Lost in the Woods
It was safe to say that this wasn’t what I was expecting when I decided to go camping on my own. I just wanted to escape real life and prove to the world and myself that I was capable of surviving. But why take such drastic measures to prove yourself? I hear you asking, and to be completely honest, I have no idea. It was an impulsive decision; I had gotten so tired of being taken for granted and the little comments about my manliness that I just decided enough was enough.
I called in sick to work, found a map of the hiking trails, and decided that camping in the forest was the best thing I could do to prove myself. What I failed to admit was that I had never really gone camping before. Sure, I’d seen those Discovery Channel documentaries of Man Versus Wild and whatnot, but actually going on a hike and staying overnight in the forest had never really interested me before.
It started well, everything in the daylight always seems better than it is but soon I realized that I couldn’t read a map and my crappy service was exactly that, crappy. My water supply was low, and my camping gear was slowly getting too heavy for me to carry. My wonderful solution for that problem? Just leave the camping gear behind and find my way out, it wasn’t like I would ever go camping after this disaster. Unfortunately, finding my way out proved to be impossible and soon the little bit of daylight that I had was going to disappear. I looked around for anything I could use for cover because by the looks of things I would have my camping in the forest after all.
With my pocketknife as a weapon and a tool, I started my survival mission. From the little things I knew about survival I knew I had to make some sort of shelter. One of these trees could probably help me with that, right? It couldn’t be that hard to survive one lousy night, it’s not like there were any bears in this forest or anything like that. I found a couple of big branches on the ground and a huge tree with roots that would keep me secluded for the night. I was feeling a bit proud for being so crafty. I put the branches I found on top of the roots creating a sort of roof that, if it rained, would protect me from the water. After making my makeshift shelter I started looking for dry sticks to make a fire. I knew that even with my jacket, the night would get too cold for me to handle. I try not to think about the food at all, I just kept telling myself it was one night, and I wouldn’t need to worry about food. After gathering my sticks, I thought of all the movies I had seen where the characters made a fire. They always made that seem so easy.
I soon became aware of how hard it really was to build a fire. The movies were a bunch of lies. After a few tries of rubbing the stick all I managed was to cut the palms of my hands. There was no hope for a fire at this moment, so I really hoped my hiking clothes would keep me warm enough to survive the night. I entered my little shelter and prepared myself for the long night ahead of me. This would be the last time I made an impulsive decision like this; it just wasn’t worth the trouble.
After what felt like a million hours inside my little cocoon, I started hearing some noises around me. It sounded like footsteps, but I couldn’t be sure if it was an animal or a person. I really hoped it was a person who could save me, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I just gripped my knife harder in my hand and tried to control my breath. I really wasn’t in the mood to become food right now. In fact, I was hoping all of this was a horrible nightmare and I would just wake up in my boring but privileged life. Never again would I complain about not having an adventure, they’re only fun when you’re not the one in danger. The footsteps were closer now and I was sure they were humans, however, something inside of me told me that maybe I shouldn’t let them know I was here.
Suddenly the roof on my shelter flew off and I felt the cold metal of something sharp against my throat. This was my death I was sure of it. I looked up and saw the most terrifying and ethereal creature I had ever seen. She was tall, definitely taller than my 5’7”. Her hair was dark and tied up in a ponytail. Her dark eyes were staring at me intensely and her strong posture told me that she was not someone to mess with.
“Who are you?” She asked, pressing her machete a little harder into my throat. A little bit more pressure and she would draw blood. My voice was lost. All I managed to conjure was a strange choking sound. She squinted her eyes and prepared herself to just strike me. She pulled her arm back and as she was bringing it back down; I found my voice.
“Wait!” I yelled louder than expected. She stopped and regarded me. Her eyes made me nervous. Hell, all of her made me nervous. Never thought I had to face an Amazon woman in my life, but this girl really could be the next Wonder Woman.
“Why shouldn’t I kill you now, boy?” She challenged. Oh boy, I was going to have to pull an answer out of my butt, wasn’t I?
“Um, I don’t see a reason for you to have to kill me,” I said. “I’m just a stupid man lost in the woods.
“Mistakes sometimes cost lives,” She answered in all seriousness, but I sensed a little bit of humor in her tone. She relaxed her stance but didn’t move back. She probably realized I wasn’t a threat. How could I be a threat crouching between roots? She looked at my hand holding my knife and narrowed her eyes again. “What possessed you to go out into the woods with only a knife for protection?” She asked. She was definitely laughing at my stupidity; I could just feel it.
“I was planning on camping but got lost and had to leave my camping things behind,” hearing myself explain to her my decisions made me realize how utterly moronic I sounded. This had been the worst idea I had ever had in my whole life. The woman laughed out loud and sheathed her machete across her back. Guess she realized I was too stupid to be a threat.
“You really are a clueless boy,” she added while backing away. She looked around my little camping site and her eyes settled on my failed attempts at a fire. With another laugh, she crouched and managed to light a fire in like two seconds. Maybe she was a witch. She sat down on the floor and looked at me expectantly. “Are you not coming out, little mouse?” The nickname was a shock, but honestly, I did feel like a mouse, so I wasn’t too offended by it. Slowly I started stretching my legs and stood up. She was still regarding me and I was just intimidated by the sitting woman. I made my way to where she was seated and sat across from her. The heat of the fire was a relief, I hadn’t realized how cold it had gotten until I felt the fire defrost me.
She kept looking at me like I was the most interesting person in the whole world. She was no doubt used to more impressive men than me. I looked at her hesitantly and noticed that while she was a giant of a woman, she also had a youngness to her. As if life had hardened her but she refused to let go completely of her youth. If I had to guess, I would say her youth is what saved me. If there were more people like her they would have killed me no questions asked.
“How bad does your life have to be for you to risk the forest?” She asked, that hint of amusement present in her tone.
“Well, it wasn’t bad,” I answered. “Just unfulfilled.” She nodded at me with understanding and sighed.
“We all have those days,” she said thoughtfully.
“Why are you in the forest, then?” I asked curiously.
“Same reason you are, I guess. Proving my worth.” Her answer surprised me. Who in their right mind would doubt this woman’s worth? “It’s the tradition of my people to hunt a beast when they get to adulthood, as a girl I’m expected to hunt a rabbit or something of the sort. Nothing too impressive. I refuse to let those expectations define me.”
To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. Somehow her people expected her to just hunt a rabbit. She looked like she could strangle a lion to death!
“So, what are you hunting instead?”
“A bear,” she said proudly.
“Wait there are no bears here, are there?” I asked. I was so sure of the lack of bears before; I just couldn’t believe this. She laughed again loudly.
“Of course, there are bears here, in fact, this is the hunting season for bears,” she said smiling wildly. She could barely control her mirth. “Maybe you can help me hunt the bear.” She added as a sort of afterthought. My face blanched at her words, there was no way I would be hunting a bear. Never in my life would I put myself through that. Just as the thought crossed my mind a rustling startled us. She was immediately put on high alert crouching and grabbing her machete.
“Well, I guess you have no choice,” she explained to my confused face. “Either help me kill the bear or get eaten.” Oh god! Could this day get any worse? The answer was yes. Still sitting down, I looked to my right and sure enough, there was a bear in the distance. I stood up quickly, gripping my knife, which frankly gave me no sense of security, and looked around. She was gone?! Oh no, I was really going to get eaten today. I’ve never really read what you should do in case of a bear attack, but I was pretty sure that standing and looking like an idiot was not the way to do it. I tried walking backward, maybe if I could get far enough, I could escape. I took two steps successfully; on the third step, I broke a fallen branch. I looked up to the sky and silently asked the universe if it was amused. Was my life just a joke? The bear started approaching me slowly. I really felt like a prey waiting to be eaten but moving would surely do no good at this point. Maybe I could pretend to just be a tree, a tiny tree, but a tree, nevertheless. As it got closer the chances of me peeing my pants grew. This was the moment to wake up from this horrific nightmare. Just as I thought my life was over, I saw a figure behind the bear. Was she going to try to strangle him to death?! I thought, for a moment forgetting she had her machete. I really hoped that thing was sharp enough to kill a bear but, if I was being honest, I had my doubts. She was stalking the predator readying herself to strike. Mistakes really can cost lives, I thought, remembering what she had told me when she found me. And of course, because things couldn’t go my way for one second, she stepped on a broken branch too.
The bear turned so fast that I have no idea how she sidestepped its swinging paw; she really was fast but without a distraction, this bear would overpower her. I saw her sidestep another swing and back away while also swinging her machete. It connected with the paw causing the bear to roar. Oh, I really hoped no other bear heard. Now the bear was angrier, and she didn’t seem to be able to land any deadly hits. If only there were a distraction, I thought, looking around. I looked at my hands and saw the knife I had. I could throw it and hope it hit the bear, but if it didn’t, we were toast so that wasn’t a real option. Of course, my other option was to run towards the bear instead and stab him, which would get me killed too, but at this point, what wouldn’t? I ran toward the bear, which was still distracted trying to kill her, and stabbed it with my knife. The bear roared again and turned, by sheer luck I managed to avoid getting slashed and trampled. I scrambled back, now knifeless and the bear rushed forward. I just closed my eyes and waited for death to come. I heard more roars and slashing sounds, but no death was coming, so I opened my eyes to see what was taking so much.
I really was not expecting to see this majestic woman on top of the bear stabbing her machete through the animal’s throat. I don’t think any animal could survive that and this bear was no exception since it promptly fell limp to the floor.
“That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?” She said nonchalantly. I just gaped at her not knowing what to say. “Now, don’t just stand there, we have to get out of here before we encounter another one.” This woman was unreal. How could she be so unfazed? I cleared my throat and walked toward her with caution. She was retrieving something from the bear which she promptly threw my way. I think she knew I wouldn’t catch it, so she didn’t throw it at my face, but at my feet. It was my trusty knife. Somehow it survived all this mess.
“Thanks for the help,” she smiled my way. “Couldn’t have done it without you.” That was an utter lie, but I appreciated the effort. I tried to smile back but it probably looked more like a grimace than a smile. She laughed and proceeded to do whatever it was that she was doing with the bear.
I looked down at the creature and it looked massive. It was really an intimidating animal, to say the least. It looked like a brown bear, you know, because of the color. I wasn’t familiar with all the different bears in the world. I just knew they were deadly creatures and I had just survived one. Looking at those claws up close, I really couldn’t believe I was alive.
“Look,” the woman started. “I can help you to safety, but if you come with me, there is a probability that you will never go back to your old life. We like to be hidden from the outside world and my people would never allow anyone to jeopardize the secrecy, your other option would be to just try to find your way out alone, but with your luck, you wouldn’t last a day.” She was right, without a guide I don’t think I would be able to find my way out.
“I guess you’ll probably need help carrying the bear back to your people,” I answered and she smiled. And just like that, I realized my life would never be the same again.
This is another unfinished story I wrote as a sort of audition for a writing job. I didn't get the job but I did like what I started so I thought why not share it with you. The idea started with a prompt the company gave me, but how I developed the prompt was all me. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe in the future I can give you more of this story. Please tell me what you think in the comments and share it with the world, it would really make me happy.