The Sickness

Sickness: an unhealthy condition of body or mind.


It was a conflict, the need to be a part of a community, to be acknowledged and loved, yet hating the company of others; to yearn for something that would make you sick ten minutes later, like some sweet tasting poison, was a curse.

“So where to go from here?” the trees swaying quietly in response.

The vista was breathtaking, pine needles fragrant, air warm. The world was a lifetime away. But it was time to go back.

“I fucking hate it, you know?”

The trail started as dirt, then twigs, detritus from the recent storms, but soon became pebbles and larger stones, and when the evening came it was balmy, the light breeze prickling his skin. It reminded him of happier things, many years ago.

Memory, it transpired, was another curse.

The howl of the animal raised his hackles, but he thought he was safe; or, more to the point, he did not really care. What will be will be.

Still, it was best not to tempt fate, no matter how much you craved its embrace, so he climbed a tree, reclining in a large branch to stare at the stars. It did not matter that the animal could probably climb trees. Or probably lived in one. Such is life.

When the morning came and the nightmares faded he stretched out, heartbeat calming, scouring the ground beneath him. There were no signs of any danger, so he dropped down. Spying the small mound of shit he laughed. Whatever it was, its bark was bigger than its bite.

The walk was uneventful for many hours, until he drew near the stream. The animals at its edge had not heard or smelled him, having, fortuitously, approached from downwind. He wondered if he should eat. He did not feel like it, but someone had once told him that it was best to make hay whilst the sun was shining. And the sun was most definitely shining.

Drawing his knife he stepped forward, heel first, and was soon gutting one of the animals. No point in a fire. He ate it raw.

Time to get a bearing, he climbed another tree. The skyline revealed a city, glass and steel, the movement of people within. It turned his stomach, but he must try. Else there was nothing.

Jumping to the ground he waded through the stream, washing his face as he went, water running red, then disappeared into the trees.

The birds were singing, it almost made him feel happy.

He wondered what he would do, what he would say; he did not know. Maybe they would ask why he never called. But then they had never called either, right? Sure, he did not have a phone, but why would that stop anyone if they were determined? His foot hovered, hesitating. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe he was better off alone. Maybe everyone was better off this way.

© JR Bryden, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from JR Bryden is strictly prohibited.

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