The young man, maybe thirty years old, sat by the brook and took his shoes off. He rapidly put his feet on the water and trembled a bit before the cold water relaxed his pain. He had been walking for at least two days without stopping and his feet really needed a rest. He had blisters and burns so the last stretch of his walk had been especially painful. But he finally got to the brook the map indicated and he knew he was going to be all right, at least for the time being.
Rains had come and go the past few days. It never really stayed but, when it did, it appeared to wash down every single part of the forest. He was afraid that rain may come back and wash down the river the few things he still had but he had to stop and he would have to take care of things when they happened and not before. So in a matter of minutes he had taken the tent out of his backpack and had started the installation. At one point, he had to take his feet out of the water, which he didn’t like so he tried to put up the tent fast. When the night came, he ate some bread and fruit he had kept from other days and decided to lay down for a bit at the edge of the water; his feet again soaking there.
He put a sweater beneath his head and started looking at the stars. It was amazing how amazing the sky looked out there, in the wild. Back in any town or big city, the sky was normally dead, only a couple of stars visible. But there, it was like looking at a huge picture of the universe. Actually, that was exactly what it was. He remembered reading how all we see in the sky happened a long time ago and he started wondering how many intelligent beings were looking at the sky thinking exactly the same he was pondering on.
The man fell asleep right there, feet on the water. He didn’t woke up during the night, only turned over, adjusting his pillow. Although the weather had not being very good, it was still spring and sunny days were not unheard of in this region of the world. The wilderness was a beautiful place to be during spring because everything came alive: the animals, the flowers and even humans could feel that surge of life coming out of them. When the man woke up, he felt the smell of the flowers growing by the water. He stood up and realized his body ached a bit but not much more than when he slept inside the tent, in a sleeping bag. He tried to stand up but his feet hurt a lot and the roots and stones by the edge of the water didn’t really help.
It was hard, but he managed to take off all of his clothes, leave them on a small pile by the tent and then walk straight to the brook, that had become wider during the night. The water reached his ankles when standing up but that was good enough for taking a proper bath, which he hadn’t done in a long time. He scrubbed his skin with his fingers and nails and did the same all over. He got his hair wet too and tried doing funny hairstyles until he realized they only worked when bathing with shampoo, which he obviously wouldn’t use in this pristine environment.
When he was almost ready, scrubbing his neck, he suddenly felt something strange. He felt someone was near. He looked around but didn’t see any anyone, not human or animal. He continued with his bath but then he heard the grass and turned around fast, as a fox ran away from him. The man smiled, amused by the curiosity of the creature. He stood up, in pain, and walk clumsily to his tent were he had a towel to get dry. Then, again, he saw the red fox getting near through tall grass that grew where the forest begin again. His dried fast and kneeled in order to get his camera. When he did, the fox was out of the grass, looking straight at him. The man took a couple of pictures but the animal was scared by the sound of the shutter.
He stayed naked for a while, as he decided the day was warm enough not to wear clothes and no one was going to be there anyway to look at him. As he was not fit for a long walk, he tried to come up with something to do while his feet got a little bit better. He his feet on the water again and took pictures of everything that was around him. Birds were starting to sing, feeling the gentler weather of the day. Some butterflies also flew over the stream and some squirrels, but nothing as big as the fox that apparently was now far from there.
When putting away the camera, the hiker realized he food only for a couple of days: two slices of bread, some berries, and honey he had gotten from a fallen hive and the last piece of a rabbit. He decided to cook that, as it was about to get bad. He lit up the small burner and cooked the meat. He hoped no big animals were nearby, because the smell was pretty strong for such a small piece of meat. He ate it with a slice of bread and a few sips of water from the stream. He washed the pan on which he had cooked the meat and decided it was best if he moved his camping site, in order to prevent the arrival of a bear or a wolf.
A few minutes after, he had his backpack on and had started walking along the stream. He was still naked, which felt oddly liberating. He didn’t see the point in wearing clothes in such a remote area and, after all, bonding with nature was better if you tried to be just as nature. He kept walking for more than an hour until he realized the more he walked, the more trees started to appear on either side of the stream, which seemed to have decreased in size, more like the brook he had seen the day before. Rain mustn’t have been strong so the river had no way of staying large. He walked some more until he reached a nice patch of mossy grass. He set up camp there and decided to lie down, his feet hurting a lot again.
Maybe it was because of the pain or because he had gotten tired from the walk, but he felt asleep again, just after putting up his tent. The weird thing this time was that he overslept and woke up at night. He had n way of knowing the time but he knew it was very late as even the only sound came from the water of the stream. He didn’t stood up when waking up, he just lay there and thought about a dream he had often: it was a bout him feeling stressed, in fear, unable to breath. When having that nightmare, he often heard many voices, some known, some others not. Because of that dream, he had sweated as he slept and know his body felt deprived of energy.
Trying to forget what he had seen and heard, he stood up and ate some of the berries he had in his backpack. He then walked to the edge of the water and put his feet on it. He ate every single berry trying to think about his past, about the people he had left behind and the thoughts that still hurt him. He didn’t really wanted to think about it but the nightmare had put everything back on his mind. He had travelled from a very far place to this forest in order to find peace and calm but that seemed to be almost impossible. It was just like everything he had attempted to leave behind had found its way there and now it was acting up again.
The last berry on his hand fell to the ground and rolled over a bit farther. He tried to get it but then a small animal came out of the bushed and bit the fruit first. Then two more animals just like the first one but smaller, came out of the bushes too. It was a family of hedgehogs. Each one bit a small piece of the berry and finished it in a glimpse. They all looked at the man and he attempted to touch them but the remembered their spines. He then looked around for more berries and realized a nearby tree had small apricot-like fruits on it. He stood up slowly, walking with care, and grabbed four of the fruits from the tree. He put them in front of the hedgehogs and waited.
He waited until the small creatures started biting the fruit and eating. They filled up on just two of them and smelled the man, apparently thanking him for the food. They turned around and disappeared by the bushes, probably to get some sleep. This event had taken the man out of his mind and reminded him he had to sleep again in order to restart his walk the next day. His feet still hurt but he couldn’t afford to stop his journey because of it. This time, he did go inside of them and the sleeping bag.
He didn’t sleep a lot and woke up very early. He put everything on the backpack fast; put on some shorts and started walking through the forest once again. Later that day, he arrived at one of several posts in the forest, where a park ranger told him people had been looking for him, fearing he was lost or worse. He thank the man for his worries and decided to tell him that, sometimes, he just needed some time by himself to keep on breathing correctly.