The hills ahead did have trees. Low, umbrella-like woody plants, about 6-7 foot high. They started at the foot of the hill, where the ones exposed didn’t fare too well and were mostly dead, or dying. Perhaps from lack of water, perhaps of loneliness. Higher up the hill, they were bunched together and protected one another from the harshness of the wind, and trapped moisture underneath them in a microcosmic hothouse effect.

I still hadn’t found a river, or even dry creak bed, and was beginning to worry. Not that I wasn’t already worried. This just added to the confusion, anger, and pain I was feeling.

Behind me I heard a screech. A high-pitched squawk, resembling a rusty hinged door slowly opening. I turned my head and saw in the distance a bird. A huge bird. It resembled, no, it couldn’t have been, it looked a bit like - one of those dinosaur-birds. A pterodactyl! One of those pterosaur birds! Coming into view were two others. There were three huge bird-like creatures headed my way. I could make out their leathery, featherless, claw-tipped wings, lazily flapping like the oars of a boat dipping in and out of the water.

I turned and started running. It was a half run, half stumble. Favouring my sore foot, and still holding my sore shoulder, I headed for the trees on the hill. On my way past one of the solo trees, standing alone and dying in the elements, I spotted a fallen branch and picked it up, should it be useful. I kept hobbling up the hill, pulling the smaller branches off it to make it into a single, long, sturdy branch and I lurched onward.

Another squawk from behind me told me they were closer, but I was nearly at the trees. I ducked under the first of the trees and ran, bent over, for a couple of metres into thethicket. It was cooler, and darker under there. The trees were each made up of a four-foot thick gnarled trunk with little to no small branches, going up to a thick canopy of smaller branches covered in tiny, dark green/grey leaves.

The swooping of the wings was getting closer, and I crouched down on the bed of decaying branches, my whacking-stick in hand. There was a sudden down-rush of warm air, and an enormously loud screech from above me. I panicked and thrust my stick up through the branches of the tree. This did nothing but scratch up my right arm on the rough branches above me, and send down a shower of dry leaves and twigs.

The swooping grew into the distance until I was alone in the silence nursing my sores and waiting for my heart to slow back down again. The thick lump in my throat subsided, leaving a dry, parched, scratchy feeling. The feeling you get that would be fixed by swallowing, but there was nothing to swallow. I eased myself down onto my side to rest a wee bit. I closed my eyes, and nodded off.

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