7 - Day One

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AJ stood next to the fire and rotated his ankle painfully. After having slept for a few hours it was beginning to swell and stiffen up. He sighed as his stomach growled. He had no idea how long it had been since they'd eaten last and was tempted to look around for something edible.

Brian stirred and sat up, looking around disoriented for a moment before looking up at AJ. "Morning," AJ grunted, stretching out his shoulders. "Sleep well?"

"Oh, yeah," Brian replied sarcastically, "Best sleep I've had in years." He grunted as he pushed himself up and slipped out from under the shelter.

"We should wake her up," AJ said, motioning toward Melanie. Brian nodded and crawled back under the shelter. He watched Melanie for a moment, taking in her injuries now that it was light enough to see. He gently pulled her arm away from her ribs and lifted her shirt enough to see the bruise forming along the side of her torso.

Melanie stirred and pushed her shirt back down. She looked up at Brian and frowned. "What are you doing?" she groaned tiredly.

"Sorry," Brian replied. "I just wanted to see how bad it was."

"Huh?" Melanie asked. She attempted to sit up, but cried out and cringed, lying back down in the fetal position as pain coursed through her body. Brian waited for Melanie to recover before helping her sit up and letting her squeeze his hand tightly as pain ripped through her torso. She panted and waited for the pain to subside before letting go of Brian's hand and looking around.

"Where the fuck are we?" she asked. AJ couldn't help but grin at Melanie's repetition.

"Try to remember," Brian suggested. Melanie frowned and tried to rack her brain for any clues or memories as to where they were and how they had gotten there. She gave up and looked at Brian expectantly.

"We were in an accident," Brian explained. He proceeded to tell her everything they could remember about the crash and how they had ended up where they were. "You seem a lot more with it than you did last night." Brian said with a smile. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I was thrown from a bus," Melanie replied sarcastically as Brian helped her stand up. "How far away did we end up? Shouldn't they have found us by now?"

"We don't really know," AJ replied. "We did do a bit of running last night, but I can't imagine we got that far."

"We should think about finding something to eat," Brian said as Melanie's stomach grumbled.

"Shouldn't we stick to one spot?" AJ asked.

"Yeah," Brian replied. "I'll go look around, but I'll stay within shouting distance. You two stay here."

"I'm not really hungry," Melanie said softly once Brian had picked a direction and wandered off in search of food. Her stomach grumbled once more and AJ smiled.

"Liar," AJ chuckled. "You should be. You pretty much emptied your stomach last night. If nothing else we should find some water for you so you don't end up dehydrated."

"Honestly, I think I'd puke if I ate anything," Melanie stated, looking down at her feet.

"Still?" AJ asked. "You must have really hit your head hard. Apart from the nausea, how are you feeling?"

"I've got a bit of a headache and it hurts when I breathe," Melanie replied. "Other than that, I don't feel too bad."

"How many fingers am I holding up?" AJ asked.

"One," Melanie replied with a smirk as AJ stuck his middle finger up at her. "Twat!"

"Well, you're doing way better than last night," AJ stated, dropping his hand into his lap.

They sat in silence for a moment, looking around at their surroundings. There was no sign of the road or any man-made structures apart from their lean-to. The forest was thick with trees and shrubs, all dripping wet from the storm. Although it was morning, the thick foliage above let in very little light and only patches of sky could be seen from below the trees.

"Your ankle is swollen," Melanie said, looking down at AJ's ankle as he rotated it once more. "Is it broken?"

"No, just sprained, I think," AJ replied. "I'm sure it will be fine with a bit of ice." The two of them looked around, trying to spot Brian. Unable to see him from where they were standing, AJ called out to him and waited for a response. They stood in silence before calling to him again and waiting once more for a reply.

Brian came running toward them with a look of panic on his face. "Run!" he shouted, grabbing for their arms as he ran past them. Melanie and AJ quickly ran after him without asking why. AJ grit his teeth as he ran on his sore ankle, tears pricked at his eyes as he fought against the shooting pain that ran up his leg every time his foot touched the ground.

"What are we running from?" Melanie asked, adrenaline coursing through her body and masking the pain in her ribs as she ran.

"Something big," Brian replied, not daring to look behind them. "I didn't stop to get a good look at it."

"Should we be running?!" AJ asked in disbelief. "Shouldn't we be playing dead or something?"

"Be my guest," Brian replied. "I'm not about to test that theory."

The trio ran as fast as they could in their condition. They leapt over fallen tree trunks, pushed past branches, and weaved in and out of the foliage. AJ quickly grabbed Melanie and Brian as they approached a steep drop ahead of them, preventing them from falling into the crevasse below.

"Can we jump across?" Brian gasped breathlessly, gauging the length of the gap between themselves and the other side of the crevasse. AJ looked at the drop doubtfully before scanning the area for something to help them cross.

"Over here!" he panted, motioning toward a fallen tree nearby. The trio ran over to the tree and worked together to pull it toward the edge of the crevasse. Brian tested it with his foot before making his way across the drop in as few steps as he could. He held his hand out for Melanie as she crossed, then again for AJ. Once they were all on the other side, they pushed the tree into the crevasse and continued running.

They stopped short as they reached a large river. They all looked behind them and breathed a sigh of relief once they realized the animal hadn't followed them.

"So much for staying in one spot," AJ panted as they continued running to put as much distance as possible between them and the animal Brian had seen. They slowed their pace as they approached a river. "At least we've got food and water now." Brian and Melanie looked at him questioningly.

"Where are you seeing food?" Brian asked. AJ pointed to the dozens of blackberry bushes around them. They were all ripe and loaded with berries.

"We'll have to keep our eyes open for animals even more here," Brian warned. "There are probably loads of critters that come here to eat."

"Your shelter was pretty good at our last spot," AJ commented. "Want to have a go at a tree house?"

"Oh, sure," replied Brian sarcastically. "I'll go gather some wood while you rustle up some power tools and screws."

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