Leap of Faith 3
Leap of faith 3
Synopsis: Neophyte Washington State Trooper Jeremy Cross locks eyes with amputee Izzy Harris as she and her father Gavin approach the Seattle sinkhole to La Brea. Jeremy feels love, or at least intense mutual interest. The Seattle sinkhole is maybe twenty yards across, rather than the quarter mile in Los Angeles. There is no room for an airplane to descend into it and it will not stay open for weeks. Maybe just hours.
When Gavin and Izzy make a daring leap to re-connect with wife, Eve, and son, Josh; a galvanized Jeremy equips himself from the trunk of the cruiser he shares with Sergeant James Royal and jumps in after them.
Jeremy awakens in La Brea and decides to make his camp as visible as possible in case Gavin and Izzy had arrived north of him. While stacking a line of rocks to lead Izzy (and Gavin) to his campsite, Jeremy finds a trio of backpacks delivered by Sergeant James Royal.
* * *
Jeremy awoke to warm breath in his face, and the owner hadn’t been chewing breath mints. Staying very still, Jeremy cracked an eye open and there was another eye looking at his. It was large and tawny brown with an alien, rectangular, iris. Maybe fat-waisted-hourglass was a better description. Jeremy had seen an eye like this at a petting zoo, when he was a kid. It had belonged to a goat.
This was bigger than a goat. The animal wasn’t even a mountain goat. Mountain goats could weigh up to 350-pounds but had white fur. This animal had to be heavier and had dark, smelly, hair. The horns were strange also. They could have been small water buffalo horns. Damn, this thing was a musk-ox. But musk ox lived in Alaska and Greenland. In the 21st Century.
Musk ox could take on wolves and even polar bears, Jeremy recalled. He decided to stay still, while he eased a hand slowly onto the grip of the .44 revolver in his sleeping bag. The big goat grunted and Jeremy froze, but evidently the bull had decided Jeremy was not an enemy to be kicked to death and slowly ambled away.
Jeremy let go a breath he had not known he was holding and eased up into a sitting position with the comforting revolver in his hand. He thought about shooting the musk ox. He realized there were about twenty to choose from in the herd. The meat might be useful, but he had no wood to cook it or build a drying rack or travois to haul it on the tundra. The fur might be warm but he didn’t have the equipment or time to cure the hide. Best to just let the musk ox go, for now.
The musk oxen were nibbling greenery only twenty yards away and Jeremy wanted to wait until they were at least fifty yards off before standing. His bladder told him different. Probably just as well this didn’t happen in the movies. Jeremy stood and the musk ox snorted and danced into a tight circle with horns facing outward. The bull charged at Jeremy but stopped when Jeremy crouched.
Jeremy decided that standing taller than the bull was threatening and duck-walked behind the boulder and relieved himself. His latrine was too close to camp but he wasn’t going to stay long. Damn, it was cold. Jeremy noticed fresh orange rust on his rifle. WTF. Parking the cold rifle in the humid sleeping bag had been stupid.
Next, Jeremy mounted the boulder and lit his remaining red smoke bomb and went through the whistling and scanning routine. No dice. First breakfast, then clean the rifle.
After coffee, chicken and lifeboat ration; Jeremy built a rock stack on top of the boulder with the indicator rock facing south. It was pretty clear that Gavin and Izzy were south of him and had not heard his rifle shot or seen his smoke. In the process of selecting rocks, Jeremy put two small, smooth, rocks in his pocket to warm up. There was not a lot of toilet tissue in the Pleistocene.
Jeremy wasn’t going to carry 150-pounds of camping equipment very far. Not and catch up with two un-burdened walkers. He dumped the contents of the three new packs onto the poncho from the rescue pack. His blizzard pants caught his immediate attention and he donned them at once.
Jeremy ruthlessly repacked his discards into the pink and yellow packs: winter tent, two sleeping bags, satellite rescue beacon, hand-crank-lamp/phone charger, solar phone charger, two pounds of salt, two water filters, one of two abalone knives and two of three bushcraft books. The solo stove from the rescue pack also went. The fire-powered rocket stove looked too good to abandon. The discard packs were cached under an overhang of the boulder with an armor of cobblestones and young boulders. Only a flap of the pink pack poked out to attract human attention.
The remaining cobalt and red rescue packs weighed as much as a World War One battle pack but Jeremy found that attaching the red pack to his front with carabiners meant he didn’t have to lean as far forward to balance the cobalt pack on his back.
Jeremy walked south and tripped to the ground once. He couldn’t see the ground at his feet through the rescue pack. He had been using the rifle as a walking stick, but it hadn’t saved him. He made double sure the chamber was un-loaded. There had to be predators of the musk ox and Jeremy didn’t want to be gun-shot when he met them.
* * *
Jeremy deliberately walked a path to the east of due south and turned right to follow the edge of the tree line. Underbrush was thickest at the edge of the forest where the sunlight could reach in. The bushes showed evidence of intense browsing with thumb thick branches broken off. Going about a quarter-mile, he was rewarded with a game trail. The trail was heavily trodden and far wider and taller than deer trails Jeremy had followed. Turning into the trail he stopped at every step and eventually spotted a wisp of black fabric caught on a sharp twig.
Jeremy sighed relief and felt a tension leave his shoulders. This fabric was his first indication he was in the same time/space as another human being. It was Robinson Crusoe and the footprint. The thread might not be Izzy, but that was his bet. Not the he could go back to 2021 AD, at this point.
Not much further, Jeremy saw where a pair of saplings had been cut down and shaped into spears, judging by the shavings. It was a good idea to conserve ammunition so Jeremy made his own wooden tipped spear before following. The aroma of wood and evergreens was a welcome one. When he didn’t have a positive indication he took the westward path. The Pacific coast promised a regular food supply that didn’t run very fast.
There was plentiful spoor along the trail. Jeremy had read that elephant ate over two-hundred pounds a day and the trail makers seemed to match elephant in quantity of intake. The poop was different in content. Elephant and horse poop was full of undigested grass. The trail pies were full of undigested evergreen needles and twigs as well as some seeds.
It was afternoon when Jeremy saw the human poop. There was a shallow cat scrape but it hadn’t been well covered over. Perhaps the person had been startled or a small animal had dug it up. The stool wasn’t recent enough to steam. Yellow kernels of un-digested maize shouted modern human as loudly as the tiny square of bathroom tissue. Jeremy brushed soil over the top.
A dozen yards further, Jeremy discovered the camp Gavin and Izzy had made. An evergreen had been partly sawn through and pushed over the make the spine of their shelter. The interior was floored with pine boughs while the exterior was shingled with stouter limbs.
A fire had been laid near the opening to the lean-too. The ashes were cold. Curling shavings remained of the tinder. It looked like they may have run a twig into a pencil sharpener. Delicate fish bones proved they weren’t starving.
The shelter looked inviting but a couple hours daylight remained. Jeremy figured if the Harris’s walked eight-hours a day, at the same pace Jeremy did, and he walked nine-hours; he should catch up in about a week.
Jeremy pushed on until sundown and cleared a space under a mature tree to sleep. He cut dead branches a bit thicker than his thumb and split some so the sharp edges would catch fire more quickly. He used one of the factory fire lighters to get the kindling going. The stove smoked quite a bit until the thermo-electric unit heated up and started the fan going. Then the flames roared out the top. Jeremy guessed that was why they called them rocket stoves.
Jeremy plugged his cell phone into the stove’s charging port. Battery was 0%. WTF? He left the phone on charge and prepared a meal of minute rice, dry minced onion and a foil packet of chicken. He was yawning by the time he finished eating. The cell phone had only charged to 20% so Jeremy turned it off. Whatever was happening, he wasn’t expecting any calls.
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Rick Kester is a Viet Nam era veteran living in Northern California with his wife Nancy.