"Where the hell am I?"
It had been 1 year, 27 days, and 19 hours since Alex Sage Swindlehurst had been reported missing. The flyers were now rotted away on the neighborhood trees, the phoneline poles in the city, the shop windows in town. The faded picture showed a happy, vibrant young woman. She was known for keeping people together and happy. Her red hair let you know where she was in a crowd, as did her outgoing personality and charismatic grin. She had just turned seventeen when she didn't come home to her mother and step-father. It was a nationwide manhunt for her.
She hasn't been seen since. Not by anyone, anywhere, at any time. It's almost as If she dropped off the face of the earth.
"You are at the end, Swindlehurst."
[1 year, 27 days, 19 hours ago]
It was like a dream to her as seventeen year old Alex Sage lay in the gritty sand on the shores of what seemed to be a beach. A very desolate, deserted beach. It was only moments ago when she had opened her eyes to see the world she knew, the world she grew up in, gone.
It wasn't as though she was doing anything abnormal before she bumped her head. It was her seventeenth birthday. She was riding her bike around the neighborhood, doing her usual workout around the block when suddenly, she felt the strong urge to go down the trail she had never adventured, or even cared to notice before. Normally she would never break her everyday routine, but today was different. She was a year older, a year wiser. Maybe it was time for a change.
And happily so, she ventured down that trail into the woods behind her home. Her headphones were on, so she couldn't possibly have noticed that the birds weren't singing. All she had in her head was the music that blasted from her phone straight into her brain.
The trail had soon become less of a concrete trail than a gravel road, all bumpy and wobbly. Several times Alex had to stop for a moment to readjust herself. But all else was well, in her head. Nothing like a new adventure for her.
But the deeper she went into the forest, the more she began to worry. She knew her neighborhood; Travelled it many times. But perhaps she had gone the wrong way; because, as she wracked her memory, there was no forest such as this in her neighborhood. The only trail that she could honestly remember clearly in her mind was the one to the golf course.
Which would now be behind her.
Alex wanted to turn around. Now she was frightened, and not much frightened her. She considered herself a very tough nugget to crack. But she could feel her palms grow sweaty and her adrenaline begin to rush from anxiety. Her bike was speeding up against her will; she had stopped pedaling once the realization had hit her.
And then she hit her head.
That's the last thing she remembered. Feeling a large twack on the back of her head and falling to the ground.
Now here she lay on the beach, tears streaming down her face and hitting the sand below her gently, like raindrops into snow.
This was too weird. She often dreamed of running away to faraway places and living off the land, but this was quite too impromptu. Alex imagined moving south, to a small town where everyone was friendly and no one knew her name. Where she could live out the rest of her life with close friends, and finally be happy.
This was not happy. This was confusion and hurt and a throbbing pain in her head. Her hand closed over the grains of sand and she watched as it trickled out of her fingers. It felt real, but could this simply be a dream?
Maybe it was. Alex's eyes flashed hopefully as a smile crept onto her grimy face. A dream. Well, if it was in fact simply a dream, than what a wonderful dream it was! A lovely beach all alone, free to do whatever she pleased.
Yes, Alex Swindlehurst was set on this new dreamscape. It was quite lovely. It smelled beautiful as well, she thought as she took in a large breath of salty sea air. Perhaps it was time that she got up and took in the entirety of her surroundings.
Her red hair was matted with mug and twigs and sand, as though she had fallen in the forest. Well, she did, but there certainly wasn't any mud around in that mysterious forest by her house. As she began to sit up, she lifted a single hand to her head. Her pink painted nails grazed her scalp gently as she tried to tug knots from her messy locks. As hard as she pulled and as painful as that was, she simply couldn't get the balls of dirt and grime from her head. How unfortunate, as this dream would have been a much better one if her hair wasn't in such disarray.
The sun above her beamed down happily, as though it was speaking to her. Hello, Alex Sage. It's lovely to meet you. What a kind sun, she thought as she squinted towards it, saying her own silent hello. The sky was a very clear blue, above her not a cloud in sight. But off in the distance looked quite gloomy, like an oncoming storm. Alex enjoyed storms. The girl smiled her crooked grin to herself as she now sat cross-legged on the sand, not minding that some of it was stuck to her skin and hair, and going up her shorts. It really was beautiful here, her mind whispered as she took in the rocky shallows and glistening horizon. She had never seen a place like this before, and she had been to California. Well, once.
Alex's bright green eyes blinked as she was momentarily blinded by the sun. She had forgotten she was staring almost directly into it's bright light, and brought her sandy hands up to her eyes to rub the floaters and spots away. She had yet to turn around and see what lay in store for her when she decided to venture off. The beach stretched for miles left and right, but it soon gave way to grassy plains and a jungle, surrounding what looked like a huge ring of Volcanoes.
Finally sighing and brushing her hands together in an attempt to rid them of sand, Alex Sage stood up happily and whirled around. Her breath caught in her throat as she craned her neck to see the enormousness of the volcanoes. This island had to be as big as Texas, or maybe even the entire United States, depending on how long this jungle goes on. Her mouth opened in awe and she stood for only a moment before breaking her gaze and looking determinedly forward.
"Well." She said, finally speaking. Of course, she could only be talking to herself, but that was something she did quite often, and was very fond of. Speaking to oneself was the best way to make brilliant deductions.
"It's about time I've had a dream as lovely as this one!"
She hiked up her shorts, tightened the ties on her boots, and made a mad dash into the jungle without another thought. This was her dream, and even she had her demons. But this had to be a lucid dream, as it felt so real. Whatever dangers she could possibly face in this strange and glorious land she could simply wish away with her mind.
One thing Alex noticed was that as soon as she entered the jungle, it got very dark, very fast. It was as though the entire sun had simply gone out all at once. But that was to be expected, she thought, as she was in a very dense jungle, and the trees would likely cover the sun.
But another oddity about this large forest was that she could no longer hear the sound of the waves hitting the shore. She wasn't nearly as far as she should be to not be able to hear the beach, but she simply couldn't. It was as though she was in an entirely different world or realm now. Alex contemplated this a bit while looking around. No animals in sight. How odd, considering her love for animals and all living things. If this really was her dream, wouldn't there be some sign of animals or even someone inhabiting this land? She looked behind her, noting to herself that the trees were now so close together she couldn't even see the beach.
As odd as her dreams were normally, she thought nothing more of it as she reached in her pocket for the small keychain flashlight the normally kept on her for long bike rides. But it appeared to be missing. She thought herself very silly for that moment, as she reminded herself it was merely a dream and of course she wouldn't have anything in her pockets. She closed her eyes and wished a flightlight into existence. If this was a dream as she swore to herself it was, one should appear in her hand or on the ground.
As she opened her eyes, there was no torch to be seen. Not a flashlight in sight, and now Alex, who was not only increasingly frustrated but also flustered that her body couldn't decide whether it was hot or cold, was now beginning to suspect that not only was this not a dream, but it couldn't possibly be Maryland either.
Maybe she had been abducted and taken to Mexico, or Canada. Somewhere right across the border, and her body just dumped there. Or perhaps the entire seventeen years of her life she lived with those she thought were her parents was just a very long dream from lying unconscious on the beach for a few hours in the sun. That was almost more horrifying than being abducted. Waking up, not knowing where you are or what's even real. There weren't very many possibilities as to what was going on, and as she was all alone on what was seeming more and more like a very deserted island.
And her things were missing. She had been walking in a straight line for a few moments and never once saw her keychain torch, or her bike, or house keys. Nothing she had on her what she assumed to be earlier that day was anywhere to be seen. This angered her more than upset her. Alex did not enjoy having other people touching her things, or even misplacing her things in general. What pieces of her she would have had in this strange world were now gone and all she had to make do was the clothes on her back and some knowledge gained from the internet.
Find a fresh water source.
The smell of the salty air on the beach was a very clear indicator that it wasn't possible to drink from. Or safe, for that matter. Another thought hit her head on like a train; she had nothing to boil water in even if she did find a freshwater lake or stream. She didn't need parasites or worms infesting her body. The only possible thing she could think to do now was find a more open area of the jungle and wait for the rain to catch on leaves, and scavenge from that.
It was quite unfortunate that she couldn't simply drink from a stream; Alex was easily dehydrated, and now that her body had settled on "It's humid, so let's sweat it out.", she was becoming drenched and losing water very quickly. Alex wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand, and you could see where the droplets of water had forged clear marks against the dirt and grime that lay plastered on her skin.
She had been walking for what seemed to her to be hours, but in reality was only a few short minutes. Her feet, calloused from miles of hiking back home, were growing tired abnormally quickly, as she had to maneuver over fallen branches and mossy logs, and strange mounds of dirt that could certainly be dens for wild animals. If there were any at all. Alex still couldn't see any signs of life throughout the beach or jungle. No birdsong, no cries, no smells or scat or dens. It wasn't truly alarming just yet; She knew just how large this Island could be just from the sight of the Volcanic Ring in what she assumed was the center of it. But it would be very nice to have some company.
It was as though like a wish had been granted. Just before Alex grasped a large, low-hanging branch to help hoist her over what she assumed was a dark log covered in leaves and branches, it moved. The heaving mound below her grumbled for a moment before stirring. Alex stood completely still, her green eyes wide and scared, one hand grasping a branch and her foot just barely touching whatever lay beneath the blanket of debris.
That's just about when the growling began. A low, rumbling growl that shook Alex vocal chords and froze her bones with fear. It was like that of a bear and a lion, singing together with anger and greif. The beast reared it's ugly, sleepy head and stared directly at the human girl, who, in comparison, was a small and easy meal.
What Alex saw surprised her more than frightened her, after overcoming the initial shock. She tripped over another part of the behemoth, whichever part that was, as she lifted her foot away and began backing up, soon dropping to her knees to come almost nose to nose with it.
It was a wolf. A gigantic, black dire wolf. And she had just woken him from his nap.