Thursday, 27 November 2014

Don’t leave me behind

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld  in your block!

The hiking trail was not a long one but it was enough for her to tick off exercise on her weekly to-do list. And the threatening fog didn’t worry her. Peering through the trees she saw a body through the mist; it was a man and he was lying on his back. Approaching carefully, she started off wondering what he was doing and then moved to concerned that he might be injured... or dead. She groused at herself out loud. “If he is dead, then he can’t hurt you.”
But he wasn’t. She could see his chest rise and fall. His naked chest. He must be freezing. “Hey?” she said.
A pause for an answer that didn’t come.
“You okay?”
No answer.
It was too cold to be in the forest with just jeans on. “Where are the rest of your clothes?” she asked him. But he didn’t respond.
He did seem to hear her. A smile crept onto his face. Slowly.
Too slowly. He looked drugged or drunk. Ugh. He was just off his face.
She started to walk away when he mumbled something. It kind of sounded like ‘don’t leave me behind.’
She turned back and leaned down over his face to sniff. No scent of alcohol, so he wasn’t drunk. She scanned down his body. Not a mark on him. No needle marks up his arms. Wait... he had a bruise around his upper arm and his wrist. On both sides. It had to be recent because it was just starting to show and it was an odd place to have a bruise, as if he had been tied up or restrained. And if he had, was he dangerous? Should she even be standing near him? She cursed herself for being a Good Samaritan.
He groaned. It sounded painful.
She made a decision. “What can I do?” she asked. He looked too heavy for her to lift alone.
“Help... me,” he whispered.
She took a deep breath. “I’ll try.”
Grabbing his hand, she tried to pull him up to sitting. He let out a noise of pain and she let go. “Sorry.”
He lay on his back and gasped for breath, “Tt-ry again.”
Ignoring his groans, she put his arm over her shoulder and tried to lift him. They both fell. He ended up on his hands and knees.
“This isn’t going to work.” She glanced around, looking for something to help them.
A nearby fallen branch served as a tall staff for him to lean on. He climbed up the stick and leaned on her back until he stood up right.
“I have a car.”
He staggered, but she and the stick kept him upright. He felt too warm, but he was shivering. “And you have a fever,” she told him. “Guess you already know that.”
A few stumbling steps.
“And why can’t I shut up?”
He made a noise that might have been an attempt to laugh, followed by a groan.
“Sore ribs, huh?”
He nodded without speaking. She started to wonder about what had happened to him.
They staggered back to her car. It took much longer than she expected, his feet were bare and he was stumbling as he walked. It was starting to get dark by the time they reached the parking place.
She kept taking surreptitious looks at him. He was very handsome with tousled blond hair. He didn’t even need a shave so whatever had happened to him, he hadn’t been held more than a day or so. Now his skin felt clammy and cold.
“Should we go to the hospital?”
He shook his head.
“The police?”
Another shake, more vehement than the first.
She was starting to think this was a very bad idea, but she was in it now. Up to her neck; the neck around which he had his arm.
When they got to her car, she helped him into the passenger side.
“Not ... hurt,” he said as if he knew what she was thinking.
She was fairly certain that he couldn’t physically hurt her, he was too weak, but she couldn’t really be sure. Taking the chance to grab an old picnic rug from the trunk, she wrapped it around him. As they drove off, she glanced up to the mirror; not sure why, she had a sense that someone might follow them and she needed to check. Nothing behind them; not that she could see.
“Where should I take you, then?”
No answer. He was asleep or passed out.
“My place, then?”
They repeated the stumbling, painful walk at her place. She left him unconscious on the sofa before wandering back and forth wondering if she was doing the right thing. She had nothing worth stealing; other than her car. In a way it was easier to deal with him when he was out, but if he woke up and left her house that would be good, too.
She hadn’t been coerced; there was no point calling the police now. And what could she tell them?
It wasn’t so much that she made a decision to help him, as she couldn’t make a decision to do anything different. She heated up some soup, filled a thermos and placed it on the coffee table where he would see it when he woke up. She got a water bottle as well and some packets of painkillers in various strengths.
And then she went and locked herself in her bedroom with the few valuables she had.
Sleep seemed impossible but came eventually; she was so emotionally drained. And she worried that the thin internal door would not stop anyone if they really wanted to get in.
It was the shower that woke her up. It made an odd clunking noise when you turned the water off. She was instantly awake, threw the covers off and rushed to the door. Then she stopped, uncertain of what she intended to do. Luckily, she was still dressed.
“You awake?” he whispered through the door.
A pause.
Another pause.
“My name’s Ciaron.”
“Okay.” Should she tell him her name? “Mine’s Nikki.”
“Thanks, again, Nikki.”
Opening the door was too much for her and he didn’t seem to expect her to. She sank down and sat on the carpet and listened to him close the door behind him. She counted to a thousand, very, very slowly before she opened the door.
She didn’t breathe until she checked he was really gone. She had fully expected things to be stolen, but nothing appeared to have been touched or missing.
Then she washed everything up and tried to get on with her life.
Small gifts appeared for her after that. She never saw him. First it was a container of herbs. She put them on the balcony where they could get sunlight. Then a new picnic blanket and finally a new thermos.
She chuckled. “Cheeky bastard.”
© AM Gray 2014

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