Exposed

Exposed

I laid there frozen with fear. I could feel it watching me, stalking me. The thud of the footsteps where deafening in the silence of the night, like hammers into my ears. Twigs broke and leaves were crushed as it circled around me.  Suddenly the sound of metal being torn apart by sharp, knife like teeth tore into me. The sound was terrifying and put chills down my spine as I lay on the cold earth. Full of fear I slowly turned only my eyes at first, but then my head. I was careful to not make any sound. I could see my axe resting just above my head but I was too afraid to reach for it. Even further away was my mace.

I looked over and there she was. My girlfriend was lying beside me, but there was no resting. Her eyes were wide with fear staring back at me as if I was her only hope. She was frozen in panic. Her safety was my responsibility. I had to protect her, but how? I slowly moved my arm above my head reaching for the axe. It felt as if I was reaching for miles, for days. Careful to not make any noise I wrapped my hand around the handle. As I pulled it towards me the handle rubbed the stitched walls of nylon, releasing a faint siren of sound into the night. I stopped. The sound outside stopped as well. It knew I was there.

My heart began to race. It began to move again. I could not tell where it was moving to. I could not tell if it was moving away, or if it was moving in for the kill.  I thought to myself, “What have I done? Why did I bring us out here? We are miles from the nearest road. No one will ever find us. No one can help us, and no one will ever find us”. I brought the axe to my chest and carefully grabbed the mace with my other hand. This time I did not make a sound. I looked back at her, lying beside me. I was her only hope. I slowly pulled myself from the ground and extended my arm for the exit.  My hand trembled and I placed my fingers on the zipper.

Suddenly there was the sound of something being drug. Then there was the sound of something soft and fleshy being pulled through the leaves. I could hear the feet clawing the earth as it pulled and tore with its teeth. Now there was the sound of metal being drug across rocks and sticks. The clanging was loud like a blacksmith pounding metal angrily, demanding obedience. I realized what was happening outside the thin walls. “Our food” I thought. “It is eating our food! We will not make it out here without it”. I knew at this moment that I had to do something.

I said a silent prayer and began to pull the zipper. The sound of the metal teeth being torn apart was the sound of a wolf screaming in the night. There was no hiding my presence now. The soft doorway opened up and folded in front of me. The cold night air splashed against my face. My skin bubbled and my hair rose like blades across my arms defending me from the bite of the frosty air.

I had never saw darkness like this. I peered into the woods but all I could see was black and gray. The light fell from the moon and landed in moving puddles across the foliage.  The soft breeze pushed through thin branches and leaves. I could not see anything but this. Where was it? I could not tell. The night had fallen silent. I moved my body halfway out of my tent. Suddenly the hustle of hardened leaves gushes to my left. In a panic I turned my head to the left, my eyes wide and absorbing the faint trickles of light. There was nothing but the wind. I pulled the rest of my body from my thin shelter.

I stood tall in the night. The cold air was now gushing around me yet cutting through my skin. The wind fell deep into my body, landing on my bones.  The trees did not accept me as one of their own. Instead I stood out in the night as a blaze in the sky.  I was exposed. I was practically defenseless. There was no longer anywhere to hide. My knees were weak. The blood pulsed through my body, saturated with adrenaline. I did not shake. I did not blink. I was afraid to move. My heart was pounding. My chest began to hurt from the intense drumming. I could hear my heartbeat inside my own head.

I slowly took a few small steps from the tent. I leaned at first to the left, then to the right checking the sides of the tent. I would have rather saw my end there, but there was nothing. Not knowing is the worst part, but this would not last long. There was one side of the tent left to check, the backside.

The tent stood tall in the night, the moonlight just behind me. I could not see over the tall tent, and I could not see through it but I knew it was there. I raised my axe above my shoulder in my right hand and prepared the mace in my left. I carefully walked to the left peering into the darkness. The front door of the tent flapped in the wind, frightening me. My knees began to shake. I continued around the tent for miles it seemed. Then, there it was.

Face to face with the beast I could see the teeth glint in the night. The eyes were silver, reflecting back at me my own image standing silhouetted in the wake of the moon. The reflection was of a warrior, but the truth was I was yet a boy. It darted towards me.  I threw up my arms and let out a terrifying yell!  Amazingly, the beast turned and fled. It was over. I had won.

I crawled back into thin defenseless walls of my tent. It wouldn’t protect me, and I knew it was still out there, but I had nowhere else to go. The sounds came back later in the night, still terrifying and unnerving. There was no sleep. When the sun finally pulled its face over the tall mountain lines I could see it smiling at me, with it’s arms wrapping warmly around my face.  I was thankful that I had survived. This was only my first real camping experience. I did not know if I would ever venture back into the dangerous woods again, however there was one thing I did know. I hated possums.

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