Noah’s eyes fluttered open. Trees. He was surrounded by trees. How did he get here? He heard a low roar in the distance and jumped to his feet. Too soon, he thought. He felt a sharp pain run up his leg and he fell back down. “Ugh!” he cried. He landed on something hard. It was a 35mm camera. Who uses these things anymore? He thought. He picked it up and examined it. It looked like someone had taken all but three of the photos. Whatever was on this camera could explain how he ended up there! He heard a faint rustling in the distance and another roar; it was closer this time.
Looking around him, he saw a tall tree that was suitable for climbing. “If only my leg would stop hurting.” He mumbled to no one in particular. He didn’t dare look at his right leg. He wasn’t very good with blood or injuries: that was his sister, Nikki’s gift. They were twins, but everyone always joked about how opposite they were. Noah was tall and lanky, with straight, dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes while Nikki had been short and thin, but toned, and had wild, curly, brown hair and deep emerald eyes with flecks of brown and gold. She was also more adventurous than he and always got them into trouble. Though he picked up a few tips from her constant antics, Noah preferred quiet music, drawing, or a good classical book and didn’t pay much attention to her survival skills. Now he wished he had.
Pushing thoughts of his sister out of his head, he looked about for an alternative hiding place. Nothing caught his attention. He heard the roar again and heard birds fluttering away and signaling a fast approaching enemy to their comrades. In a panic, Noah stood up again and grit his teeth through the pain as he limped in the opposite direction of the sound. It wasn’t as severe as before, but it still hurt to walk. Right now though, he was just hoping it wasn’t broken… broken… the camera! Turning around as another roar rang through the forest, Noah hobbled back for the old camera still on the ground. He bent down and grabbed the strap as the loudest roar yet resounded around him. The noise seemed to be coming from all sides now. Making a decision based purely on the adrenaline running through his veins, he stumbled over to the tree and positioned himself to climb.
Gripping the branches above his head, he used his left leg to walk up the tree. It felt like several minutes before he made it onto the first branch but from there it was easy going, almost. As the adrenaline began to wear off, the pain started to come back and his whole body was protesting against it. “Don’t look down. Don’t look down.” He whispered to himself. Noah’s subconscious was telling him he was now over twenty feet up. He heard the roar again, and he could see its source.
It was an animal that he had never seen before yet still held some familiarity, like an image from a dream. From where he was, it looked like some strange cross between a lion and a bear. The body was dark brown, and its fur fluffy with a hidden smoothness to it, but it had a mane and tail like a lion. It moved closer to the tree and looked up at Noah with sad, green eyes. The animal fascinated him, so, thinking it wouldn’t matter if he just took one picture of it, he got a good hold on a branch with one hand, lifted the camera, and took a perfect picture of the animal. Its eyes were looking straight at him and its main caught the light breeze just so. But it saw the flash and roared in anger.
Eyes widening in fear, Noah put the strap back over his shoulder and started climbing again. His leg stung and muscles burned at the effort but he eventually made it to where the branches barely supported him: a good fifty feet above the forest floor. The creature began to ram itself against the tree and Noah held the branches until his knuckles whitened. It felt like nearly an hour before the animal stopped and again looked up the tree towards where Noah sat.
The eyes seemed sadder and instead of a roar, it let out some noises that sounded almost like a cry of sorrow. It almost appeared to be calling to him. Noah pitied the creature for a brief moment before his mind reminded him that it tried to kill him. Yet still, it held that air of familiarity in its green eyes. Noah decided to try and look at the film and, after a bit of a struggle, he got it open and could see the outlines of the images on the film.
“Well that can’t be right.” He whispered. He looked to the last picture and then back to the first one. They were the same. They were all the same picture of the creature. Suddenly, flashes of memories came back to him: people yelling, gun shots, a white room, men with blue gloves surrounding him and his sister, Nikki screaming. He realized then why the eyes in front of him were familiar: they were his sister’s.
Noah all of a sudden had a thought that wasn’t his own. “Play it again.” it said, “We can’t have him waking up on us now.” Another voice resounded in his mind. “But we’ve done it so many times already! He’s almost out of film!” “Do it anyway!” said the first
Dizziness and confusion came over Noah like a flood. The branches of the tree seemed to fade into nothing and he felt himself falling to the ground. His right leg took the brunt of the fall and he heard a crack as his world once again faded to black.
By Amy Armstrong, 11th Grade, Bear, DE