When you are alone to face life, you may find yourself depressed.
I found myself strangely emotional about having to leave the sanctuary of the cabins. We would not leave until the week has passed, and the plan was to spend the week scouting the land for places where we could use to live. Today was one of the days where this plan would be implemented. But I did not want to leave the cabins. Somehow, they have became a lonely connection back to the past, before the revolution, where things were built, not destroyed. I found that I was going to miss the comfortable beds when we left.
In a week, Isaac and Sophie were in town. It wasn’t exactly the safest thing to do in this world, but we needed someone to get equipments, and since no one was willing, we had to do rock paper scissors. Isaac was not athletic, although Sophie is, and given Isaac’s attitude I wondered how Sophie could put up with him. That left Anne, Toby and me. Throughout the trip…no, this isn’t a trip. Not any longer. Now, it was a fight for survival. For freedom.
Anyway, throughout the fight for freedom, I’ve found that Anne was easy-going and smart, and Toby was actually a pretty cheerful guy who never allowed anything to spoil his mood. He also seemed determined, which was good, as another person of Isaac’s attitude would not be welcomed.
My thoughts were shattered with a shout. “John, you ready?” I realized it was Anne. She was always enthusiastic to go scouting around. I, on the other hand, am a couch potato.
“Alright, I’m ready.”
“But I’m not.” Toby shouted from his room. “I need to use the toilet. I think I have a stomachache.”
Anne groaned. “Use it then.” Toby came running out from our self-dug toilet pit (the water wasn’t running, so the proper bathrooms couldn’t be used), and soon I heard sounds that were best left not described. After a while he was out. “Okay, I’m here now.”
“Then we’re off.” Anne said happily. I rolled my eyes. Sometimes I feel like she’s possessed by some Christopher Columbus explorer spirit. I liked sitting down on my desk at home and write, although that was not a luxury I could get anymore, now that every day was a struggle. And it was a struggle. There were days when our stores of fish had run out, and about twice a week a patrol truck would pass along the road. These were chaotic times. I thought of how I’ve heard stories of revolutionaries hiding in the woods. Sometimes I felt like these people.
We set off towards the west, where we haven’t went before. The other directions which went towards stream had been relentlessly scoured for a habitable place. The direction in which we were heading for was another matter.
The ground was, like the other parts of the national park, brown and full of leaves. I had made sure that I wore long pants, because on one of the explorational trips a leech had started to suck blood out of me, and I freaked out. I’d nearly screamed, and in the end Toby had to get it off me.
Anne spoke first to break the silence. “Hey John, do you think we’ll find a place today?”
“Hopefully yes,” I said, “but I’m not very sure. It’s too early to tell, anyway. But the land seems to be a bit flatter than the other areas. Perhaps that’s a good sign.”
Anne didn’t seem to be affected. In fact, she was whistling. It was perhaps simply a way to keep your sanity. Toby was also walking with a fast pace. How do these people keep their enthusiasm?
We continued to walk for about twenty more minutes. The landscape didn’t change much, but the bushes were thick and there was no straight path to walk. Anne constantly cut off twigs or sticked her little smiley stickers around the forests, so that we would have a path to walk back in case we got lost. I don’t think we’d be able to walk back though if we actually got lost, because there were so many trees. But my mind wasn’t very troubled, mainly because Isaac had kept silent, and I could hear birds chirping, which was a calming sound.
But my thoughts were interrupted.
“Wait…” Anne said, clearly troubled. “I think I hear something.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. It sounds like someone’s walking.”
My heart nearly froze. “That can’t be possible. We’re probably the only peoplea round in these woods.”
“How do you know we are?” Toby asked. “This national park is a large place. It’s very possible that there are other campers too.” By this time, I could also hear the sounds of footsteps, which made the leaves on the ground go crunch.”
“We don’t know if the person who’s walking is hostile or friendly. Hell, it might not even be a person. It could be…it could be…a deer! Yeah, a deer.” I said this softly, not quite believing my own words.
“It could be.” Anne whispered.
“I hope it’s a deer.” Toby muttered.
We had stopped walking. I felt like simply running away, but part of me was curious who it was. It then struck me that it could even be a soldier walking, but I quickly shoved the thought out of my mind. There was no point imagining things when you can’t be sure.
Everyone was looking around hurriedly, trying to spot the figure before it came close enough. I looked back.
I saw a tiger.
It was the stereotypical tiger, with orange fur and white stripes all over. Its yellow eyes stared back at me. It had white whiskers, and its face was mean. If I had saw this one at a zoo, I would have thought it magnificent. But out here in the wilderness, disconnected from any help, I thought it a life-threatening foe.
I couldn’t speak. I was simply too shocked. I started to slowly back away from it. Anne and Toby turned around. Isaac’s swear was nearly inaudible.
We can’t outrun it, I thought. I breathed in slowly. This was a time to think, but I just couldn’t be calm enough to think. A tiger was facing me. It was slowly advancing towards me.
“Listen,” Anne whispered, “do not move. Do not do anything.” I heard myself wince.
“We’re dead.” I whispered back. “We’ll end up in that stupid cat’s tummy.”
“We’re not.” Anne whispered back, with less volume than before. “This tiger hasn’t been stalking us. It isn’t thinking of us as a meal. Not yet, anyway.”
“Can we run away?” Toby asked. I think he knew the answer, but he just had a faint glimmer of hope.
“No, we cannot. It’ll outrun us. Just freeze.”
The tiger stopped moving. I stared at it in the eye. Please, just get away. Please. I slowly reached into my bag, and pulled out my kitchen knife. It would do little good if the tiger actually decided to pounce, but it was a small comfort to hold it.
The tiger growled.
I suddenly remembered something I read in a book from years before. If a tiger growls, it is considering to attack you.
The tiger growled once more.
It stared at us for three minutes or so, and I looked back. Its yellow eyes seemed to be asking a thousand questions. Why are you here? What are you doing? This is my territory. Are you edible?
But suddenly, it slumped to the ground, and closed its eyes.
I blinked. Could it be true?
“Is it sleeping?” I asked.
We could have been standing there for about ten minutes. The tiger had fallen into sleep, but Anne would not move anywhere, and since she didn’t, Toby and I didn’t want to risk being the first to make the move. We stood there, watching the tiger’s body heave up and down. Finally, Anne slowly backed away from the tiger. Toby and I copied her actions.
When we had slowly backed away for about a minute, I couldn’t take it any longer, and I broke into a run. Toby followed me closely with Anne. We ran for about two minutes probably, and when I was finally exhausted, I just fell down onto the ground.
“That was close.” Toby said, breathing hard.
“We need better weapons.” Anne suggested. “I mean, just the cabin knives are really gonna be a lot of help if that tiger jumped on us.”
“Let’s make sure we don’t bump into that tiger on our way back.” I said warily.
Anne chuckled. “We probably won’t survive a second encounter. The tiger was probably full when it met us, or we would have been attacked.”
I glanced at the sky. The sun was directly above our heads. “Let’s move quickly.” I said. “We need to be back before nightfall, now that we know this area is populated by at least one tiger.”
We started to continue our track again. This time, it was decided that we would walk more slowly and constantly look around for anything that might be dangerous. We’d been too careless.
After half an hour more of walking, we saw a stone cliff.
It was a formidable thing, the stone cliff. It seemed barren of life, and there were only some green bushes growing here and there on it. We all looked at each other.
“This is going to be the place.” Toby said, smiling.
We went closer to explore. It was rather magical. The stone simply rose up from the ground without warning.
“This is great.” Anne said, touching the stone. “We can pin our tents to the stone. This means that no one can surprise us from behind our backs. This is great!” Anne quickly took out her notebook and jotted down notes.
“Alright, let’s head back then. It hasn’t been a boring day.”
“Sure, John. It’s time to celebrate.”
We headed back, feeling good about ourselves. We had find ourselves a perfect new home, we had survived an encounter with a tiger, and most of all, tonight Isaac and Sophie would be returning. We would have news to share and we would have new equipments.
It was a surprise to find Sophie sitting alone, back at the cabin.
“Where’s Isaac?” Toby asked, confused.
Sophie looked worn out. She tried to get words out of her mouth, but she couldn’t. Finally, when she managed it, the words were: