The moon was almost in its fullest phase. Glancing up at it, Dash squinted at the glowing orb in the sky. He searched for that image of a face that he would sometimes see as a child. Sometimes he saw the face in the moon as a round-faced woman singing in a choir. The lips were in that O-shape as if mid-song. Other times, the face looked like a wistful woman with lips parsed, looking down on the earth woefully, as global warming burns it up slowly. Tonight, the moon’s face seemed to be at a strange off angle, looking towards its right, strikingly off kilter. Interesting, thought Dash, hoping it was not an ominous sign from the heavens above.
Dash let a deep breath out, and the wisps of air formed a white cloud released from his mouth. The fire outside his shelter was burning a conservative medium flame. He decided to get up and throw two more logs onto it, hoping it would keep on for the rest of the evening. The log pile was getting a little thin, but he dipped down and gathered two small, stocky logs and tossed them on top of the fire.
He stood over the fire, transfixed by the small withering flames. It was time to turn in and he hoped the warmth would continue on as long as he needed to fall into a restful sleep.
His shelter was a lean-to made of young saplings that angled up from the ground, where they rested against a rock wall edge. It sheltered from the wind, rain, snow somewhat, but was good for the moment. Reinforcements and walls would have to soon be built. Inside, he had a bed built of small branches tied together at the ends, which helped propped him up off the ground. On top of that, was a nice thick layer of spruce branches, which was the coziest part of the shelter and gave the benefit of a nice sharp fragrance of a fresh spruce. The thin, worn, red and black checkered wool blanket is what he covered up with while sleeping.
He rested his head finally after a grueling day. Reaching underneath his log bed platform, he searched around until his fingers felt the glassy plastic beads. He picked up the rosary beads and ran them through his left hand, letting his thoughts go in all directions until he drifted asleep.
Deep in slumber, Dash came upon a reoccurring dream. He is running and trying to find something, he’s running through the woods and then is suddenly in a downtown area. Two cops stop him and tell him to stay where he is, he feels trapped. Then from above, a woman is floating and calls out to him, asking for his help.
Abruptly, Dash wakes upright in anxiety, from the same reoccurring dream that he has had for months. It made him feel uneasy. No one in the dream was recognizable and he never knew what it meant exactly. He felt a wetness on his forehead from sweating from the uneasiness the imaginary world caused him.
Rubbing his eyes, he stretched out his arms and went about his usual day. He went to his metal pot and walked towards the small river creek about 200 yards away and came back to boil it over the fire. The fire from the night did go out, but there were leftover coals. Grabbing a few dry leaves, small sticks and debris, he blew them over the coals and a small flick of a flame came to life. He hung the pot of water on the rope that hung from the tripod that stood over the fire. Heading back into the shelter, he dug into an area right inside the shelter and unearthed a supply of blueberries and smoked fish. He took out a conservative amount and enjoyed his breakfast in the silence of the morning. Looking out from the shelter, he felt the frigid cold air of autumn, and sensed that the first snow would soon arrive. Today’s task would be to find enough logs to build three walls for his shelter.
The water was boiling and he took an old metal cup and put some green leaves and pine needles in it and poured the hot water over them. Taking a deep breath in of the warmth and blowing to cool down the temperature, he took a small sip. It was time to really make his stay a real one.
He finished his breakfast and got all his supplies together. Ax, rope and a small knife - in case anything out there might prove to be useful. He walked southeast from his camp and into a grove area where he obtained the logs that currently sheltered him. Walking around he spotted one log and went to work. He was like a machine, going at the logs, piling and roping them up to be dragged back to the camp. He estimated that he would need about eight logs on each side, so 24 total. It was going to be a lot of work and energy. This task would require a ton of energy so he made sure that he stocked up on extra food the next stop at his shelter.
There was a rope that hung from a tree branch across from his shelter and gently pulled until a cloth sack came down towards him. Inside of this sack was a supply of smoked rabbit and smoked fish. He took a good amount and ate it all and threw the sack over the branch again, before heading back out to the grove. He had ten logs to go.
As he walked back, he heard what sounded like a couple fighting. He could hear the low pitch of a male voice speaking in a harsh tone and a female voice responding in a high pitched determination. Puzzled, he craned his neck in the direction of the sound and saw a couple walking. They wore heavy parkas, carried one backpack and it seemed as if the woman was pregnant. From their appearance, they definitely did not seem like the typical hikers or campers that came through this part of the woods.
Hoping they wouldn’t notice him, he turned away and started walking in the direction towards more robust logs ready for chopping.
“Hey,” yelled out the man, “Wow, I didn’t realize someone would be out here, hey there!”
Too late, the couple had spotted him. And he turned back around to meet them.
“Hey there...,” Dash clearing his throat and speaking in a friendly tone, realizing he hadn’t spoken words in months to another person, “wow, yeah amazing you found this part of the woods,”
“We had taken a wrong turn and well here we are,” the man said with a chuckle. “I’m Wayne, and this here is Patricia.”
“Everyone calls me Pat,” the woman piped up, rubbing her swelling belly. Dash’s eyes fell on her belly. “I’m about eight months along, it’s usually everyone’s first question. I’ve got a real kicker inside here, can’t wait to get them out.,” she said with a jolly enthusiasm.
“Congratulations, that’s amazing, wow,” Dash wasn’t sure how to continue the conversation.
“The hope is that we find our way to her sister’s in time for the birth, can you imagine, trying to have the baby here?” Wayne said laughing. “We’re really trying to give the baby a chance at this thing you know?”
Dash sympathetically replied, “Yeah, I get it, give all you got to that little one. I hope the best for them.”
“Well thanks, we appreciate that. Hey, you wouldn’t know where we can find the main road? I believe the wrong turn we took was about an hour back and now we’ve just twisted ourselves around, “ Wayne said with an intense inquiry.
“The main road I know of is about a two hours walk heading west,” replied Dash.
“Oh okay wow, we really got lost,” said Pat. “My sister is was expecting us sometime tomorrow. It might get a little worrisome.”
“We’re losing light right about now so it would be impossible to make it to where you need to go by tonight. Listen, just come back with me and you can spend the night in my shelter,” Dash offered, not really wanting to but felt it was the right thing to do.
“You sure man?” Asked Wayne, “we don’t want to impose on you or anything, we’re pretty active people and we can walk along.”
“No, it’s no bother, you can leave at first light tomorrow. It would be a much better for the both of you. Please, I insist,” Dash said, not sure where all the hospitality was coming from.
“Okay then,” Wayne said, “I guess that settles it then. I imagine it gets real cold at night, huh?”
“It gets cold sure, but we can build a few extra fires and keep it warm,” Dash said.
Dash led them back, with a slight bit of regret, but he did have some sympathy for a lost couple in the woods and especially for the pregnant lady. Pregnant women would need to be taken care of extra well in these conditions.
As they walked Wayne asked about food and Dash said that they could fish or hunt if he was up for it. Wayne nodded that it sounded liked a good plan.
They arrived to the shelter and Wayne and Pat were astonished to see that Dash had made a real home there.
“My god, you like live live here,” said Wayne, “you are out here to survive on the land.”
“You built all of this, and you’re feeding yourself?” Asked Pat.
“Yep,” Dash replied sheepishly to all their questions that continued to spout out. You built this? You made this too? You live on this? He has been self-subsisting for so long the questions they asked were so mundane.
They got Pat comfortable on the spruce bed and decided to go out to bring food back for a meal. Dash grabbed some fishing line, hooks and bait.
“You got any hunting or fishing gear on you?” Dash asked.
“Does a firearm count?” Asked Wayne.
“Yep, that sure does,” Dash said. Then his feeling about them suddenly got tense, but he understood if the man carried one for protection, but wasn’t sure if there were any more sinister intentions.
He took Wayne to his fishing spot. I nice peaceful inlet right off the main lake. It had been a plentiful spot, supplying him with trout, bass and the random tilapia. They got their hooks baited up and had the handmade lures attached that Dash had made out of a beer can he found in the woods.
“This life you’re living is amazing,” Wayne said. “I’ve only seen this kind of thing on TV, what you’re doing, never met anyone whose actually done it. You got sick of all that nonsense down in Washington eh?”
“Well, I’d say it was a good motivator. But I think I was just looking for a different kind of life,” Dash replied, trying not to reveal too much. Wayne kept inching in, and Dash found himself having to fight off the urge to saying anything at all. He hadn’t read a newspaper, seen a TV or heard of any outside news since his family had been separated by the actions of the government. He still was wrapping his head around the household maximum count that became mandatory. By the new statutes of the government. He would have to get rid of two household members. By leaving, he left the other choice up to the family that remained. Each night, he rubbed the rosary’s hoping that it would be his younger brother and not his disabled sister who was the most vulnerable in this unstable world.