Lying on the ground lined with a thin layer of crushed grass, I was inevitably buffeted with sleep. However, the pain in my chest, head, and limbs kept me awake as the occasional cough of blood came from my mouth.
My mind went blank, with no profound thoughts to guide my movements or ideas to plan my future actions. I merely was there, just existing. I was recovering energy in preparation for the return journey.
But my rest ended when, in the distance, the roar of pain of a beast and the screams of numerous barbarians resounded.
That noise was the alarm I was waiting for to rise. Thus, knowing it was time for us all to gather at the same point, I stood up, mainly using my knees for support since I didn’t want to put any more pressure on my arms, which had suffered so much in this fight.
Once I achieved my goal, I opened and closed my fists, stretching my fingers that were numb from having gripped so tightly the stakes I had previously used. Afterward, while wiping my mouth with the back of my left hand, I walked towards the place where the ball of rags was lying.
As evidence that it was a good idea to take as many garments as possible, these today served me so well, saving me from a hopeless situation, but, unfortunately, they had now become useless, or so it seemed, as they were so stained and full of saliva.
Still, overcoming the disgust this gave me, I bent down to take it in my hands, then slowly unwrapped it, removing the outer layer, being it the shirt, and separating it from the contents inside.
What I obtained as a result of my effort was the bag, which was entirely wrinkled and wet, for it had undergone two processes of brutal compression in order to fulfill its designated task.
This one was not in the best condition, but it would serve me well enough not to need to elaborate any more slings for a while. Therefore, I tied it around my waist as I went after the men who had passed by me to go to the site where the male’s body was, wanting to get it back.
My pace was slower than theirs since I had to walk with a limp, so when I got to where they were gathered, the usual discussion about who would be in charge of carrying the corpses to the cave had already begun.
Hence, amid annoying grunts that urged my fury because the intention behind them was to boast the glory of having caught the prey that I had wounded beforehand, I walked to an elevated space where I could sit down.
Since the fight between me and the feline did not last long, for the chase actually took longer, I was not too exhausted, so I did not need to continue resting. However, having learned that leaving wounds untreated for too long was not wise, I set out to give myself first aid.
Grabbing one of the slings I kept in my bag, I untied the knots that made it up and then took the longer strips to tie them to my foot and ankle, hoping that this would allow me to walk without slowing down so much.
The process was short, but by the time I finished, so did the discussion, resulting in the party splitting in two. The first group consisted of six men, two of whom were responsible for carrying the bodies and the other four who would protect them from any animals that approached because of the smell.
That was an excess of power involved, as far as I am concerned, but I suppose they have learned to do it that way based on experience. Therefore, as young as I am, I cannot confidently state their actions are wrong.
Now, as for the rest of the individuals, they continued the hunt by going deeper into the forest, and although I would usually go with them, being presently too early to return, on this occasion, I had been forced to make an exception.
Of course, I did, for it would be very foolish of me to force myself to go with them in the state my body was in.
Having far exceeded my goal for today, I had earned a well-deserved rest. So, I followed the group of six back to the cave. Nevertheless, although they were walking slower in comparison to the trip out, they were still moving faster than I was.
In fact, because of it, they gradually drifted away until, in the end, I lost sight of them altogether.
I had become separated from those who showed me the route to my destination. So, how dangerous would this have been if it had happened to me earlier? I don’t know, but it probably wouldn’t happen to me since I would try my best to keep up with them, even if it aggravated my injuries.
Suffering, that is not worth self-inflicting.
Contrary to what I once might have done, I would now, at all costs, like to avoid spending days at rest. Worse still, if that were an injury affecting my legs since while without an arm, I am able to perform many tasks, without a foot, these would be severely hampered.
Such is the case with lunchtime, for in that battle, a simple push would be enough to beat me out of there.
Therefore, I followed them only to get safely out of range of the beasts’ activity, and having already achieved that, I will continue my advance carefully and calmly, taking breaks when necessary.
After all, I must make it worthwhile that I have worked hard to learn to perceive traces of movement, from the trail of the freshly trodden brush to the tiny blood marks that fall from corpses as they are roughly moved.
With all these signs at my disposal, getting lost would be nothing more than a sign of my utter uselessness.
. . .
The next thing I did can be quickly described in a few words, as it was just a relaxing walk in the forest.
I moved at a leisurely pace and stopped occasionally under the foot of trees, where I sat down to rest my swelling ankle. Moreover, once I reached an area I knew, I deviated from the route taken by the others ahead of me.
My plan to return home as soon as possible was postponed until after I washed my body in the nearby pond, where the water that supplies the inhabitants of the cave is collected.
When I got there, even though I wanted to throw myself inside, I held back from doing so since I was also one of those who consumed it, so I just took off the shorts I was wearing and soaked them to clean my body with them, giving more focus to my right arm, my left shoulder, and my back.
My objective in doing so was to prevent these parts from becoming infected, for although I had not been afflicted with any disease so far, the itching I felt in the past was something I did not want to experience again.
So, after removing the dirt from myself, I tore the wet garment by pulling it from its edges, and with the pieces I got, I covered my wounds.
With all that done, I prided myself on the thought that this time I would probably be cured soon. Therefore, after drinking some water, I continued on my way to the clearing, where, upon arriving, I found several men preparing to fight.
Apparently, my delay was longer than I had perceived, as this gave enough time for more adults to return from the hunt.
Even so, I only watched them from afar out of the corner of my eye, I didn’t stop to play with them because I wasn’t in a position to pursue that part of my agenda for today, but I didn’t forget to record in my memory the face of the guy who stayed with my prey since he had a debt to pay me.
Leaving them behind, with screams and thumps sounding on my back, I entered the cave, and after walking for a minute or two, I reached the dining room.
Evidently, then, nothing was served, but my purpose in coming here was not to look for food but for a place where I could rest. Thus, lying down on the opposite side of the entrance to the room, next to the table, I fell asleep, hoping not to be noticed by the cooks, as I didn’t want to scare them because that might cause them to throw the food away.
I simply hoped to be the first to eat. I wanted to do so without having to compete with others to do so.