The Witness to It All
Daniel was weary and his legs were starting to hurt. He had been walking for what seemed like days. Actually it was only 5 or so hours, but the path was uneven and uphill, brambles and rocks made the walking difficult at times. The mountain path he was following felt old and worn yet looked untraveled in a very long time. Stopping to rest, he sat on a fallen tree and looked down into the valley at the glimmering river below and his eyes traveled the path of a distant power line snaking its way towards the city off in the distance. It was a beautiful day, white fluffy clouds meandering across the sky, birds soaring and the slight breeze made the trees almost sigh. He was thrown off the log with the unexpected violence of an earthquake. The rumble had started just a split second before the shaking. Jumping up, he leapt over the tree just as it started to roll downhill and scrambled further up the slope, dodging rocks and branches as they cascaded down towards him. Just as sudden as it started, it stopped. Flocks of birds were in the air and the trees were still shaking as he got his wits about him. Heart racing, he quickly tried to regain his composure and figure out what to do next. This slope he was on, which less than a minute ago was serene now felt more dangerous than walking down the street in rush hour. There seemed to be a constant buzzing in his ears, and the ground felt uncertain to his feet. Continuing up the slope he came to a small plateau which seemed to be a slab of rock and felt safer to rest on for a few minutes before making the journey back down the mountain and getting home to see if there was any damage to his house or any of his friend’s homes.
After a few minutes, his composure regained, he looked around this little outcropping he was standing on and to his amazement noticed the bush in the hillside at the back. It was not really anything special but had an outline that appeared to be dark. Walking over to it he realized it was not the bush that had caught his attention, rather it was the cave opening directly behind it that had given it the dark outline. Pulling out his flashlight he peered into the darkness then followed the light beam into the cave. It opened almost immediately into a large cavern that besides a slight slope had an almost flat floor and high ceiling, he followed the beam of his light to the back of the cavern and noticed a shimmer when the light hit the wall of the cave. With the little daylight behind him he could see the wall but not the shimmer. He walked over to the wall and as he was reaching for it to see what the wall felt like, he tripped on a seemingly small rock and fell headfirst into the wall. When he woke up it was still daylight but the batteries in his flashlight were either dead or the light was broken when he fell. He stumbled out the front of the cave and sat down on the ledge he was standing on.
He was sitting there enjoying the fresh air when he felt the little bit of blood on his forehead from the fall and reached into his backpack for his little camping mirror to survey the damage. Nothing major, a little gash that had almost dried up, and a bruise about as round as an egg, he grabbed a washcloth and wiped the blood away. Then it struck him as he gazed into the valley below, something was off, something looked wrong to him. Then it struck him the power lines he had followed with his eyes earlier were missing, as were their towers. Is that why he fell against the wall of the cave, was there another earthquake, was it violent enough to have knocked down the towers and their lines. As he surveyed the valley something else seemed to be out of place. There seemed to be more trees in the distance and the slight haze from the city was no longer there. But, there in the distance seemed to be smoke rising from a fire or two just to the east of the city. Better be getting back before I’m stuck in the dark out here, he thought to himself. The slight fear of finding out what happened while he was out nagged at him. He almost ran down the hill. At the trail end he found another surprise. His truck was gone, some asshole had stolen his truck, now he would have to walk for a couple more hours to get to the little store at the opening of the park and call a friend for a ride. Then it struck him like a thunderbolt. Even though the little creek and the familiar outcropping of rock were there, the road was gone. Breathing a sigh of relief, he realized he must have made a wrong turn somewhere on the trip back down the mountain.
This is not fucking funny he thought, as the hours passed and he could still not find the road or his truck. The twilight was making it difficult to see where the trees were parted, indicating a road. And with darkness approaching, it seemed the dinner and bed he was hoping for, would not be coming tonight. Finally giving in to frustration he found a little clearing and pitched his tent and made a little fire before bedding down for the night. Morning came and the weather had taken a turn for the worse. He could have sworn the weather forecast had called for almost another week of sunny weather. Where the fuck is my truck and where did I make a wrong turn he kept thinking. He made his way down to the creek and got some water for coffee and had a meager breakfast of coffee and energy bars. The nearby rustle of brush caught his attention and hoped it would be another hiker to give him some help in finding his truck so he could get out of here and find out what the damage from the earthquake was. To his surprise about 30 yards ahead of him a small herd of deer came bounding through the woods. Shocking the hell out of him they bolted off into the distance only to be chased by 4 men who apparently had run away from a renaissance fair, with spears and bows, no less. The men stopped in their tracks and stared at him. Yelling in some kind of gibberish at him they raised their spears and knocked their bows. Putting up his hands slowly he backed away towards his tent and fire. He sat down and kept his hands slightly raised as the men approached. He decided if this insanity was going to continue, what the hell and poured himself another cup of coffee. The men with the bows released their arrows and placed them back in their quivers. Warily the men approached seemingly unsure if he was a friend or a foe. Gesturing to them to sit three of the men finally did and acting like so many old movies he offered them each an energy bar, first demonstrating how to open the wrapper and showing them they were safe by eating another one himself. The one standing in the back started to talk to the others pointing off in the distance. Daniel stood with the others and looked in the direction the one was pointing in, and there in the distance were the deer they had been chasing. Not really knowing why, Daniel picked up his rifle and uncapped the scope. Looking down the creek bed about 300 yards off was a pair of bucks with the biggest racks he had ever seen. Adjusting the scope for the distance he fired off three quick shots and dropped the bucks and the doe just behind them. The men had dropped to the ground at the sound of the first shot and acted like they had been struck by lightning.
It was at this point that Daniel, with a flash of intuition, realized they had never heard a rifle before. They lay there with the fear of god in their eyes. Daniel felt like he was in some kind of bizarre movie from his childhood. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and tried to get the men to stand up. After a few minutes they finally did. Feeling like some kind of superman he convinced them with motions to follow him. Reluctantly they did and he led them to the fallen deer. Astounded by their luck at finding the deer the men almost jumped on them. Deciding to get away from this nightmare he was having Daniel left the men there and headed back to his makeshift camp. Determined to find his way back to a road and civilization he started to pack up his equipment and start walking towards the city. Just as he was starting to leave the men returned with the deer, dressed and hung from poles. The one who had remained standing before sliced off a chunk of the deer’s shank with something that resembled a knife but was more crudely formed. Since he had not yet doused the fire, Daniel rustled through his pack and pulled out his frying pan and proceeded to fry up some deer steaks thinking he would have a steak now and could munch on the others while he walked to the road. The men sat down and watched in amazement as Daniel pulled some salt and pepper out of his pack and rubbed the steaks and placed them in the pan, he thought, “What the Hell”, and offered the men the first ones off the fire, then continued to cook a few more. After he was finished and had pulled out a couple of baggies for the rest of the steaks. He poured the rest of his coffee on the fire and prepared to leave.
The men gestured for him to follow them and after a few seconds of consideration he decided to see how far this dream was going to take him. After a couple of hours walking the deer were getting heavier and all five men were walking in a straight line the men in the middle had a pole on each shoulder with the deer spread out between them after a while they would switch places and the ends took the middle. They were still spouting what Daniel took for gibberish, although for some reason sometimes words seemed to resemble a language Daniel knew. Up ahead were the plumes from fires and Daniel was expecting to see a ruined city, instead a quaint little village with people bustling here and there was what he saw. There were only about ten little shanty looking huts with thatched roofs and stick and thatch walls.
“My mind is playing tricks on me”, Daniel kept thinking to himself. There was no way this was real, did he fall during the quake, hit his head, and is this a dream of his. “Am I in some kind of coma”, he thought. That has to be the explanation. This just is not real. However, as they closed on the village, the stench was becoming unbearable. The smell of urine and feces filled the air with the pungent aroma of wood burning and some kind of meat on the fire pits he could see as they approached. Modesty was apparently not one of the things these people cared about as their little group approached. Daniel could see some “women” as they moved among the fires. He thought to himself, that he had found a real “National Geographic” moment from Africa, with all the women’s breasts in full view. They moved here and there without regard to the others, busy with chores and cooking. Every once in a while one of the women would pick up a child and suckle them for a few minutes, and then literally drop the child and continue with whatever it was she was doing. As the group approached the men let out a loud holler, and everyone in the village stopped and looked. They came rushing up, only to stop dead in their tracks when they saw Daniel. The men shouted something as though to calm their worries, but the women and children cast fearful looks to each other and backed away keeping their eyes on the group. However, when they saw the deer some of the women ventured closer to help with the bounty. Daniel became a hero of sorts when the men in the group apparently explained that it was he who had brought down the deer and not the men.
The celebration that night was one of the strangest things Daniel had ever experienced. It seemed as though he was now considered some kind of hero. The villagers were not expecting to have such a bounty of meat thrust upon them. Every one of them seemed to be trying to eat as much as they could. Then the realization hit him, there was no power, none of the modern trappings of society that were second nature to him, no refrigerators or even some kind of cold storage. After the celebration was over the one “hunter” who had stood apart when they had first met, convinced Daniel to stay in his hut. Daniel now realized he was either the village’s chief, or whatever passed for leader here. In the morning he packed up his gear and after a lot of gesturing and posturing, he left the little village and decided to try and make his way back to where his truck had been parked to try and find his way back up the mountain and retrace his steps and hopefully get back home.
After hours of walking he stopped for a few minutes by the stream he now realized was a smaller version of the river by his home. I have to be crazy or all of this is some weird nightmare caused when he fell in the cave. By late afternoon he was back walking up the mountain where this had all started. By nightfall he was back at the plateau looking down into the valley and there in the distance was the smoke from the village he had left that morning. He quickly set the tent up and settled down for the night convinced that in the morning everything would be back to normal.
In the morning he woke and made a small fire for his coffee and one of the steaks he had kept from the previous day. He packed up his gear and decided to try and see if there was something in the cave he had previously explored to explain any of this. At the back of the cave he could see his flashlight on the ground. He went to it and picked it up, sStill not working, so he set his pack down and started to unscrew the end of the flashlight to check the batteries. Reaching for his pack to see if there were anymore batteries, he was startled by the fact that the pack was gone. No one was with him. No one would have been able to enter the cave without him noticing. This was just getting stranger and stranger he thought. Now there was no more shelter or food. He sat down in frustration and leaned back against the wall of the cave only to fall backwards. This is just getting too weird he thought got up and dusted himself off. Then it hit him, there at his feet was his missing pack. What the fuck was going on, this was getting just a little too weird for him. He walked out of the cave and was struck again with amazement. It was all just some crazy dream he thought, as there in the distance were the power lines and their towers. There were no primitives; there were no herds of deer or any of the things he had just experienced.
He scrambled down the hill and there at the bottom of the trail was his truck, just how and where he had left it. He drove though the forest and city to his home. He decided that it was all just a dream and went about the business of unpacking and cleaning up. There in the mirror of the bathroom was a sight he just couldn’t explain. His beard looked to be days old. Yet the calendar and TV, his watch, even the radio buzzing about the earthquake that had caused so much damage the day before, he had only been gone one day.
His biggest shock came later in the day when he emptied his pack and found the deer steaks he had cooked on the camp fire just two days earlier in his so called nightmare/dream. So was it real or not, there did not seem to be a reasonable explanation at hand. He decided at that point to find out the truth.
The next day he put everything that he could possibly need for a week or two into his pack. Along with the items he put into his pack he packed a box of rations and medicine and anything else he could think of. He drove back to the trail up the mountain and made the arduous trek back up to the cave where this had all started. Surprisingly nothing was at all different and into the cave he went. Through the shimmering wall and out into the fresh air where he had been before, sure enough the power lines were gone as were their towers. And in the distance were the smoke from the village, only now there seemed to be more fires.
Daniel made his way back to the village and its quaint little people. As he approached the village, he could see the fires were not just from cooking but several of the huts were burning. The closer he got it became apparent that there had been some kind of battle or something along those lines. A few bodies were visible and when they noticed him coming several of the people came running up to him. Over the next few days he helped the ones that could be helped. He struggled to learn whatever their language was and was becoming somewhat proficient at figuring out what it was they were talking about. From what he could make out of the assortment of language they were speaking and what was apparent in the village they had been attacked by a another village for the food that Daniel had been so helpful in procuring for them. Daniel could not believe that such a thing could happen but soon realized that it was just the way that things went in this particular place. He had set himself up in his tent just to the east of the entrance to the village. The villagers were often in his tent, bringing him little things in a small way of showing appreciation for the help and healing he was doing to some of the others who were hurt during the recent battle. Though still skeptical of him and his apparent ability to perform magic with his little pills, lotions and such more and more of the villagers were asking him for help. After almost a week there he packed up and told them goodbye, adding that he would be back in a moon’s cycle.