Part 33: The path least travelled (part 11)
2007-07-05 15:19:10 -
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Previously: After an eventful two days in search of their treasure, our three friends – having met up with Electra – have decided to set up camp in a clearing in the forest, just as a storm seems to be rolling in on them. It has been agreed that Preteritus will move into Nunco’s tent, leaving room for Electra to spend the night with Prostremo.

Suddenly, as they rush to pitch their tents before they get soaked by the storm, a massive bolt of lightning strikes a tree at the side of the clearing…

Looking up in horror, Prostremo watched a huge overhanging bough tremble as it was struck by the lightning, and almost in slow motion it started to break away from the trunk. Mesmerised, unable to move, Prostremo could intuitively see that the bough would land directly on the tent that Electra was inside, struggling to put up the mainstay.

A dry rasping croak seemed to emanate from his frozen form, but that was enough to alert Preteritus, who in two bounds flung himself at the misshapen bundle of Electra surrounded by the flapping tent fabric. Electra’s yell of indignation was punctuated by a thunderous crash as the bough, thick as a man’s body, landed exactly where the tent had been a split second before. Knocked out of his trance, Prostremo ran over to the scene of destruction.

“What on earth was that?” demanded a tousled Electra as she climbed up between the smaller branches, her face ashen.

“Thank God you’re okay!” a relieved Prostremo blurted out. Then, looking under the branches, he saw Preteritus, lying still with a large part of the tree bough over his back.

“Oh no, is Preteritus okay? Preteritus, can you hear me? Please answer me, tell me you are okay, come on now, stop messing, get up, go on get up now.”

“He looks pinned down by that offshoot,” said Electra. “I can’t see any blood on him, let’s see if we can get him to answer us.”

Nunco walked over to the scene. He had been quite still throughout the whole event that, while seeming to last an eternity, had taken about 15 seconds, from the lightning strike to the current situation, with Preteritus lying unmoving under the large branch.

Our thoughts and words determine the intent of our actions, and thus through doing, and in certain instances not doing, we are able to learn and grow. Sometimes, however, our thoughts of consequences or what might happen can be so shocking that we feel unable to move. We just stay firmly rooted, in shock. It is, however, upon this recovery that we find our true strength and are able to perform heroic tasks, such as Prostremo proved when he finally reacted by screaming instructions at Nunco: “You grab that end of the bough and shove while I lift this part and try and pull Preteritus out!”

Electra could only sit there, dazed, quite shaken by the near miss, feebly offering to lend a hand, but rather hoping her services would not be called upon as she said: “I could shove too, if you thought it would help.”

“It’s okay, darling,” panted Prostremo, as with one hand he lifted a huge portion of the tree, while at the same time managing to drag Preteritus free of the branch that was pinning him down.

Nunco, meanwhile, managed to get some leverage on the far end of the shattered remains of the tree bough and swung it around in a loop to assist Prostremo in what seemed like a superhuman feat of strength as he finally freed Preteritus from under the wood.

“Do you think he’s okay?” asked a still dazed Electra.
“I really don’t know, I am at a loss for words,” said Nunco. “He doesn’t seem to have a scratch on him yet he is not moving at all, I think he is out cold.”

Prostremo propped Preteritus’ head up with a sleeping bag and reached down to gently touched his neck. “I can feel a pulse,” he said, “at least he is still alive, but I just can’t see what hit him at all.”

“Let me have a look,” said Electra, as she ran her hands gently over his head, probing for any bumps or protrusions. “Hang on a moment, I think I can feel something… its huge, almost the size of a duck egg, just behind his left ear. Do you have any water, Prostremo? Maybe if you could dampen a cloth or towel with it, I can form a cold compress to at least keep the swelling down.”

Just then Preteritus opened his eyes, murmuring drowsily. “W-what happened? The last thing I remember is diving at the tent with Electra in it. Where is Electra? Is she okay? I hope she is not under the tree still. Did it get her, is she all right?”

“I am fine thanks Preteritus,” she replied, “and thank you for your concern. You sure saved me, but it is you that we were worried about. You have been out cold for the last few minutes. How do you feel?”
“Like I got struck by a two-by-four on the back of the head, it hurts like hell!”

“It was more than a two-by-four that clouted you,” replied Nunco, “It was a bloody great tree, or at least part of one. Look at my hand – how many fingers am I holding up?”

“Six!” replied Preteritus, with a smile creasing his countenance “and I can feel rain drops falling on my head. Is there any chance we can continue on with putting up the tents, even if I do have to spend the night with you, Nunco? Besides, lightning never strikes in the same place twice.”

“Well that’s a relief! Preteritus seems none the worse for wear after his ordeal,” smiled Nunco, quickly adding “and what’s more, the bang on the head seems to have given him a positive slant on lessons from the past.”

Preteritus slowly got up, shook his head, uttered a little yelp of pain and proceeded to drag what was left of the tent out from under the tree. The three friends and Electra managed to quickly assemble the tents without getting too soaked, and strung a spare tarpaulin between the openings of the two tents which were facing each other.

It is in moments of heightened tension and bursts of adrenaline such as these that we seem to instinctively discover what we are truly capable of. Yet all the while, these immense reserves of physical and mental fortitude lie dormant, while we allow the seemingly innocuous trivialities of life to hold us from our desires.

Some individuals, such as Nunco, never seem to get too rattled by whatever curveballs life seems to throw at them, and they are always able to see the present situation for what it is and plan an effective strategy to move forward. Prostremo and Preteritus, on the other hand, have gained huge strength and indeed learning from facing adversity, which was clearly evidenced by rain-shy Prostremo offering to search for some dry wood so that they could start a fire under the covering between their tents.

“I will only be a moment,” he said. “After all, what else can possibly happen to us now?” With that said, he moved out from under the tent’s flap, ignoring Electra’s hand of restraint.

Grabbing a coat, he held it loosely over his head as he went into the edge of the forest from the clearing in the quickly fading light, as dusk and the ensuing night drew in, hastened by the now incessant rain, filtering down through the overhead canopy.

Feeling the rain increasing, Prostremo broke into a lolling gait along an old deer path, looking for some suitable pieces of dry tinder that could be used to start and sustain a fire. He spied a clump of fallen branches and reached down to clear the top layer off, hoping to find a few loose try twigs and pieces of wood below. Grabbing up an armful, he turned back and headed towards the tents.

Dropping the armful of wood under the canopy between the tents, he exclaimed: “Sure that was easy enough, I told you it was safe out there.” But no one answered him.

Frantically he looked in the first tent, then the other, calling out every one’s name, but he was met with a wall of silence, punctuated only by the growing staccato of the rain drops falling on the roofs of the tent and the floor of the clearing…
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