Standing there by the river, I pleaded with Morgan. Begging her to go to John and tell him what happened, “Why would you kill your husband? You have to know that Cindy can’t be trusted, don’t you know she was in on the plot to kill us all?”
Before I could say another word, I saw Morgan’s eyes dart to the right, and I knew someone was there. Turning, but too late. I tried to block it, but the rock came down on my head. Instantly, I felt dizzy. My head was swimming realizing that after what they did to Kevin, they planned to kill me. All I could think was, “What will happen to Matty?” Falling to my knees, the blood ran freely into my eyes and mouth; the thick warm ooze with a sickening metallic taste made me nauseous. A kick to the abdomen clinched it, and I vomited violently. Peering up at them, I could see someone coming in the distance. Hands and knees on the rocky shore, blood staining the cold white rocks. I collapsed with the icy river gurgling behind me. I reached out and tried to call for help. Just then another kick and I felt that icy water envelop my body.
“Why am I wet? I’m so cold, and my head… it hurts, where am I?” Reaching for the throbbing gash on my head it felt heavy and a shock hit me. Choking on a mouthful of water, I begin to realize that this is indeed water. “I’m in the water; Oh My God! I’m going to drown! Open your eyes, open your eyes.”
My semi-conscious mind was screaming at me to wake up, and I realize where I’m. Regaining a sense of equilibrium and the magnitude of my situation. I frantically begin flailing and grasping at the water, reaching out for anything, the stinging cold of the water is all my limbs can feel.
My legs, were almost completely numb, and only dully registering the pain as I’m slammed into a rock after rock. Fully awake now I realize that I’m in a river and it is getting faster. I don’t remember how I got here though. Lifting my head to look around; my head is jerked painfully back and I realize my hair is tangled in this tree.
“This is a tree? I’m on a tree; this is what is keeping me afloat. I’m ok.” My mind was clearing; I’m feeling calmer and thinking faster now. It becomes an urgent need that I must get out of this river. Rocks are slamming into me as this tree, and I float, spinning off them. Righting myself over and over, I hang on as we bob down the icy river. There is no way I am going to be able to swim to shore, my arms and legs feel weak and cold. I don’t know how I got in the river or how long I’d been floating, only that my head was pounding and I was so cold the shivering was making my arms and legs stiff.
Slowly it occurred to me, realizing that I don’t know a lot of things, what day it is, why I’m even near a river when I should be… “Wait, I don’t even know what I would normally be doing. I know my name is…is… I don’t even know that.”
The river moved me swiftly along. After freeing my hair from the tree I looked to either side; both shores were densely wooded, with large trees and walls of shrubs beneath its canopy. There was no sign of human occupancy, not a cabin or campsite. I was not only lost in my own mind, but in this stark reality as well. Setting my sights ahead, I spotted a bend in the river where the water pooled peacefully; I begin to kick frantically, trying to steer the tree in the direction of the quiet water. The current is too fast, and I’m not strong enough to make it.
Passing by the bend without even the slightest change in my trajectory, I collapsed back onto the log. Tears welled up; I’m too weak to exert any real force against this current. I can’t steer the tree, and I’m too scared to let it go. Without the tree to keep me afloat I know deep down, I’ll surely drown. Looking from shore to shore, I can see that there is no alternative but to let go of the tree. It has been my savior, my lifeboat, at this point it is all I know. It suddenly feels like my lifeline and the fear wells up inside me. Swallowing hard on the lump on my throat building myself up to shake off the terror. Deep down I know, if I’m going to live that… I must let go.
Preparing myself to let go of the tree, I’m stunned when with a thud it comes to a halt. The current nearly pulling me under the tree, I try to hang on. The smooth layers where the bark was missing were slimy from the algae build up on it. Grasping at it the slippery surface as it slipped by my hand. The icy water is sucking me into its frigid embrace as the water engulfs my head. My arm, even still,
sliding down the tree as the current drags me further into the darkness of the water. Finding a smaller branch I grasp it in desperation, barely able to make my limbs work, the cold immobilizing them. In a rush of adrenaline, I pull myself atop the mass of now, securely wedged, debris. Coughing and sputtering I lay across the web of branches and debris. I can now see my situation. I failed to see this pileup of trees from behind the tree in the water that even I now sit perched upon, thankful for another breath of sweet air.
Stranded about a hundred feet from the shoreline, here I find a place of refuge and a prison. The rocks here are larger than the ones I’d recently passed over, and I can see that there are also some larger trees caught in this cradle of twisted debris. Climbing further onto the mass it is fairly sturdy, and I can better see where I’m.
The shoreline looked a thousand feet off, both sides out of reach. Sitting down, I begin to cry. I’m feeling confused, and also starting to show signs of hypothermia. I can’t think, yet I know I must get out of this river and get dry or drowning will be the least of my worries. Right now my problem was larger, I’m more likely going to freeze to death.
It doesn’t feel that cold, but I can see my breath in the air. Looking up at the sun, I realize I have no idea if it is rising or setting. I hold my hand up to shield my eyes from its burning bright light and note that it sits about three fingers above the tree line. I should check it again when I figure out how to get off my small island.
Sitting quietly on this brush island, trying to figure out what has happened and what to do. I realize for the first time, that I smelled something, it was faint but very distinct. It was fire; I smelled fire. Someone was out there; maybe they would help me. I called out as loud as I could, “Help me.”
My voice wasn’t very strong, and it was hoarse and quivering from the cold. I tried again, “Help me, please, somebody.” Calling out repeatedly and getting no response, I felt helpless.
Sitting here atop the mass of broken wood, I sank into despair. Thinking of what my life would have been as a lonely woman. Telling myself that no one came in search of me, I sink further into despair, thinking, “I must not have anyone.” It was the dark road my mind was taking me. A stroll down pity lane that would surely get me killed. I continued wallowing in this self-pity, “I probably had a cat,” That was actually funny, and laughing to myself, I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head to clear it again, “This is helping nothing, get up and get off this damn island, there has to be someone.”
Looking around at my small stand of broken branches, I find some smaller wood and collect a few pieces. Asking aloud to myself, “I know I can use these to help me float to the shallows. But how can I make this work?”
My plan seemed solid, and I considered my options until I realized I would either need to hold them or lash them to myself. I knew I would need my arms to help propel myself to the sandy shore; it was but a mere hundred feet away. But at this point a hundred feet might as well have been a thousand, it looked just as insurmountable.
Holding up the smaller branches it was obvious that they wouldn’t work, they just couldn’t hold me afloat. Tossing them aside, I set to looking for some I could stretch under my arms. I found two branches that would work, they were nearly as big around as my leg and each about four feet long. These would have to do; I placed them in a void across two other branches jutting out in the direction of the beach. The water rushed beneath, and a moment of terror gripped me as I recalled landing on this island of mine. Pushing back the fear, and positioning myself into the void, I was ready. With the logs stretched across my chest and under my arms, I prepared to launch my small raft. I knew that I would need just to do it, or I would lose my nerve. I placed my feet on the debris behind me and pushed off with every bit of strength I had left.
I was amazed; the force managed to launch me nearly a third of the way to the shoreline. Kicking furiously and dog paddling with my hands I was making headway. The water was less fierce and actually slowing as I entered the pooling area of the inlet. My eyes fixed on the shoreline; it grew larger with every kick. Feeling encouraged and believing I might not actually die, I kicked harder. The water was colder than I remembered and I was beginning to shiver uncontrollably, but I couldn’t let it stop me.
My head, still pounding and the exertion making the pain more evident by the second. I kept going. “Not much further.” I told myself, “Just keep kicking.” I could feel consciousness slowly slipping away, yet, I continued to kick. Peering through the darkening circle of my vision, I saw the sandy beach of the inlet coming closer. I could feel the bottom of the inlet beneath my feet. I tried to stand and walk in, but my legs would not lift me from the water. Laying across my makeshift life raft, I pushed myself closer to shore until I felt the logs strike the beach. Reaching out, I grasped a handful of rounded pebbles, at that moment, the darkness overtook me, and the world went black.
An excerpt from the latest book in the Dystopia Series by DJ Cooper
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