The Blink, Chapter One, continued …

26 May

The Blink

Chapter One

Continued

By L. Stewart Marsden

The only things on Adams’ mind were to find the source of the smoke, and not die. Both were challenges. Once he made it to the base of the peak he had spotted the smoke from, there was no way to see its plume. The forest thickened and night had fallen. All he could see of the starry sky were small openings in the forest canopy.

He came upon a small creek that appeared to run in the direction of the smoke, but couldn’t be sure. He bent and cupped his hands, drinking thirstily. He reasoned that anyone trying to survive in the wilderness would need a source of water, and as the smoke appeared to be quite a distance from the lake he had spied from the summit earlier, he followed its flow.

The way was much easier. Spongy moss grew abundantly along both sides of the creek, and the underbrush was less dense. He had picked up a long, straight branch to use as both a staff and a weapon, should he need one.

The creek bent and wound through the woods unpredictably. He became more alert around the large turns.

It surprised him that he was doing so well physically. A man half his age would be panting and straining. He thought perhaps John Andrews was a bit premature in wanting to put him on blood pressure medication.

“You are living too recklessly, Kyle. The pressure of your work, your diet — it’s like you’re tempting the fates.”

“Look, Doc — everyone dies of something, right? I’d shrivel up to nothing if I had to be so consumed about a little fatty steak. Look at you, for cryin’ out loud! You’re what — fifty? And I bet you work eighty-hour weeks easy.”

“I’m forty-eight.  One-hundred hour weeks. And I’m going to retire to Bimini when Tracy completes college.”

“You’ll be dead before I am! And I’ve got almost twenty years on you!”

Flat out. That’s the speed Adams wanted to maintain. Whether working or playing or whatever -ing he was involved in. Flat out. And when he checked out? Boom! Like that — the snap of a finger.

His father often told of a good Navy buddy who was friends for years after the war. The two had gone to a dockside restaurant for lunch in Tampa, and as Tom slid into his side of the booth, he sneezed three times, then collapsed dead.

“That’s the way I want to go!” his dad often repeated. “Sneeze three times and then — poof!”

But his dad didn’t go that way, and lingered weeks in a hospital bed.

“Not me. Carpe diem! Eat, drink and be merry!”

Adams knew all the trite and fatalistic phrases that dealt with death. Some of his exes, and most of his friends thought he should have been a NASCAR driver, or a test pilot.

He rounded a long, easy bend of the creek and caught sight of light flickering against the trunks of trees ahead.

The fire!

His heart raced, and he felt the blood throb in his temples.

He crept slowly towards the source of the light, making sure to keep hidden by brush or trees.

He neared the fire, and could hear it crackling as flames arose into the dark air, exploding showers of red-orange flecks of ash that billowed up with the smoke. There was no one by the fire, and he could see no one in the darkened edges of the firelight’s reach.

Yet he could feel the presence of another.

Where were they? And how many?

Two forked sticks were stuck upright on either side of the campfire, and a longer stick hung just above the flames between them, like a spit. On the spit was the roasting body of an animal, which sizzled in the heat.

He sniffed. Whatever it was, it smelled wonderful! Adams’ bowels gurgled in response to the aroma.

Where are they?

As the thought entered his mind, he heard a loud shriek, and felt someone pounce on his back, pull his head back with one arm and thrust a knife under his chin pressed to his neck. The odd thought “wisdom is the better part of valor” came to mind, and he relaxed — indicating with his body that he had no intention of struggling.

“Uncle!” he cried aloud, then dropped to his stomach and slowly rolled onto his back.

His attacker — his foe — was a woman, and held the knife against his neck and shook her head, as if to say, “Don’t try anything!”

§ § §

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