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.
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.