The nervous sweat pouring off me and dripping from my forehead, burning its way into my eyes. The smell of earth, potent.
My fingernails are caked with dirt. Terrified, malnourished, and running from my last scene of a crime. I force myself to be quite. I’m hiding from a stranger whom I fear , I may know a little too well in the next few moments.
Recollection of recent past , runs wild throughout my head.
Hell, at least what I think has been the past. I really haven’t been too good with keeping up with the times, lately. What was I doing and how did I end up here? I forget at that instant where I’m actually at. I search for .. stability.
My mind suddenly quiet , and alert with consciousness. I return back to reality.
..That’s when I hear him. A man yelling....To the top of his lungs. …
I have shrills as I switch into survival mode.
You see this man, this screaming lunatic, had just caught me in his van...
I have warrant out for my arrest. I'd not been anywhere, but felt like I'd been all over. Just walking, trying to get my mind right, before I go turn myself in.
.. I couldn’t tell you how many miles. I can’t say where I started. But I do know, I was worn out. Cold, hungry, and on the run.
I have a buddy a few miles down the road, which is where i had intended on heading.
So as I’m walking, I come around the curve on this old gravel road. I saw the familiar church. In front of the church , out here in the middle of the sticks, was a black Mercedes van. Approaching slowly, I solemnly do a quick observation.
It was obvious that the owner was on a bicycle, because of the bike rack on the back. No one in sight, no voices blowing thru the wind. Only the birds singing.. so I
figured I’d fuck around the area for a bit. Make sure that I really was alone. I go around to the back of the church, take a piss and eyeball the van some more.
One cigarette and ten minutes later, and still no sign of anyone.. I knew it was now or never. I decide to make my move, and approach the door on the van.
I’ll be damned , my hoping that it could be unlocked payed off.. I open it slowly. Then, look again in all directions. No sign of anyone. I drop my backpack and sack on the ground.
As I jump inside the van, my hands go to work. Shuffling thru the stuff, I started to make a pile on the bench seat of what I planned on taking. A hammock. A pack of sports drinks. Some trail mix and health bars.. Gave the tools a look over.
No more than two minutes , had I been inside the van, when I look up and see someone. A man on a bicycle rolling up. It never occurred to me, to hide my backpack and corn sack in the woods. Instead they were sitting right by the door. The man notices them first, realizing someone was in his van, and by the look in his eyes, he was mad!
As understandable as that is, I didn’t wait around to explain myself.
I jump out, grab my bags and start booking it towards the laurels.
The woods here are thick with laurels. Some are damn near twenty feet tall. It’s a nightmare to go for a leisurely stroll out here, let alone high tailing it in pure panic. Oldtimers call them.. “Hell thickets” . The laurel branches weave in and out with other laurel branches, sewing a wooden sweater, you can’t fit your head or arm through. They're are twined with leafy wreaths that slap you in the face. Saw briars growing all around. Always in that right spot at eye level , just to poke away your sight. Webs like sticky yarn clinging to your lips, hair and lashes. Big, red and orange legged spiders waiting.
Just waiting . Hell thickets, seems about right .
.. So there I went into the thickets. I’m trying to keep from making too much noise. The snapping of the branches and rustling of the dried leafs on the floor make that infeasible. The echoes of his shouts seem further off. By what must have been fifteen minutes, of my assault through the labyrinth of misery, I had to stop. Catching my breath, I get real quite. Listening to my surroundings yet again. I didn’t hear anything , so I figured he’s doing what I’m doing. Listening for my location. So I wriggle, and thrash thru some more. My goddamn bags are slowing me down. I drop the sack and say fuck it . I crawl and then tug my way , trying to put as much distance between me and him.
I see an opening in the woods about three feet from where I stood. Stretched thin, I managed to dislodge myself from the twig snapping mouse trap of Appalachia .
I burrow myself into the leafs and finally catch my breath.
.... That’s how I ended up here. Laying in the leafs covered in dirt. “I know these woods better than you do” the man screams. Normal time isn’t real anymore.
I am a timekeeper. The anxious beats from my heart are the ticking of a clock; only twice as fast as the mechanical arms.
Well this is it, I think to myself. I’m going to jail. Another arrest, before I can even turn myself in.
The madness continues. Somewhere out in those hell thickets, is one mad son of a bitch.
Thrashing, shouts, and what sounds like a war cry.
That’s when it hit me, I’m not going to jail. I’m going to die. This man is going to fucking kill me.
There’s no doubt in my mind , that he’ll tear me apart.
I know I don’t stand a chance at defending myself. Not now.
Black splotches begin to appear in front of my eyes.
Spinning round and round, and swooping a cool darkness on me.
A crunching sound brings me to life. I’m cold.
You know that feeling you get, after waking up from a dream? That’s not how I feel. I know damn well better than that. Especially , as I am reminded that I'm still on the forest floor of reality.
I must have fainted or something. Wondering how long I’d been out. Tranced in thought, I’m interrupted, by that sound again. ‘Fuck’ , I think to myself, ‘that man is still out here looking for me’. The crunching sound , I too familiar knew, was the sound of leafs being trambled on. I can tell he’s getting closer. Crunch crunch. Silence. Rustling sounds followed by crunch crunch crunch, rustle, crunch.
My eyes dart back and forth, as I remain motionless. ‘Where the fuck is he’, I ask myself. I stay quiet. Waiting. I try to come up with a strategy. Some sort of plan, to get out of this. Backflashes play a picture show in my head, and at the exact moment the crunching starts back, I remember what he said before I blacked out. He said he "knew these woods better than me" . Hell, he echoed the woods ands the hollows, with his antagonizing scream.. My blood turns to ice, as I realize the rustling and crunching is near. His footsteps are here, and right behind me. I think to myself ‘goddammit ! he does know the woods ,and he knows them far damn well better than me’.
I’m froze by intimidating alarm. So I just lay here, and put my arms over my head , close my eyes and beg. “please mister don’t hurt me’. I’m holding my breath now. Any minute he’s going to destroy me and leave me for dead.
Nothing. My eyes still closed and now counting the seconds. Why hasn’t he hit me yet? What is he waiting for? I picture him.with a loaded gun , pointed at the back of my head.
The rustling is now in front of me. I finally open my eyes , but slowly. I unflinch and swallow a lung when I see a deer about five feet away from me. Then a fast moving crunching comes up behind me again. It’s a yearling. It dashes past me and him and it’s mother take off leaping .
I can breathe again. I think I’ll continue to lay here. Then the paranoia strikes itself deep..
…Maybe he left. Maybe he’s still out here looking for me, or even more dreadful of a thought, what if he’s waiting. Waiting by his van. Waiting by his van, with the cops. Waiting to beat me to hell.. The thought of the cops or even the cops with their dogs searching the woods for me, rattle my head back into place. Laying here, hiding with bouts of paranoia isn’t cutting it. I rise to my feet , and start to shamefully do my walk of dread back. Back into the thickets. Back to the church. Back to take responsibility.
As I’m snapping and cussing laurel branches, I try to find my sack that I’d ditched. Maybe it was further ahead, I think, until I know that I would have come across it by now. I know this because I can see little areas of white in the distance. It’s the church and its about twenty feet ahead, on the other side of hell.
He’s found my sac. no doubt, I think. My I.D, wallet, and important papers were all in it. So he’ll know where to send the cops. He’ll have my dads address. He’ll even know my name.
I manage to rip a few more shreds into my shirt, making it passed the saw briars.
One foot then another. I’m out of the woods. Im all cut and scratched up. Covered in dirt and sweat. I fucking stink too.
I’m looking around but see nobody. No dogs. No blue lights. No handcuffs. I don’t even see the van. What I do see, however , causes me to drop to my knees and start to cry.
It’s my sack. Sitting there in the parking lot of the church. But right beside it, sits the sports drinks and the food I intended to steal. That man found it in his heart to give me that stuff. Even after he caught me trying to steal from him.
I just keep on crying. So ashamed of myself. How the fuck did I end up here, I ask.
Pulling myself together, i pick up everything, wipe away my tears, and start back walking.
Only this time, I’m walking to the county jail.