TARYN'S OTHERLAND - CHAPTER TWO:
I felt pain in my right leg and left shoulder. There was probably more than that, but those were the worst. I opened my eyes and thought my vision was messed up, too, then realized that I was face down in the leaves and dirt. I turned my head and I only saw seemingly random objects close to my face, but as I concentrated, the images cleared to branches and leaves. I was underneath a bush.Underneath a bush? My mind fumbled with this new reality and it was having difficulty, it was having difficulty releasing what had been my reality. Bushes, leaves, dirt … what my mind was processing was black nothing … blinding white … I had been in the lab. My mind was bringing up events now, like a computer processor that was forced to reboot after a power surge or fault. I was crouched behind the desk, my arms protectively around Bo … the feeling of the air changing, the look of the air warping … Anderson at the chamber door, the hiss of it opening … the rabbit appearing … the rabbit! The rabbit had come back from ….I bolted up, but unsuccessfully. The bush I was under was more substantial than I had considered. And, the movement hurt. I backed out from under the bush, got to my knees, and looked around. It looked like a dumping ground with litter and stuff all over the slope. I wasn’t interested in that, though, not right now.“Bo! Bo, where are you?”He had to be here. I had been holding him protectively in my arms … why couldn’t I have kept hold of him?!? If anything happened to him … I heard a whimper to my left and slightly up the slope. I called for him, again. I heard a whimper and soft bark coming from a bush with something metal over it. I got to my feet and felt a pain shooting down my leg. I looked down and saw a lot of sc****s and raw skin on the outside of my right leg. Reaching over to feel the joint, which was when I noticed the pain in my left shoulder. My leg seemed okay. The damage seemed to be superficial. I could move the joint fine, just with tenderness when I put a lot of effort into it. My shoulder was similar. My t-shirt was ripped at the shoulder and I found several cuts, quite possibly from branches while tumbling down the slope.I moved along the slope, calling gently to Bo. I couldn’t see him immediately but determined he was pinned under the bush by something metal. The metal object was a desk. No wonder the slope looked like a dumping ground if even a desk came through the portal with us. I tried pulling the desk away from Bo, but that proved futile. It meant I was trying to pull the desk up the slope. I reached in to touch him and give him some assurance while I thought of my next option. I encountered a frantic tongue and more whimpers. I shifted to the end of the desk that was slightly up slope from the other end. If I could just get it started, gravity could be my friend and do the rest.When he came out, he was limping, too. He was favoring his left hind leg, but as I loved him with pets and strokes, he was putting weight on it. I inspected his leg as I had my own and determined that he was in no worse shape than I was. We had both been banged up, but that was all.With my arm around his neck, we sat back down on the ground. I muttered to myself, “Well, wherever or whenever we are, at least we’re still together.” My voice seemed to hold his attention and I wondered if he experienced the light and dark the same way I had. I had to think he had because he pushed me back and started licking my face and neck, which cause me to squirm, roll, and laugh under his playful assault.After begging him to stop and finally pushing him off and away, I regained my feet and turned to look up the slope. All I saw was a wild, primitive landscape up the slope, through the tree line, and up to the top. No massive concrete structure with a top floor of windows overlooking the valley. Well, we didn’t go forward in time. There was no way all that concrete would completely disappear. So, if not forward in time, did we go back in time? And, if so, how far? I turned 180 degrees, looked out over the valley, and had a funny feeling. I squatted down next to Bo, “It sure looks different from this perspective, doesn’t it?” Not being up high and overlooking the trees, the valley looked somehow different than looking at it through the trees from the slope. However, if I had learned anything in my wilderness adventures, it was how confusing surrounds can appear depending on your perspective. Once in the trees, it is easy to become disoriented and glimpses of distant views can give very misleading impressions.Survival. All my training for survival experience kicked in. I never thought I would actually have to depend on it to live, I thought it was a challenge I gave myself, an exercise to force me to not become complacent in life and my independence. Bo and I found ourselves in a place we didn’t know … and it was looking like this might be our existence for the rest of our lives. That, at least, had to be my frame of mind until something happened to prove me wrong. One of the first rules of survival in an unexpected situation is to inventory everything that might be useful. I turned to look over my shoulder. It had been late afternoon and I could see that the sun would be behind the far mountains too soon for much effort. The inventory would have to wait, we needed a fire for protection and warmth during the coming night. We needed a safe place to spend the night and the options were limited. I didn’t have time to build something. And, I needed the basics for the night … my pack! Where are the packs?“Bo, get your pack.” His pack was his responsibility and he knew the command. He started scouring the area immediately, his nose working near the ground and he was soon moving around in search mode. The packs were together and next to us when hell happened …. As Bo moved off in search of the packs, my thought completed itself. When hell happened … Anderson was right in front of the opening chamber and the sergeant was moving towards him as I ducked with Bo behind the desk. So … if we came through … where are … I searched with my eyes until I found some legs protruding from behind a large boulder. I scrambled up the slope and jumped around the boulder, but pulled up short. It was the sergeant. His head was bashed in … the face. I touched his neck and verified what I knew just by looking at the damage.Bo started barking, ran nearly to me and then retreated in the brush. I followed and found the packs. I grabbed both of them and renewed my search for Anderson. I couldn’t find anything indication and a sick feeling came over me and looked up. I searched the trees. It stood to reason that we fell quite a ways, so I searched further up the slope and found him, about 10 feet off the ground, in a large tree and non-responsive, a branch protruding through his body. I didn’t have time for the bodies; however, as badly as I felt about just leaving them exposed to scavengers and predators of the forest, I needed to find a secure place for Bo and me to spend the night, even if it was sleepless. I spotted a ledge about 12 feet above the ground with an access for Bo on the left. I led him up and found a ledge in the granite that was about 5 feet wide at the widest and tapered to nothing a little further. It would be perfect for the night. Tomorrow I would create a better shelter against weather and wind.I left Bo on the ledge with the packs and returned to the ground to gather kindling and dry wood. I pulled one of the drawers out of the desk and filled it with loose paper and kindling and small branches. On my second trip, I sought out larger pieces of wood that would burn longer and generate good, sustaining coals, and some pieces long enough that could be used to ward off any wild intruder that might venture up the path toward us out of curiosity or aggression. Long ago, I had committed to never being without fire, if possible. My pack contained a four pack of Bic lighters, a box of wood safety matches, and a flint fire starter, all in a Ziploc bag. Fire was one of the most critical elements of survival.I started the fire at the head of the narrow trail onto the ledge; I hoped that would deter anything else from coming up to join us. Once started, though, I reconsidered the sergeant’s body. I dug into my pack and found the headlamp I used around camp on my trips. I had three of them, but I would need to use them sparingly to save the batteries for as long as possible. I went back down to the sergeant body. The darkness and narrow beam of light helped me not getting a full reminder of what he looked like now. I rolled him over, unbuckled his sidearm at the waist and the leg. I unbuttoned his shirt and rolled him again to remove it, then took his belt. The shirt would be large enough to use as a light jacket and to wrap myself in at night. It was now dark and was all that I dared to try to accomplish.Now sitting on the ledge, Bo tightly on one side of me and the fire on the other, the reality of our situation was sinking into me. Up to this point, my actions had been rote, responses drilled into me by my father and years of practice and experience. Now, sitting in the quiet of a darkened forest, the new reality of existence came crashing down over me. Despite all the experience in survival hiking, purposely forcing myself to live as much off the land as possible, this situation would provide no alternative. Before, there was always the underlying knowledge that after the 4 days, week, or even 2 weeks, I would be back to the jeep, then a warm shower, bed and clothes, and whatever food I desired. A sense of almost overwhelming hopelessness began to come over me … almost overwhelming because, as though feeling my mood change, Bo lifted his head off my lap and pressed it into my body seeking petting and ear scratching. I smiled down at him and hugged him tightly. Thank god, I had Bo!My mood shifted to the tenderness and special relationship we shared. As I scratched his ears and stroked his head, neck, and shoulders, my mind going back to our beginnings. Bo was a stray German Shepard/Wolf mix, at least it was what seemed to be the case without actual DNA testing. Where a normal male German Shepard might be 26 inches in height and 85 pounds, Bo was 30 inches and 105 pounds. I was 2 days into a hike alone through some rough backcountry when I came face-to-face with a bear. I had been careless, preoccupied by the scenery of the valley below, with the opposite snow covered peaks reflected in the quiet lake surface. Being careless and inattentive can sometimes cause you to misstep and lose your footing, tumbling off the trail or twisting an ankle. Or, it can cause you to walk between a bear cub on the slop above the trail and the mother bear below the trail. That’s what happened to me and there may not be a worse natural situation to be in than separating a mother bear from her cub.It was the experience that convinced my dad that I needed some kind of protection, if I was going to insist on solo trips into the wild. It was the motivation for the bow that I carried ever since. In this case, however, I had no weapon of worth and even though I was slowly and steadily backing away, the mother was aggressively stalking me. Once aroused, they are very dangerous creatures. I was staring into the eyes of a 250-pound protective and fierce b**st with only one thing on its mind: to tear me apart. I backed up, but it kept coming right down the trail to me. I knew I was done. If I survived at all it would be severely injured, and as far from help as I was, I wouldn’t likely survive.That was when I met Bo. I almost didn’t see him coming; I was so fixated on the eyes of the bear closing on me. I did, though, just a flash of dark rising over the rise in the trail behind the bear. I swore it was a wolf and this couldn’t get any worse that I now had two dominant predators about to fight over which eats me. It barked and snarled as it charged down the trail. The noise caused the bear to turn, just as the wolf leapt into air and landed on the back of the bear, it was shaken off and they were face-to-face, both growling and intimidating. I didn’t know what to think, now the wolf was between me and the bear, but it was completely intent on the bear, its back to me.I imaged that they were cussing and calling each other all sorts of nasty names, but a fight never came. In the end, the bear backed off, looked to her cub, and retreated with the cub following close behind. When the wolf turned to me, I wondered if I had another problem, but he just ambled off the trail and disappeared. But not really. I turned several times that day to find him behind me and there was no menace in his attitude.That night he was just outside the light of my fire but I entice him in with scraps from my dinner. He seemed nervous and would react to sudden movements from me, but he spent most of the night near the fire. For the next several days, he remained nearby during my travels and I came to realize that he might have some wolf in him, but he was also part German Shepard. At the end of my trip, he was still with me. He had come out of nowhere and literally saved my life. He had no collar and he had been out in the wild for some time. I opened the back door of the jeep to test him and he watched me. I patted the rear seat and gave him room. He looked inside, sniffed, looked up at me, and jumped in. That was almost 3 years ago and he has been my constant companion ever since.Warm thoughts and warmer feelings. His head resting in my lap as I gently stroked him. My hand running down onto his chest, I could feel his breathing had become even and shallow, a good indication that he was resting deeply, if not sleeping. I loved this dog, not just because he saved me. I loved him more for all that he has given me since then. I’m not great with people, but with him, everything is easier. He seems to anticipate me, watches over me, and I over him. It has also been awkward, intimidating. The feelings are strong; the touches are familiar and reassuring. Yes, mine to him, but also his to me. His licks can feel like kisses. He presses himself into me with a familiarity and self-assuredness that is disarming. I hug him to me with an intensity that sometimes scares me. There are times, when I am dozing, wearing only a t-shirt and panties, that I become aware of him, sniffing me, catching my scent. Even more, there have been times I have opened my legs while keeping my eyes closed, too enthralled in the potential to have it end without some understanding of what he wants. I have felt his snout at my crotch, I have felt myself get wet … a couple times I have felt him swipe a tongue out to touch me, then pull back. Every time it has happened, I have curled up as if I am asleep and changing positions … but the reality is that each time by that slightest of touch I have nearly crashed into orgasm. That is what has scared me. All of normal society would say that is completely wrong.I stroked his shoulders and chest and allowed my hand to move onto his belly. He loved this touching and without any noticeable change in his breathing, he shifted to allow more contact to his belly. In the flickering light of the fire, I watched my hand move on his belly and wondered … could I? … should I? The idea of ‘normal society’ may not have much application to us anymore. Only better understanding of our situation will determine that and that provided some exciting and nervous anticipation. Almost instantly, I started thinking of Bo differently. How would he react? * * * *I dozed off and Bo wasn’t on my legs. The fire had died to brilliant coals and Bo was standing over me looking into the forest below. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked in the same direction, and listened with him. He whimpered at the sound of a branch snapping. I moved my hand along the surface of the ledge, found a rock, and pitched it awkwardly in the direction of the sound. It had the desired effect and the soft sound of a branch snapping was replaced by something crashing through the forest. It might have only been a deer, but I was offended that an a****l might have been tearing into the sergeant while I was close by. I could have shot off a round from the gun resting next to my right leg, but survival in unknown situations was about conserving resources. The new day would be about determining what those resources were and a better understanding of what our situation was. I looked above through the break in the trees and saw a glimmer of light in the sky above. Somewhere to the east, on the other side of some mountains, they were experiencing the dawning of the day. It would still be a while for us, though. It occurred to me how I was already responding: us, this was likely to be Bo and me, and how we responded together. The forest around us was quiet, again. I put wood on the coals and flames leapt up providing more light around us and increased warmth, both physical and psychological. I patted my leg and he settled himself back down. I didn’t sleep, however, anticipating what the new day would bring.The first full day of our new existence began slowly and quietly. The light in the sky was noticeable before the light penetrated the ground below me. I waited patiently, however, reminding myself to take things more carefully because mistakes and injury could have much more far reaching consequences than ever before in my life. I let the fire and coals die out as the light increased through the trees.When I decided it was light enough to go down onto the forest floor, I looked at the weapon belt I took off the sergeant the night before. The pistol was engraved as a Glock 41 Gen4. It was a 45 cal weapon with a magazine of 13 rounds. In addition to the holster, it had enclosed compartments for two additional magazines, a multi-purpose folding tool, and some kind of combat knife with an awesome 8-inch blade with multiple functions on it, also. I made the decision to err on the side of caution as far as protection went and cinched the belt around the waist of my cut-offs and tied both the knife scabbard and the holster to my bare thighs. It felt weird and I might have been embarrassed by the GI Jane appearance except that I was alone.I went first to the sergeant and was relieved to see that he had not been mauled during the night. I quickly stripped him of all other clothes and accessories except for his dog-tags. If anyone were to ever come searching for us, he deserved to be identifiable, if found. I dragged his body to a shallow wash I had seen from the ledge, and then went to see what I could do about the corporal. There was an overturned desk near the same tree, so I muscled it under the branch that supported him. His weight was already causing the branch to sag considerably. My hope was that adding my weight to it would cause the branch to break. I was able to jump up and grab the branch and the jolt of my weight had the desire effect as I heard the branch crack nearer the tree trunk. It took several more bounces of my weight suspended from the branch until it broke and sagged down to the ground. I did the same for the corporal and placed them on top of each other in the wash. I then spent more time placing large rocks over the bodies. I figured that small scavengers could possibly wiggle between the rocks, but the rocks would keep the bodies protected from being moved. It was the best I could think of.I had worked up a good sweat and realized that I had lost track of Bo. I whistled for him and he came crashing through the underbrush. I knelt down to give him a good petting and saw it in his face and eyes. He seemed so at home. I knew he wouldn’t have left me once we connected, but living in an apartment and only occasionally having the freedom of the outdoors wasn’t how he had lived.I stood up and said to myself and to him, “Time to check out the river. We both need water.” I knew from experience that going without food for a couple days was not a problem. Water was critical, however. The effects of dehydration would be profound and would come on quickly.The river was no more than a mile into the valley. It would be more of an effort to return than to get to it. Among the other debris, I had spotted several useable water bottles that must have come from various desks and workstations. I put several into a bag I found and brought them. Once we were near the lower tree line, I had a full view of the valley and mountains across the way. With that unobstructed view, it was clear why the view yesterday had bother me and it wasn’t because of the perspective from the ground level compared to the perspective from the elevated cafeteria windows. The view from the elevated position of the building was of a valley with a rapidly flowing river and mountain slopes on the opposite side rising through trees, to the tree line, before sloping steeply to the peaks. This view was different, but at the lower base level, it was similar. The problem with this view was that the mountains in front of me were nearly shear walls of rock and where the trees should have been was replaced by scars of rocky rubble, some of which blocked off the river just to the north. The wall of rock blocking the river to form a lake had to be 20 feet tall. Water was seeping from between the rocks and boulders like a sieve and created an image of a stairway waterfall.I continued down to the river, alternating my eyes from the route in front of me, to the mountains across the valley, to the massive wall of rock to my right, and cycling back. The river was flowing strong and the water seemed to be free of discoloration and floating ‘things’. Bo and I drank our fill and I filled the water bottles. I sat down on the edge of the river and stared at the mountain scar and the wall of rocks. My mind was racing with options to consider, I still didn’t know ‘when’ or ‘where’ we were. The conclusion seemed inescapable, however. I had already eliminated the future since there was no evidence of the concrete structure on the mountainside behind me. Now, it seemed impossible for this to be the past because the mountain in front of me and the condition of the river did not exist in ‘our time’. Geological damage this significant would not have disappeared and the mountain reformed.I dropped my head against Bo’s shoulder and sighed, “Sorry, Bo, it looks like it was door number 3, after all. This is very similar to our reality, but it isn’t.” I chuckled at a thought and stood, scratching his ears and stroking his head as I did. “It would appear that we have fallen down the rabbit hole just like Alice did. It would appear we have found my ‘Otherland’. If we come across a white rabbit wearing a vest and jacket, obsessed with a pocket watch, we may be able to write this off as a very real-seeming dream. Otherwise …. this to our new reality.”* * CHAPTER THREE will follow * * Thanks for reading.