dead? I choke down breaths, struggling to find my way into the world of the living. Something beeps, a steady stream. It follows the roar of the heart in my throat. I tear it from my wrist and look around. Its gone. I navigate around branches to where I last saw it. The blood trails to the right, and a shadow lunges from the left. A hot snarl bearing down on me reminds me I didnt black out. His yellow eyes boar down into me, almost hypnotic. I drop my press on his throat long enough to bring up my machete. He rolls over just as tooth meets skin. Shakes set in when the adrenaline abandons me.
The days bleed together like one big fever dream. My rucksack is always changing sizes on me. The patches cant make up their minds about where they go. My boots cycle through water logged, dry, and cracked on a whim. The little vampire bugs are drinking me dry. I wash myself in the moon but I feel no connection. Only to leeches. The team appears and disappears in the trees, up in the canopy, down in the trunks. I never meant to. Survival. Youll understand, wont you? But no one is there. The cats did howl, but I dont speak their language.
I can feel her watching over me. Shimmering, I can almost feel her again when I touch the moon. I just feel the water running through her hair. Thats enough for me. If I believed in higher powers, shed be my link. Religion was always her thing. Not mine, Id say. But out here, I see things. I see people, I shouldnt be seeing people. They shout as if so far away, but I see them. Their arms outstretched, I wonder if theyre death. Who said death had to be just one figure? I dont care. Im finally out of there.
In and out of doors, its good to be on dry land again. A fog has settled in, but I know Im in a safe place now. No more hunting, no more counting my cigarettes. The boys cant find me out here. Not here. But she can. And she did. Mercy, so thats what she is. I wouldnt have guessed. But why appear now? Why not when I needed it? She closes my eyes and I feel the world rush out from underneath me.
Fuel and fried electronics sting my nose. It cant be. Blood everywhere, a sinking feeling takes hold. I know this place. I know that man. I know his pack of cigarettes. It cant be, but it is. The bastards dropped me back in.