Monday, July 8, 2013
This was another class assignment. This time I was suppose to pick a novel and introduce myself as a character in a favorite scene. I guess I took this too literally because I added myself as who I would have wanted to be if I were in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road instead of just adding myself as I am everyday. What can I say, I would want to be a bad-ass in his world. Anyway, I really like the way it turned out. Even if I did get off track with the actual assignment.
We were lucky we’d gotten this far without being violently approached. People were desperate and although there were few survivors, the desolation had inevitably changed everyone’s state of mind. Human instinct was now as ravenous as predators that stalked lesser beings just for the thrill of the kill, only in this case it was entirely necessary. The world was drying up, starving for nourishment just like we were. I’d seen men feasting on the flesh of fallen comrades, neighbors, and once the tiny body of a boy, he was probably too young and naïve to realize he had become the young deer that strayed from its mother, the starving eyes of evil salivating over the flesh that barely clung to his bones. He’d lost a battle he didn’t even know he was fighting. I felt selfish when I shielded my son’s eyes, he was no older than the dead boy, but instinct told me I should mask the evil desperation of man even though the sight should serve as a lesson that no one could be trusted. I don’t know how long we’d been walking when I saw her thin frame appear from behind a tree, her face was chapped from the harsh winds and sunken in from lack of food, and like us she too had refused cannibalism as a means of survival. I wondered if she had been following our footsteps, sheathed in the shadows of the surrounding wood or simply arrived at this spot right as we had. She carried a bowed piece of wood that had been fashioned into a long ranged weapon, her hand was grasped around four whittled branches that served as arrows and had a small mesh laundry bag tied to the loop of her pants that was filled with various vegetation, leaves and stray roots protruding through the holes. She looked like she belonged in another state of being entirely, old-fashioned, like some ancient warrior, but living in the wild did that to people, forced them into a state of existence where life wasn’t so simple.
“I have a camp set up in a clearing just north of here, there’s a stream to clean up in and I have plenty of greens to share”, she declared as she motioned to the bag tied to her side. “Game is getting harder to find and I’d rather die than chow down on human, so if you’re willing to share your catch you can follow me.”
She was referring to the four squirrels bundled together at the feet that I’d slung over my shoulder. They would be decaying soon and I had used my last match the night before. The sun was setting and I hated to imagine the frost stealing my boy’s breath and waking to find him a bruised blue color.
“I don’t blame you for keeping that knife close at hand, but just know if you attack me I won’t hesitate to kill you in front of your boy.”
I didn’t want to trust her, but she appeared to be on our side, just hoping to survive for one more night. Had it not been for the young boy trembling at my side with exhaustion, hunger and the chill of winter invading his lungs I would have refused her offer and taken my chances in the woods, but one squirrel was a small price to pay for fresh water and warmth. Although we agreed not to exchange pleasantries, as we would go our separate ways in the morning, I couldn’t help but have a feeling of fondness towards this young woman. She had an air of bravery that my wife never had, when she died it would be through no lack of fighting, but simply nature claiming one more soul. We were all doomed.