nute that passed. If the boy had paid a little more attention to his surroundings, he would have saw dozens of eyes staring at him from behind the veil of darkness. They tracked his every move, their hunger unfathomable. Yet still they watched.
The boy continued searching for minutes. He knew that if he was even a little hydrated, he was certain he would be drooling at the thought of eating something, finally. But the lizard seemed to have vanished into thin air. There was no indication it had made it to the ferns.
Despite this, a fortunate find did present itself to the boy, and one issue was solved temporarily.
He found moss.
It presented itself beneath the ferns crested in the southern centre of the cavern, atop the dirt area beneath the opening on the ceiling. Moss, as he could strangely recall, held water. The further benefit was that its acidic nature prevented bacteria from growing on themselves. In turn providing clean, fresh water. This was not a solution, but a temporary salvation in his despair. Shortly after his barbaric searching, he was beyond thirsty, resulting in this discovery being perhaps the perfect find at this time.
Bracing himself for the worst, he gently pushed back a fern and diligently tore up a small section of moss using a sharper stone. He tried to cut a square as best he could. He held it to the light and inspected it from every angle. It was green, he knew moss was supposed to be green. At this point, the prospect of water was far too tempting for even his, clearly, logical mind. He held it above his mouth and rang it out. The drops fell hard and fast, tasting sweet success, he twisted only harder.
The taste was of both dirt and water. One of these two was crucial to the fundamentals of living, and the other, well, the other was just plain nasty. Nevertheless, he savoured every drop he could muster, and after some time, his thirst was quenched. After retching and struggling to keep the horrid liquid down, he decided to feign his plight to his own rationally once more, rather optimistically.
”That patch I cut was a 30cm square, aside from tasting like shit, it gave me decent hydration, so this entire patch should last me a while, hopefully. ”
He then did rough calculations of the area where the moss grew and did the math that would decide how long he could survive on the rancid water.
”The entire moss patch is around 20 feet long and 10 feet wide, if I sparingly drink the same as I did earlier, twice a day, I could manage for maybe… A month at the least. ”
Silence permeated the cave; time had almost seemed to grind to a halt. The boy could hear his heartbeat throb violently in his head. He had finally found something to keep himself alive, his desperation had paid off, yet a month was all it amounted to.
The stark reality of this brought the boy once more to tears. A month. That was the timeframe he had by his calculations. However, even that was still optimistic, as he still had no source of food. He knew he could eat the moss in absolutely dire circumstances, but that would only prove detrimental, as you can survive longer without food than you can without water.
He lost himself as fast as he composed himself, turned his head upwards and screamed.
”HELP ME! I AM TRAPPED DOWN HERE! ”
He continued bellowing variations of this phrase for seemingly hours, his throat tore, and his head pounded. Yet he did not concede to the pain, he continued long to the point where but a shrill wheeze could croak out of his throat. He drank another patch of moss and laid still. He watched the opening of the cave for any signs of movement, but nothing ever came, no hero saved him. He was alone. What brought him out of this daze was yet another realization and yet another issue, which had omitted the boy this entire time.
The light was fading. The boy studied the light for a few more seconds and realised just how naïve he had truly been.
”The night, I … HOW DID I FORGET! ”
The night was coming, and the faint trickle of light that was in the cavern would soon be gone, leaving both the boy and the cavern encased in darkness. This brought an entire variety of issues, be it freezing to death, nocturnal animals in the cavern, and even the loss of sanity. He had wasted too much time, and forgot about the one definite of gravity, what goes up… must come down.
The boy quickly sat upright, and to reap as many benefits as he could from the light, he dashed around the lighter sections of the cavern, for anything that could help him survive. An hour passed and the light now barely reached the ferns beneath the opening. The boy found nothing.
Instead of breaking down, the hopelessness he felt spurned his brain into overdrive. He had a plan. At breakneck speed, he grabbed some large ferns and tore them harshly by the root out from the ground. He was careful to not damage the moss and acquired 30 or so large leaved ferns. As a surprise even to himself, he thought of only one solution. He then used the stems from the leaves to tie one to another, but the stems were brittle and cracked with the slightest pressure.
Frustrated, the boy hit the floor with his palm over and over. Dirt lined his hands and stones embedded themselves into his palms. He once again tried to formulate a plan.
”I need warmth, cover and protection, if I can fashion these leaves together in a form of a blanket, I can stay hidden and keep warm. But how do I … ”
He instantly made a decision. He whipped off his pyjama top and using a sharper piece of slate he acquired, repeatedly stabbed and tore at one of the sleeves. His anguished hammering of the sleeve was proving fruitless, the slate was too dull, and the shirt too tough.
Clenching his jaw, he picked up his shirt and started to gnaw on the creases made by the slate. He gnashed and chewed, gritted and ground his teeth along the sleeve until he felt the fabric stretch and fray beneath his canines. He continued until his teeth collided with one another.
The sleeve was placed beneath him and pulled the sleeve towards his chest, over and over until it tore into seven variously sized strips. He panted and fell onto his back, breathing deeply until the crazed beating of his heart grew weary. He propped himself up and used the slate as a nail and his palm, which he had wrapped in another piece of fabric, as a hammer to drive holes into the thinner ends of each larger leaf. He then fed the leaves onto a long strip of fabric through the new holes. He ended the process with a single knot at each end of the strip, preventing the leaves from falling off.
He had done it; he had made a blanket of leaves. A shroud of shrubbery if you will.
He dove to the centre of the cavern, before moving a few paces to the east. Crouching over the dirt, he used his hands to shovel the dirt. He made a burrow deep enough to contain his small frame and pulled his fashioned blanket over himself with his feet facing south. His hands ached; his fingernails bled. But his burrow was secure. That was enough.
Even though he knew it was not much, at this moment, the pride he felt was akin to Napoleon conquering the known world. Comfort and safety, paired with pride and ego. All of these made the boy happy for the first time that he has ever known, and that was a feeling he wanted to keep forever. At this moment, he vowed to keep himself happy and to solve the mystery of why he was here. He would survive.
He watched the light meekly retreat out from the cavern. Adrenaline was now in short supply, but he was proud of what he had accomplished. The withdrawal of light begets only the safe, cold embrace of darkness to consume his vision. One of these descriptions was a lie, as the boy will soon find out.
Numerous eyes watched his chest rise, falter and fall. They hunger only grew as the boy grew more desperate. They would have him, eventually.
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