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The One-Man War
Mark was a stockbroker at JP Morgan in New York City. He had been raised in the Midwest on a farm, but the agricultural field was simply too laborious so he decided to relocate to New York. Since his move to the city he was able to avail of many more opportunities to pursue his dream. Since the onset of his career, he had been steadily climbing up the ranks of New York City corporations moving from the position of an assistant to one of the most prestigious stockbrokers on Wall Street.
It was now 2008, and the stock market had collapsed. With each passing day, Mark found himself more and more sleep deprived until he was now sleeping on the floor of his office regularly. Finally, he decided that he had enough and was going to return to his log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. There he would find a brief relief from the omnipresent stress that permeated his life.
“Come on, Mark! The market is crashing, and we need you to help with the trading! The company needs you!” exclaimed one of Mark’s co-workers.
“I have been here around the clock trying to keep us from going under. Just for once I need some time to myself,” Mark responded, “I am going to take a vacation. Oh, and by the way, I am leaving my phone here so don’t try calling me.”
This conversation was still ringing in Mark’s ears as he turned on to the highway in his beat-up Chevy pickup which was the only remnant of his prior farming life. What if he had made the wrong decision? His company was in turmoil, and he was leaving it in its time of need. What if he was fired for this? This was his dream job. Why should he risk it?
On the other hand, he had dedicated the past twenty years to the company rarely taking vacations. After years of devotion, I have earned a break.
Mark had turned off the main highway and was now on the dirt path leading to his cabin. He had expected to reach there in thirty minutes. That was a few hours ago, but still, the cabin was nowhere to be found.
“I haven’t visited the cabin in a long time. I probably forgot the travel time,” Mark reassured himself.
So he continued on his path into the forest. Mark kept an eye on the fuel gauge, and was comforted by the needle pointing at the halfway mark. Surely, he would be able to turn back if he needed to. However, as more time passed, Mark grew more and more uneasy. The sun was setting lower and lower, and now the wolves were beginning to howl. Mark looked once again at the fuel gauge. It had been an hour since he last checked, but the gauge was still at fifty percent. Then, Mark experienced a horrifying revelation. The gauge was frozen, and for all he knew, the tank could be empty. His worst fears were realized when the car sputtered, whined, and died. Mark was now stuck in the woods with a dead car, no phone, and no trace of civilization.
The wood was frigid with the autumn winds howling endlessly throughout the night. The eyes of the forest came alive with what seemed like thousands of red dots interspersed throughout the horizon. With each step he took, a terrifying crunch arose from the ground, as if alerting the environment to his presence. With each step, the wolves’ howls seemed to come closer. With each step, Mark’s heart beat a little faster, and his stress soared. What if I never get out of here? Why did I leave my phone? Nobody will ever find me; I didn’t tell anyone where I was. That was so stupid!
For hours Mark continued on this path of self-beratement. He finally sobbed with the pressure of all his fears.
Nonetheless, it was at this moment that Mark summoned all his motivation. What would his parents think of him if they heard that he had just given up like that? That without a second thought he submitted to the elements. No, I have to survive. I must endure for my family.
Mark quickly formed a mental checklist in his mind. Number one on his list was shelter. He aimed to create a makeshift home by using branches to insulate the back of his truck and then opening his rear window to be able to transfer between the inside and outside of the car. Mark set about going around to each tree collecting the strongest of limbs and placing them on the bed of his truck. It was laboring work, but with each branch that he lifted, he felt his resolve going stronger. After he was finally done, he turned in for the night.
When Mark awoke, he was surprised to see that the wall of branches he laid was bowed in. Mark then realized the sheer size of the animal that must have caused the damage. Not only was the back bowed in, but the thickest branches were snapped in two. Whatever it was, it must have been large and dangerous.
Unwilling to stick around to see the return of the beast, Mark stood upon the car roof and scanned his environment for a clue as to where to explore to find civilization.
To his horror, only ten feet to his left was the creature, a furious adult black bear standing on his hind legs. Mark’s heart stopped; at this moment his mind was flooded with all the stories that he had heard over his life. Am I going to end up like one of those people on the news? Will they ever find me?
Yet, there was little time to dwell on his fears. The bear approached the flatbed of the truck in an attempt to reach Mark. However, when the bear jumped, the rear structure gave way leaving the bear on its back stumbling to regain its stance. Now is my chance.
Mark sprinted into the forest in the hopes of losing the creature. The painting of his breath was only counteracted by the sound of the bear approaching behind him. With each step, the bear grew closer. The crunching of twigs and branches behind Mark was getting louder by the second. It was inevitable; the bear was going to reach him. Mark then made what seemed like his fatal deciding mistake. He turned around to see where the bear was and failed to notice the tree stump in front of him. With a crash, Mark barrelled down the side of a hill. Surely, nothing could save him now.
He was prepared to accept his fate. After all, he was a stockbroker, not a survival expert. It is a miracle I made it as far as I did. However, much to his shock, when Mark turned around, it was not the face of a bear that he saw, but rather the rear of the bear in the distance walking away. That is when he heard it, the noise of salvation. It was the honking of car horns. Out on the horizon, Mark could make out the outline of a highway. The sound of humans had driven off the bear and saved his life.
He sprinted towards the highway, and when he arrived there, it finally dawned on him that he was a survivor. He had overcame his inner emotions. He battled against doubt, pity, and beratement and had prevailed.