9 - Day Three

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"Come on, Melanie," AJ coaxed softly. "You need to get up now." He gently stroked Melanie's shoulder and brushed her hair away from her face. Melanie groaned and squinted as her eyes tried to adjust to the light. "Sorry. We can't let you sleep too long, just in case."

She winced as she pushed herself up. She kept her arm pressed against her side and looked around before sighing and leaning against AJ. He gently wrapped his arm around her and looked over at Brian who was rubbing a stick against a rock, attempting to create a sharp point.

"How long was I out?" she asked. She attempted to yawn, but stopped and hissed as a sharp pain ran through her ribcage.

"A few hours, I would guess," AJ replied. "Hey, you didn't ask where you are this time. You must be on the mend." He smiled and gently rubbed her arm. Melanie nodded and looked at Brian questioningly.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"We're going to attempt to catch some fish," Brian replied, holding up his make-shift spear. "You any good at spear fishing?"

"I haven't done it in a while," she replied sarcastically. "It used to be one of my favourite things to do on a weekend."

"Definitely on the mend," AJ laughed. He helped Melanie to her feet and led her over to where Brian was standing.

"Any sign of a search crew yet?" she asked as she looked up and scanned the sky for a helicopter.

"Nothing from above yet," Brian replied. "We've been listening for a search crew, but it's hard to hear much over the water." Melanie nodded and looked over at the rushing river. AJ took the spear from Brian and scanned the water, looking for a spot where the rapids weren't so bad.

"Do you think this is safe?" she asked skeptically. "It looks a little dangerous." AJ carefully made his way toward the middle of the river, pushing the rocks with his toes to make sure they were secure before putting his foot down. Only a few feet away there was a small area that was blocked by logs and rocks, slowing a small patch in the river enough for AJ to see the bottom.

"I'll be careful," AJ replied. He planted his feet and surveyed the water. The water was clear enough for him to see a few small fish resting at the bottom near a few rocks. He put his finger to his lips, indicating to Brian and Melanie to stay quiet as he pulled the spear back, ready to strike.

Melanie raised one eyebrow and Brian rolled his eyes as AJ attempted to make himself look like a proper hunter. He thrust the spear into the water and pulled it back out, expecting to find a fish on the end of the pointed wood. He cursed as it came back empty and poised himself once more as he waited for the water to clear once more.

"Did you hear that?" Brian asked. He turned his head away from the river and listened closely. He could have sworn he'd heard a dog in the distance and he scanned the trees for movement.

"Hear what?" AJ asked. He turned to look at Brian and stumbled as his foot slipped on the algae covered rock he was standing on. He cursed as he fell backward into the water, dropping the spear in the process.

"AJ!" Melanie exclaimed, moving as quickly as she could toward the river.

"I'm ok," AJ replied as he bobbed in the water. The current caught him and pulled him against a couple of rocks. He cried out and disappeared under the water momentarily. He surfaced again, but was being carried quickly down the river and pounded against rocks.

Brian cursed and ran along the river bank, looking for something to hold out to AJ to pull him back to shore. Melanie followed closely behind, keeping an eye on AJ as he bobbed in and out of view ahead of them. AJ was flailing, attempting to catch anything he could get his hands on. He managed to grab on to a fallen tree momentarily, but was pulled under the water by the current and taken further down the river.

Brian gave up trying to find a means to pull AJ out and instead tried to keep up with him as he was pulled further and further away. A moment of panic struck as the river forked and AJ was dragged down the furthest end of the fork, disappearing from view.

"No!" Melanie screamed, racing to the edge of the water. Brian grabbed her by the arm and stopped her from rushing into the water. She screamed and cried as Brian held her back, preventing her from getting to AJ.

"We'll find a way to get across," Brian explained quickly. "If we just jump in we'll be of no help to him, all right?" Melanie nodded and stared longingly at the far end of the river. "We just have to hope that he gets out and waits for us. Let's start making a dam and use that to make our way to the other side."

He began ripping branches from trees and tossing them into the water in bunches, watching as they caught on rocks downstream. A few branches broke free and continued down the river, but majority stopped and created a bit of a barrier. Both Brian and Melanie moved quickly, tossing more and more branches into the river until they had what they thought would make a strong enough barrier to keep them from being carried downstream.

Brian took Melanie by the hand and the two of them waded into the water, holding on to rocks as they made their way closer to the dam they'd created. They were chest deep by the time they made it to the dam. Brian held onto the branches and pulled Melanie along until they'd reached the other side.

They ran back upstream to where the river had forked and raced after AJ, who was now long out of sight. Their pace slowed after a few miles, but they refused to stop until the sun began to set. Brian surveyed the area as they walked, looking for somewhere to create a shelter. The trees and bushes were thick where they were walking, making it far too easy for predators to stalk them.

A few meters ahead, he spotted a small clearing where the trees seemed to thin out a bit. It would be somewhat safer and they'd be able to spot animals within the foliage for some distance.

He took Melanie's hand and pulled her toward the clearing without a word. Melanie followed mechanically. Tears slid down her cheeks as she accepted the fact that they weren't going to find AJ. She quickly brushed them away and began helping Brian gather branches to build another shelter.

Melanie sat silently in the shelter, taking no notice as Brian disappeared around the back in search of food. He returned shortly and sat next to Melanie. He was holding the bottom hem of his shirt, creating a pocket to hold the berries he'd found. He had noticed them earlier while they'd been walking along the riverside, but had been disinterested at the time.

"You need to eat," Brian stated, his voice lacking emotion. He looked at Melanie as he tossed a few berries into his mouth. She shook her head, still looking into the fire.

"I'm not hungry," she replied almost inaudibly.

"It's been four days and you've hardly eaten anything," said Brian. "You at least need to try. I'll force feed you if I have to." Melanie sighed and dropped her head. She accepted the berries Brian was handing her and stared at them a moment before thanking him and slowly eating one.

Brian smiled sadly and sighed as he looked up at the small patch of sky they could see from where they were sitting. He couldn't understand why they hadn't seen or heard a helicopter yet. In their haste to catch up to AJ they hadn't considered the fact that they may have been getting further away from help. He finished off the berries, knowing he was going to have to fight Melanie to get her to eat any more, then leaned back and put his arms behind his head as a pillow.

The two of them listened to every sound around them as the sun went down. A wolf or a coyote howled in the distance and small rodents skittered around in the bushes around them. Eventually, Melanie cautiously lowered herself onto the ground and cuddled next to Brian for warmth.

He knew they should take turns keeping watch and still didn't think Melanie should sleep for long periods of time, but after the day's events he found it impossible to keep his eyes open any longer. As darkness fell around them, they both fell into a fitful sleep.

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