Heed The Plea
I can hear myself screaming, but it’s as if my own voice wasn’t mine anymore.
Blood drips, my body shakes.
I raise my palms to my face as I scream as loud as my lungs will let me, until my throat feels so worn out that no sound comes out anymore.
A pair of hands grab me from behind, shaking me by the shoulders.
"Sam, Sam! Calm down! Sam! I’m here."
The blood drips, and drips. My hands shake. Am I still screaming?
The hands are patting my shoulders, then my arms, my face, my body. There’s a shadow looming over me, touching every inch of my body as if trying to see where the damage is. But the damage is everywhere. I’m broken, and I can't stop crying.
"Sam, please, calm down, please, it's okay, it's okay."
Strong arms wrap around me and hold me tight. I press myself against the warmth of it as I sob, the comforting feeling of an embrace breaking whatever little composure was left inside of me. But slowly, the panic recoils, backs away, and seems to take all other feelings away with it. I’m left feeling empty, numb, dead.
There's a hand holding the back of my head, and another one around my waist. It feels oddly familiar.
"Breathe." I’m told in a deep and commanding voice.
So I do.
I breathe in and out, again and again until the tears stop rolling. I'm not gonna die. Not yet, not today. I push myself away gently, and look up as my whole body trembles. I’m cold, so cold.
"It's okay Sam, everything is okay now," the voice says as a hand strokes my hair. I look up, and the vision doesn’t make sense in my muddled up head. Maybe I did die after all. "Are you injured? Where does it hurt?"
I shake my head a little, “I’m cold,” I say as I blink repeatedly trying to make sense of the guy standing in front of me. What is he doing here? How did he get here?
Tane hugs me again and I convince myself that this is real as my arms wrap around his torso. He pushes back slightly to look at me again. “Where does it hurt?” He asks. Everywhere. “Can you stand?” No.
I point at my ankle with a shaky hand, and he follows my gaze. He’s half submerged in the stream just like me, and the water seems to be a tiny bit warmer now.
"I'm trapped," I say. My voice is so small, it doesn’t sound like my own.
"It's okay," he says again, "I'll get you out."
Tane tries to push the log, but it doesn't move, so he tries to move the rocks from under my ankle, but I’ve tried that already, it’s useless.
I’m soaked and cold, so cold now that he’s not by my side anymore. I can't stop shaking, the water now almost to my chest. Tane keeps trying, and I want to tell him there’s no point, I’m trapped forever, he should leave me here.
It’s okay. I want to say.
I feel so cold, maybe I’m already dead.
"Okay," he says, coming back over to me and caressing my cheek with a gentle hand. Maybe he’s been here for minutes, maybe it’s been hours. "I'm going to push as hard as I can, and as soon as the log moves a little, I need you to try and get your feet out, can you do that?"
I nod. Is this a dream?
Tane sits down on the water next to me and he takes a deep breath; then his whole body goes under. I look at the blurred shape underwater, barely visible in the dark, and a part of me wants to reach down and touch him. He looks ethereal, like something just out of my imagination.
He plants both of his feet on the side of the trunk, right next to where my foot is stuck, and with his back against the bottom of the stream, he pushes the log. I can see the muscles shifting and tensing in his legs through the soaked pants.
He laid against his mother’s womb, and using all of his strength, he pushed against his father with both of his feet.
I’m losing my mind.
Nothing happens at first, but then slowly, the trunk starts to move.
I try to move my leg, but it doesn’t seem to react to my commands, so I plant my hands on the bottom of the stream and push my whole body backwards. With a little cry of pain, my foot slips out from under the tree.
A second later, Tane jumps up to the surface, panting and coughing. "Are you okay?" he asks as soon as he catches his breath.
I blink once, slowly.
“Come on, I’ll help you up,” he says, extending a hand towards me.
When I set my foot down and try to stand, I scream as pain shoots up my ankle and all the way to my hip. Without a moment's delay, Tane has an arm under my armpits, and pushes me upright. He hooks his other arm under my knees and lifts me up.
I’m exhausted, bruised and broken. Coldness seems to be the only feeling that remains inside of me, taking over every cell. I hook my arms around Tane’s shoulders and lean in, hiding my face in the crook of his neck.
I close my eyes, wishing to sleep forever.
I’ve been pacing around the car park, walking back and forth for what feels like an eternity. I’m soaked and tired, and a bit sore from falling over a few times on my way back. But mostly, I’m scared, terrified actually. I don’t think I’ve ever been this scared in my life, and it feels like I’ve been holding my heart on my palm as I wait for news about Sam.
“Please, don’t let anything happen to her,” I whisper for the millionth time.
“She’s going to be alright.”
I turn around to face Tane’s brother, anger bubbling inside of me. “You don’t know that!” I yell, and I feel tears blurring my vision. I wipe them away with the back of my hand. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” I say.
The last couple of hours feel like a surreal nightmare. First, the crazy storm in the woods with the thunders hitting the Earth so close that I could smell smoke in the air, and see trees falling around me. Then not being able to find Sam anywhere, not knowing if I should go back, or keep running forwards. Finally arriving at the car park and finding myself all alone here, and my phone having no signal, unable to call for help.
Then Tane and his brother running into the car park out of nowhere, soaking wet and agitated, asking me where Sam was. I screamed and cried as I tried to explain what had happened, and Tane had just told me to wait here, told his brother to look after me, and then ran alone into the woods.
Rongo is now pacing too, and he makes me even more nervous for some reason. I need to do something... When there’s a problem, I find a solution, that’s my motto. But running alone into the woods doesn’t seem like it will help anybody. I feel so useless.
And then I have an idea, at least there’s one thing I can do. I go over to the car, turn on the ignition, and turn the headlights on high beam. A big cone of light now illuminates the entrance to the forest, and I hope this way it’ll be easier for Tane and Sam to find their way back.
The rain is finally starting to subdue as I step out of the car and stand facing the woods, scanning the shadows that linger in the almost darkness.
“Come on, come on, come on,” I mutter.
A few minutes later, I see movement in the shadows, and a shape emerges from the darkness, stepping into the light. Tane walks out of the tree line holding Sam in his arms, her eyes closed.
"Fuck, oh Holly fucking shit," I yell as I run towards them. "What the fuck happened?!"
I look at Sam; she’s soaking wet and covered in mud, her skin doesn’t have her rich brown colour anymore; and cold fear grips my heart as I wait for her to move, to open her eyes, to do something. It would seem she was asleep if it wasn’t for the cuts and bruises on her face... and the blood. I feel the tears burning in my eyes as my throat closes. Oh no, no, no, no.
"It's okay, don't worry, she's fine,” Tane says in a somber voice that doesn’t help my nerves. “She's in shock."
I follow him towards the car, and I see that Rongo’s already opened the back door. He helps Tane lie Sam down on the seat, and then Tane asks me for the keys.
"I don't get it, I don't know how we got separated," I say as I hand them to him. “I don’t understand anything that’s going on.”
He opens the door and jumps up on the driver's seat, Rongo going around and seating next to him. I scoot next to Sam, and lay her head on my lap.
"It wasn't your fault, Em," Tane says matter of fact, looking at me through the rear-view mirror. "And I can promise you, Sam will be okay." He turns on the ignition and starts reversing the car.
"How can you even know that?!" I say as a silent tear rolls down my cheek.
Tane is silent for a moment, both me and Rongo looking at him as the car rolls out of the parking lot.
"I just know, okay? You need to trust me,” he finally says. “The important thing now is getting Sam somewhere safe for her to recover,” he adds. “I’ll explain everything later."
Everything? What’s everything? How does he hold any answers? I look down at Sam, her eyes still closed as her eyelids flutter a little. I trace a finger down her forehead, almost scared to touch her, not knowing what’s mud and what’s blood. My stomach is a tight knot, and my head is a mess of questions without answers. But I find myself feeling a little calmer now, almost sleepy, drowsy.
“Yes,” I say after a moment. “Sure, let’s head to the hospital.” I mutter.
“No,” Tane says. I look up, and his eyes are fixed on the road, his face an unreadable mask. “No hospitals.”