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.