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I am James, I don’t have too much to tell you about myself. Why you might ask, well when I joined the marines in 1945 I was ready for anything, or so I thought. While I was fighting on the battlefield there were bullets whizzing past my head left and right. I knew that I was in trouble; the enemy had me cornered in a cave system, but I knew I had to fight back. I came and peaked out shooting several men. Suddenly I heard a loud whoosh and a rocket had hit the boulder I was hiding behind. I woke up in the hospital with shrapnel in my arm and a large gash in my head from a chunk of rock that had hit me in the helmet but decimated it, cracking through and hitting me in the head. They asked me many questions and came up with the conclusion that I had no long term memory until they asked me about Sandra, my girlfriend. I remembered a few things about her. They couldn’t believe that I remembered her or what I had learned in the military. They said it must be that the past six months or so must still be in my memory. They did, however, worry that I would soon forget these memories.
I was almost fully recovered, ready to go home, wherever that is. A man came into my room in the middle of the night one night dressed in solid black, slugged me in the jaw and then put a cloth on my face. I don’t remember anything past that.
I just woke up in the middle of nowhere, the woods, somewhere in the Northwest in the US. I could tell based on the trees in the area. There are many different types of trees from maples to firs. They tower above covering the ground with shade, hiding the sunlight in the canopy of leaves and pine needles. The sound of the birds chirping and the squirrels chattering is everywhere. The beautiful smell of the fresh air surrounds him. He stands before the cabin which is dark and shaded covered with overgrown bushes and vines. The door is held on with two broken hinges and a small latch.It tilts out and slightly to the right.As he stands before the cabin he could hear the wind blowing the leaves of the trees, rustling together as if they were playing in a great symphony. The branches swaying side to side as if they were dancing to the sound of the leaves and swooping winds. He could feel the warmth of the sun beating down on the back of his neck as he stared intently into the cabin before grabbing the rough, rusted cabin handle, carefully opening the door, checking to see if anything or anyone is living in the cabin. The sight of the interior is a terrific mess but is such a delight to James. He could tell whoever lived here before him didn’t stand a chance to the wilderness that was attacking him with all it had. The bones and clothes that once covered them laid in a corner of the room as if sleeping, but they were gone, dead, eaten away by the animals of the forest. Next to him lay a large knife in a sheath. He turned and looked to the other side of the cabin where there was a can of gas under a small table. On the table is an AR-15 rifle and next to it a small ammo can. There's a skillet and some other small items sprawled across the table, all covered in a thick layer of dust. There was a small makeshift fireplace which was part of a barrel, and a few pipes that lead out the wall to let the smoke run through. He noticed a picture of a girl, just to the right of the fireplace, hanging desperately on the wall. He instantly flashed through his memory to the thought of his girlfriend and reached into his back pocket to see if his wallet was still there, waiting to be retrieved. To his relief it was, waiting for him, still intact, holding the picture of him and his girlfriend taken in a photo booth just before he parted from her into the marines. He looked back just before he left to see her standing, crying, letting the wind blow her beautiful brown hair; she flashed a smile to show him; she would be strong. He held on desperately to this memory. He could remember much of what went on before the military, due to his accident, but his mind held onto her. He cherished her memory and knew he had to make it out of here, not just to be with family and friends, but to find her, to see her beautiful smile, to hear her cute laugh, to love her once again.
I decided to walk around a little outside and see what I could find around the cabin. As I stepped out the door I knew that I would have to do a little work to make this place suitable for life. I found a small wooden box about five or six feet long and a few feet tall and wide. It had a top that lifted by the old rusted hinges. As I ran my hand along the top to find a lip to lift the lid I was able to catch my hand on a splinter that I could pull on and lift the lid. Inside, to my great relief, were tools. A hammer, shovel, pick axe, axe, splitting maul, and two small hand saws. There was also a small pile of assorted nails. I grabbed these items and lay them across the floor in the cabin, stopping to think what I should be doing first. It was some time past noon and I knew that I would have to do something to make this place livable. I first thought of the person's bones sitting in the corner.
I grabbed a burlap bag that was hanging on the back of the door and filled it with the bones of the man. As I took the clothes and folded them neatly, but something was different about these clothes. I recognized them from somewhere. It must just be that they were the same clothes that he wore in the marines. No! I realized what was up with them, the patch on the shoulder was that of his platoon, the patch on the front said Paisley, Kevin Paisley. This was my best friend in the marines. How could this be, he thought. I have to do something to honor my fellow brother in battle. I grabbed the shovel and took that bag of bones, Kevin's bones, out and buried them and found a small piece of wood that he took and carved into Kevin Paisley a true warrior fighting to the last moment. I teared up as I shoveled the dirt into the hole and placed the piece of wood before the grave.
I must move on, I thought, that is what Kevin would tell me. Keep going, don’t worry or wait for me, just go. As I shoveled the last of the dirt I walked back into the shack and dropped the shovel, and fell to my knees crying. Dear God, why him, he had a family back home waiting for him, his son was just born before he left to the marines. Why him and not me?
Wiping the tears from my eyes I grabbed the hammer and pounded a few nails into the door frame to hold fast the hinges, straightening up the door. I cringed in pain as I hit my thumb with the hammer, dropping it for a second, shouting in pain. I knew I had to get past Kevin or I would not get anything done, already I had smashed my thumb due to the tears in my eyes. I wiped my eyes once more and drove the nail into the door frame. On the wall behind the door, I drove several nails into the wall to hang all of the tools on. I then noticed that it was starting to get dark and I had no way of keeping the house warm, I hadn’t seen any wood that was split in or near the house.
I grabbed the axe and headed out the door, latching it behind me. I saw a small tree no bigger than six inches in diameter. I took several swings at it, the sweat dripped down my forehead as the small maple fell. I chopped many pieces off about four feet in length. I would grab one and walk it into the cabin and place it in the corner in which Kevin once laid. Once I had a few logs numbering about five or six logs I figured that ought to be enough wood. As I walked back to the cabin for the final time with the axe I grabbed many handfuls of dried leaves and bark of dead trees. I also grabbed a few sticks, some quite thick while others quite small. I took one in particular that was strong and straight and cut it to a length of about three feet and then took the knife that had been laying next to Kevin and cut all the knobs and knots off of it. I took the lacing out of one of the boots that was in the corner and made myself a fire bow. I grabbed some of the leaves and kindling and made a fire nest, placing it on the floor and getting ready to make my fire. I took one of the logs and cut it down to the size that would fit fireplace.
Now I am ready to build my fire, but my hands were sore from all of the work I had a blister in the middle of my hand that felt as if it were burning, but I knew that I had to continue on and forget what the meaning of pain is. I took the fire bow and fire nest and started to work away. I soon received a small ember from fire bow and then placed it in my fire nest nurturing it until I had a flame. I placed it in the fire place and put kindling around it, I had a fire.
As the night came about James was starving; he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten or drank anything. He decided he would try and forget about eating for tonight. He laid his head on the hard beaten wood floors and dozed off to sleep.
I woke up to the sound of the birds chirping and the warm sun shining down through the cracks of the slats of wood that made up the walls of the cabin. I turned to see that the fire had gone out. It was cold, I opened the door and looked out at what the weather might bring. There was a small area in which I could see the sky and there was not a cloud in sight. I figured there would be no point in building a fire. I grabbed the large hunting knife and strapped it to my leg. I found another smaller knife on the table and stuffed it into my pocket. I grabbed a few hand fulls of bullets and stuffed them in the two magazines and chambered the AR-15, flipping the safety on as I walked out the door to find food. I saw a deer off in the distance but knew I would have to first sight in the gun before taking the risk of injuring the animal and attracting a big predator into my area. I saw a tree about fifty yards away with a knot in it. I aimed and shot one round. It was dead center. I knew that I was ready to hunt now. I wandered off into the woods occasionally marking a tree with my knife as I walked by it. I knew that I had to find something to but in my empty stomach. I saw a coyote off in the distance and thought that I could take him with ease just as a second one jumped out of the bush I was standing next to. He grabbed hold of my left arm. “Blast you fricken’ piece of crap,” I shouted as I shot him three times in the chest. He dropped down to the ground and I quickly looked to see what the second coyote was doing. He luckily was running to get the heck out of there. I then realized that they coyote had done more than I thought. I rolled up my sleeve and saw the bloody teeth marks in my wrist. I grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and drug him back to my cabin. I dropped him at the door in agony and walked in. I took the jacket that once held Kevin's body, cut a long strip from it, tying it tightly around my wrist to stop the bleeding.
I grabbed the coyote and hung him up to the side of the cabin, pinning his feet up with several large nails. I took my knife and skinned and gutted him disposing of his inners. I took some wood and built a fire and started to cook the coyote. It was about midday and the woods were warm and full of the nasty stench of the dead coyote. I threw a few pieces in the skillet and then waited for it to cook. I took a bite and almost spit it out, the nasty meat tasted gamey and very under seasoned, but again what would I use. I ate trying to not pay attention to the taste.
I soon finished eating and started out to see what else I could find about this area. With my AR and knife, I walked for about three hours until I reached the top of a hill. I could see something, something I hadn’t seen in a long time, but something that seemed familiar. It was lights, lights in the distance. “Those are city lights,” I shouted. I instantly thought that I might be able to find Sandra. I might be able to touch her beautiful face and tell her once more that I love her. I wanted so badly to go down to the town beings it was probably only fifteen miles out, but I knew that it would be a very dangerous journey without being properly prepared. It was getting late and the sun would go down in an hour or two. I needed to head back to my cabin before the predators came out to hunt.
I turned down the hill watching for each tree that I had taken a small chunk out of with my knife, following the long trail home. I desperately wanted to turn back and find Sandra but knew I couldn’t right now. As I walked the long trail I had beaten through the brush I kept thinking of her, wondering, will she remember me, will there be another man, what will be the first words out of my lips? As I walked in the cabin door I felt so excited; I always hated being alone, and tomorrow I would be alone no more. I would be able to talk to people, walk with people, and smell the many beautiful smells. I decided tonight I would build a fire outside and look up through the little space between the trees and look at the stars. I grabbed my shovel and dug a small hole in the ground no bigger than three feet in diameter and a foot deep. I grabbed two of the logs and cut them in half with the axe and placed them crisscrossed in the hole. In the middle was a bunch of kindling, with dead and dried leaves. I grabbed some dead dried moss, leaves, and twigs and made a fire nest. I then took my fire bow and went to work. I soon had a good sized fire going. It started to get dark in the area. I went and grabbed from next to the stove some cooked coyote and placed it over the fire to warm it up a bit. I took a few gruesome bites knowing that it would be benefiting me in more ways than I could possibly think of. The fire before me was blazing beautiful orange and red flames warming me with its splendid heat. I laid back on the warm ground and looked up into the sky.
As shooting stars went by he would make wishes of seeing his girlfriend once again, hoping that they would come true. As he started to doze off he thought for one last second that one night from now he could be talking and laughing with his beloved.
As he woke up in the morning the fire was still going quite smaller than it started out but still going. He gathered up some of the dried out coyote and stuffed it in his pocket. He went and grabbed his gun and dumped the ammo in his pockets. He fastened the large knife tightly to his leg and set aside the axe, saw, and shovel. He then grabbed the small pocket knife and engraved in the wooden door, “This shack is a gift from God”. He then folded up the knife and put it in his pocket. He put his hand through the saw and rested it on his shoulder as he tossed the shovel and axe on his shoulder.
I had my rifle in one hand and the two handles in the other ready for my long journey. “Here I come Sandra.” I started up the small hill through the dense woods that I had hacked away at. I followed the trail of trees with the white fleshy wood showing, to the spot I had seen the lights. I walked for about an hour and finally reached the spot. I decided to stop and take a break. I sat down on a freshly fallen tree and began to eat a small piece of the flavorless meat.
I soon felt as rested as I would ever get and got back up and started moving on. I grabbed my tools and gun in one hand and pull out my knife in the other to mark my trail. These next few miles should be reasonable easy, I thought to myself; it is in fact, all down hill until I reach the flat area where the city is. I looked straight ahead and saw the city and started to walk in one long straight line. The woods were pretty thick to start with but after some hacking, I came to a nice area that didn’t have any overgrown bushes climbing and winding through the trees. There we just trees, reaching and climbing to the sky, with bushes patching throughout, small clumps here and there. It was pretty easy to walk through; it just made it a little harder to mark my trail well.
After several hours of walking, I saw something, something amazing, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a person. He was sitting on a fence next to a gravel parking lot, smoking his cigarette. A slightly older fellow with grey hair inching out beneath his straw cowboy hat. He had a red plaid shirt on that was tucked into a nice pair of blue jeans, finished off with shiny brown cowboy boots. Jutting into the middle of his shirt was a long grey beard that had streaks of white and black. At this point, I put my knife into its sheath and slung the AR on my right shoulder. I walked up to the man and coughed at the smell of his glowing, tobacco filled, contraption of passive death. He turned quickly, stunned as if he had just been electrocuted by a lightning bolt.
As I coughed the man whipped around quickly; wondering what in the world could possibly be behind him. “Good God man, what happened to you.” He proclaimed.
I couldn’t believe his face, he looked as he had just seen a ghost. “I woke up a few days ago in the middle of the woods,” I told him, “dumped there, left for dead. I have managed to make it out and I am looking for my girlfriend, Sandra. Do you know if she lives here?”
He stumped out his cigarette in the gravel and then smashed it with his foot. “Hmm, let me think.” He said as he scanned throughout his distant memories. “Yeah I reckon I’ve heard the name,” He muttered, “but I ain’t too sure if she lives here or not. I would say head to the police station, they will likely have a book with all the names of the citizens here in town. We’re a pertty small town, it probably shouldn’t take more than five minutes.”
I held out my hand to shake his stating my name. He grabbed hold of my hand and we shook as he replied, “Welcome, names Jim, Jim Whitfield.”.
As I started down the grey sidewalks of the town I could smell the bakery cooking up something delicious, and I could hear children playing. There were people walking around going about their day-to-day business. The streets were not busy with much traffic. There was a row of buildings lining the main street that leads throughout the town, no longer than a mile long. I could tell what a few of the building were right off the bat; the church had a tall steeple that had a cross on the top; school was attached to church was a small building which had a single entrance and looked to be a school. The police station was easily recognized by the sheriff's car sitting in front of it and the star on the large wooden door with the words “Sheriff's office” burnt into the door. I grabbed the handle of the door and opened it cautiously. As I stepped inside I noticed a man, cleanly shaven, sitting behind a neat and organized desk with the title “Sheriff Johnson” on the front of it. He looked up quickly as the door shut behind me.
“Hi, I am Sheriff Johnson. How might I be able to help you?” He greeted me, grinning and holding out his hand ready to shake.
“Well, I was told that I should come down here. I am looking to see if a Sandra Smith lives here? She is my girlfriend, you see, and I have been tossed in the middle of the woods.”
The Sheriff jumped in quickly, “Would you like for me to put out a search warrant for this person that did this to you?”
“No it’s fine, I don’t have enough information to track him down. I don’t even know what he looks like,” I replied quietly.
“Well the least I can do is put out a warning to the other towns to be looking out for suspicious activity. Now you said her name was Sandra Smith?”
I kindly announced “Smith, Sandra Smith, sir.”
There was a long pause; you could hear the noise of one of the prisoners snoring in the jail cell just ten or fifteen feet away. The old black bars were fastened tightly to the brick walls laid years prior. The reddish orange walls seemed so nice to me, the woods slatted walls that had surrounded me for the past few days seemed to be more like a prison than this place. Yes, I could hear the birds and go for walks in the woods but I was always alone, surrounded by death, waiting for something at all times.
Suddenly I was broke from my thought. “Sir, she lives about 10 miles west from here, one town over.”
“Thank You, Sheriff.”
As I started to walk out, Sheriff Johnson quickly said with a smile, “Good luck, I hope you find her.”.
I closed the large wooden door behind me, and I felt as though I had just taken a giant leap. It seemed as if I closed the past behind me, ready to find my new beginning. I turned to my left and saw a man in his thirties unloading his small red, beaten up, pickup truck. He wore overalls and a stained white T-shirt. His boots were caked with mud and his overalls were covered in dirt. I strolled over to him to see if I could get a ride.
As he lifted his ball cap to wipe his brow I called, “Hi, I am James Mayfield. I am looking for a ride to the next town over. I was wondering if I helped you unload the rest of your truck if you would give me a ride over?” I said slowly trying not to pay much attention to the stunned look on his face.
“If you throw in the axe, shovel, and saw I will do it,” he replied back.
“How about just the shovel and saw?”
“You have got yourself a deal,” he exclaimed as he shook my hand. “Just toss that stuff up in the front of the truck, you can hang your rifle on the gun rack if you like. Henry, Henry Smith.”
I opened up the door to the old truck thinking could this really be Sandra’s brother? I lay the shovel, axe, and saw across the beaten and tattered old seat; then hung my rifle across the back window on the gun rack. I thought did she have a brother? Oh well, it’s no use thinking I can’t remember if she did or not; but I do remember her beautiful face, her lovely laugh, and smile that followed along. I pushed the door closed and the thought was wiped away for the moment.
“Okay, so we are taking these crates of fruit into the back of Mr. Mervold’s shop. You can just pile them in the back with the rest of the crates. Grab a crate and I will show you the way,” he said in exhaustion.
I grabbed a crate and looked at the beautiful buildings. It seemed to be so amazing to me, the craftsmanship of the building. I had seen many nice buildings in my time but since being in those woods these building seemed to have a new meaning to me. I see roads and think of how awesome it is to not have to trip over rocks and roots, I look at all of the buildings and think how nice it is to be able to stay in one of these without having to worry about having chills from the cold morning breeze. We headed down an alley along the side of the building, crates were stacked all along the side several stacks reaching chest height.
As we walked Henry looked back at me and shook his head towards the empty crates and informed me that, “once we empty the truck of the full crates, we take the empty ones. They are from last time when I delivered here.”
“Okay, sounds good.”
“Just out of curiosity, I was wondering why your hands and clothes are blood stained? Are you okay?”
“Ehh, yeah, was just a blasted coyote,” I replied. As I chuckled, “He grabbed me by the arm. So I filled him with lead.”
As I thought of being bit by a coyote he gasped, “Geez, seems like it would be quite painful. Do you need any medical help?”
As we rounded the corner at the end of the store I assured, “It should be fine, nothing more than a few teeth marks.” We placed down the crates in the back storage room of the store and started to walk back to the truck to continue our work.
After twenty minutes or so of work I started to get a little sweaty and took off my jacket, exposing my dirty off-white shirt, and my bloody arm. I grabbed my knife and proceeded to cut off the strip of jacket that was bounded around my arm. As I cut it the flakes of dried blood dropped from the stained cloth.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you into a hospital?” Henry asked. “It sure looks painful and could possibly be infected.”
“Yeah, I should be fine. I will get it checked out once I get to the next town over.”
We finished unloading the rest of the crates and started on the empty ones. These ones were so much easier and we were able to pick up two or three at a time beings there was nothing to squish inside. We stacked them high and tied them down with some rope. I sat and wondered how these crates wouldn’t fall beings they were stacked about five or six feet above the edge of the truck bed. Henry ran into Mr. Mervold’s shop to get his check and go deposit it into the bank. As Henry walked across the street he hollered back, “I’ll be right there, just gonna deposit this.” and walked into the bank. When Henry returned I jumped into the passenger seat of the old beaten up truck as he slid into the driver's seat and started it up. The old engine chugged and chuckled a second and then ran clean. I tossed the shovel, axe, and saw to the floor and we started off.
“So what brings you to these parts of the country?” Henry questioned.
“Well, long story short, I was dumped into the woods about twenty miles out from here.” I said, “Not really sure why, but I was, and here I am now.”
“Geeze, fight him back at all?” Henry questioned.
“Would have but didn’t have the strength and didn’t have time to react. I was in the hospital recovering from a severe concussion and shrapnel wounds. They came in woke me with a slug to the face and then placed a cloth over my face. Then I woke up in the woods.”
“Dang, gonna go lookin for dem you suppose?”
“Yeah I would but I don’t have enough information on the person. All I know is that they were in solid black.”
The rest of the ride was quite quiet. Henry’s little red truck chugging along the road. I watched as the trees and shrubs flew by my window, the beautiful sun reaching its peak, just before it would head for the other side of the world. The sky, blue, with few clouds in sight, nothing but the radiating light. The large evergreens seemed to seclude this long road but then again they started to thin. I could tell that we were getting close to town. I could see a few boys shooting their slingshots up into the trees, flinging rocks like mad men. Then I saw a small animal no bigger than a house cat fall from the tree. All the boys shot at it till it subdued to its death. As we drove past the boys seemed excited and waved; standing next to the raccoon that they had just killed.
As we drove up to the town it was just like the last one full of brick buildings, a nice mile long road going through the middle lined with businesses. People walking, going about their business.
“STOP!” I shouted and jumped out of the truck, leaving the door still wide open. It was Sandra, cornered by a man that was well built. I recognized this figure, but from where? It seemed like it was recent. Was it someone from the past town? No, it wasn’t. Last I saw him he was in black, solid black. It clicked this was the man that tried to kill me. I walked up straight behind him and gave a nice swift kick right between his legs. He dropped to his knees in agony. I grabbed him by his scraggly black hair and jerked him back to look into his face. “You dirty animal, one you don’t mess with me. I will kick your butt. Two you don’t mess with my girlfriend or you won't have a butt for me to kick when I am done.” I looked Sandra straight into her eyes and that is when she realized that I was standing right in front of her. She looked so beautiful, so splendid. Right then the man grabbed me by the collar of the jacket and yelled, “I am going to pound your ratty little face into the ground once and for all.”
I was thrown to the ground and rolled to my back. He was going to sit on me and pound my face, I just knew it. I let him sit and just before he went to put the first blow into my jaw I wrapped my leg around his head and slammed it straight into the ground. As I jumped to my feet he shrilled in pain and hollered, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Like I said before, “You hurt me I will hand you your butt, you hurt my girlfriend you won’t have a butt for me to hand back to you.” I took my boot and drove it in his face and took him out of this world.
“I am sorry that this had to happen in front of you, Sandra. Will you forgive me?”
“Ye,.” she cried as she fell into my arms. “I am just so glad you are back. That man told me that he was from the military and that you had been killed in battle.” She started to cry harder. “He said you had been blown to pieces.”
She squeezed me tighter, assuring her that I hadn’t gone anywhere, that I would still be there for her. I turned back to look at Henry; he stood before his truck in awe, trying to figure out what the heck just happened. I hugged Sandra tighter, savoring the moment. I had found her at last, I am home at last.