She swept the stray hairs from the sullen face that lay before her.
“I keep telling you not to chew your hair,” she scolded. As she tucked the final hair behind her sister’s ear, she noticed a small smudge of dirt on her cheek. She licked her finger and wiped delicately to avoid leaving a red spot.
“You always get so dirty,” she sighed. “But that’s okay, because we’ll be home soon.”
Her sister had nothing to say in response; Just a snarky look that told Ima that it was time to leave her alone.
“I’ll go catch some fish,” she said. Ima wandered into the breezy trees, marking each one with a permanent marker she had brought in her backpack for this exact purpose – a purpose she had hoped wouldn’t be necessary. She leaned against one of the trunks about halfway to the pond and put her head in her hands.
“I can do this,” she whispered. “I can keep it together – for the both of us.”
Sadie was being no help. She was exhausted and depressed, hardly an ounce of energy left to spend on her very expensive survival. Sometimes she stayed in one spot all day long.
Maybe it’s just as well, Ima thought. We’re better off staying in one place anyways. Someone will find us soon enough. With a energetic shove, Ima pushed off the tree and finished her trek down to the pond. Fish were jumping, frogs were hopping, and leaves were blowing silently to the rhythm of the natural orchestra.
“So easy for them,” Ima said aloud. “You all are used to this. This is life for you. You don’t need people or movies or fast food to get through the day.” She grasped a stray tree branch and pulled out her pocket knife to fashion a spear out of the wet, dank wood. She carved the number “5” just below the apex.
The fifth spear. She made one every day. So that was five days. They were still alive. Barely.
It took a half hour to work the stick into something useable. It was a sad excuse for a spear, but skills she’d learned in school didn’t do much for her out here. No – the frogs wouldn’t read stories with her, the bunnies wouldn’t quiz her on math equations, and the trees wouldn’t speak to her in French.
“Pourqoui?!” She cried. The echo of her voice bounced off the rock of the mountains on the other side of the pond. Those mountains were her next stop if she couldn’t catch any fish. Mountain goats. Surely they couldn’t be too hard to catch? Those tiny little hooves couldn’t be made for speed.
Two hours later she traipsed back to her sister empty handed, yet another spear wasted. She began to wish she’d paid better attention to the story “Hatchet” she’d read in high school.
Her throat was parched. She’s had a drink more recently than Sadie. “Should I try to boil water again, Sadie?” No response. She grabbed a bowl from her back pack and ran back to the pond to fill it with bug-infested muck. They had a few matches. Not many. They’d tried once every day to light a fire. Their canteens had run out after day 2 so it was becoming increasingly urgent that they find a way to drink fresh water.
Ima put some damp sticks together in a TP in the spot they’d cleared on the forest floor. They’d been waiting days for the forest wood to dry but everyday the morning dew thwarted their plans. She struck their one hope of survival on the matchbox and held it underneath the TP, blowing gently to will the flame to catch. For a moment there was a spark – a spark of hope.
One more match down. Ima groaned, jumped to her feet and threw her backpack at a tree. She glared at Sadie. “Maybe this would work if you would fucking help me!”. Sadie just rolled her eyes and turned over in her sleeping bag. Ima flicked the used match at Sadie’s head in a last gesture of outrage. She pulled the mucky water close. It looked delicious, even in its soiled state. She glanced around nervously. Of course, there was no one to see her.
She drank it all.