Authors: Daelynn Quinn
Fall of Venus
Copyright © 2013 Erin Meredith
All Rights Reserved
greatest fear, when confronted,
one’s greatest strength.”
engaged! Last night was purely magical. Glenn and I lay out in the freshly mown
grass at Macville Park, watching the glittering fireworks rain down on us while
he proposed. I’m so in love and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with
him. I haven’t told mom and dad yet. You know how they will react. I’ve only
been out of high school for two years and they are going to think I’m not
ready. But Glenn and I have been together for five years now and I just know he
is the one.
and Dad are both sick right now, came down with some sort of cold. Or maybe
it’s allergies. They have been doing a lot of gardening outside since coming up
from the bunker after this past summer. I’ll tell them when they are feeling
misses you dearly, as we all do. We still haven’t told her yet—waiting
for the right time. How do you tell a little girl with no mother that her
father died? She’s going to make a beautiful flower girl at our wedding.
you were here,
arms and legs twitch with a tingling, itchy sensation and my cheek hurts when I
stretch my mouth to yawn. A sharp, stinging pain radiates from the right side
of my forehead, over my nose and down my left cheek. Spooky much have scratched
me while I was sleeping last night. He does that sometimes. Damn cat wants me
to pat him all night and all I want to do is sleep. I know he doesn’t mean to
hurt me when he paws at my face. In fact, it’s probably my fault for getting
lazy about clipping his claws. Come to think about it, my whole body aches. And
the air feels different. Breezy. And it smells putrid.
Why am I so itchy? I
am not in my bed, am I?
open my eyes, slowly, as the blinding daylight pierces them like a thousand
needles, which radiate back into my occipital lobe. I have to blink a few times
before I can keep them open in a squint. Surrounding me are towering pine and
oak trees, which seem to disappear into the dusty sky.
Why have I fallen
asleep on the ground? And where am I?
massage my throbbing head and briefly wince in pain as my thumb grazes my left
temple. I’m starting to think I had a little too much fun partying last night
when I notice something peculiar. The absence of sound.
Have I gone deaf?
No. I can hear the leaves and pine needles shifting
under me as I move. I am in a forest. I should hear birds chirping, squirrels
scampering, something. But there’s only stark silence.
There are no sounds to be heard other
than a slight breeze rustling the dried leaves in the trees.
muscles are so stiff I can barely get to my feet. I feel like I’ve been
bedridden for a week. It takes a moment for me to steady myself because I am
still reeling with vertigo. My head is spinning and I stumble over to an
adjacent pine to lean on its craggy bark for support. My forehead rests on my
arm as I lean into the tree, trying to regain my composure. This position
usually helps me when I stand up too fast, one of the drawbacks of having low
down, I can’t help but notice my long chestnut hair, stringy and caked with sweat
and god knows what else; and my clothes—filthy and tattered. The yellow
heart-shaped patch on my khaki capris has started to tear off and hangs loose,
exposing a small patch of skin on my thigh. It reminds me of my niece, Evie.
mother died in childbirth and when my brother, Drake, was deployed to war last
summer, she came to live with my parents and me. Evie and I had an interesting
relationship. In some ways, she was like a daughter to me because she was so
young. In other ways, she was like the little sister I never had. We used to
take turns braiding each other’s hair. She would play dress-up and I’d paint
her face with makeup, then she’d strut down an imaginary runway. She’s such a
girlie-girl. One day she was rooting around in my stuff and I found her cutting
fabric from Lex’s blanket. I had gotten pregnant my senior year of high school
and gave birth to Lex the following summer. He died shortly after. That was two
I saw Evie had cut Lex’s blanket to make a miniature blanket for her dollhouse,
I flipped out. I don’t think I’d ever been so angry in my life. I began to
throw things around the room. Evie got scared and ran out, fleeing into the
woods behind our house. I didn’t mean to scare her; it was just a very
sensitive, painful part of my life that I didn’t want anyone interfering
with—even a harmless three-year-old.
I realized what I had done I chased her outside and beyond the old rickety
fence in our backyard, which led to the woods. She was pretty fast for a three-year-old.
After I caught up with her I realized I had a pretty big gash in my leg.
Must’ve happened when I climbed the fence. Evie was frightened of the blood and
concerned for me. Being so young and naïve, she thought any sight of blood
meant certain death.
I was able to convince her that my leg would be okay, but I would have to patch
up my pants, because we couldn’t afford to buy new clothes. Evie was so
distraught by the whole incident and my injury she cut her miniature dollhouse
blanket, made from Lex’s blanket, into a heart shape and I carefully hand-sewed
it to my capris. They’ve been my favorite pants ever since.
I continue to regain consciousness, I gradually begin experiencing different
feelings: confusion, aching, hunger, distress, panic. And I’m quickly becoming
aware of my thirst. My mouth is a desert and there is no water within sight. I
need to get moving if I am to find my way home. Hopefully I’ll find water on
Now, which way to go?
glance up from the tree and immediately spot the source of that foul odor. A
doe lays lifelessly just a few steps away from me, decaying in its own juices.
It must have died a few weeks, maybe even a month, ago. I look back down,
feeling sickness in my stomach, but it’s unavoidable. There’s a pile of silver
and black striped bird feathers just a few inches from my shoe. A breeze
ruffles the feathers to reveal a faded yellow beak and some delicate bones. I
vomit right there by the tree. But nothing comes out. I continue to dry heave a
few more times before the reflex subsides. I’ve got to get away from here.
by the angle of the sun in the sky, it is mid-morning. I’m assuming that I am
in the woods behind my house, so I choose to go south. That should put me
within two or three miles of home at the most. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking
in the woods by myself. It’s my own personal sanctuary where I go to be alone
and away from the stresses in my life. I must have come out here last night and
fallen asleep. Maybe Glenn and I got into a fight, or I had an argument with my
parents. Those are the only explanations I can come up with.
animals are everywhere. A squirrel here. A raccoon there. Birds scattered
sporadically among the bases of trees. The stench of death surrounds me, but
it’s not so bad now that I’m further away from that deer. Or maybe my nose is
just growing accustomed to it. After a while I don’t even notice the smell any
step I take sends a jolt of pain throughout my aching muscles. My eyes search
for a walking stick to lean on and ease my walk home, but there are nothing but
flimsy twigs on the ground. If only I could remember what happened yesterday to
make me feel like I fell from a ten-story building.
have no idea how much time has passed, but it feels like I have been walking
for an hour already. I sit down with my back against a tree, and use my sleeve
to pat away the dampness on my face. My energy level has plummeted, and judging
by the empty gurgling in my stomach it’s been more than a day since I’ve eaten.
Not only do I need water, but I also need food. Maybe a dead animal? No. Even
if I weren’t a vegetarian, I wouldn’t eat a rotting corpse. I make my rest as
short as possible, standing back up after a couple of minutes. I should be home
within an hour.
that hour passes; as does another.
Where am I? How do I get home? How did I
Panic is erecting a fortress
inside me, threatening to take over as I realize I’m not where I thought I was.
most important task right now is to find water. I cannot allow myself to
surrender to my anxiety. If I hope to get out of here alive, I must suppress my
I stop and stand as still as
possible, hoping to hear running water. I hear my
heart drumming. I hear the hissing of my breath as I exhale.
Nothing more. But I do see an object of interest out of the corner of my eye--a
recently fallen tree limb, about five feet tall and three inches in diameter. I
strip the side shoots off and hold it up. It’s a little gnarly toward the top,
but it will work well as a hiking stick.
time for a change of direction. I turn west and soon I am in a forcing my legs
to climb daunting hills. I make it to the top, but my weakness gives in as my
knees buckle. I stumble halfway down the hill and fail to regain my balance.
The rest of the hill goes by in a blur as I roll down the remainder, slamming
into protruding roots and broken twigs on the way. I lie there for a moment,
staring at the skeleton of a dead squirrel, letting the pain of my new bruises
and aching muscles take hold of me.
wish I were home, buried under my covers and sleeping in late on a lazy
morning. I close my eyes, hoping that when I open them I will be in my own bed;
hoping that this is some sort of nightmare. But if it is a nightmare, it is one
I’ll never awaken from.
it off, I rise to my feet again. I don’t think I can muster the energy to climb
up the next hill, so I resign to walking along the valley.
much as I love the forest, I’m growing tired of my surroundings. I love trees,
I really do. And I’m not too fond of people, so the solitude is usually welcome
as well. But at some point I need human contact. Or even animal contact. I’m
not too picky.
I call out, “Help!” and listen to my echo sing back to me. Of course, there is
no response. I don’t bother repeating myself. Surely nobody would hear me in
the middle of the forest anyway. Oh well. It was worth a shot.
I do hear something. I have to stop breathing for a moment to be sure I really
hear it--a delectable trickling so faint I almost believe I am imagining it.
But the silence out here makes that impossible. Out of nowhere I manifest
enough energy to run at a full sprint in the direction of the blessed sound.
the trickling grows louder, my feet gallop to the beat of a fast-paced tribal
drum. It’s funny how the pain in my body seems to diminish while I’m so
intensely focused on the water. I round a cluster of small trees and there it
is. It is nothing more than a small stream, water percolating over some smooth
stones, but more than enough to quench my thirst. I collapse on the ground and
cup the water in my hands, slurping it up noisily. For a moment, the forest
does not exist. The world does not exist. It is a moment of pure ecstasy.
my thirst is satisfied, I heave heavily to try to catch my breath. Then I catch
a glimpse of myself in the water. A single deep red line stretches across my
face. There’s no way that was caused by a cat scratch. I lightly trace the line
with my finger, stroking the knobby scab that has formed, and try to remember
how this scar came to be. But nothing comes to mind. I splash water on my face
to clean the residual blood that had dripped down and dried to a crust. Then I
notice something else unusual. There is a dark spot on my left temple that will
not wash off. At first I mistake it for a bruise since it hurts when I press on
it. But I notice some distinct lines. It appears to be a tattoo of some sort. I
inspect it closer, but it is too difficult to make out in the rippling water. Moments
like this I wish I carried a compact mirror.
must have had a crazy night last night. I construct a story in my mind to
explain what could have happened. My boyfriend, Glenn, and I went out into
town--most likely, since we do that often. We had way too much to
drink--plausible, although I am not of age yet, so I either had a fake ID or we
drank at someone’s house. Then, in a drunken stupor I got a tattoo. Not likely,
but if I drank enough to black out and end up in the woods, then I suppose
anything’s possible. As for the injury to my face, well, I can’t come up with
an explanation for that.
sit back to rest and almost jump out of my pants when I spot a boot right next
to me. With a foot in it. Connected to a leg. Which is connected to a body
sitting against a tree. It is a large, overweight man, wearing a flannel shirt,
black vest and Stetson. And he appears to be staring at me.
god, you scared me!” I exclaim, “I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.” He does not
react. In fact there is no movement from him whatsoever.
you okay?” I wave my hand in front of him to see if he reacts. Then a gruesome
realization hits me. His chest is not moving. His eyes are glazed over. I reach
for his wrist and it’s cold. There is no pulse.
must have died recently. I wouldn’t say he smells pleasant, but he has not
begun decomposing yet. He has a brown leather pouch attached to his belt, which
I remove. Obviously he won’t need it anymore. Inside I find a half-full canteen
of water, a folding knife, some sort of makeshift first aid kit in a small mint
tin, dried fruit and jerky, and a lighter. The fruit is the first thing I
demolish. I scarf that down within thirty seconds. The jerky I’ll hold on to.
Being a vegetarian, it is not too appetizing, but when hunger calls again, I
may have no choice. I dump out the contents of the canteen and rinse it out in
the stream, then refill it.
to move on, I attach the belt and pouch to my waist, poking a new whole in the
belt to ensure a tight fit, and decide to go ahead and take the hat too. I’m
not sure if I’ll need it, but it will be easy to carry. As I lift the hat off
the man’s head I am shocked to see a tattoo on his temple. It looks like a
dragonfly, or an infinity fly. They look nearly identical, except that the
infinity fly has a slightly longer thorax and when viewed from above, their
eyes form an infinity symbol. I cast a glance back into the stream and realize
it’s the same as the tattoo on my temple. Whoa. Something’s really not right
here. Now I’m getting a little freaked out.
the distance I hear a rustling of leaves. It’s the first I’ve heard since I
woke up to near silence. Finally, hope of rescue has come. Jumping to my feet,
I yell out, “Help me! Over here!” The sound of rustling leaves picks up and I
can vaguely hear voices of several men.