by Luke Lane
I tasted blood. In my mind I saw myself at the dinner table working on a plate of dimes. Cold. When I opened my eyes I remembered where I was, and questioned why I wasn’t dead. I was covered in blood, and not all of it was my own. The sow was on top of me. Her dead weight was pressing me into the soft earth and her gaping mouth was icy against my ear. I nearly passed out again as the edges of my vision darkened, but then the adrenaline, which had gone into hibernation after the initial combat had been decided, kicked back into gear, and I began to suck in painful breaths, each more full than the last.
Calmly, working first on my breathing, I set to evaluating my situation. The worn leather of my hunting knife was six inches from my face, the wide blade still buried in the sow’s thick neck. The blood on the handle was already dry. The sun was dipping into the trees to the west. I had maybe three hours of daylight left. I couldn’t feel my right leg, but the 300 pounds of mama bear laying on me was probably the cause of that. I felt weak as I remembered her sudden appearance through the green ferns, her glistening claws red and wet with my blood, and the terrible heat and stench of her breath. It had smelled like my death.
I could feel her coarse fur poking into a gaping open wound in my right side, just under my ribs, like so many angry sewing needles. I knew instinctively that the bear’s weight was probably what kept me from bleeding out entirely while I was unconscious. I chuckled, on the inside.
I craned my head to find my camo pack some thirty feet away, where she had ripped it off my back in our tussle. I ran through a mental recounting of what I had and what I’d likely need. Duct tape was chief among them. I remembered that I had had my radio on my person, but had no idea if it was still with me or somewhere in the clearing. I pushed the bulk of the bear off me with a considerable amount of grunting and cursing. Immediately I felt warm blood pumping out of my side. When feeling returned to my right leg and I tried to move into a sitting position, sharp pain stabbed into my brain, taking my carefully guarded breath away. The bones in my right ankle felt shattered. Clenching my teeth against the agony, and watching my blood pump from the newly-made valley in my side, triggered another flood of adrenaline, and I yanked the knife from the bear’s neck and began dragging my useless right leg across the expanse toward my pack. I slid the knife into its sheath on my left thigh and grabbed at the pack with the desperation of a drowning man. I had to stop the bleeding or I would pass out again and never wake up.
With the pack under me, I half crawled and half dragged myself to the roots of a huge Douglas fir. On the north side of the tree I found a nice healthy growth of moss and, after fishing out a bottle of alcohol from my pack and cleaning the blade as best I could, cut out a few thick sections. I wrung out as much moisture from the moss as I could while holding onto consciousness. My mind wanted to put me someplace else, but my body was busy doing the work necessary to keep me alive. I set the prepared moss aside and pulled the pack apart looking for the duct tape. I almost yelled in triumph as my hand closed on the roll. I laid back against the tree root with the pack behind and under me, wiping stinging sweat from my eyes. I ripped off what remained of my shirt and started liberally filling the two deepest claw wounds with the moss. The superficial lacerations that covered the rest of my body were not an immediate concern. When I got them good and packed I broke out the tape and ran a single line across my abdomen several times. It wasn’t very sterile, or very neatly done, of course, but it would keep my blood in my body, and I considered that to be step one.
Taking a moment to breathe and even feel a little relief, my eyes followed the trail of blood I’d left. There, lying next to the grizzly’s carcass was the red and yellow radio. The pain in my ankle was nearly overwhelming. I decided I needed to do something about that before trying move anymore.
I had duct tape, and I had plenty of sticks. In my immediate area I found a few nice straight pieces, as well as some horsetail, which I quickly gathered, ground between my palms and rubbed into the more minor cuts that were still bleeding. The horsetail worked almost immediately and it was safe to say I wasn’t going to die of blood loss any longer. It was possible I would pass out from the pain of splinting my ankle, however, so I chose a good strong stick to place between my teeth before I began to wrap my left leg with the duct tape. Starting from the middle of the calf wasn’t too bad until I reached the ankle itself. I decided that I just had to, yes, bear it, and do it as quickly as possible. So I did, and I chewed that stick into splinters.
Some time later I made it back to the radio. A few rubber buttons were missing and there was a big scratch mark across the plastic speaker, but when I turned the knob, the little green light came on. I smiled, I think, for the first time that day.
I depressed the button and heard my own hoarse voice croak out “Ellie?”
The radio crackled static back at me, and I lowered my forehead to the dirt.
“Joel?” the plastic speaker chirped. “Joel! Where are you?”
I raised my head and pressed the button again, “I think I finally met your mother.”
I flipped on the GPS signaler and said, “Sore subject?”
More static, and then, “Idiot. Stay there.”
I smiled and let exhaustion take me back to the dinner table.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing