Her blood-curdling scream echoed through the woods; startled birds leapt from their branches, soaring into the sky above.
Blood pounded in her ears as Amy stood trembling, frozen in agony at the perpetual fear of looking down. White hot pain shook her body; nausea quickly followed. She refused to look, temporarily paralysed with shock. Unaware she was swaying, her eyes rolled, threatening to send her tumbling to the forest floor. She gritted her teeth, forcing every agonised breath between them and focused on not passing out.
She’d heard the noise; she’d felt the crunch.
She knew she was up Shit’s Creek, but still – she refused to look.
She instantly thought about gunshot victims who hadn’t realised they’d been shot, only to keel over once someone pointed it out. Or victims of knife crime who hadn’t felt the blade, making no effort to stem the bleeding. If she didn’t look, it wasn’t real.
Shit – the bleeding.
Amy tried to catch her breath, but the pain made it impossible. She glanced down at her leg with lightning speed, steadying her focus back on the tree in front of her, whimpering frantically. Sweat pooled above her lip as Amy concentrated on her balance. The dizzier she became, the more she swayed. The shaking intensified as her insides turned numbingly cold. Unaware she was moving, she slid the straps from her shoulders on autopilot, letting her pack fall to the floor next to her trekking pole; she didn’t hear it land.
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
She focused on the tree.
JESUS. FU CKING. CHRIST.
Amy swallowed hard, pushing back a sudden rising of bile.
You’re going into shock; You’re going to have to look.
Game face, Amy. Fucking knuckle up.
Air hissed between her teeth with every painful breath. She glanced back down.
The bear trap encased her lower right leg, puncturing through flesh and bone, shattering her shin, embedding itself deep within tissue. Incredible pressure throbbed through her calf as if busting at the seams to explode. Her leg burned fiercely as lightning shot through her leg and up her back.
Trembling, she slowly lowered herself onto her left knee; her splintered shin screamed as the skin stretched. Her eyes watered as involuntary tears streamed down her face.
This can’t be happening.
Shaking with disbelief, she leant forward to get a better look. Thick rolls of blood oozed down her leg, but nothing gushed. Yet.
To add insult to injury, the trap looked rusted - infectious, its teeth brown and gritty from the passage of time.
GET IT OFF!
Adrenaline swarmed her veins as her survival instinct kicked in. Fight or flight? Her chest swelled as she relaxed her jaw, sucking in strained mouthfuls of air as spittle flew from her mouth. She swiped at the grass around the side of the trap, revealing metal levels on each side.
A raw determination focused her. Through gritted teeth, she growled as she forced them down with all her might. They didn’t budge. She glared at the trap with disgust. Holding her breath, she shifted her weight slightly, causing her punctured leg to internally scream. She ignored it. As quickly as she could, she thrust all her weight down on the levers.
Disbelief warmed her as she felt them give a little and then a little more. Her triceps trembled as she felt the pressure suddenly release from her leg; blood sprayed in all directions. Her arms went numb. She watched in slow motion as her left hand slipped from the lever; the trap snapped shut again.
The forest around her fell silent. She felt her heart palpitate, losing its rhythm. Heavy, off-counter beats slammed her chest as darkness clouded her peripheral vision.
Her eyes rolled back in her head as a haze of green and brown rushed past her; darkness.
Amy opened her eyes; she was looking at treetops. Birds glided silently, swooping beneath the haze of pink and purple clouds. The ground beneath her felt soft as she dosed in and out of consciousness. Her shorts felt sticky and warm, as though she’d wet herself.
Uncomfortable, she tried to roll over. White hot pain screamed through her body, radiating up from her leg. Her eyes sprung open as her memory instantly returned, like a flick of a switch. Click.
No, no, no, no.
Raising herself up onto her elbows, she looked down at her feet, horrified. She immediately regretted moving so fast as her stomach did somersaults, its contents splashing from side to side as bile bubbled in her throat.
You passed out!
Her leg was a mess. Luckily, the trap had fallen over with her, or she feared she'd be looking at a stump. Her right foot lay covered in blood, angled too much towards her left leg. The trap had closed slightly lower the second time, leaving the gaping wounds above it open to the elements. She’d never seen so much blood. It soaked her shorts and leaked across her shirt, covering the ground underneath and staining the green brush with puddles of red and brown. The sickly smell of iron filled the air.
How long have I been out for?
She began to sob as she watched fresh blood bubbling out of the deep tears in her flesh, like a hose that had lost its pressure.
I’m going to die.
Her arms trembled under her weight as she heaved herself onto her backside, causing her leg to burn and sputter. She tried to block the pain out, focusing only on the task at hand. She needed supplies.
Stop. The. Bleeding.
She glanced over at her hiking pack and pulled it closer. She could see herself moving but couldn’t feel anything, as though she was watching someone else control her limbs as she rocked. Amy knew if she passed out again, it was game over.
Her hiking bag was heavy with equipment. With trembling fingers, she scrambled for the clips. Her hand shook something fierce as she willed them to move as instructed. She wasn’t sure if shock or blood loss was causing the confusion. Either way, she was running out of time. Relief flooded through her as they finally unbuckled. Panicked, she pulled the zip open.
Baby steps, that’s all I need.
Line them up, knock ‘em down.
She tipped her bag upside down, emptying its contents onto the brush below. Her Ferro rod, head torch, poncho, first aid kit and phone littered the floor amongst spare clothes, food and water, and other supplies. Her heart skipped a beat as she reached inside, frantically searching the pockets. She sighed with relief as she pulled out her knife and signal booster.
Now we’re talking.
Amy sat frozen in indecision, looking back and forth between the phone and the first aid kit.
STOP THE BLEEDING!
She clawed at the sides of the plastic container, peeling it open. Bandages, gauze, wipes, antiseptic gel, safety pins, she’d never been so happy to see such items. She felt a twang of gratitude as she spotted a small supply of painkillers in the corner. She’d been hiking for years and never failed to come prepared. Although she never had to use most of it other than the bug spray and a couple of blister plasters.
Amy grabbed the painkillers; a small supply of Tylenol and Codeine graced her with their company. She frantically twisted the lid of her water and swallowed the tablets, praying they would work quickly. Agony aside, she felt slightly calmer inside.
She looked down at her mangled leg, frantically pulling off her belt and holding it taught in both hands. The idea of making a tourniquet sent shivers down her spine. Her leg looked purple with bruising. Stagnant blood pooled under the skin as she carefully wrapped her belt around her thigh, below her sodden shorts and just above the knee.
She scanned the thick brush around her and picked up one of the fewer, thicker branches. She placed it between her teeth and took a couple of deep breaths to steady her nerves. She pulled with all her strength. Amy instantly turned ice cold as an unbelievable, red-hot, stabbing pain shot through her leg and up her back as her blood-curdling scream echoed through the trees.
Amy fought the urge to throw up. Her leg screamed under the squeezing pressure of the belt. She’d felt the blood gush from her leg as it had tightened; her vision dulled once more.
Don’t you pass out. Don’t you fucking dare!
Her every instinct screamed at her to remove the tourniquet. She fought the urge to release the pressure as she tried to comprehend the pain.
Not over yet.
Panting frantically, she poured the antiseptic gel onto her torn-up leg. Tears streamed down her cheeks as the burning turned to fire. It felt like she was holding her leg over a naked flame, cooking herself slowly.
Amy writhed in agony. Shuddering, she snatched up the pieces of gauze she tried to focus on placing them over the deep, jagged tears in her flesh. They disappeared, instantly getting sucked into the gaping wounds, an amalgamation of blood, rust, and tissue. Glints of metal in her leg caught the light where the rusty teeth had embedded themselves a mere centimetre beneath the wound, stretching it open. She felt her eyes roll again and grabbed her water, splashing it over her face.
Grabbing the handful of bandages, she quickly wrapped her leg without looking at the wound again. She peeked at her work, using a safety pin to secure it. The thick bandages were already bright red, but the bleeding had slowed some. She picked up her woollen jumper and tied it around them, pulling the arms tight like a child wrapping its jumper around its waist. She grimaced at the squelch.
Yes! You can do this!
Amy spat the branch out and wiped her hands on the top of her shirt, drying them before grabbing her phone and signal booster from the floor. Hands still trembling, she tried to punch in the code to unlock it, unable to tell if it was the pain making her shake or relief that she was ringing for help.
If only you hadn’t passed out, they’d be on their way already.
Steadying her nerves, she tried again. The phone unlocked, shining a bright light through the quickly dulling grey of the surrounding wood.
It’s getting dark.
She turned on her signal booster and took a deep breath, typing in nine-one-one. She muttered a prayer as the phone began to ring.
The monotonous shrill sounded alien amongst the bushes and the brambles. A startled bird squawked a warning to others from a nearby tree.
Ring, ring – Ring, ring – Ring -
‘Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?’
‘HELP! I’M CAUGHT IN A BEAR TRAP IN BLACKHILL FOREST! MY NAME IS AMY BAKER! PLEASE, I NEED HELP!’ Amy panicked, stumbling over her words, ‘BLACKHILL FOREST!’
‘LADY, WHAT THE FUCK?’ Amy screamed in disbelief at the silence on the other end.
‘Police emergency. Tell me exactly what’s happened?’
‘I’m in Blackhill Forest! My name is Amy Baker. I’m caught in a bear trap. I NEED HELP.’
‘Ma-am, did you say you are caught in a bear trap?’
‘A BEAR TRAP! I’ve lost a lot of blood!’ Amy whimpered frantically.
‘Ma-am, I need you to calm down. By Blackhill Forest, do you mean Blackhill National Park?’
‘Yes, the park!’
‘Is there anyone there with you?’
‘No, I’m alone.’
‘Right or left leg?’
‘Is your leg broken?’
‘I think so.’
‘Can you see bone?’
‘Have you applied pressure to the wound?’
‘Yes, as much as I can. I’ve made a tourniquet.’
‘How much blood have you lost?’
‘A lot, I think? A lot. I passed out. There’s blood everywhere.’
‘Okay, Amy, I need to transfer your call. I’m going to connect you to the Blackhill Sheriff’s Department. They know the area. We are making them aware of your situation as we speak. Okay?’
‘Okay,’ Amy sobbed, wiping snot from her face with the back of her hand.
‘Tell them everything you’ve told me and remember to stay calm.’
‘Okay,’ she confirmed.
‘The call is going to go quiet for a minute or two. I need you to stay on the line. Do not hang up.’
A void of loneliness engulfed her as the line fell silent once more.
She glanced at the folded-up paper amongst her other supplies on the floor. Holding the phone to her ear, she picked it up, unfolding her map. Locating her starting point, Amy traced her path with her finger, following the route she had taken. She checked her watch - 19:26, padded down her pack and located her pen.
She was somewhere around there - she circled the area.
Amy looked at the distance she’d travelled since Sunday morning. If circumstances were different, she would have been proud of her progress - she'd covered some serious ground, but her stomach dropped as she realised it didn’t bode well for the cavalry.
‘Amy? Amy, can you hear me?’
‘Hello? Yes, I can hear you!’
‘Amy, this is Sheriff Claire Starling from the Blackhill Police Department. I’m here with Park Ranger Charlie Hoyt. We’ve been made aware of your situation. I’m sorry it took a minute to answer your call, but we needed to come up with a plan of action.’
‘Please tell me you have one,’ pleaded Amy.
The sheriff spoke over a bustle of busy voices in the background. ‘Amy, we need you to tell us everything you can about where you think you are and the route you took to get there.’
‘I was hiking up to the Old Overlook. I started at the northeast entrance on Orange Grove Road almost two days ago. I passed Crystal Lake on my right yesterday evening, then I took the right fork in the path after about three hours and took the northeast route up into the hills. The blue trail, it’s signposted! I’ve walked about twenty miles in total.’
Eager muttering filled the line.
‘By The Overlook, do you mean the cliff looking out over Willow’s Creek?’
‘Yes! That’s the one. I’m not far from there, maybe a day at most.’
More hushed voices.
‘Okay, Amy, listen close. We’re coming to get you. We’re rounding up a search party as we speak. Unfortunately, our Air Rescue team are already on their way to another emergency and although a chopper would be a great help locating your whereabouts, we can’t get our hands on one at the moment. As soon as it’s back and refuelled it’ll be on its way to you. In the meantime, we will be heading out on foot with dogs, who’ll be able to track your scent once we are in the vicinity. It’s a day and a half walk without stopping but we will get to you as quickly as possible.’
‘I’m… I’m not sure I have that long,’ she trembled.
‘Miss Baker, Park Ranger Hoyt tells me he has never lost anyone in these woods, and he’s not about to start now.’
Amy smiled slightly.
‘In the meantime, I need you to stay warm, keep pressure on the wound and try to keep it elevated, if you can.’
‘Okay,’ said Amy, choking back her fear.
‘If you need us, you can call me back on this number at any time, but I suggest you reserve your battery. Remind me what it is you need to do.’
‘Keep warm, keep pressure on it, keep it elevated.’
‘Great. You’re doing brilliantly, Amy. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and eat anything sugary you have on you. Also, if you’re able to make a fire, I would strongly suggest it. It gets cold in the forest at night, and the smoke signal will help us locate you. Can you do that?’
‘Okay, I’ll make a fire,’ confirmed Amy.
‘I’m going to go now. The quicker I’m off the phone, the quicker I can get the search party organised and on our way to you. Okay, Amy?’
‘Okay,’ she muttered.
‘Be brave and try not to worry. Help is on the way. We'll see you soon.'
The call ended.
Amy breathed a sigh of nervous relief.
Help is coming.
She started to collect branches and twigs from the floor around her as she hurried to make a fire. Sunlight shone sideways through the trees, casting deep shadows around her. It was getting dark.
Please be quick.
Amy woke to the sound of rustling.
Gratitude swallowed her as she opened her eyes and gazed into the light of the slowly dying fire, comforted by the smell of burning cedar as it crackled quietly. She felt like death as she pulled her sleeping bag off from over her and sat up slightly. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, and the pain in her leg pounded fiercely with every heartbeat.
She groaned pitifully as she assessed the damage. Her leg throbbed, itchy and hot, but at least she was becoming more accustomed to looking at the gory mess. She hissed as she swatted mosquitoes away from their free meal. She grabbed her bug spray and attacked the air around her.
She placed some more foliage onto the fire; light erupted around her. A large bush to the left of her peripheral vision exploded with movement, shaking wildly as leaves fluttered to the ground and branches snapped.
Jumping out of her skin, Amy scrambled to turn on her head torch as she twisted towards the commotion. She heard the thumping of something big as it ran through the forest. Her heart pounded as she tried to calm herself; the woods had a way of playing tricks on you, adding a macabre feel to every little noise.
She held her breath and scanned the treeline; nothing but trees and bushes. She could still hear branches crunching, but they sounded further away. Whatever it was, it was leaving. Amy let out a slow, nervous breath.
Wrapping her sleeping bag back around her shoulders, she laid back down amongst the debris of dead wood and leaves. Brambles clawed at her hair, but she didn’t care.
She stared through the fire and into the tree line, watching for any kind of movement. Before long, she drifted back off to sleep.
The fire sputtered, its flames billowing in the wind. Amy stirred with a desperate need to relieve herself. She opened her eyes as her head pounded; disappointment shook her as she realised it was still dark. Irritated, she slowly left the warmth of her sleeping bag. Amy knew she had no choice; she had to go where she was sitting, but regardless of the dire circumstances, she couldn’t stomach the embarrassment of wetting herself - she was covered in enough bodily fluid already.
Most of the blood on her shorts had dried, causing them to become crusty and stiff. The material scratched at her thighs as she undid the button and carefully manoeuvred them, awkwardly pulling the fabric out from underneath her buttocks just enough to sit bare-cheeked on the foliage. She prayed there wasn’t any kind of poison ivy beneath her as the warm liquid trickled over the blood-splattered brush.
It had turned cold whilst she slept, but at least there was a little moonlight. The nighttime chill carried in the wind, whipping at the flames, making the shadows stretch and flicker across the little clearing of her makeshift camp.
Amy finished and carefully pulled her shorts back up, wincing at the seething pain in her leg. The dim light from the fire illuminated her shin, shades of purple and black, swollen and grotesque. She tried to wiggle her toes, but nothing happened. Shit. Amy sat in silence, contemplating life as an amputee when a branch snapped somewhere behind her.
She turned and checked the clearing with her head torch, shining beams of light between the trees as her head darted from side to side. Nothing looked out of place. She waited with bated breath as a few minutes passed before returning her attention to her leg. Snap.
Shivers ran down her spine as she twisted back around, causing her leg to throb horribly. Scanning the treeline, she fought the urge to panic. The bushes rustled as she watched, transfixed. Too scared to look away, she used her hand to blindly search amongst the brush on the floor, locating her trekking pole. She squeezed it, holding onto it for dear life as she raised it out in front of her like a sword. Her arms trembled.
Branches crunched as leaves shook from the bushes. Amy followed the noise with the end of her pole as her heart hammered painfully. The shadows from the fire played tricks on her, making her think everything was moving at once, a terrifying dance of malice and flickering shadow.
It’s probably nothing. The woods play tricks.
Amy heard a huff escape the bush as it trembled under the weight of something big; she locked her flashlight on it. A heavy paw revealed itself to the moonlight as it shuffled out of the darkness with a stomping gait.
You’ve got to be shitting me!
The bear was enormous. Its face looked contorted as shadows flickered across it. Raising its snout, it sniffed the air, huffing and snorting before turning towards Amy. If she hadn’t just gone, she should have surely wet herself as she gazed into the bear's big, black eyes. It’s raw, undeniable power was petrifying.
The beast lowered its head and growled, spreading fear into every fibre of her being.
‘Hey bear.’ She squeaked.
The bear growled, pawing the dirt underfoot.
I can't even fucking run.
Not that I can outrun a bear, mind you. But the chance would have been nice!
‘Hey bear!’ she said louder. ‘Good bear. Friendly bear. You stay right there.’ She tried to sound authoritative, but her voice trembled at the thought of being eaten alive.
She was reluctant to break eye contact, worried it would charge if she dared. Her hand burned, threatening to blister as she grabbed a branch from on top of the fire. She lifted it into her peripheral vision, relieved to see the fire billowing on the other end. With her other hand, she dropped her trekking pole and grabbed a small rock from the floor.
She twisted her body, shifting her weight to face it. Her leg turned with a twist and a crunch as her heart threatened to give out.
‘HEY BEAR!’ She screamed through the agony, waving the stick ablaze in front of her. The bear began to pace through the brush, seemingly sizing her up. Her vision blurred as pain threatened to overcome her.
‘HEY BEAR!’ She shrieked and threw the rock. It hit the bear on its side, barely making a thud against its thick, shaggy coat. The bear huffed, shaking its head in mild annoyance.
‘FUCK OFF, BEAR!’ She threw another rock. It landed just in front of its large, muddy paws. She tossed another. The small rock hit the bear on the side of its head. The bear stopped dead in its tracks. She wasted no time and quickly found another, launching it, hitting the bear on the snout with a surprisingly heavy thud. It whined as it turned back towards the brush and scarpered into the darkness between the trees.
Amy kept throwing rocks and stones at the empty clearing. The reality of her situation came crashing down, how vulnerable she was - trapped alone on the forest floor. The threat of bleeding out or rotting away from infection suddenly seemed favourable when faced with being eaten alive.
Amy dropped the burning branch and lunged for her bag, tipping it upside down onto the floor. She snatched up her bear spray and pulled off the safety catch.
Is it coming back? Do bears stalk people? Think, you should know this.
Her mind raced with images of being eaten alive; the hot putrid stink of rotting fish as razor-sharp teeth shattered her skull, her ribs breaking under the crushing weight of an Apex Predator. Envisioning herself being shredded alive as she’s rag dolled from tree to tree.
Whimpering helplessly, she scoured the floor for her phone. Her arms felt numb as her fingertips brushed over something cold and metal amongst the long grass.
Keeping one finger on the trigger and one eye on the treeline, she glanced at the screen and hurriedly located her incoming call list. She heard nothing but silence around her as she listened to the phone ring.
The call connected.
‘Sheriff? Sheriff, it’s Amy Baker!’
‘Ah, Amy. We are - ’
‘There’s a bear!’ Amy cried, beginning to hyperventilate.
‘A bear in your camp?’
‘Yes! It's run off into the trees. I don’t know where it’s gone. Please tell me you're nearly here.’
‘We’ve made good time. We should reach Crystal Lake by morning. We aren’t far now. Build your fire up, immediately. Do you still have wood?’
‘Yes, I have wood left.’ Amy informed her as she manically scanned the treeline.
‘I don’t want to scare you, but the bear knows you’re vulnerable - it’s going to keep coming. Bears are known for stalking their prey, but luckily for us, they also scare easy. You need to keep that fire roaring and make as much noise as possible. The burning wood will also help cover the smell of your leg, but I would still get rid of any food you have. Eat it, burn the packaging. We have plenty of supplies on us. We should hopefully be with you by nightfall. Do you have bear spray?
‘Yes,’ painful sobs racked her body as she fought the urge to throw up.
‘First off, you need to remove the safety. If the bear comes back, you must use it like a firearm. Hold it at arm's length and fire short blasts. Remember, it only contains about ten seconds' worth of spray. Use it as your last line of defence. Make sure to wait until the bear is close. Pay attention to the wind, as it can blind you just as easily as it can blind the bear and be sure not to spray the fire by accident - bear spray is an accelerant. And whatever you do, do not turn your back on the bear for any reason.’
‘Jesus Christ. I can’t do this!’
‘Yes, you can! We need you to be brave, Amy. If that bear comes back, you fill it with pepper, understand me? In the meantime, be as loud as possible and keep that fire burning. I can’t stress that enough. We’re coming, Amy. There’s a small army of us. We will scare off any bear, and so will the dogs.’
‘Okay,’ Amy whimpered. If she wasn’t terrified, she would have been excited about the prospect of rescue, but fear engulfed her in its totality.
Stalk me? I knew it!
‘Just hang in there for a little bit longer. We’ll see you soon.’
Amy scrambled to throw more wood on the fire the instant the line disconnected.
She daren’t sleep. Amy wondered how long she’d be able to stay awake with the sheer amount of blood loss she’d suffered. She looked down at her leg. It was odd, she knew it should be throbbing in finger-curling pain, but for a minute, she couldn’t feel a thing. Her arms felt weak and heavy as she listened intently, shivering helplessly against the wind.
The morning took her by surprise. Amy woke, rigid and stiff, with her back against the rock and brambles tangled in her hair. The bear spray lay on her lap. She remembered seeing slight flutters of colour on the horizon as dawn broke between the trees, then blank. She must have nodded off.
A soft melody carried through the woods as birds greeted the day from the comfort of their nests, their cheerful tune seemingly mocking her.
Amy tried to straighten her leg. Shit. The skin below her knee was turning grey, and the wound had begun to smell. A slight twang of raw meat with slightly fruity undertones filled her nostrils. The mosquitoes were back in force, gouging on their all-you-can-eat buffet. Amy didn’t care. She had bigger fish to fry.
Her arms felt heavy and stiff as she willed them to move, picking up the bear spray. Wincing, she tore her hair off the brambles, causing her eyes to water. Her teeth knocked together as she shivered in the wind. She hadn’t felt safe enough to climb back into her sleeping bag, as the night had drawn on, she’d figured it would limit her ability to move if the bear returned.
In the harsh light of day, it seemed inconsequential, considering her leg.
She picked up her water bottle and took a swig. The cold, stagnant water tasted like heaven as she painfully swallowed. A deep thirst begged her to drink more, but she resisted. Spinning the lid back on, she decided to assess the damage.
The leg was worse, swollen and puffy, twice its usual size. Amy stared at it in disbelief; it didn’t look real. Her calf resembled an over-filled water balloon, begging to burst open and gush liquid on its unsuspecting target. She poked it, watching the blood ripple under the skin like a pebble skimming the surface of a lake, wondering how much it would have to stretch before her skin gave up and peeled open. The indent remained as she removed her finger. She frowned with confusion as she realised she hadn't felt it. Nerve damage? The damning reality of losing a limb weighed heavy on her as the day dragged on.
Treks through the wilderness and hiking the unknown were surely behind her. She felt relieved; she’d seen enough of the woods to last a lifetime.
She remembered the Sheriff’s advice and began to eat through her supply of rations. She relished in the taste of the Granola Bar as she chewed anxiously.
Help’s nearly here.
She chucked the packaging onto the fire, watching the plastic melt as it disappeared from existence.
A little like me.
Don’t think like that.
She opened another bar and focused on her mission.
The day had grown long, the clouds heavy. Amy sat awkwardly against a small rock with her sleeping bag unzipped around her shoulders, carving her name into a piece of wood as she waited. She listened nervously to the forest around her, not only for the bear but for any sound of the search party.
She jumped at every slight breeze. Every rustling bush or snapping twig made her heart thunder mercilessly. She worried about her chances of dying from a heart attack before the rescue team could get here and wondered what their plan would be when they did finally reach her.
Amputate? She felt sick at the thought.
Do you want to get out of here or not?
Amy had nearly finished the food, only slowing when her stomach had begun to cramp. Half a bag of trail mix remained beside a few squares of chocolate. It was hard to stay awake with such a full stomach but she was more concerned about the fire. Her wood pile was depleting quickly, and she was desperate to have enough to last the night.
Fuck being sat in the dark, waiting for my face to be chewed off.
She looked around nervously for other things to burn.
‘Can’t be long now,’ she said loudly, talking to the trees. Every time she spoke, she tried to make her voice sound firm and confident; all the while, her inner monologue screamed at her that bears could smell fear.
Please be here before dark.
There was a sudden disturbance in the distance. Deep in the woods, echoed a low thumping sound. It quickly grew louder, heading in her direction, increasing in its ferocity. She watched as birds flew from their nests in the distance, escaping the commotion. The thudding became louder as branches snapped and brush shuddered. A guttural roar bellowed through the trees.
Amy’s eyes grew wide with terror as she snatched up her hiking stick and placed her finger on the trigger of the bear spray, bracing herself.
The bear came crashing through the brush, knocking down bushes with ease as it sprinted directly at her.
Amy screamed loud enough to rival the bear's roar as it came barrelling towards her. Twenty feet, fifteen, ten...
She pulled the trigger and scrambled backwards as the bear ran directly into the cloud of pepper, letting out a grunt of surprise as it changed direction and thundered past her, kicking her fire in its sudden panic. It kept running, disappearing into the tree line on the other side.
Amy kept screaming. Collapsing to the floor, she began to hyperventilate as her lungs burned.
Holy shit! Holy shit! I’m still alive! Its teeth – I saw its teeth!
A branch cracked in the direction the bear had disappeared, and Amy's heart went into overdrive. She heaved herself to her left foot and tried to stand. The heavy trap lifted a little as her right foot dragged behind her.
She hobbled, balancing precariously on her left leg. Her fear bubbled over, almost instantly turning into anger at her pitiful vulnerability.
If she was going to die, she was going to do it on her fucking feet. She squeezed the trekking pole.
‘COME ON THEN, YOU COWARD!’ She screamed into the tree line. Nothing moved. ‘WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I’M RIGHT HERE!’
The woods answered her with silence.
She screamed in anger, shaking the metal pole over her head. Disappointment and relief simultaneously washed over her as nothing moved. A gentle breeze rippled through her hair as adrenaline coursed through her veins.
Amy waited. After a few minutes, the blissful injection of courage and bravery began to wear off.
Her left leg wobbled under her weight as the pain came flooding back. She glanced down, expecting to see a stump with jagged bits of splintered bone poking through, but it remained attached, twisted at a gnarly angle as fresh blood seeped through her jumper.
A sudden weakness overtook her. Her teeth started to chatter. She slumped into a heap on the floor as a sudden wrenching pressure radiated from her knee.
Maybe I could just cut it off. Give it to the bear as a peace offering?
She laughed hysterically as tears streamed down her face.
'I hope you’re fucking blind!' She screamed into the trees.
The bear had kicked over her fire, causing half of it to spread out further than she could reach. The flames grasped at life as they lay scattered over the brush. She was pretty sure they wouldn’t set light to the wood.
What a shame. The search party would probably find you quicker if you lit up like Guy Fawks.
The sun dimmed as a blanket of dark cloud cover etched towards her, bringing the promise of rain.
Amy panted through the pain as she remade her fire as best she could; she’d lost a lot of wood. Angrily, she began to cut away at her sleeping bag, using her pen knife to slice it into pieces, giving herself more to burn. The bear spray remained on her lap within easy reach as she tasked herself with making the fire grow. Anger coursed through her veins. She hated the word victim and all it implied; survivor suited her much better.
She listened for any sound of wild beasts approaching as the fire sputtered and darkness slowly engulfed her once more. Her head torch began to flicker as though giving up on her fight. She picked up the branch she’d carved her name into and placed it on the fire, adding small cut-offs from her sleeping bag as time dragged on.
They should be arriving any minute now.
As the night pulled her in, she stacked everything she could reach onto her makeshift fire, burning her belongings. She watched it grow, consuming and deadly as her trusty pack singed and burned.
You must be able to see it for miles. There’s no way they can miss it.
Pride warmed her as she watched the fire billowing towards the branches, smoke cascading over the treetops. She scooted backwards, dragging the bear trap along with her as she inched backwards towards a nearby tree. Her leg begged her to stop, but the fire kicked out far too much heat to remain so close. She sighed with relief as the firmness of tree bark supported her back. Her leg screamed in agony at her brash movement, but she could only wish she had done it sooner as she rested. Her eyes grew dry and scratchy as she tossed the last of her sleeping bag into the flame. She watched it crack and sputter, listening on red alert for any sign of rescue as the flames billowed towards the sky.
Custer’s final stand.
She held onto the bear spray for dear life as she waited.
A roar shook the ground beneath her. Amy’s eyes sprung open as she simultaneously fired the bear spray into the empty space in front of her. A flash of light lit up the sky, briefly shocking the woods into daylight before plunging back into darkness. Heart thundering, she anxiously searched the wood around her. No bear. Amy let out a strained cry of disbelief as the pitter-patter of rain began to fall, tip-tapping onto the leaves above. She laughed with strained relief and stretched her hands out. The cold droplets fell gracefully onto the palms of her hands as she watched them mix with the dry blood before slowly running down her wrists like the drippings of a painting.
She leant forward from her shelter beneath the tree, relishing in the rain as it splashed on her forehead, gratitude washing over her. Amy watched her fire as it fought back against the rain. It was holding its own, but not for long; it was fighting a losing battle. She thought of the irony of being pinned to the floor by a routed piece of metal in a thunderstorm; just her luck.
Thunder tore through the sky, lightning flashed. Amy watched the woods wearily as it was propelled into harsh, bright light, before being instantly plunged back into darkness. The rain started to pick up force, its drops turning to thuds as the wind suddenly picked up, forcing the rain shower sideways. She tried to cover her leg as the pain came alive once more, every drop felt like that of a tiny dagger, stabbing at the torn muscle and pummeling her bruised skin. The thunder bellowed again, lightning swiftly followed, tearing through the sky. The woods flashed again and again.
Amy scooted backwards against the tree as far as she could, making herself as small as possible. She watched her fire struggle and die as she sheltered, listening to the waves of rain soak the earth. The wind turned sharply, rain whipped against her face, stinging her cheeks. Bringing her left knee to her chest, she folded her arms, buried her face and prayed.
Light shone through her eyelids as Amy stirred. She tried to move her head from side to side as her stiff neck groaned defiantly. Cold, wet mud squelched under her head as she forced it to move. Exhaustion weighed heavy on her limbs as she relished in the peace and quiet of the surrounding wood. Laying dazed in the mud as the last signs of the storm dripped quietly down branches and off leaves. The earth smelt incredible. Inhaling deeply, she was reminded of playing in the woods as a child before running home to get dry and warm before supper.
Amy shivered. Her body felt frozen stiff, her leg numb and heavy. She frowned as the distant barking of dogs disturbed the only fleeting moment of peace she’d felt in days.
Her heart skipped a beat as she lay motionless in the mud, fearing she was still asleep.
The sound of dogs barking carried through the forest, getting louder as the shrill blow of whistles skimmed across the treetops.
Tears flooded her eyes as she lay flat on her back, sobbing in relief. She slowly peeled her eyes open. Blinking away the tears, she squinted against the bright morning sun. The ground around her shook and splashed as she listened to the distant sounds of barking.
A shadow engulfed her as a large wet tongue licked her face; she laughed with delight.
She raised a weak arm and smiled as her vision cleared.
Vicious, razor-sharp teeth came into focus as a crushing pressure pushed down onto her stomach.
Amy tried to scream, but she couldn’t breathe.
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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