9 weeks later
The stallion in front of me snorted, then darted to the left. I was on my toes, watching his every move and trying to move with him. As the stallion lept up on it’s hind legs, I darted for his neck and wrapped my arms around it.
I was startled by the indian’s urgency. I let go, and fell back – the stallion stormed to the other end of the arena. Standing up, I walked over to the indian that had shouted – Tasunke, the horse trainer. He wore a look of complete shock.
“What were you thinking? There were two major problems with that move… one is that you could have been killed. Remember that horses are around 6 times your size, and their hooves are rather hard. Second: you are a predator, and horses are prey. They naturally have a fear of humans – if you are going to gain their trust, you must show them that you don’t intend to kill and eat them.”
He let me think about that for a minute, then encouraged me to go back into the arena. As I walked towards the stallion, he snorted, wide eyed, and tried to get as far away from me as he could. I looked back at Tasunke.
“You must have Patience.”
I gasped; sweat was pouring down my face. I looked to my left into the kind face of an Indian. There weren’t any horses. They had all gone. No… they had never been there. It had all been a dream – just a bad dream.
“You’re awake.” The Indian smiled. “You’ve been unconscious for three days.”
“You look like an Indian, but you sure don’t sound like one… aren’t Indians supposed to talk all choppy-like and with bad grammar?”
He chuckled. “Not all Indians are they way the movies show them being. We, however, do still follow our ancestors traditions. For hundreds of years, we have been known for our skill in training the wild horses.”
I smiled, thinking that it would be nice if they would tame all the wild horses that landed me here.
My brain felt like an old TV – one that can’t quite get a signal and only shows grey fuzz. I tried to open my eyes, but my eye lids were very heavy. I felt like I was floating… no, I was falling. The wind whipped my clothes around my body, and I could feel the sleeves tightening around my wrists. I turned around and looked down – ground. I jolted to a stop, slamming into the hard dirt. Instantly I was surrounded by a herd of wild, frantic horses. They were pawing and rearing, their over-sized hooves coming uncomfortably close to my body.
I tried to stand up and run, but was kicked back to the ground. I could hardly breath. I gasped for air and flailed my arms around, hitting whatever I could. I tried standing again, and managed to get away from the herd; but only to run straight into the face of the stallion. He reared up, pawing the air, then lunged…
After several hours of unsuccessfully searching for food, I was beginning to give up hope of being able to come out of this wilderness alive. It seemed that my only hope would be for someone to find me – but in a wasteland like this, chances of that happening were slim to none.
I pulled the nearly empty water bottle out of my backpack and unscrewed the top. Looking down through the opening at the water sloshing around in the bottom I was faced with a choice – I could either drink it all now and be really thirsty on the way back to camp, or wait to drink it later and be really thirsty now. Before I could come to a decision, I was startled by a stream of warm air being blowing down my neck. I turned around slowly and came face-to-face with what seemed to be the stallion of the herd I ran into the day before – and he wasn’t looking any more friendly today than he had yesterday.
Thinking quickly, I decided that I should try making friends the horse rather than run away. Slowly I brought my hand up to pet the horse’s nose, but before I could get very close the horse snorted and lunged at my shoulder. I darted back, just missing what could have been a very painful nip. I had dodged one danger, but fell right into another – I bumped into a mother horse. She screamed and kicked.
Everything went black.
When I woke up the next morning the sun was just peaking over the mountains on the horizon. It was fairly chilly – enough to make me wish I had some matches to make a fire with. I pulled my jacket tighter around my chest to warm up. I knew that if I wouldn’t be able to get out of this back-country within the month, I’d have have to do something about building an enclosed shelter before Autumn changed to Winter.
After climbing out of my trench I walked to the spring where I took a long draught. After being refreshed by the water, I decided to take a look around to see what I could find for food – mint was good, but it alone wouldn’t be enough to keep me alive. I packed all my possessions into my backpack (my captors had been kind enough to leave me with a pocket knife, water bottle, and bandana when they dropped me off) and set out.
As I walked, I subconsciously was watching for the herd of horses. They were fascinating and frightening to me all at the same time; I desperately wanted to see them again, but at the same time I was terrified of running into them.
My first reaction was to try fighting my way out of the middle of the horde of horses, but then I thought better. If I stood still, there’d be less of a chance to be accidentally trampled. Within a couple seconds the horses had passed; the dust started settling, and the sound of pounding of their hooves behind me faded as the horses moved on. I turned around and watched as they disappeared over a small hill and into a thicket of trees. An idea began to formulate in my mind – it wasn’t quite grand enough yet for me to take much notice, but it was there none the less.
I started walking, nowhere in particular. I knew that sooner or later I’d need to find some sort of shelter, food, and water. Perhaps by chance, but more likely by providence, I found a stream – small, though it was. I bent down, smelled the water, then scooped some into my mouth. It tasted sweet, unlike any water I had ever tasted before. I glanced around, and noticed a couple purplish-green leaved plants growing close to the spring – they smelled like the water had tasted. I bit the tip off of one of the leaves and slowly chewed it up, savoring the flavor. It was definitely some sort of a mint.
The spring and good plant life confirmed that this was where I needed to make my home – at least, for the time being. I dug a shallow trench, just wide, deep, and long enough to fit my body into. The soil was somewhat sandy, but still somewhat clingy as well – a perfect consistency for digging. With the trench finished, I climbed in and fell into a deep sleep.
I dared to look up at the man sitting next to me. “Where are you taking me?” The balaclava clad guy didn’t answer – he just fingered the safety on his M4. I went back to looking down at my mud-stained boots, and listening to the rhythmic pounding of the helicopter blades. I figured that, since we had been flying for at least 5 hours, we were probably pretty far out into the middle of nowhere by now.
15 minutes later, when the helicopter slowed and descended to the ground, I found that my figuring had been correct. I climbed out, due to the prompting of the guy with the M4, and looked around. There was nothing to be seen but sparse patches of grass and clumps of half-wilted trees for miles around. I turned to the guy next to me, the confused look on my face asking “what now?” For the first time in the whole five hour trip, he spoke to me.
“You… we… how do I explain this?” The man paused, thinking about how to word the bad news that he was all-too-happy to share. I imagined a smile spreading across his face under the black balaclava. “We, of course, took you hostage. We threatened your family that if we weren’t given $25,000 dollars before the end of two weeks, we would kill you.”
“Two weeks is up.”
I nodded again, knowing all to well what was about to happen, but hoping against all odds that it wouldn’t.
“However, we aren’t cold-blooded murderers.” The man stepped closer to me. “So, we’re giving you a chance – to live. If you can find your way out of this blasted, forsaken country, you go free. If not…” The man chuckled as he and his goons climbed back into the helicopter.
I watched as the helicopter lifted from the ground and moved off towards the horizon. The pounding of the roters grew increasingly quieter. Before too long all was silent. No, actually; it wasn’t. I thought I could hear the roters pounding behind me, now. I knew it couldn’t be true; that it was just my mind playing tricks. I turned anyway – just in time to come face-to-face with a herd of horses, running wildly, whinnying, and bucking; and apparently angry with their unexpected visitor – me.