Monday, February 04, 2008

Struggle for Survival


I knew it would eventually come down to the two of us. I've known it for weeks.

I've seen the signs, strange footprints around the campfire in the morning, broken branches along the back trail, the shattered bones of a recent victim. I'd had no doubt the beast was surely hunting me now, waiting for the opportunity to strike as soon as my resolve weakened. As soon as I chose to sleep somewhere other than the tree tops. As soon as I let my vigilance slip, even just a bit, the beast would be on me -- A mass of tearing claws and ripping fangs intent on ending my time in the jungle in brutal fashion.

Nonetheless, I was taken by surprise. I'd stopped to gather a hand full of coffee beans to chew on, hoping to cover a few more miles before darkness made travel impossible.

The beast pounced from within the bush itself.

I had only a fraction of a second to catch a glimpse of the hate-filled red eyes before I was knocked back, the crushing weight of the beast pinning my chest to the soft, loamy earth.

My desperate struggles became flailing. My spear had been knocked from my grasp and the stone hunting knife in my boot may as well have been a spirit weapon as I could no more reach past the beast to grasp it than close my hands upon his ghost in a vision in the shaman's hut. Good tea. The medicine man makes good tea.

My hand closed upon a branch, partially buried under my left shoulder. Perhaps it was a root. I know not, nor did it matter as I ripped it from the ground, swinging forward with all my strength, spraying dirt into the beast's face as much as hitting it on the nose to drive it back. I needed room if I were going to fight effectively.

The beast was wary now, circling just out of range of my club. I glanced to where the spear had fallen, but knew if I reached for it the beast would pounce again and I'd be less able to fight back this time.

The beast swiped at my legs with his claws. Those strikes I couldn't beat back I leaped over. Though effective so far, I was tiring fast and the beast seemed to know it.

It padded back and watched me, knowing that it could wait patiently until I made a mistake or tried to flee. I'd be run down in an instant. I'd be mauled like the villagers who had already fallen to the creature. This far from the village, no one would know of my fate for weeks, if ever. And the beast would use that time to hunt them as well.

I lunged forward, bringing the club down in a feint meant to clear a path to my spear. The beast seemed to expect it.

It stepped out of the way and then brought its paw down on the club, wrenching it from my grasp and then leaping to stand directly over my fallen weapon.

I could almost say the beast was smiling at me.

Knowing I had only one recourse, I dove at the beast and began a desperate struggle for my life and the lives of my tribesmen. With bare hands, I ended the reign of the fiercest monster of the wild lands.

My victory was not without cost. To this day, I walk with a limp. I wear it as a badge of honor, though. A sign that the people of this land need no longer live in fear.

I did not, as the rumors suggest, fall while walking across the driveway for no good reason at all.

That would be completely lame and boring. 

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