The rain is steadily coming down around you when you finally gasp back awake, peeling your eyes open as you lay soaking wet on the cold, hard ground of the woods. You are exhausted and every inch of you is covered in radiating pain, but you have to get up.
“Fuck.” You whimper weakly as you try to back yourself up against a tree to gain some shelter from the thunderous downpour. Your clothes are ripped and tattered, well, what is left of them anyway. You are beginning to shiver and you know you are in serious trouble if you don’t start moving. They could come back to find you.
You try to steady your worn body against the tree and slowly begin to pull yourself up as you scream out in pain. Your hand naturally goes to where the most pain is coming from on your lower abdomen – but the moment you hold it there you feel something warm and sticky enveloping your fingers. You pull it close enough to your face to get a good look at it with your worsening blurry vision and your stomach begins to turn.
You’ve been shot, sometime during or after the attack you are assuming, but you can’t even recall anything up to this point. You start to stumble past trees and rocks, the rain threatening to allow you to see any way that resembles a way out of here. You’re going to die out here, alone, you just know it.
After what feels like hours of you limping around in the maze of the woods you clumsily lose your balance over a large rock and tumble down a small embankment where a pool of freezing water has collected. You pull your face weakly from the mud and wipe at your eyes as you let your tears silently fall in streaks down your cheeks.
“Somebody, please, help me!” You sob into the night air as you beg for something to go right. You again weakly stand up, forcing yourself to keep going as you wrap your shivering arms around your shoulders. You are bleeding more heavily than you’d like and you don’t have much energy to keep going. You feel like giving up.
You only have an instant to look up at the large bolt of lightning that seems to be headed directly toward you before you are knocked to the ground unconscious and not breathing.
“Fletcher, wake up.” A heavenly hushed voice whispers lightly with whisps of wind across your face.
“Is he dead?” Another voice, this one louder than the first booms against your ears, forcing your eyes open again.
It takes you a moment to feel like you are coming back to your body before you try to register what is going on around you. If they found you again after they already attacked you like this then you’re dead.
You look up from where you are laying on the ground and see one of the huge Weeping Willow trees nearly bending over you as she whispers softly to you again. You immediately recognize this as the first voice you heard a moment ago. Her branches are delicately pushing more bursts of air onto your face in an attempt to wake you up more.
“Fletcher, you have to get up and go, darling. You’re dying out here.” She coos enchantingly as she whispers her guidance to you.
“What the fuck?” You screech loudly as you begin to panic and back away from the tree before you. “I’m dead already!” You cry out in anger as you begin to hyperventilate.
“Listen, fool. What Cleo is trying to tell you is that if you don’t get the hell out of these woods, and quick, you are going to die here. You aren’t dead, yet!” A large and unsightly black bear leans casually against a tree next to yours, his arms crossed as he explains the unthinkable to you.
“Get the fuck back!” You scream, finding enough strength to pull yourself up to the tree, only to trip over one of its massive roots and smack your head against the ground.
You feel monstrous arms grabbing you by the shoulders before placing you lightly on the ground, your feet wobbly under you as your energy level lessens even more.
“Hey now, that’s no way to talk to a friend.” The bear goes on, ensuring you are steady on your feet before releasing you from the grip his paws have on you.
“A friend?! I’m talking to a fucking tree and a bear in the middle of the woods!” You hastily yelp before he gently shoves you in one quick motion back closer to the tree, Cleo.
“Yes, Fletcher. What Blue is trying to help explain, if you’ll allow us, is that you were running in the woods and you were hit with a bolt of lightning from the storm. Now, generally, you would succumb to that type of injury but there must be something special in you. It wasn’t your time, but if you don’t get help soon, it will be. Blue is going to get you back to the edge of the woods where the town begins. We will be more than happy to explain more once you’ve recovered from your injuries, but now isn’t the time for that. You have to go, darling, your time is almost up.” Cleo whispers lightly to you as her branches sway close enough to lob a protective padding of bound leaves against your bleeding bullet wound, her way of trying to buy you a little more borrowed time.
In an instant, her branches lift you up and place you quickly on the back of Blue’s back where you grip on tightly to handfuls of muscle and fur. He begins bounding on all fours through the woods, dodging trees, and rocks with clean precision as if he’s done it a million times before this.
“Okay, buddy, it’s all you from here on out. You just gotta make it to the road.” Blue carefully bends down to allow you to slide off messily before he plops down next to you. You stare at him in wonderment for a moment and still can’t determine if you’re actually dead or alive.
“You can’t leave me here like this, you’re all I have.” You cry in pain and weakness as the sobbing ache deep in your chest vibrates the woods around you. You feel his warm paw gently pull you in.
“We are always here like Cleo said. I will find you to explain everything once you’re on the mend, but you have to go now, Fletcher. Run to the road and don’t stop until you have help.” Blue releases his hold on you as he softly pushes you out and in the direction of the road where the town starts.
“Please, somebody, help me!” Your legs have somehow gotten enough energy to carry you in a sloppy, weak run to the edge of the road. The second that your foot meets the pavement of the street you stumble face-first into someone who grabs you strongly by the shoulders. “Don’t hurt me, please!” You sob frantically into the unknown person’s chest as they hold you there for a moment to steady you.
“Fletch? Fletcher, oh God! What are you doing out here like this?” You could recognize that voice from anywhere as his soft, warm hands cup the sides of your face as you slink to the ground. “I need an ambulance started at the intersection of Maple and Vine, I have one potential patient.” Maddox orders in a panic over his radio. “Fletcher, you’ve been shot.” He concludes, propping you up under him against the side of the road by his patrol car as his hands work feverishly to control the bleeding where the packed leaves from Cleo’s branches once were.
“Maddox, it’s you.” You breathe out in relief as you begin to cry again. “I was attacked in the woods, they took me out there and then left me to die and then I think I did die because there are fucking bears in those woods that talk! Dox you have to believe—” Maddox shushes you as he chuckles lightly, something you missed hearing.
“Fletcher, stay with me okay? You are very much alive right now and I intend to keep you that way. I’m here with you, you’re safe.” Maddox hums lightly against your forehead as his hands still cup your cheeks against his face.
“You have to believe me…” Your words begin to slur and your vision starts to darken as you work to keep your eyes open and watch Maddox above you. “I’m so tired, Dox. I don’t want to go.” You whimper out, exhaustion taking over your body as it lulls you to sleep. It feels so comfortable.
“Fletcher, no, please. Stay awake for me, Fletch. Don’t do this to me, come on!” Maddox hastily shakes you on your shoulders to force you to open your eyes again. “Get me that unit here, now, I’m losing him!” You hear Maddox scramble with the radio before your vision goes completely black.