I leaned back and felt the crisp air flowing in and out with each deep, relaxing breath in this spot amidst newly blooming flowers, green trees, and lush grass.
I’d been sitting for a long time.
It just felt so good to be there, legs dangling into the invisible hollow of the earth. I felt exhilarated and valuable. It was a gratifying feeling.
As good as it was, I knew I couldn’t sit there forever—I had a wildling to find. And, thankfully, the voice of the world showed me how to catch it by force. And what’s more—I now knew where it was.
Slowly, I pulled my legs out of the camouflaged hole. I looked down at my feet. Yep, still there. Laughing to myself, I breathed a sigh of relief and began walking on solid ground toward the trail I was last on. The landscape behind me withered and returned to its state of decay.
Each step away from the hole was a bit more painful than the last—my injured foot started hurting again.
“That’s odd,” I thought, noticing a sense of withdrawal. It felt so tempting to just stay in the hole a bit longer.
But the wildling.
My first instinct was to chase it with all my might, catch it, and return to another hidden hole-in-the-earth off the trail. But I was in pain and the wildling was faster than me. There was no way to catch up to it simply by chasing it. And the pursuit could go on for who knows how long and I didn’t have any supplies to head into the wilderness. I really needed a plan—or, at least, a better one than hobbling into the wilderness empty-handed.
I bit my lip in thought. The voice of the world had warned me about trusting Rosin. But she was so helpful! Certainly not dangerous. (Right?)
“Well, I should be able to get her to help me find supplies, at least,” I thought.
I headed in the direction I last saw Rosin taking off down the trail. Within a few minutes, I saw her familiar face. I thought about what the world had told me and her guarded half-truth answers. Hesitating for a moment, I thought, “Can I trust her?”
I masked my hesitance with enthusiasm.
“I was just coming to look for you,” I said, holding up my notebook proudly. “I finished! I answered all the questions! And my wildling appeared to me, just like you said it would.”
Rosin’s eyes narrowed skeptically.
“I mean, not appeared to me like—poof!—or anything,” I explained. “It kind of just, I don’t know, it showed up in my mind like a daydreamy memory of the present. It’s like it’s showing me where it is right now!”
“It is indeed showing you where it is,” Rosin calmly replied.
“And I’ve got to go find it right now!” I blurted.
Rosin cocked her head to the side, raised her eyebrows.
“Do you?” she asked.
I realized I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Right—supplies! I need like, um, a backpack? Water and food—food would be good. (Man, I’m actually pretty hungry.) Oh and like shelter and stuff. (A bivouac is a thing right?) I feel like I should be going through some kind of survivaly checklist. Are there bees? Can’t remember if I’m allergic. Maybe epinephrine or whatever. Definitely food though. Realllly need food. Is there like a store in this forest? I’m actually an REI member. (Do you need to see my card or anything?) I really just want to get some stuff, get on that trail, head over that ridge, and find that wildling!”
Rosin seemed amused by my endless stream of words right up until this last bit.
“I can help with supplies,” she said, growing stern. “But under no circumstances should you travel in this wilderness alone.”
“Holes aren’t the only things to worry about. There are wild wolfgoats in this area,” she said gravely.
"Wolfgoats?” I gulped twice and a half. (Once in fear, once in confusion, and then half a gulp stifling a giggle at such an absurd name for a creature.)
“Wolfgoats travel in packs and eat literally anything.”
“Literally literally anything or figuratively literally anything?” I asked, imagining a goat in wolf’s clothing patiently gnawing its way through a 747.
Rosin just laughed.
“Wait. Why did you leave me here if I was one step away from being eaten alive or lost forever?!” I said.
“Things are not always what they appear to be,” she said. “Come with me.”