“Help! Somebody help me! I’m in this plane and don't know… don’t know… don’t know…” And he started crying with the screams, crying and slamming his hands against the wheel of the plane, causing it to jerk down, then back up. But again, he heard nothing but the sound of his own sobs in the microphone, his own screams mocking him, coming back into his ears.
Luck, he thought. I have luck, I had good luck there. But he knew that was wrong. If he had had good luck his parents wouldn’t have divorced because of the Secret and he wouldn’t have been flying with a pilot who had a heart attack and he wouldn’t be here where he had to have good luck to keep from being destroyed.
The scenery was very pretty, he thought, and there were new things to look at, but it was all a green and blue blur and he was used to the gray and black of the city. Traffic, people talking, sounds all the time—the hum and whine of the city. Here, at first, it was silent, or he thought it was silent, but when he started to listen, really listen, he heard thousands of things.
“So.” He almost jumped with the word, spoken aloud. It seemed so out of place, the sound. He tried it again. “So. So. So here I am.” And there it is, he thought. For the first time since the crash his mind started to work, his brain triggered and he began thinking.
Nothing. It kept coming back to that. He had nothing. Well, almost nothing. As a matter of fact, he thought, I don’t know what I’ve got or haven’t got. Maybe I should try and figure out just how I stand.
Ugly, he thought. Very, very ugly. And he was, at that moment, almost overcome with self-pity. He was dirty and starving and bitten and hurt and lonely and afraid and so completely miserable that it was like a being in a pit, a dark, deep pit with no way out. He sat on the bank and fought crying. Then let it come and cried for perhaps three, four minutes. Long tears, self-pity tears, wasted tears.
Yes, this was the third day and he had thought of the shelter as home. He turned and looked at it, studied the crude work. The brush made a fair wall, not weathertight but it cut most of the wind off. He hadn’t done so badly at that. Maybe it wasn’t much, but also maybe it was all he had for a home. All right, he thought, so I’ll call it home. He turned back and set off up the side of the lake, heading for the gut cherry bushes, his windbreaker-bag in his hand. Things were bad, he thought, but maybe not that bad. Maybe he could find some better berries.
Outside the rain poured down, but Brian lay back, drinking syrup from the berries, dry and with the pain almost all gone, the stiffness also gone, his belly full and a good taste in his mouth. For the first time since the crash he was not thinking of himself, or his own life. Brian was wondering if the bear was as surprised as he to find another being in the berries.
He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that—it didn’t work. When he sat alone in the darkness and cried and was done, all done with it, nothing had changed. His leg still hurt, it was still dark, he was still alone and the self-pity had accomplished nothing.
So much from a little spark.
A friend and a guard from a tiny spark.
He looked around and wished he had somebody to tell this thing, to show this thing he had done. But there was nobody. Nothing but the trees and the sun and the breeze and the lake.
He smiled. City boy, he thought. Oh, you city boy with your city ways—he made a mirror in his mind, a mirror of himself, and saw how he must look. City boy with your city ways sitting in the sand trying to read the tracks and not knowing, not understanding.
But it was a mental thing. He had gotten depressed thinking about how they hadn’t found him yet, and when he was busy and had something to do the depression seemed to leave. So there were things to do.
I am not the same, he thought. I see, I hear differently. He did not know when the change started, but it was there; when a sound came to him now he didn’t just hear it but would know the sound. He would swing and look at it—a breaking twig, a movement of air—and know the sound as if he somehow could move his mind back down the wave of sound to the source. He could know what the sound was before he quite realized he had heard it. And when he saw something—a bird moving a wing inside a bush or a ripple on the water—he would truly see that thing, not just notice it as he used to notice things in the city. He would see all parts of it; see the whole wing, the feathers, see the color of the feathers, see the bush, and the size and shape and color of its leaves.
He could not play the game without hope; could not play the game without a dream. They had taken it all away from him now, they had turned away from him and there was nothing for him now. The plane gone, his family gone, all of it gone. They would not come. He was alone and there was nothing for him.
Brian looked back and for a moment felt afraid because the wolf was so… so right. He knew Brian, knew him and owned him and chose not to do anything to him. But the fear moved then, moved away, and Brian knew the wolf for what it was—another part of the woods, another part of all of it. Brian relaxed the tension on the spear in his hand, settled the bow in his other hand from where it had started to come up. He knew the wolf now, as the wolf knew him, and he nodded to it, nodded and smiled.
With his bow, with an arrow fashioned by his own hands he had done food, had found a way to live. The bow had given him this way and he exulted in it, in the bow, in the arrow, in the fish, in the hatchet, in the sky. He stood and walked from the water, still holding the fish and arrow and bow against the sky, seeing them as they fit his arms, as if they were part of him.
By the end of that day, when it became dark and he lay next to the fire with his stomach full of fish and grease from the meat smeared around his mouth, he could feel new hope building in him. Not hope that he would be rescued—that was gone. But hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of tough hope.
He had been looking for feathers, for the color of the bird, for a bird sitting there. He had to look for the outline instead, had to see the shape instead of the feathers or color, had to train his eyes to see the shape…
It was like turning on a television. Suddenly he could see things he never saw before. In just moments, it seemed, he saw three birds before they flew, saw them sitting and got close enough to one of them, moving slowly, got close enough to try a shot with his bow.
She had done more damage than he had originally thought, the insane cow—no sense to it at all. Just madness. When he got to the shelter he crawled inside and was grateful that the coals were still glowing and that he had thought to get wood first thing in the mornings to be ready for the day, grateful that he had thought to get enough wood for two or three days at a time, grateful that he had fish nearby if he needed to eat, grateful, finally, as he dozed off, that he was alive.
A flip of some giant coin and he was the loser. But there is a difference now, he thought—there really is a difference. I might be hit but I’m not done. When the light comes I’ll start to rebuild. I still have the hatchet and that’s all I had in the first place.
He went to sleep thinking a kind of reverse question. He did not know if he would ever get out of this, could not see how it might be, but if he did somehow get home and go back to living the way he had lived, would it be just the opposite? Would he be sitting watching television and suddenly think about the sunset up in back of the ridge and wonder how the color looked in the lake?
For all this time, all the living and fighting, the hatchet had been everything—he had always worn it. Without the hatchet he had nothing—no fire, no tools, no weapons—he was nothing. The hatchet was, had been him. And he had dropped it.
It was a strange feeling, holding the rifle. It somehow removed him from everything around him. Without the rifle he had to fit in, to be part of it all, to understand it and use it—the woods, all of it. With the rifle, suddenly, he didn’t have to know; did not have to be afraid or understand.
They were not nightmares, none of them was frightening, but he would awaken at times with them; just awaken and sit up and think of the lake, the forest, the fire at night, the night birds singing, the fish jumping—sit in the dark alone and think of them and it was not bad and would never be bad for him.