Author : Travis Gregg

She deeply inhaled the damp and humid air, savoring the coolness. The forest was ancient and the tree trunks nearly crowded out the sky. Even though the air was thick with moisture, and condensate clung to the ferns in the underbrush, finding fresh water was the first major hurdle she would have to overcome. After half the day all she’d managed to accomplish was scouting the immediate area and the construction of a rudimentary shelter for the night. There was no fire to keep her warm but a hollow filled with old leaves and brush made an adequate substitute.

On the second day, already starting to feel the effects of dehydration, she set out to find water. Heading downhill was the best bet for finding some and hopefully something to eat. She knew she could go a week or so without eating but beyond that she wasn’t sure; water was the much more pressing concern. Luckily the weather was cool and cloudy. Exposure wasn’t going to be an issue she thought to herself.

By the third day with water secured and a reasonable clearing found, it was time to see about getting a fire going. The dampness made this difficult but she managed to find some dry tinder in the hollow of a tree. Getting a fire going was much more difficult than keeping one going. Once she had the fire blazing, she stacked the damper wood close, hoping to dry it out some so it would burn more easily.

It rained on the fifth day, not the misting cool precipitation that came in the afternoons, but a downpour that soaked through the shelter and threatened to extinguish the fire. With water dripping down her face and her clothes soaked she carefully fed the fire, stoking it just right to keep it going.

The game trails were abundant near the small stream she had found a few days ago, and on day seven she managed to snare a small creature. The creature was small, about thirty centimeters in length and was covered in a soft downy fur. The creature was something she wasn’t familiar with but it smelled delicious as she cooked it over the fire, a sure sign that it was edible.

Day eleven brought the certainty that she was being watched, maybe hunted. Coming back from a foraging run down stream she found her camp ransacked, her lean-to torn to pieces. For the last few days she’d gotten the feeling that there was something else in the forest, something ominous. Several times a day the forest would get completely silent and she felt a presence. Now she had proof.

It took two days to run down the beast but on the thirteenth day she found the massive lumbering monster collapsed along the trail. The trap had mangled its leg, but she had wounded it far less grievously than she initially thought. She plunged her spear into its chest, hoping that was where the heart was.

By day seventeen the skull of the beast had been cleaned of flesh by the local insects. It was every bit the trophy she had hoped for.

From her pocket the com crackled to life.

“Sir, this is Echo Two One in route.”

“I read you Echo Two One, what is your ETA?” Her voice cracked a bit, not having been used in weeks.

“We’ll be at the rendezvous in two hours.”

“Acknowledged Echo Two One, see you then.”

She sighed, vacation was over and it was time to get back to work. Looking around she breathed deeply of the cool clean air, relishing it. It would be a while before she’d be able to get away again.

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