When I first woke up on the forest floor, I didn’t realize how much pain I was in. I guess the shock of seeing a deep jungle terrain replacing my boring apartment was enough to keep the throbbing unnoticed for awhile. It didn’t last long, but at this point I was too surprised to worry about what was happening inside of me.
The first thing I heard besides the incredible ambiance overwhelming me was a man gasping for air and thrashing. He seemed to be in a panic and not handling things well.
I rushed in the direction I heard him struggling and came upon a young boy that looked to be around my age, 20. A nice long sleeved shirt and pants were being dirtied as he clasped down on his arms, looking for some sort of release. So it seems I’m not the only one who was brought here.
“Hey,” I tried to murmur. I realized how raspy my voice must have sounded but I needed to get his attention.
A panic spread over his eyes as he looked up and choked out, “Who are you?”
“I’m Traya. Do you know how we got here?”
I’m guessing my words may have caused a focus to overcome him and he slowly admitted, “Name’s Tye. And, No. I was just going to sleep in my apartment.”
“So was I. This has to be a dream right?”
He turned his head to fully absorb exactly where we were. I noted how he was still in pain, particularly around his left knee. Every so often he’d clutch it, moving it gently to ease the built up aching.
Suddenly a voice pierced through the forest. It crashed down as if thunder was given vocal chords.
“One may live.”
We turned to face each other. Certainly we wouldn’t just attack each other just because a voice commanded it. Even if we were in the middle of a foreign jungle. Even if one of us was a city girl since birth that doesn’t know the first thing about surviving without a store down the road. Even if…
I quickly dove at his knee. If this had to end in tragedy, I was not about to let this end after weeks of hunting and suffering. I connected and could feel the break happen. He fell backwards and shrieked in pain.
“I’m sorry, Tye. Nothing personal.” I felt it was a necessary thing to say as I as about to stomp this guy out. Just as I was about to stomp his face, I heard a small voice from above me.
“My, you don’t take long to get savage. Perhaps that’s why you’re about to stomp in a boy’s face just because someone told you to.”
Without waiting, I threw a rock up towards the waiting interloper. Clearly the voice said one may live, that includes anyone else here. This guy sounded small, almost like a midget, but he had a silly way of speaking. Under any other circumstances, I’m sure I’d love to hear him speak.
A squirrel came rushing down, but no signs of anyone else. I must have missed. My concentration became strained as the boy was still on the ground sobbing in pain.
“Patience is a virtue, you know.”
I picked up a nearby log and lobbed it into the nearby bushes. Once again, a squirrel emerged and walked into the open.
“Evidently, you don’t care much for virtues. You’re all about surviving. I can admire that.”
Here I was, talking to a squirrel about stomping in some kids face. Clearly I had gone insane and this was the best my mind could come up with.
“How about we don’t listen to the voice above and just take a minute to rationalize here. What if he never let’s you go even if you’re the last one alive? I guess you didn’t think that far ahead, did you.”
Being shamed by a squirrel is definitely one thing I’ll cross off my bucket list. Yet they made a great point. I turned coyly to Tye and kicked the ground a bit.
“Sorry, Tye. I should have been a bit more rational.”
Tye turned his head away and slowly got up on his good leg. He was clearly furious but realized he had to do what he could to keep himself alive.
“Alright,” said the squirrel, “You two can call me Rove. I’ve been here for quite awhile. There’s a few places I know where animals sleep. That can easily sustain us for a bit while we figure out where we are.”
I begrudgingly nodded. I didn’t fully want to believe I was really here, after all. This was some sort of vivid dream because I overslept for work and felt like I was letting someone down, right? It certainly felt real enough to me.
We decided to let Tye rest his knee while we went to hunt our meals. First was a deer that wandered on the north side of the jungle. It seemed to be genuinely lost. I’d be, too, if I was a deer in a jungle. The squirrel knew exactly where it would get tired and rest each night. We waited for it to pass out before I moved above it and dropped a rock on it’s head.
It felt like miles we dragged this deer back to Tye, who was waiting up.
“I’m too hungry to sleep,” he admitted finally. I sure as hell didn’t know how to cook a deer or which parts were good, so we left it up to Rove to explain to us what was good and bad.
After that night, we have food for the next few days. We discussed where some other animals that Rove was tracking were. There was a possum and a snake. Rove explained that we could eat the possum, but the snake we’d have to kill for safety. Preventative measures.
I didn’t get any sleep at night. It felt like I was on a foreign planet, so far away from the comforts of my apartment. No shower, no bathroom, and no change of clothes. I felt disgusting and every part of me ached to get out of this hell.
The next day I woke up to find Tye and Rove making breakfast. I was far too ready to get moving, so I decided to leave it to Tye while Rove and I made our way towards the remaining animals.
We came up on the snake, who often was sunbathing near a small pool of water. It was easy enough to reach down and rip it’s head off. No poison for me, thank you.
Then came the possum. We knew we had to get this for a bit more food since the deer wouldn’t last forever without refrigeration. Rove seemed to have it all figured out. We scared it half to death, causing it to shrivel up and faint. I then sharpened a rock enough to skin it.
When we arrived back at the camp, I was famished. I quickly began to eat the breakfast that was laid out by…
Tye was on the ground, seemingly lifeless. I quickly threw the deer meat and rushed over to check him. Turns out he was bleeding from his mouth and nose. This didn’t bode well.
“I see your haste has caught up with you again.”
Rove was standing near the fire, holding a handful of leaves. He slowly meandered towards me.
“You see, I was this close to winning when I was placed into this arena. Yet I wasn’t able to finish off my partner before the next batch was here. So I was forced to become an animal. Now that you’ve helped me clear the area of the previous inhabitants, I’ll finally be free.”
Thinking quickly, I pretended to lose conscience. His cheers slowly died off once he realized that he was still in the jungle.
“What is this? I am the only one alive!” His shrieks reached the tree tops and they shook, as if in response. As he made his way around to check the corpses, he approached me. I utilized all my strength to grab his little head and start squeezing. It’s one thing to have to kill an animal, but the way he was screaming felt all too human.
I began to puke. The stress along with the poison was turning me sick. I couldn’t hold down anything. Eventually I felt light headed, unable to stay awake anymore. Perhaps this is when I’ll wake up at home.
When I opened my eyes, I felt small. Too small. I tried to raise my hands but instead was greeted by feathers. I must have failed to end Rove’s life. I heard a few voices discussing what to do. I heard Rove explaining that there was an animal in the jungle and that in order to survive, they would have to find and eat it.
I’ll wake up any minute now, right?