CHAPTER 5: WILL
Will was getting ever more comfortable with his strange new reality. Telepathically communicating cats and water that seemed alive, trees that gave directions and hugs with invisible hands. He breathed deeply. He felt so good it was hard to be scared, even though scared would have been an appropriate response to this level of absurd.
“Do you know why I summoned you?”
The question pierced the quiet air, making Will feel small. Small was too small a word, he felt smaller than the smallest creepy crawly on the forest floor. The voice loomed larger than voices ought to be able to. It was as if the air itself, the entire environment had spoken to him.
Every leaf, every blade of grass, every drop of water speaking with a single voice. It altered and shimmeyed everything into waves of light that were once held coherently as objects in his mind. It moved everything with it’s bigness because everything was it’s bigness. As if each one of his individual thoughts and each separate interaction, each momentary or previously unnoticed relationship with every single blade of grass, every individual and collective droplet of water had now as one, decided to turn his way.
Where there once had been a transcendent nature scene, there was now a thousand eyes observing, reflecting, directing sound towards him, speaking with one voice that wasn’t really a voice but was all a voice should be. It was simultaneously letting him know how little of them, of anything, he had actually ever seen.
Will’s knees buckled and he went down. He tried to hold the ground for some sense of stability. Palms flat, on all fours, he panted. His face held inches from the earth until that too seemed to look at him and he lost all motor control and lay flat, motionless, supported by the earth beneath him. His body seeming content to lay there indefinitely.
Minutes or hours or days passed and finally he moved. He shifted onto his bottom, arms clutched around his legs. He gently rocked himself with eyes wide. As the water had done earlier, a breeze came through now and revived him. His mind grew alert and every cell of his body strummed tightly with anticipation.
Just as suddenly as the voice had come, and with it the feeling of a thousand eyes trained on him, the remnant of change he had felt in the air vanished. As if it hadn’t happened. His surroundings took on a more normal and rational quality and his body again, relaxed under his own command.
Right about the time he was questioning his own sanity, thinking maybe he had imagined it all, it came back. As if it would not allow even the entertainment of such thinking. This time he didn’t hear a voice, he just felt it’s presence. There would be no denial. The air was palpable with something similar to anticipation. The feeling that lingers when you find yourself waiting for someone to find the right words in the middle of an important conversation.
It no longer felt like he was alone on the island. His heart started beating aggressively again but before he could pass out or freak out, a cool breeze rushed in. He took a deep breath and a calm sense of peace washed over him. There was power, immense power but rather than being disturbing or frightening, it felt like safety. A safety he had never known before. A safety that let him know what the word life actually meant.
The power, the presence, seemed to be attempting to get his attention gently, to be noticed without also encouraging him to lose his shit again. The entirety of the realm seemed to be clearing its throat, raising its eyebrows and waiting patiently for him to pull himself together. Everything, including his own body, now felt alive with an awareness previously lost on him.
Ok, ok, he steadied himself. Ok, he thought again and placed his hands on the ground for support. “What’s this all about. You have my attention now.”
Out of the corner of his eye a section of trees lit up. Actually, the trees didn’t light up, the space between and beyond the trees lit up. That sense of peace remained, that sense that nothing here would ever or could ever harm him. So with that surety, he took a deep breath and stood up. He brushed the dirt from his knees, intending to move towards the light which he assumed to be a sign or signal of some kind.
He had only walked a short ways through the tall grass. He stopped walking forward, crouching abruptly and instinctually in the tall grass when a noise caught his attention. A flash of orange moved in his periphery. Though he had not seen any animals besides the cat, he supposed it wasn’t impossible that there were more. He stood and waited, straining his ears for any sound.
A young fox came into view. Dark eyes twinkling with curiosity. Nose twitching ever so slightly. “Do you speak inside people’s heads too?” Will said sarcastically, relaxing his stance again.
“Is that what you prefer?” a voice responded inside his mind while the fox gave an impassive expression, as close to aloof as a fox could get anyways.
“No, actually,” Will responded shaking his head and crossing his arms defensively. “It’s rather disturbing.” Immediately an image of the fox sitting down with a nail file to his paw, legs crossed and foot swinging, speaking human words out loud flashed through Will’s mind.
“I stand corrected,” Will said. “That would indeed be weirder. Too weird.” He sighed.
“All right then, I’m Jay. Who are you?”
Will looked quizzically and somewhat disbelievingly at the fox. “Ah, smarter than I thought,” the fox transmitted. “Yes, I do know who you are. Marco sent me. Wondered where you were heading off to.”
“Not who…so much as what.”
“Ok, I’ll play, what’s Marco.”
“It would be easier to ask what Marco isn’t.”
“A riddle huh. Well, isn’t this fun,” Will opined half under his breath. The sense of peace slowly turning towards wariness.
“Don’t worry, Human, you’ll find out soon enough. That’s why you’re here after all.”
The fox ran off, looking every bit a fox. In the wake of it’s departure, Will looked at the spot in the trees he had been heading and decided he didn’t think he could handle any more adventuring today. He decided he ought to make himself a little more comfortable and set off to get a shelter built instead.
CHAPTER 6: MEETING LUKE
Jane reached out to grab Lucy’s elbow. She gently felt the swollen area above her wrist.
“Does it hurt?” she asked her companion.
“The adrenaline seems to have helped some. But now that you mentioned it, yea, there is a dull throb trying to start it’s own band in there.”
“We should wrap it. Here, sit down and I’ll take a look at what kind of med supplies we have.”
“Do you think we’re safe enough here?” Lucy asked.
“What’s safe anymore, anyways,” Jane responded with a weary but wise look.
The two women sat under a large oak and Jane got to work examining the contents of her pack. The med kit had all the emergency essentials one would need. Vials filled with strong antibiotics, lidocaine, morphine, glucose, a small suturing kit, bandages of every shape and size, two collapsible splints, even more.
She found what she was looking for and began to wrap Lucy’s wrist. She grabbed Velcro strapping from a separate kit, pulled out some cloth and made a sling, guiding the other woman’s arm into position.
“There are pain meds but I think we should save them. You ok with that?” She searched Lucy’s eyes.
“Yeah, I’m ok with that. It isn’t even that bad if I don’t think about it.” Lucy smiled ironically.
Lucy had always been a fast healer and could only recall being truly ill twice in her life. These were things she had learned not to tell people. These were things that scared people after the storms started. These were things people simply didn’t believe before the storms.
“Pick your poison. Walk or make shelter?” Jane asked while scanning the horizon.
Lucy heard a voice within say walk.
“Might as well use some of this daylight. My arm isn’t going to hurt less if I’m sitting still.”
“Well, it might, actually. Keeping it elevated is going to help it heal faster. But, I’d feel better if we walked a little further away from the city.”
“Walking further away from the city it is,” the young woman replied.
The weather wasn’t bad, a mild breeze at their backs made the walking easy. They were quiet as the landscape passed beneath them. Quiet and contemplative, getting used to the rhythm of facing this unhinged new reality with an utter stranger.
It seemed they both were testing the other. Could their bodies fall into a comfortable pace? Could their attitude, their wit, their courage be enough to support one another in the face of obstacles they had no way to prepare for?
And because Lucy was Lucy, she wondered what the Universe had up it’s sleeve pairing her up with Jane. What destiny lay in store for the two of them, what need did they fill for each other. What edge of the puzzle was completed by these two working in tandem?
About an hour before sunset, the women simultaneously spotted an overgrowth that could serve as a barebones shelter for a night. Realizing that they were both looking in the same direction, they moved that way without a word and silently prepared for the first night sleeping in the arms of only the wilderness.
They woke early to one of the most beautiful men either had ever seen pushing a log into a fire they were both even more thrilled to see.
“Holy shit, is that coffee,” Lucy said regrettably before she could stop herself, which Jane’s sharp elbow to the side reinforced.
“It is,” the beautiful man said as he stood and walked over a steaming cup. He handed the cup to Lucy. “You want one too or do you need to size me up a little longer?” he asked Jane.
“Well, since you just handed my friend the only weapon or thing of value we have, I’ll take a cup, thank you very much,” Jane tried to sound way more assured than she really was.
He smirked and nodded towards Lucy’s sling, “nice wrapping.”
The women gulped and simultaneously seemed to lose their ability to breathe.
“Don’t worry, ladies, I’m one of the good guys.”
“I bet that’s what you say to all …”Lucy trailed off, unable to finish with her notable sarcasm feeling near the verge of crying.
“No, really,” he said handing Jane a cup of Joe before heading back to tend the fire.
“Should we even have a fire here? Is it safe?” Jane asked.
He eyed her sharply. “There aren’t any Rogues nearby if that’s what you’re asking. They have no need to be out this way.” He glanced at the sky. “No advantage whatsoever. There is zero protection from the storms out here.” He looked from one woman to the other. “Kinda wondering what you two were thinking. In fact, I was so curious, I had to stop and make you some coffee so you could tell me all about it.”
Jane met the man’s eyes. Lucy did not.
“I’m Luke, by the way,” he said smiling.