When the Morning Comes by Kiwara
Runner-Up, KidPub January 2011 Writing Contest
Why is it raining in my bedroom? That was the first thought that entered my head as I groggily awoke. I could feel a rain drop land and slide down the contours of my face, leaving an annoying trail of water in its wake. Yawning, I opened my eyes, staring up at the patch of blue sky- wait a second. Wait just one second! Where’s the ceiling? Where’s the roof? Alarmed, I sat up, staring around at the green foliage that suddenly decided to sprout up around me in one night. What the heck? Where’s my house? Where’s… where am I? I stood up, instantly shoving my hands in my pockets, searching for my cell phone. I started pulling out random objects from my coat-why do I have my coat on? - pockets. My library card, a yoyo, a dog biscuit- not too sure why that’s there- , three blank pieces of paper, a ball point pen, a pack of gum- good, it’s fruit flavored- and my watch. I kept my watch out as I stuffed everything else back in my pockets. I clung to it like it would somehow get me out of this mess, like it was the only thing that still hung onto reality. I thought I was dreaming. I mean, how on earth would I just randomly wake up in a jungle? A jungle of all places. The scary thing was I didn’t even remember going to bed last night. I don’t remember what happened yesterday at all, come to think of it.
What happened? Why am I here? I thought, feeling the familiar butterflies of panic start to flutter in my stomach, my heart beating faster as realization finally came to me. I’m alone. In a jungle. I don’t know how I got here; I don’t know why I’m here. And, most importantly, I have no way of getting myself out.
“It’s okay… I’m okay…” I said out loud in a vain attempt to find comfort and confidence in my own voice. That would have worked if my voice wasn’t shaking. “It’s okay Ella… It’s okay…” I took several deep breaths as I looked around me. To my left stood a banana tree, at least, what I thought was a banana tree. The ground before me was clear of brush, which if I remembered right, was rare in the rain forest. But of course, the foliage picked up again in about ten feet, becoming as dense as ever. I moaned aloud. What am I going to do? Okay, think, Ella, think. You watched all those survivor shows, what was the first thing they did? Find a weapon? No, that wasn’t it. Usually they had a weapon with them already. But I don’t. Well what else did they do? Find a river! Yeah, that was it! They found a river! A river always led to civilization. I have to find a river…
I stopped my thoughts to listen for the sound of running water. That was hard to do when the sound of running water was everywhere, emanating from the canopy above. The light breeze, which didn’t offer any relief from the humidity, rattled the leaves, making it sound like it was raining, even when there were no drops falling to the earth. Birds called all around me, but I couldn’t recognize any of them. I wished I knew what type of rainforest I was in. Believe it or not, some were worse than others. The one I was deathly afraid of were the South American rainforests. That one was crawling with things that could kill me.
There were the plants for one thing. Some plants were poisonous, others had thorns. Then there were the insects. There were the fire ants, which swarmed and bit you if you managed to find their little trails or nests. There was a centipede or millipede that was poisonous. I couldn’t remember which one. There were the dart frogs, which I think were South American. Either way they lived in rainforests, and I felt they should be avoided at all costs. But I wasn’t as afraid of poisonous things as much as I was afraid of the things that would simply come at you and leave you dead. Like the jaguar, or the snakes with venom and the constrictors, like the boa or worse, anaconda. There were the spiders. Like the massive bird eating spider, or the wandering spider. That one came after you if you encountered it, which was one of the last things I wanted to do. I shuddered at the prospect of being chased around by a spider. I hope beyond hope that this place wasn’t in South America.
Thinking about everything that would try to kill me made me feel very vulnerable and alone. I had no weapon. I thought of all those movies where the main character is hacking their way through the brush of a jungle with their machete. I wanted a machete. I had nothing to make a machete, or the very least a spear. Above all else I had to find some source of water. Taking a breath I finally decided to start my search in a random direction, hoping I could find a high point in some easy tree I could climb, or a sound that signified a river or stream or a source of moving water was nearby.
Slinking through the underbrush made me feel like a fugitive. I moved too cautiously, stopping at every little noise to see if I had to flee for my life. Every few seconds I would glance at my watch, but finding it pointless. It was working, but it was in my time zone, and since I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know what time zone I was in. As far as I was concerned, the eight in the morning on my watch could really be noon wherever I was. I knew I could get a rough estimate of my time by the sun, but that was only if the sun was visible. The sun wasn’t visible though, not unless I climbed up a tree and broke through the dense layers of the canopy. I wasn’t going to do that unless I was being chased by a monster or found a tree with a slight incline, one that an amateur tree climber like myself could scale with ease. I knew that if I had to, I could try to climb a tree, a regular tree that grew vertically toward the sky, not one that dared to be different and grow practically horizontal.
I don’t know how long I walked for, but however long it was made me feel as though I was getting nowhere. The only thing I saw was the trees, each one a carbon copy of the one before it, and the earth sporting a hunter’s camouflage. Either way I kept walking, feeling myself grow dispirited with every other step, wishing desperately I could find a river. It felt like another hour before the scenery changed. My watch stated that it was 3:35 back home; surely I would be missed by now? The land sloped before me, a chasm opening in its middle, crisscrossed with vines and moss covered tree trunks. I felt my heart pick up excitedly, my walk quickening to match my heart. I traversed the ground easily, finding myself at the edge of the chasm. Peering over the edge I found rocks, large rocks, with mossy sides stopping an easy descent to the bottom. From what I could see the bottom had nothing more than a trickle of water running through it. I craned my neck, trying to get the faintest glimpse that the water was moving in general. If it was moving, then maybe it would trickle into a larger stream, which could lead me to a river. It could lead me to a river that could help me find people!
At the prospect of going home I started to follow the little chasm, not daring to go to the bottom and walk in the little bit of water that flowed in the hollow. As I walked I tried to find a way that I would be able to collect the water and boil it in a fire…once I figured out how I was going to start one. That problem was one I didn’t want to think about. I knew that a bunch of unnecessary pain followed making a fire, but it was something I didn’t want to be without, especially here. The little stream zigzagged all over, seeming to have no destination.
I quickly realized that hunting down the river was going to have to wait for tomorrow. I needed to stop and set up camp; the only good thing was that I was beside a little running water. I stopped when the land seemed to clear itself away, making a convenient little spot for me to stop. I started by finding a couple of stones, using the smaller one to make a crude knife. Once I was satisfied with the point, I turned my attention to the surrounding brush, before going over and starting to cut away the sturdy vines and attempting to cut down a sapling tall enough to support four poles. Cutting the young banana tree down required both my sheer weight and the semi dull knife. Then, cutting it into four equal parts took the majority of my time. I was afraid that I was going to mess it up, and even more afraid to have to scrap my attempts to make it all over again. I didn’t allow myself the time to make mistakes. Half an hour passed before I had the basic structure of the frame up, making it just enough to where I could curl up on the primitive bed. I then sharpened my library card, realizing that the point could be sharp enough to cut the string of the yoyo, or the vines. I didn’t really want to waste the yoyo’s string though, wanting to save it for the fire making device, or even as a weak fishing pole. The plastic card held up to the onslaught of my rock knife, surprisingly enough.
I sharpened along the edge, before using it like a meat cleaver along the spindly vines, making a way to keep my supports together easily. Once I had the supports into place, I turned my attention to making the fire. I found some sorry excuses for dried tinder, a couple of sticks, and a small pile of twigs to help the fire take hold once I managed to get it to take off. I took my crude arrowhead shaped knife and drilled a hole through the top of the piece of wood and then again through both opposite sides of the second piece of wood, a task easier said than done. Once I had that part, my attention then turned to the yoyo string. Carefully, I rolled the string out, measuring it just right as so I wouldn’t waste more of the string than wanted to. I knew I could find more use for the string, even though the jungle vines would make a nice backup. I pulled the string taunt, using my library card to cut it down to size. All of this took me well over two hours to accomplish, and by now I could tell that it was definitely starting to get darker out, and down here with the canopy blocking most of the light meant that it was going to get dark even faster.
Quickly, I strung the rope around the ends of one branch, and then situating it just so that way the other branch would be able to twist and bore a hole in the base of part of a banana trunk. The last thing I did was make a notch in the soft wood for the piece of wood to rest before sitting down and starting the tiring process of making an ember. It took me well over half an hour and many attempts to finally get a small fire going. The fire itself only took a few minutes before it took to the wood and grew larger, creating a warm, comforting barrier between myself and the rest of the world. I then started gather banana and other large plant fronds to create my bed. It was then though that I realized I needed to make something to hold the fronds to the base of my bed. Sighing irritably at the setback I took what was left of the remaining vines and crisscrossed it across the frame, tying it down as I went. Brushing my hands together I started to once again lay the fronds across the bed frame, finally making a comfortable spot for me to rest.
Food and water would come tomorrow. I knew that much. I would go hunting; maybe find myself a river to follow out. I would take my fire contraption with me, and use it again if I had to. The dog biscuit could be used to attract game or even… if I was desperate enough, eat it myself, though I hope that I’ll be well out of here by the time I even remotely consider eating dog food. The gum… the gum would be something to tie me over if I can’t find food. The paper could be used as a filter for the water tomorrow, yes… I like that idea very much…, the pen could be used as a mini spear to get insects or if I break it apart I could use the shell of the pen like a drinking straw. My watch is my friend. It’s the only thing I have that’s remotely like home. I made sure to set its timer for every half an hour, so that way I would be able to keep the fire going all night without much worry of it being down to nothing but dying cinders when morning came. I sat there, staring at the fire and continued to make my game plan. I knew that the river meant civilization. I knew that if I followed that stream I would get somewhere. I only hope that however long I’ll be here will go as smoothly as this day did. I had a horrible feeling that it won’t, that I’ll never get out of here, that for whatever reason I was trapped… and yet… and yet… at this one moment in time, I felt almost at peace. I forgot my fears, preoccupying myself with the comfort of the fire, wrapping myself up in my coat and tucking my feet under me, knowing that my fears will be answered when the birds started to sing in the morning. I knew that it was pointless to worry about something that was several hours away.
I’ll know when morning comes… I thought absently, pulling out a stick of gum from my pocket and popping it into my mouth. When it comes… I’ll get out of here.