As the second hour was coming to an end, Victor was breathing more heavily than he ever remembered breathing before. His clothes were soaked with sweat causing it to cling to his body. Over his left shoulder was a dark blue backpack with some blood dried on it while his right hand held a purse. All while the sun was getting close to touching the horizon, showing that dusk was upon him.
Mental exhaustion, in addition to the physical rush he felt earlier no longer pushing him past the pain and exhaustion he felt, was slowing him down. Despite this, his footsteps kept going, albeit at a slow walk, until he eventually found a tree that was growing on top of a slight hill that was looking down at a beach. It was only once Victor was at the tree that he sat down and leaned back against that he let out an audible groan.
Once he was finally off his feet, he started to pinch at the bridge of his nose. His mind was racing as he attempted to think about what he should do next. Compared to his usual day to day life experience, too many things were different to such a degree that he would have never expected when the day started.
Thinking about how it began, back in one of his classmates’ apartments, he found himself thinking about the fact he didn’t see a way out of a failing grade for their project. He also thought about how things might have gone differently if they hadn’t managed to find a time where they could all meet in person and had instead, as he wanted, just worked together over group chat and shared documents.
In the end, it didn’t matter what he had wanted to do or how things might have been if they hadn’t met at the apartment. All that truly mattered was the goals he had for himself in the here and now.
“Goal number one is to stay alive,” Victor told himself. Sure it was obvious in every way considering his situation, but somehow verbalizing it helped him feel more confident.
“After that….. See about getting back or if that fails, I should try to figure things out enough that……. I can manage.”
Stretching out to try and help his sore muscles, Victor let the purse and backpack fall to his side. As with any goal, he thought to himself, he would need to see what he had to work with before he starts. Only after that would he think about what he needs to try to gain to help with his goals.
Beyond staying alive, Victor also planned to do anything he could to get home even if it meant a lot of time and effort to invest in managing it. Other than those two goals he wasn’t sure what he should try to do, mostly thanks to the fact that he had already realized that things here could be dramatically different.
Placing the purse and backpack between his legs, Victor began to take everything out and let it fall onto the grass, not putting any effort keeping it organized as it fell. Feeling that he had gone far enough to make sure he wasn’t followed, he thought now was as good of a time as any to work through everything. At least he told himself that so he wouldn’t feel bad about taking a break.
When he took out Amy’s driver’s license he felt something pull inside of him before he placed it aside.
“She won’t need it……. she won’t mind if I keep this stuff. Just…… I need to keep with it.”
Victor began to organize everything that he found after emptying both of the purse and the backpack.
In one pile was what he considered to be, mostly, worthless items. This pile contained mostly tech items like USB flash drives and power cords for phones and other devices.
The rest were divided amongst two other piles. One of them was for things that he felt certain would be useful, at least to some degree, and another pile for things that might be useful but he wasn’t quite as confident about. Only once everything was organized into piles did he start to place the items away so that he knew where they were without having to dig through a lot of different pockets.
Taking one of the food bars that he found in Amy’s purse, he ate it quickly while drinking from the water bottle he had in his backpack. Once he had finished with that he put a hard candy in his mouth and stood up pointing towards the sun.
“Might as well keep following the sun. I followed it this far after all and at least then I won’t be turning back.”
When he had first started running, Victor only went the way that felt right without any time to think about it and now, after having a little time to rest and think, he just stuck with the same path. Walking towards and following the beach that he soon found himself on, he kept touching his keys out of habit, wishing he had charged his phone last night and wondering how long it would last before it just took up space.
“I don’t think I can get lost like this,” Victor thought to himself as he started walking, “Plus I might find some fishing village or something while I follow the beach.”
While he walked, Victor took out the only thing he had on him, and he hadn’t gotten from Amy’s purse, that wasn’t from before he had found himself here. A single card of some sort. One that wouldn’t fit with any deck of cards that he had had before.
When he had first got it the card had been white, but it was starting to get darker on one side. There was a bit of a slightly pink flair around the edges while the rest of it was mostly just getting darker from white to gray. While most of that side of the card was doing the change, there was one part in the middle that wasn’t darkening like the rest.
The other side had some sort of, what he assumed was, writing on it now that wasn’t there before, but it was something he couldn’t read. To top it off it was only in the bottom right corner of the card and a slight shimmer along the top.
Traveling was pretty simple as he followed the edge of the beach. Other than a few hills or some plant life he didn’t have much to deal with. Sure it meant simple travel that he could manage at his own pace, but it also meant that there was nobody for him to talk with and nothing for him to use as a reference for his travels. He considered taking out a book to read while he walked, but he assumed he would trip over something or not notice something important if he did.
When he felt like it, he would go at a slight jog to go a bit faster than if he had just walked the entire time. He even broke into a slight run just as he saw a small stream of water a little farther ahead and on his left leading away from the beach. Victor never really learned a lot about survival, but drinking water was something that even he had no doubts about as important.
Drinking from the stream, Victor’s face was soon wet with water as some of it dripped down onto his chest just enough that you would see the difference between the wet spots on his dry shirt, at least if you ignored the moist sweat that was soaking it. With a deep sigh, he stood back up and pointed at the now setting sun before pointing up at the stream as if it was a path of its own.
“Alright do I follow the beach or do I try to follow the stream?”
Taking out a coin he flipped it into the air.
“Heads I follow the stream and tails I go along the beach.”
Catching the coin and putting it on the back of his hand he saw that the coin came up as tails. He looked at it a moment before putting it back into his pocket and turned to the stream. It wasn’t the path the coin decided, but the fact that the water wasn’t full of salt was too much of a draw for him to ignore.
The sun continued to vanish behind the horizon as it followed its path along the sky. Every few minutes Victor would look around to see if there was a place he could sleep for the night or if there was some wood he could gather and start a fire. The path was getting thicker with trees, but nothing overly dense as well as nothing like a cave that he could sleep in. Without any blankets or extra clothing, the cold of the night was getting to be more of a worry every time he stopped.
Taking out an emergency flashlight he had found in Amy’s purse, Victor started to crank it to charge the battery. He even found himself stopping at times, forcing himself to keep moving as he kept charging the flashlight.
When the sun had finally set completely Victor was feeling more desperate. He kept going, putting one foot in front of the other as his legs felt like they could give out on him at any moment.
Trying to distract himself from his thoughts Victor started to look up and gaze at the sky for anything that might catch his eye. Perhaps something that looked different or similar enough to what he thought he should see, but other than the fact the nearly full moon looked larger compared to what he was used to nothing stuck out.
Between the light of the moon and the flashlight in his hand, Victor was able to see a lot as he was moving. It was only the moonlight, however, that allowed him to notice the smoke in the sky and looked to find the small light source out in the distance that he thought was likely to bring him to other people.
Putting his face in the stream for one more drink Victor popped another hard candy into his mouth and started walking towards the fire. At this point, the need for some answers was greater than his worries about who he might find. While it might be someone who wasn’t willing to help, it would at least be another person he thought to himself with each step he took.
With a deep breath, he started to work past the physical drain on his body as best as he could manage while moving towards the sources of the light. He didn’t feel the need to rush however so he let his body go at its own pace.
“If they set up a fire they are probably going to be sticking around for a while,” he said to himself, “Plus if I am seen running they might think something bad.”
After a little bit of time passed and he crossed a decent amount of the land between himself and the fire, Victor heard a growling sound from behind him that caused him to pause. Turning just a bit he held the flashlight out and his breath suddenly started to hasten as he felt a rush flow through his body. Everything was telling him to run.
Behind him, he saw a lot of fur in a slight variety of dark browns. The growling was louder as a few more started to join in. Three creatures that looked similar to wolfs or some larger dogs were behind him. They all had teeth exposed, all large and jagged, obviously meant for ripping apart the flesh of whatever they might catch.
Only when one of the beasts let out a full bark, instead of just some growling, did Victor begin to run. The beasts easily had him outpaced with their speed and began to catch up quickly.
Flashing the beasts in their eyes with the flashlight did seem to buy him a bit of time as he ran, leaving him to wonder if the laser pointer keychain would work here. He didn’t dare try to grab for it at the moment as the light effect started to become less impactful as the group began to spread out.
During some of the flashes, Victor was able to get a better view of the creatures. It was then that he noticed that there was some sort of jagged horns on the largest of the three wolfs. His eyes even locked onto one of them as the beast finally caught up and, with one powerful lunge, bit him hard on the right elbow quickly bringing him down to the ground, causing them to skid across the ground a little bit.
Once he did came to a stop, he felt the weight of the beast stepping onto his body to hold him in place. Victor screamed out from the pain and put his hand on the nose of the creature to try and get his arm out, but instead, he felt blood splashing onto him in a slight mist, before two soft thuds were heard and two jolts were felt on his arm as the beasts head sharply moved.
“Alright get that thing off of him I’ll take out the other two while they run.” Said a strong and confident voice.
The voice drew his attention, causing Victor to look around for its source. He quickly found a woman tossing a bow to her side as she took out something between a sword and a dagger in one hand with a small shield in her other quickly securing it in place.
Another person began to remove the wolf type creature from on top of Victor. He noticed that the creature had five arrows in its head. None of them were placed anywhere that screamed perfection, but the clustering was very well grouped to show practice and skill. That plus the fact that none of them hit him let him think that the woman, at least as far as he could tell, had saved him while the man was left to check on him.
“Thanks. I would have died if you hadn’t come.” Victor said with some strain in his voice.
After tossing the beast aside the man pulls Victor to his feet, “There is still time for that if you try to run before we know what we need.”
Victor’s eyes went largely as he looked at the man, then behind him as he heard footsteps. The woman was coming back with blood on her weapon and armor as well as a little bit in her hair.
“One got away, but the other won’t be an issue. You go get the paperwork. I’ll make sure this guy doesn’t run off in the meantime.”
The strength that the woman held a moment ago that seemed reassuring before, now left a fearful chill going up and down Victor’s body as he moved with the woman and the man at a slow pace. Only his mind was moving fast as he tried to think about what may happen to him once at the campsite.