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The Goldilocks Condition
I simply stared out into the night of null moon that lay beyond the mouth of the cave I had taken refuge within. The cackling fire that I had made sat before me, conjured up from the bed of wood beneath the spectral inferno, casting off a light that, upon contact with the walls of the cave, arose an eerie, sporadic, phantasmal masquerade of dancing, omnipresent shadows. Whatever the light didn’t unveil within the cave was ruled by the Lethean depths of the flowing darkness that bled from the oblivion outside. The ubiquitous scent of pine and ember lingered within the volume of the cave, adding what seemed to be yet another element of the despotic forest. It even began to feel that my memories of days past began to fade, but I suppose that’s what happens when one must focus on the now. Being lost in the middle of the woods does that I suppose. The dark nights, the strenuous days, and the isolation, they pick and pull at your ability to remember the faded days of one’s life. It was as if my memory of living on civilized Earth had all been a mere fantasy I conjured up in a lengthy dream. Even remembering my own name, Jak Yell, has become something of a task.
Sometimes I’d just think about various memories, typically the one regarding the crash, the most recent and major memory I am able to replicate with clarity. It felt like yesterday, the crash. It’s amazing how a mere flight from London to Anchorage can turn into the dire situation I’ve been forced to assess and survive through; stuck in the woods of Siberia. I never really new what exactly happened with the plane. We were supposed to stop at a local airport for refueling in the middle of who-knows-where, Russia. We didn’t have as much as we had thought, however, and we were forced to crash land. I was knocked unconscious hitherto the actual impact; I had hit my head on the slide-out tray table whilst trying to readjust it into its proper position due to the turbulence.
When I woke up, all I could register was the almost arcane light of the evening sun, the vermilion rays casting their veil throughout the forest, as well as all around me. A sharp pain set in just after that. I yelped in the abruptness of the pain, wincing and falling to the ground, clutching my right thigh. Upon contact, my hand felt wet, and despite my eyes being closed from the pain, I could easily there was some sort of gash, as I was bleeding at a profuse rate. I opened my eyes to look at the wound. It was only a gash that was roughly six inches long and plausibly an inch deep running up in a vertical line up my right thigh. With the blood, however, it looked like a black ravine outlined by a deep, mesmerizing red. I’ve always thought of the color of blood as the pure, quintessential shade of red. It always looked almost velvety to me, yet it held a sense of clarity.
A broken off piece of the tail end of the plane had happened to land in my vicinity, and, by pure chance, a first-aid kit was within its confines. I cleansed my laceration and bandaged it. Near where I landed, I had also found the very cave I inhabit currently. Its mouth was about fifteen feet wide and ten feet high. These measurements stayed the same for within the cave. The back was only about thirty or forty feet inside the cave, and I could tell that it was uninhabited. I decided that I’d better situate myself within this fine piece of shelter until help comes. That was roughly two weeks ago.
Ever since then, I’ve kept myself alive by consuming berries that I’ve deemed safe and any wildlife I’ve been able to hunt. About half a mile west there lies a fairly large lake with immaculately clear water, I could even see the bottom, despite the estimated depth of about ten feet.
It was only about a week ago that my optimism began to fade. On a night, quite like this one, it had hit me. It began with rogue thoughts such as “I wonder if they’re still looking for me”, or “I wonder if anyone knows where we crashed.” But I began to seriously debate and deduce every bit of information I could muster from the various scenarios played out through my head, a form of thinking I’m wont to performing. On that night, I began to come to the terms of the situation, and of the perpetual hopelessness that followed me thereafter. After that night, no positive thought could have propelled into me a modicum of mere hope. I started to become home sick. I missed my delightful house back in Glasgow. I missed the people, the architecture, my friends, and my job as a writer. I yearned for the feeling of a pen in my hand. The sheer ability to record my thoughts was lost, and that hurt probably the most. I’d even say I missed the weather!
I began to debate whether I should even continue living. The hunger drove me to continue my habitual means of survival, yet through the cracks of thinking time I dug here and there, I questioned the very purpose of simply going on. Perhaps this sense of mindless survival was comparable to death, I thought. The means of art, music, and literature where completely expelled from my life, and I slowly began to realize the purpose of art. It gave a value to the variable of life. It gave purpose to the nihilistic microcosm that is the life of mere survival, the life I now fear I am doomed to lead thither death’s door. Art gave value and will to the act of survival. It empowered alternative thought and philosophy. The sempiternal fear of death, a motivation that is an instinctual aspect of almost all humans, is the only motivation I can muster nowadays. The possibility of rescue seems too far-fetched for me to even consider, let alone rely on. I do sometimes wonder if a factitious faith as thus would do me any good; a blind and perpetual optimism that convinced me that everything would be fine and dandy. I decided it would not be to my benefit, seeing as it only bring upon periodical bouts of disappointment, a conflict I wished not to have to deal with. It also felt artificial to force into myself this sort of glossy, faux happiness that would only stem from a stuttering desperation.
The worst, however, was the loneliness. The concepts of conversation and relation were exterminated thereafter the crash, two quintessential concepts that hitherto the crash I had held dearly in my day-to-day life. All my friends, all my connections, all my relationships, were gone. Sometimes I’d find myself wanting to burst into tears, unable to bear the constant internalization of every piece of information I had within the lonely macrocosm that was my mind. Sometimes I’d even talk to myself, having full length conversations with myself, completely vocalizing all my thoughts and even agreeing with them, possibly to see if I still had a voice; possibly to see if the falling tree still made a noise, even though there isn’t anyone around to listen. Did I matter anymore? Was my purpose on Earth a piece of minutiae among the grand cosmopolitan? And along with the crash, did the piece of minutiae that was my apparent purpose upon this Earth arrive to its final dénouement? I’m probably just living on pure will, the will to live, I thought. The aspects of life that applied value to the concept of survival had vanished.
And with that, I sighed a sigh of grievance, permitting my melancholy give into fatigue, escaping this would-be nuit blanche. Severing the bond of light and dark, distinguishing the minuscule lambent cast by the myriad components constructing supernal anatomy, gazing down overall suffering, all joy, all fear, and all pain, including mine. I stood, gazing out from inside the maw of the cave, my cave, poised in a lanky fashion. I looked down in a fit of pacific, yet sharply focused thought. With yet another sigh, I walked over to my ersatz cot, and I lowered myself into the bed of soft leaves and twigs I had fashioned. My back groaned and my limbs lumbered off to my sides.
For a second, I wondered why I was even trying to go to sleep. It was only just after I had realized that was just one of the many superfluous thoughts inducing depression and the hunkering of my will, using subjective bouts of cunning and cutting nihilism for said mental assault.
I just wanted it to all stop, the loneliness, the meaninglessness, and the repetition. I continued to lie down, begging for sweet, seraphic sleep. After a while of staring up at the black mass of the cave, I finally slipped into a slumber, a slow, dreamless slumber.
Days have passed since that atrabilious night. I’d say how many if my mind hadn’t reduced itself into what I only perceive as a mad lump of a klutz. Light and dark, east to west, rising and falling, waxing and waning, only to continue anew. Words have been uttered; yes they have, but only mine. I’m the only one to talk to; I’m the only one who’ll listen. The animals talk, the trees listen, but only I do both. It’s maddening, it’s insane, I know, but at least it comforts me. At least I’m here to remind myself that I’m here; I forget every so often that I am here. It feels so unreal to be here all alone for so long. I’m the only thing here that prescribes a differential element to these woods and these mountains. The only thing keeping me sane is the very thing making me go insane, ironic. Each day goes further and further into the abysmal depths of the repeated fate I’m doomed to continue on and on for the rest of my life.
But at least I’m there to make it interesting. At least we are here for each other, I and myself. We catch deer when we wake; we get water by the lake, and prep the fire for bedtime and cooking. Where would I be without me, my only friend out here? Where would I be without the person I can only talk to every day, the unnamed phantom within my head, replying to each and every one of my thoughts every so often? He moved in just a couple of days ago, begun hanging around up there in my noggin. In my own separate thoughts, I’ve begun to refer to him as Klyde, a name I’ve always admired.
Even when I do something as regular and mundane as walk to and fro the lake, like right now, he always talks, and I listen, or vice-versa. It’s as if he were the majestic, haunting mountains in the distance, or the daunting pine trees all around, always watching, observing my every move, and no matter where I go, he follows right behind. He is everywhere, always with me, yet always only with me.
“It’s interesting how easy this stuff burns,” I said to myself whilst putting down a heap of sticks and twigs I mustered as per usual, “It’s like something out of the store.”
“Thank God, or we’d be dead...” Klyde said in a somewhat hostile tone inside my own mind, as if to blame me for some anonymous fault held against myself. Sometimes he’d just talk to me in my own head, but sometimes he’d talk through my own mouth.
I set up the campfire, and then finally conjured up the incorporeal blaze from the lumber below. I gazed outside, watching the sunlight slowly ebb into the eventide. The tree’s green tint flared with a diaphanous veil of vermeil. Off yonder in the distance, the mountains abound punctured into the vermillion sky of the dying day like unevenly serrated fangs, bleeding a sanguine glow down the razor-sharp cordillera from the lucent wound of the scarlet æther above. The clouds loomed among the conflict as well, though lacking in numbers, glimmering with a gradient color effect, transitioning from a fading pink into an undead indigo as if to represent the larger transition of the zenith of noon to the nadir of midnight.
From the refuge of Shelter Hill, the name I gave the hill that harbors my cave, I stared upon the spectacle with a placid, yet captured interest. It was a transfixing sight. It felt epic and empowering.
My face then furrowed into a serious expression. “We’re supposed to actually work, you know, not look at pretty sunsets. Got to actually work to survive, hence natural selection,” Klyde remarked snidely out-loud, with a hint of condescendence.
“Fine,” I sighed.
The daily catch was cooked, and we ate. After dinner, I resumed to watching the shadows dance upon the walls, and listen to the cackling of the fire. I stared out into the dark, the moonlight lightly illuming the outside in a phantom aura, revealing the lithe, skeletal branches outside.
“...How nice of a sight, don’t you just love the macabre?” Klyde said in a slightly exaggerated tone of interest.
“...No- I mean, not before really. I never really thought about anything that could be described as ‘dark’, aside from the occasional Poe story and eerie painting.” I began in a phlegmatic tone; “I guess extended isolation does that to you... Makes you realize the darker side of things, yet also see beauty in them.”
“ Perhaps it’s what I have you see. You know, you’re so lucky to have me, to have you see this perspective, instead of that pathetic, happy-go-lucky perspective all those morons had you believe,” Klyde remarked.
“They weren’t morons-!”
“Doesn’t matter now!” Klyde interrupted, “all you have is me. Fabrication of your own insanity or not, I’m still here, alone, with you.”
I didn’t know how to respond to myself... I stared down at the floor of the cave, ash bristled and dark, breathing deeply in a pacific dole. “I know...”
“I know you know! You don’t need them; all you need is me. Fate took them away, but fate won’t take me away. You’ll always have you,” Klyde reminded me in an ominous tone. He was right, I would always need something; let it be humanity, or him. “You’re so lucky-”
“No! If I were lucky, I wouldn’t be here, with myself, with you!” I bellowed. From cold and frigid to passionate and disturbed, I began to breath heavily. “You’re a b****rd, K-Klyde...” I sneered, clenching my eyes tight to hold back as much emotion as I could.
Everything grew silent, both externally and internally. I looked up, my face flushed with a bruised scarlet hue. All I could see were the silhouette of ghostly, moonlit existence looming outside the front of the cave, out past shelter cave and into the infinite. I hastened into the back of the cave, huddling up into a fetal position against my bed. My tearful eyes quivered upon prolonged exposure to the dark void that hung around the cave and outside. Though lachrymose, I began to calm down, conciliating my rate of breathing into a rate calm and collectedness. Amongst heaven’s night, the ever-engulfing darkness within the maw, swallowing me into the dark loneliness I was situated within once again, I sat, hunkered into my own sanctuary, simply thinking. Sans Klyde, I was controllable, as well as un-disturbed by his sheer cynicism, I thought, but at the same time, I was lonesome again. Did I even have my own self for support this time? Even when alone and cold within a hill deemed ‘shelter’ by my own desperation, even in my time of harrowing need for a fellow companion, the best I can do is muster up this character. I summoned forth the darkness that lurks within our minds to befriend, shaking hands with the Devil.
Woebegone and weary, I finally lied down. My head was silent, as was the murkiness outside. I finally accepted my somnolence, and slowly drifted off to sleep within the light of a full moon and null stars.
From the outside of the cave came a familiarity that comes to us most mornings, one of a bright new day, or a bright new tragedy. The rosy ichors of the sun did shine, a promise reprised, through the portal of Shelter Cave. I got up, rubbing the slumber out of my eyes and lumbering over to the outside of the cave, greeted by yet another day within the wilderness.
“Good morning,” Klyde suddenly said, mildly surprising me. I almost replied, when I stopped myself, and just began to think for a moment.
“...Do you think anyone is looking for us...?” I asked, pondering the question with great dignity and assertiveness. The only response, however, was a mere caustic chuckle on Klyde’s part that seemed to burn at my torn faith and esteem, than suddenly he disappeared yet again into the labyrinthine halls of thought.
Slightly disappointed, both by Klyde’s abrupt absence and by my snowballing question, I decided a drink of water would perhaps bring a better light to this day. I began treading through the evergreen wood, hearing the forenoon symphony of birds play out its arrhythmic, yet dulcet hymn to the bright morning existence. Despite the rather pleasant description, a dolorous air still continued to loiter around myself. Was anyone looking for me, or at least any of the others? All I did was walk, for stopping in contemplation did little good in comparison to contemplation whilst walking. In other words, I didn’t let this meddlesome notion solidify into something that could potentially injure, for I knew d*mn well such a question could and would infect my cranium and continually berate my cerebral cortex for a consenting answer, only to leak into my frontal lobe, scarring me further through the dismay of never finding an answer, as if my pessimistic ontological beliefs and swelling lunacy weren’t already bad enough.
I began to near the lake, familiarizing myself with the subdued scent of freshwater mixed with the default scent of pine. Once at the lake, I walked onto the bank I usually situated myself at, and began to wash my face. The cold, sobering water felt like a relief, bringing me back into this world, this stark reality.
When I was done, I cupped my hands and began to dip them down, than I paused. Something felt out of place. Everything was where it should have been. I eyed the all around the lake, only to catch the sight of something I never thought I’d ever see; Humans. I spotted the silhouette of two humanoid figures, what looked to be a male and a female, and I began to gawk in awe. They didn’t see me, so I began to holler. They stopped and looked at me with similar surprise, and began running over towards my position. Finally, they caught up to me, and I could finally see the two of them.
One was a woman, about 40 years of age, yet struck naught of age. Rather, her look of experience and wisdom spoke to me of a life well lived under a purpose she was content with sustaining, whatever it might be. Her face was framed in a disheveled, yet fixed shell of blonde hair. Her nose, somewhat long in length, drew up her face into a pair of two hazel eyes, studious and well read at the least. The man, however, looked younger, around his early perhaps. His look of grit and drive spoke fathoms about his personality. His eyes shone with a gelid blue tint, sharp as a hawk, piercing like an icicle. His hair was short and ruffled, as well as dark, ebony dark. He was fairly tall and well built.
We simply stared at each other, baffled by our coexistence. After about a minute, the woman broke the silence: “What the-”
“Laura, I’ll handle this,” the young man interrupted, raising his hand in a conceited fashion as if to keep the lady at bay; she only replied with a look of vexation, like that of an impatient child, only with a justifiable purpose, as well as of that of one who’d been putting up with this person for quite some time. “Hello, sir, I’m John Casy, John Dwayne Casy,” he said with a southern accent, holding his hand out to shake as if this were more casual than revolutionary. I shook his hand anyways. “This here is Laura Gillespie,” he continued.
“H-hey, my name is Jak, Jak Yeller. I’m sorry if this sounds a little candid, even sudden, but what are you two doing here, ” I said slowly, stuttering a little bit, still in wonder of the situation.
“I could just say the same thing about you. Well,” John began, “I was aboard this flight, you see, but it crashed in these here woods. I think it was flight-”
“4000...” I said, finishing his sentence, widening my eyes. I wasn’t the only survivor, I really wasn’t!
He looked at me funny for a minute, sharing the same expression of surprise as I held. He then chuckled and replied, “Well h*ll-fire and d*mnation, I thought I was the only alive!”
“Yeah, same...” I replied, trailing off in a daze into a silence.
“I, on the other hand, got lost,” Laura began in what sounded like a Russian accent, yet I could tell she spoke perfect English by her proud dictation of that first sentence she uttered. “I was on a business vacation, and decided to go camping. I got lost, however, and met up with John two days ago.”
“You’re lucky you found me too,” John mentioned with a tone of swagger. Laura just replied with a glare. “So, little man, how the h*ll have you been keepin’ yourself alive?”
“I, uh, found a cave, actually, right after I woke up from when I was knocked out. I’ve been calling it Shelter Hill,” I replied with a little chuckle, “It’s a miracle, really. There is also a helpful abundance of edible vegetation around as well, like berries. There’s good game around here as well; anything from rabbits to chipmunks to fish.”
“Well ain’t that just dandy! I can tell you’re a little camper,” John commented, clearly patronizing me. I could hear a little whisper in the back of my head; the words were indistinguishable, but I could tell the tone was one of contempt and irritability, and I also could tell it wasn’t my voice as well. “I, on the other hand, am an Eagle Scout, so I know what the h*ll I’m doing. I’ve been keepin’ Laura here alive, as well as myself, with all my nature skills and whatnot,” the smug John continued, lightheartedly mocking Laura.
“I see...” I said.
“Well, we better get a move on! Where is this Shelter Mountain?” John asked.
“Shelter Hill, you meant to say,” I corrected, “And it’s about half a mile that-a-way,” I continued, pointing my finger in direction opposite of the lake, southward.
Laura and I started to walk, when John held out is arm in front of us. “Ah ah ah! Leader of the pack goes first,” John commented. He started trotting along, boasting a tall, straight stature of vanity.
“You’ll get used to his narcissism,” Laura replied, her accent flowing over the words beautifully, like the kind of sexy Russian accents you here in movies. She surprised me a little as well; I nearly forgot she was there!
John walked ahead of us, whilst Laura and I lagged behind a little. The now noon sun shined high above our heads, intensifying the Carolina blue sky above. I breathed in the soothing pine, relieved that I had finally found actual people to communicate with. Then Laura began to walk beside me, and after a while, I decided to spring up a conversation. “So you said you were on a vacation trip?” I asked.
“Agreed,” She replied, “I am a translator for a business firm in Saint Petersburg.”
“Interesting,” I said.
“I can tell by your accent that you aren’t from Russia or America. Where are you from?” she asked.
“Oh, me? I’m a writer for an advertisement agency in Glasgow, Scotland. Good work, good pay in my opinion.” I replied.
“Sounds pleasant. I had a friend while growing up who also loved to write, she reminded me of you: sparky, yet civil,” She added.
“So what the h*ll does Mr. Bravado do up there, eh?” I asked, chuckling. She giggled too, clearly agreeing with my remark.
“Oh, some sort of engineer. I also know he’s a part-time scoutmaster, whatever the h*ll that is. I’m not sure what all that stuff really is, to be honest.”
“I’ve heard of it, never really understood what it was myself,” I answered.
“It’s honor, integrity, and moral straightness, that’s what it is! Y’all better not insult my passions, “ John butted in, sounding angry, showing a lucid, fervent loyalty to whatever the h*ll scouting was.
Laura and I gave an apology, to which John retorted with a lecture about this and that about honor and values and his superiority. I’m not sure if Laura was paying any attention to it, but I sure wasn’t. There was an itch in my head, not a physical one, but a mental one. It was persistent and irksome, yet I couldn’t stop concentrating on it. It strummed my curiosity, thus I focused in on it. I never deciphered said itch, but I did speculate that it did emanate from some deep, seething anger within me. I didn’t feel angry at the time, even towards John I felt collected and casual, a feeling I’ve been surely wishing I’d feel again. I just continued to walk, blocking out the voices and noises and everything else all around, just focusing in fascination.
In short time we arrived. We would’ve walked by it had I not snapped out of my trance, for Laura and John, of course, wouldn’t have recognized the cave at first. We situated ourselves in quite nicely.
Laura and I spent the afternoon preparing the two new cots for her and John to sleep in. Like mine, it was also composed of soft leaves and the like. When we were about done, John returned with two fresh rabbits for dinner. As the day ebbed and eventide arose, Laura prepared a fire, John skinned the rabbits, and I helped cook them.
It began to rain whilst we ate. It was a quiet dinner, not out of any of the superfluous conflicts that befell hitherto, but the feeling of fatigue that we all shared. We ate in silence, all of us in some sort of lugubrious tranquility, as if to mourn all of our past lives, like lonesome dejected spirits ejected from our families, friends, and hobbies. Even John, in his prowess and bravado, looked distraught. It felt nice to connect with these two, even if we connected through misery and forlorn hope. Whether our doom was true or not, we withheld our angst from consuming us whole.
We trudged over to our beds and lied down in the darkness. The rain had simmered into a mere drizzle, rattling outside. The wind blew a mournful call into the valleys and mountains, as if to send alert of our troubles and whereabouts, only to go unheard upon absent ears.
“...It’ll be okay...” John uttered poignantly; the first time I saw genuine emotion from him. I nodded at his reassurance, and we all drifted asleep.
Over the next couple of weeks, life played out rather well. We all organized jobs for one another to do, and we all followed accordingly. Every night, we’d all tell stories, whether it was about John’s childhood, Laura’s life in Russia, or my life back in Britain. It was pacifying to finally solidify back into regular human nature, fueled by natural human interaction. Like a crisp spring morning, it was refreshing to be back into this plane of reality. Civilization now felt closer to us all. From our lonesome sanctuary, we kept ourselves company; we kept ourselves alive, like an actual working commune. Together, we truly made this hunk of rock into something we could define as ‘home’. As cheesy as it was, it also touched my heart. I never thought I’d ever be able to have something so precious as this.
Sometimes I’d think of home, or of my friends, or of my job. I’d ponder whether it was really all worth it. Of course, in my mind, John and Laura were a perfect replacement. We held together a web of resilience and hope. We reassured each other that we’d be rescued, and even if not, we’d still always have each other.
As time grew on, we began to get closer, really learning about one another. I’d never have guessed that John’s dad had left him when he was only a child, or that Laura had to overcome a vile suppression against women, yet still came out on top. I felt at peace with these two.
I also began to notice that I heard less and less of Klyde each passing day. When we would talk, he’d spurn the two others as fools and morons, as well as heralding me of some future betrayal. I ignored him however, and despite him growing more vengeful each time, I did begin to also hear less and less from him, and eventually he disappeared completely.
With Klyde gone and John and Laura here with me, I began to feel like the old Jak Yeller. It felt so picturesque, our little community here within the deep Siberian wilderness.
However, conflicts began to arise. Every once in a while, one of us would want more of something, or get irritated by another one’s habits or faults. Nothing too major occurred; nothing we couldn’t handle and get over. Every once in a while I could sometimes see John try to control himself. I never paid much attention to it, for I had no idea he had been secretly damming up his negative feelings.
It wasn’t until a few nights ago that something finally happened; the dam broke. It wasn’t unusual for Laura to sometimes nag John to do this or that. This time, however, her just snapped. He began to yell and shout at her, complaining to her how big of a ruddy loaf she was. Eventually he walked out into the night. We called out for him, but we never found him.
He finally came back that next dawn, holding an expressionless face. We all carried out our daily survival regimen, however John had barely spoken to either of us the entire day, though Laura held an air of underlining contempt whenever he was around.
This awkwardness lingered for a few days. John and Laura’s tension grew as well, I could see it in one another’s eyes that they truly began to abhor one another. I tried to play peacemaker between them every time anything seemed to really spark, but all it did was placate them for yet another conflict.
Finally, the last night of the little feud between Laura and John arrived. John had ruined dinner by accident. I, for one, wasn’t all that angry. Laura, on the other hand, was absolutely livid. She nearly hit him for his offense.
“I swear to God, John, your moronic head will be the death of us!” She bellowed.
“Maybe if you weren’t so d*mn rebellious, you’d finally shut up and do some real work around here, like a good woman should!” He retorted.
“Don’t tell me my place as a woman! I’ve lived a life full of that superfluous male cr*p, and I’ve had it!”
“You know what? I’ve had it as well! Screw you two, “ John exclaimed, “I’ve had enough of y’all jerkin‘ my chain around like I’m some cur y’all can just use up all you want, like I can lap up all your d*mn problems! Y’all are d*mn lucky you’ve had someone as experienced as me out on this here field workin’ my butt off for you fools! I have had it!” And with that, John once again left into the woods. We figured he’d return as he did the last time. I talked to Laura about John’s outburst, telling her that perhaps we have over-exasperated his resources. She was stubborn at first, but she slowly came to agree with the idea, though I could tell she wasn’t nearly as keen on the notion as I was.
That next day, however, John didn’t return. We looked all around for evidence of his existence, yet we found nothing. With the lack of footprints, markings, or anything, it seemed as if John had vanished into thin air. We eventually gave up looking for him, hoping he’d return that night. He didn’t return, though.
That night, however, Laura and I heard sounds off in the distance. They were crackling noises, the sound of twigs breaking under one’s shoes, as well as an occasional hacking noise. We called off yonder John’s name, though we were disappointed by no response. At first, we debated whether the noises were real. In the end, we declared it was just some animal.
It wasn’t until the next day that, upon examination of where we had heard the noises from the previous night, did we find weird markings upon the surrounding trees, like that of a hatchet. We also found an odd pile of stones; one that I knew must have been made recently, as I had never noticed something as non-entropic as that. Piles of stones don’t materialize out of pure chance.
Laura and I were both intimidated by these oddities, and we knew they correlated with the noises we had heard. We wondered why on Earth there were marks upon the trees, or what sort of arcane reason could have been mustered by John to compose random piles of stones. We joked about him plausibly going mad. We laughed at first, though we both knew that it was a grave possibility, one of somber, yet unclear consequences. It wasn’t until the next night did something happen.
I awoke to the sudden shrill of screaming. I gasped and flinched, looking up. I looked out to see what could have caused the noise. Coming into the frame of the cave was what looked to me like something out of a horror movie. A bloody, bruised, slightly limping Laura came up upon me in tears. She had a black eye and a split-lip, along with what looked to be strangulation marks upon her neck. She was panting and sobbing at the same time, creating a grim, disjointed noise of sorrow desperation and terror. I grabbed her shoulders lightly, holding her upright.
“L-Laura, are you all right!?” I exclaimed.
“I- He- ran… I barely got away, Jak!” She heaved, panicking.
“You escaped from what?”
“He’s a madman, Jak, a madman!” Laura yelled, anxiety-stricken, “He tried to kill me, he did! I barely got away, help!”
“Who tried to-”
“John! That b****rd, he’ll get us!” She cried.
Then came the cold realization. My breath was caught short, and I retorted my gaze all around. I let go of her and began to walk out of the cave, livid, yet confused.
“Wait!” Laura exclaimed from behind me. I turned around to look at her. Her knees had buckled from under her, and she was resting on the ground. She looked at me with a sharp gaze, however.
“What is it?”
“If you find him, please, don’t do anything crazy, like…kill him…” She gulped when she uttered that last phrase. I nodded in response, then turned around and set out into the moonlit realm.
I ran, simple as that. Through the fleeting woods I dashed, moonlight struck my body with every leap I took. With adrenaline induced agility and speed, I sprinted. Came beneath my feet the crunching and cracklings of copious leaves and sticks. Despite the pain in my bare bloodied feet, I continued. I looked around my ephemeral surroundings like a hawk giving its prey a good chase. Step after step I heaved breath after breath into my lungs, fueling my grueling run as I felt the beat of my heart stimulate further and further; an afflicted war anthem that chanted throughout my willpower.
Finally, I tripped. It wasn’t a bad fall, but it did hurt. I groaned and limply got up, looking around at my surroundings. The ethereal moonlight shined an eerie mask of azure around a clearing that I happened upon. I began to walk forward, forgetting my motives for a second to analyze my surroundings. I was alone again, within this clearing under the celestial firmament, engulfed within the cascade of moon and starlight alike.
“You gave in, didn’t you?” I flinched and turned to the source of the voice. In the place of John stood a lanky, ragged man. “That wench sent you here…”
“John…D-did you really try to…-”
“No,” John said, stepping into the moonlight. That was when I saw his true form. Like Laura, he to was bruised and bloodied. He bore a bloodied nose and a cut lip, as well as a small cut upon his forehead. “She tried to kill me, crazy woman. She wanted all the food for herself, but I said no. She came at me like an animal I tell yah! She hit me here on the forehead with a big ol’ stick ‘n’ nearly knocked me cold!
“But I saw… her eye,”
“I know men ain’t supposed to hit women, but this time…”
I was utterly confused. John attacked Laura, Laura attacked John; I didn’t know who to believe.
“I think we should go back, Jak,” John insisted.
“Yeah… I suppose that would be best, perhaps she’s calmed down. Laura doesn’t seem like one to get all enraged like that,” I said. I began to walk, but I paused. Something felt out of place, out of touch. The correlation of things didn’t seem to match up. Then, I remembered her other bruise. “Wait, John, I saw marks on her neck, they looked to be strangulation marks…”
I heard no response. I looked around for him, but I didn’t see him. I stepped forward, right as I heard a sudden SWOOSH. I nearly fell from the suddenness. I turned to see John holding his small hatchet. Laura was right; John was the culprit.
“You really shouldn’t have asked that,” John Casy warned, an eerie malice seething from some demonic depth from within him. I stepped back a couple steps, and he stepped forward a couple steps, hatchet in hand, and eyes affixed on me, his icy blue eyes shining grimly against the illumination of the nocturnal sun. They seemed to lacerate my very mind and soul, transpiercing mine own eyes with their bitter, arctic glare.
Then I ran yet again into the forest. This time, however, I heard footsteps. Once again, the ominous chant combined with the pacing of my heart and footsteps orchestrated the song of the hunt, of chase. My confidence replaced with fear, my fight replaced with fright, I continued through the pines. For a quick second I looked behind myself to see if we were still giving chase, only to come face to face with one of the last transgressions I’d ever commit. I tripped on a root and my knees buckled from under me. I lunged forward into the nothingness of the night, and landed, smashing my head into a jagged rock. My vision and hearing suddenly annulled, but the sheer, splitting agony that seemed to erupt through my head. I breathed heavily, realizing that this was perhaps my last moment; cold, deaf, blind, and betrayed. For the first time since before meeting John and Laura, I cried. I cried for what felt like hours, when in fact, it was only a couple minutes. I mourned my departure, my death, as well as the inevitable death of Laura, unprotected back at Shelter Hill. I mourned the loss of my family, the loss of my friends, the loss of Glasgow, the loss of my past and future, and the loss of all else that I held dear to myself. I even mourned Klyde, who I knew would also expire. Tomorrow was naught, and I knew it well. The other side lay in wait for me. I didn’t want any of this to happen, but it did, and that was that, frigid facts, frigid comprehension.
Suddenly I felt a pain in my abdomen. John had started kicking me, probably to see if I was still alive. I stopped my breathing and feigned death, praying he’d fall for the hoax. To my dismay, he did one final blow, and stomped on my head, and the last thought I had was one of regret, regret towards falling into the verisimilitude of John’s peacefulness, before I was thrown into blackness…
Suddenly, I awoke. I could see and hear, but I could not move, though somehow I got up. My body rose, despite the splitting pain. What the h*ll was going on? I could feel a deep, dark anesthesia invade my will. Then it came to me, a dark and harrowing concept that I had wished to not ever to come to fruition: Klyde was in control. I heard a series of incoherent shrills and growls from within my mind. I stared out into the night with a look of pure rage. Klyde walked forward, and that walk eventually became a sprint. Klyde sprinted forward like a predator, and I could tell Klyde was absolutely h*ll-bent on catching John. I don’t know how I perceived, I just did. Through the darkness Klyde ran, carrying me in the capsule of my brain, only allowed to observe, not control. Perhaps this was the life of Klyde; a personal conscious that slowly eroded into a fiend, insulted by my replacing him with other people. I could tell his rage evolved into something even I couldn’t comprehend. All I knew was that concussion I had received from hitting the rock from my fall, as well as being smashed by John’s boot was more than enough to let this fallen angel arise.
The darkness sped past me, and soon, I saw him: John. Just as he turned around to see what that rushing noise was, Klyde pounced on him. John had a look of pure dread and bewilderment. Klyde, John, and I then knocked unto the forest floor, and the hatchet flew out into a broken patch of moonlight. Klyde looked back at John, and he began to punch him, hard. He didn’t stop, he just wouldn’t. He continued to beat his face in until John mustered the strength to knee my chest, causing me to knock over. He then picked me up by the scruff of our shirt, and head-butted my head. It hurt like h*ll, as it came upon contact with my head wound. However, Klyde’s consciousness backlashed, and the moment John let go of my shirt, Klyde clung to him, knocking me over. This time, Klyde went for his neck. I was confused on why the h*ll he had gone for it, until I sensed a metallic taste. Klyde had bit him, and I began to feel the iron-laded blood flow, as well as a shrilling screech on John’s part. Once again, he kicked us over in the stomach. Klyde, however, looked forward, and caught sight of the hatchet; it’s blade, lustrous and enlightened against the light of the nighttime heavens. He lunged forward towards it, as did John. Klyde, however, was too quick for him. He grabbed the hatchet from under him, and smacked the hilt into John’s abdominal cavity. Klyde arose like the cold murderer he had become, and raised the hatchet high into the gleaming light. I didn’t want to witness what occurred next, and thus I did all I could to block it out. All I remember was a sickly hacking sound.
Before long, it was over. I broke my trance, and realized Klyde was taking us back to Shelter Hill. I felt an odd weight on my back. Klyde was carrying John’s carcass back to the encampment for purposes unknown, and for purposes that should probably be left unknown. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I was a murderer, a killer, and a reaper. I couldn’t live with this.
I began to struggle within my consciousness, trying to break free of my paralysis, but my attempts were in vein. I did all I could, my very best, but he was too strong. I wondered if I’d ever have my body back, or if I could even live with myself. My friend not only betrayed me, but was now gone.
Soon, we arrived at the cave. Klyde dropped off the body outside the cave. I wondered with curiosity what on Earth would happen next. Suddenly, I remembered: Laura.
I did all I could to try to alert Klyde to not hurt her, for I knew she was in danger from a much more pressing, lethal threat. He blocked me out, however. I feared for her life, I didn’t want her to die, I didn’t! Klyde suddenly went back into his hunter mentality, looking around for the next kill. Suddenly, from down the hill, Klyde and I heard a crackle; a shadowy figure leapt from our sight.
Klyde dashed towards her, unceasingly affixed on the death of Laura. Yet again, he gave a merry chase. Through the skeletal thickets we scampered. We came to a small clearing, though thick canopy above shrouded the area in a veil of gloom. Klyde walked forward, hatched in hand, and gripped tight and ready strike at the first piece of foreign flesh he could acquire. The suspense grew as he crept forward. I could only hope that Laura weren’t actually here. Suddenly, he heard a crackle, and pounced like a tiger. He landed on nothing, and in distress, he punched the ground, bloodying my fist.
He got up and turned around, looking up the hill towards my cave, my home, my sanctuary, and my shelter. It nursed me as its own kin, and cared for me in my time of need. The ever-engulfing maw flowed a river of black down the hill. Above Shelter Cave loomed the lunar sun, eviscerated by the cadaverous branches, suddenly emerging from a passing cloud. The river suddenly lit up in midnight blue, revealing the trees ahead and all around, revealing myself, and revealing the blonde-haired, hazel-eyed girl behind me. Suddenly, a blunt force came into contact with my skull, and I fell. The darkness engulfed my sight and hearing like a black corruption branching into my vision. It had all went black before I had hit the ground, and the last thing that came into my head was an eerie farewell, said by a voice all-too familiar; Klyde’s.
Whether it was an apology, or a curse, the fact is he is gone, and I can now sleep. I send my deepest wishes to Laura, and I hope she is rescued. Whether she will or not is not within my knowledge, but I’m sure Shelter Hill shall keep her safe, as it did for me. For now, I lie within the otherworld. There I can only hope, I can only watch, but at least I can finally rest.