Last Walk In The Forest
Memories are the pages of our lives. Good and bad all come together to make us who we are. Have you ever tried to recall your first memory? It is sometimes tricky and hard to tell if the memory is real or just imagined. I once met a man who had a brother who claimed to remember being in his mother’s womb, but don’t feel bad, I didn’t believe him either. I remember my first memory explicitly. I was two years old, and my father gave me my first pet; a golden-brown puppy named Max. I remember laying back-down on the floor with Max climbing all over me licking me on the face. He was a furry little guy, barely the size of my head at the time. Max was a golden retriever, a real hunting dog. It was love at first sight. We spent our days exploring the forest and playing around, and at night he curled up at my side and kept me warm. We became inseparable.
Max and I grew up together and became best friends. We taught each other a lot and had many adventures. Max died of old age when I was 12 years old. The loss was very hard for me, and I never owned another dog. It is strange how memories have a habit of becoming so unclear. When I was younger I could remember meeting Max so clearly, but now it seems like I remember more about our meeting from all the times I’ve told the story than the actual event itself. For some reason my last memory is a lot clearer than my first. We’ll get to my last memory soon, but first I want to tell you a story.
I’ll never forget the time I was running through the forest being chased by a pack of man-eating wolves. Yes, wolves! Not dogs, although most people don’t realize there is so much of a difference. Most people take their safety for granted while hiking on their favorite trail, but you might change your ways if you ever get the chance to see one in person The first thing that strikes you is how big they are. The three that were chasing me looked like they grew up next to a nuclear power plant. They were huge! 150 pounds of hunger and teeth, which is a bad combination when you’re the only item on the menu. They are also smart, much smarter than your typical big cats like lions and tigers. Did you know that tigers won’t attack you if you look them in the eyes? Well, let me tell you, with that in mind, I would have wished I was being chased by a pack of hungry tigers at the time.
They didn’t ambush me. I saw them in the distance across an open field about half a mile away. They were running towards me, and I wasn’t taking any chances. I started running in the opposite direction. Powered by fear, I felt like a machine. I had no way of timing myself, but I swear that was the fastest I had ever ran. I was an Olympian. Hurdling shrubs, dodging trees, and ducking under low-hanging branches, I flew through the woods with the speed of the wind.
The forest was very patchy, going from open snow to dense trees quite often. I kept looking behind me every time I was in the open, and sure enough, there were the wolves in the distance. I was certain they were after me now. They were pacing themselves and gaining on me steadily.
Overcome by fear and exhaustion, I had to stop. My lungs were burning with the type of pain one only gets when running in the wintertime. Each breath felt like I was breathing in icy water. My heart was pounding, and my hands were shaking. I looked around me, turning to the environment to rescue me from this “walk through the woods gone bad.”
“The trees!” I said to my self.
I scouted the area, but all of the trees were too big around for me to climb. Panic set in, and I spotted a tree limb that could be used as a weapon. I snatched up the makeshift club and gripped it tightly. A million things were rushing through my head, and I found it hard to think. In the middle of my personal chaos, I noticed a good hiding place. It was a wide, shallow pocket in the base of a tree with a large shrub in front of it providing cover.
I made a dash for the pocket and slid inside. I sat motionless, waiting for what seemed like forever. With my heart pounding violently and struggling to catch my breath, I found it impossible to be perfectly quiet. I had a good view of the forest through the shrub in front of me. I expected to hear the sloppy trotting of the wolves long before I saw them, but what happened next shocked me. There I sit… watching… listening. All of a sudden the silent trackers came into my vision. There were three of them, low to the ground, sniffing and looking. They were side by side, creeping along atop the trail of footprints left in the snow. Their form was so elegant. It reminded me of Max, and how we used to hunt together. They were tracking me. I was being betrayed by my scent. I smelled of fear, of flesh, of humanity.