Title: New Life
Genre: Speculative fiction
Word count: 1000
She hurt. She hurt all over. Even her eyelashes felt bruised. She braced herself, preparing for the deep pain sure to come and opened her eyes.
With a grimace, eyes wide, she gingerly turned her head and saw what appeared to be a tunnel. It was dark green in colour, nearly absent of light. It looked to stretch on to nowhere and - with a careful turn of her head - came from no real where either.
It was a struggle, but she managed to sit up. Her head was clearer and she could see that the dark green was actually foliage, dense to the point of resembling a woven fabric. She did not recognize this place. She did not know where she was or how she came to be there, but she did know she didn’t belong there. She knew she wanted out of there.
Taking stock, she determined that, despite the all-encompassing ache, she should be able to get to her feet and move. That’s when she noticed her appearance. It looked like she had been through a battle: dirt coated her clothes, palms raw with scrapes, mud clinging to her boots, and most frighteningly, a vine curled snugly around one ankle. She tugged at it, then tugged harder, with little effect aside from rising panic. She managed to clamber upright and took a step forward with the other foot thinking to forcefully pull the trapped one free of the vine. To her surprise, the heavy rope of vegetation dropped away. She took quick, anxious steps forward to get away from the thing, then stopped with the realization she didn’t know where to go: there was no clear path to follow, there were no landmarks to guide her, and she could see no horizon from which to get her bearings.
She would just have to move forward, then; forward being the direction she began with. But she was immediately pulled up short by, she saw with horror, yet another vine twined around her ankle. Panic mounted higher, exacerbated by the heavy thickness of the air she had to struggle to take in. Her mind began a refrain: “Get me out; get me out; get me out…” How was this happening to her?
Again, it was the simple act of walking forward that loosened her from the snare of the vine. And so it went for what felt like hours. As long as she kept in motion, maintaining forward momentum, she was able to forge a way through the dark tunnel, but as soon as she stopped she would become entangled once more.
Reaching a state of exhaustion to the point of struggling to move her limbs or keep her eyes open, she realized she couldn’t go on any further without taking some rest. Giving the matter some thought, she began searching out rocks and stout branches with which to construct a sort of barricade behind which to refuge for a few hours at least. As she found suitable specimens she filled her pockets, then used the bottom of her shirt as a basket of sorts, clutching the ends of fabric until the weight became too much.What she had at that point would just have to be enough.
Without being too clever about construction methods, she arranged her building material in a rough oval shape, just large enough for her to curl up inside of. She took care that every part of her body and clothing was within the perimeter, then, despite how rough and uncomfortable the ground, she fell swiftly to sleep.
Untold hours slipped through the dense forest tunnel as she slept without dreaming. There was no rising sun to awaken her, or early birdsong to disturb her slumber. When she opened her eyes it was to a world that looked much as it had when she’d closed them. Struggling to bring her protesting body upright, she was relieved to see that her barricade had done its job: she was free of clinging greenery. With equal relief she noticed that on the larger leaves in arm’s reach of her fortress were drops of heavy dew, and that by bringing the tip of a leaf to her mouth she could drink of the water.
Thirst slaked, she stood inside the protective circle and took stock of her situation. She could see no food so she would have to remain hungry for now. With no clearer idea of direction or destination she would carry on as yesterday, one foot in front of the other in a steady march.
Accustomed to walking through the green darkness, she was able to pay attention to her thoughts, which, she realized, were actually quite busy. She had vague impressions of herself before waking up here. There had been light, certainly, and laughter, but also noise and fear and emptiness. Was she trying to get back to that, or had an attempt to escape it brought her here? She had to get out of this place, but felt her connection to anything from before first waking here was fading.
Now knowing the trick to escaping the green snares, she regularly took time to rest. As time passed she realized she had made a sort of peace with her circumstances and acceptance resulted in relative calm. One step then another was all she could do, so that is what she would do. When hunger became unbearable, she would figure out what she could eat. When she became too tired to continue, she would again construct a barricade and sleep until she woke once more.
Finally, her mind took notice of what her feet had been telling her for some time: the lush vegetation had become considerably thinner. There was more light and the air was no longer heavy. Each step was easier than the one before. Moving more quickly, she soon found herself standing under the last tree at the edge of a vast meadow. A gentle rain fell, and the bright sun kissed her face.