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A Simple Handshake
Alice C. Bateman & Clive S. Michie
Luke opened his eyes and realized that he’d nodded off in front of the fire. He was freezing, the night was cold and the blaze he’d started had dwindled to a few embers.
‘Jesus, where the hell is he? I’m freakin’ freezin’ here!’ he thought. He got up, went over to the tent, and lifted the flap to make sure Dan wasn’t sleeping in there. He had the flashlight turned on to help him see in the night. The moon was directly overhead, but Luke was accustomed to the bright lights of the city, and felt uncomfortable without the unnatural light of the flashlight. No Dan, just the air mattress and blanket.
“Shit, what the hell do I do now?” Luke wondered aloud.
Suddenly he heard the sound of a wolf howling somewhere off to his left. He jumped, terrified. In a few seconds, an answering howl came from the right. The hairs on the back of Luke’s neck stood up. He felt surrounded by malevolent forces; the hit of speed he’d injected hours before worn off to the point that paranoia had set in.
He looked around at the dark trees, bathed in silver moonlight. Luke was scared to death, expecting to see some huge predator lunging out of the tree line at any moment.
The sound of a different howl altogether, a coyote this time, turned Luke’s blood to ice. What the hell was he doing over here by himself? He’d kill that little creep Bobby for leaving him alone like this! If he lived until morning himself. There was absolutely no way he could find his way back to their campsite in the dark, he would not even attempt it. In his head he screamed every curse word he’d ever known. He’d much rather be screaming out loud, but he didn’t want to attract any of the beasts’ attention.
Stealthily, Luke walked back to the fire pit and piled small twigs on top of the coals until they burst into flame, and then piled four good-sized pieces of the chopped firewood Dan had left on top.
D**n! All he’d succeeded in doing was putting out the flame. Angrily, he kicked the wood back off, and started again. He wanted a good roaring blaze going to keep the animals off. Once it was burning good he would crawl into the tent.
Luke fingered the handle of the knife in the back of his belt. He knew he could fight for his life if he had to, but he sure as hell didn’t want to go up against something with fangs and claws. Animals scared him to death; he was most definitely a city boy.
He glanced up, and saw two shining patches of light just inside the tree line. He froze, petrified, his tired and drugged-out mind magnifying the pinpoints of light to enormous proportions. When the lights suddenly separated and moved in different directions, Luke shook his head in bewilderment. Then he began to notice that there were pinpoints of light flashing all around him. He’d never seen fireflies before, and had no idea what they were.
Totally freaked out, he went back to building up the fire as quickly as possible. He knew the tent wouldn’t offer much protection from a marauding animal, but he’d feel a little safer in there at least. He decided that as soon as he was inside, he’d inject himself with another fix to try and get through this miserable night. And he’d beat the crap out of Bobby in the morning to make him pay for leaving him alone like this.
Bobby! That sneaky little b*****d! What if he’d warned Dan to leave or something, so they couldn’t kill him? He’d have had plenty of time while Luke was sleeping in the afternoon.
Son of a b***h! That’s probably what he’d done, Luke would stake his life on it. God d**n it! He couldn’t even trust his own freaking little brother anymore, with his Ten Commandments crap! He was very tempted to find his way back to their campsite right now and confront the little jerk, but his fear of the night and the animals was much stronger than his anger at the moment. A new round of howling had just begun, and Luke cringed. They sounded closer than before.
Despite his ineptitude, he’d finally gotten the stupid fire burning nicely. Luke went back to the tent quietly, unzipped his black fanny pack, and took out his speed, spoon, and a fresh syringe. Removing his belt, he slid the knife pouch from it, and tightened the black vinyl belt around his lower calf, just above the ankle. He was trying to let the tracks in his arms heal up before summer, so had been using the veins in his ankles for a couple of weeks now. Didn’t matter where he injected it, the speed rush was just as intense. Soon, Luke’s head nodded, and his thoughts were removed from the noises of the night.
Not far away, at their own campsite, Bobby slept pillowed in dreams of a life that was to come. A life with Eugene, his long lost father. Often, a smile uplifted the corners of his mouth as he slept.
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