J 3-24-015 DRH


J woke cold, curled up, and with a bad taste in his mouth. 

He didn’t immediately know where he was, how he got there, or why, but he knew he ached all over, had some dried blood in places on his bare body, and was hungry.
Sandy gravel beneath him was wet in the slight depression where he found himself, and in the dim light of what could have been dawn, he was able see a uniformity to the landscape extending out into the gray fog.
Nothing moved. No breeze. The air was dead. The terrain was dead. J was, so far, still alive. He stretched, groaned, and took a deep breath. Musty, Old, Decayed, came to mind, but also Oxygen Rich. Well, “that’s something,” he thought. His other thoughts were to keep moving and to stay alive. One, he could control, the other he couldn’t.
He got to his feet, and found that these feet were hurting from the gravel, but intact and calloused. A dozen or so halting steps settled into a rhythmic stride, although not a rapid or purposeful gait. He thought about how much better it would be, if he had some sort of poncho or boots, or a survival suit, or a rover, or if he were anywhere else but this god forsaken place – then dismissed this line of “what if” to concentrate on the immediate present.
J walked for what seemed like hours and the day got no lighter; the terrain unchanged. He adjusted to the cold, the aches subsided, but the knot in the pit of his stomach nagged at him. Noticing something angling off to the side, he changed direction to investigate.
He strode up to it and found ten strands of barbed wire, the topmost, over his head.
“Holy Crap,” he shouted, “Good ol’ Texas fence! What on Earth, is it doing HERE?”
He assessed his situation and found that the wire had no posts holding it up and was stretched so tightly, that he could not pull open the spacing to crawl through. He could not crawl over it, even though it would support his weight without deflecting in the least bit. He was just too weak. Deciding that his only choice now, was to continue along the “fence” until he came to a gate, or an anchor, or structure, or building, J trudged doggedly onward. He thought maybe he should fashion some sort of marker, and he scraped together a pile of the gravel into a foot high mound shaped like an arrow, pointing in the direction he was going.
He wondered if the fence were keeping him IN, or keeping him OUT.
He set off along the fence, and soon settled into a brisk walk, but now he had a purpose, and he single mindedly continued until the darkness gradually removed the dim light.
He kept on until sleep overcame him.
With the fence always on his right, he went through three more periods of dark and light until he discerned another anomaly of the landscape taking shape out of the fog. He rushed toward it and stared in cold horror at what he saw. There, on the other side of the fence was a foot high mound of gravel shaped like an arrow, pointing in the direction he had come from.
He began to sweat; his mind was racing; his throat tightened to the point at which he thought he could not take another breath.
“What on Earth..?” – he began,,
But of course,,, he wasn’t . . .
On Earth…


substitution by Doug Randall

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