I went to sleep that night under the trees again. Cold and hungry, but happier that I had found water. There was this lurking feeling at the back of my mind, however, that I wouldn’t be seeing anyone again, to tell them of what I had seen in the lake.
I awoke to the sound of a bugle. It was the behemoths trumpeting the morning, and heading back to feed at the lake again. I had to find food. I had solved problem number 1 - water. Now 2 and 3, food and shelter, were next. I looked up at the horizon on the other side of the lake. The black silhouettes of the creatures against the dark grey morning sky waddled their way towards the lake in slow motion.
My foot was still aching, but the clean it got the night before had helped a little. It must have been Saturday today. This would normally be my sleep-in day, but not today. I was feeling a bit more energetic, even having not eaten for two days. The ample supply of fresh water, and my new weed-slurping friends to keep me company, put a renewed spirit in me that made me walk a little straighter, and think a little clearer.
I must have looked a sight. I hadn’t shaved for a few days, I was naked, and covered from head to toe in red-brown dirt. I limped as if I had broken my ankle, and this put a hunch in my shoulders. Perhaps anyone observing would have thought I were reverting back to my Neanderthal ancestry faster than expected. It was just that the pain in my foot caused this stoop, and the limp allowed me to keep the weight off it.
I skirted my way further along the tree-line. This time to the North. I had made my way fully around the hill from the other day in a giant semicircle and was now on the other side, continuing along the path that would make the full circle. I had no intention of ending back where I was to begin with, just to keep the trees to my left, and follow the lake around a bit further.
At one stage I looked up at my friends. I had given them all names by this stage - Arthur, Martha, Merrill and Maude. The larger one that had signalled their departure the evening before must have been the male, or bull, so he was Arthur. The other three could have been male or female, I had no way to tell, nor the inclination to go and ask, or inspect. One of them, Maude I think, I couldn’t easily tell them apart, looked up and across the lake at me. She sniffed the air, then gave a snort sending water flying out in a vapour that dissipated in the hot air. She then, assuming me to be no threat, sunk her head back down into the tepid depths to find more weeds.
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