Bewildering Stories

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Chapter 2, “The Forest,” part III

by Tala Bar

Chapter 2, part II concluded in this issue.


Sharp, bright sun rays fell on Dar’s eyelids. Even before she opened her eyes she knew they were back in their own world, because no bright sun rays had ever penetrated the forest.

She was lying on the steep slope she recalled going down through, with the conifer wood still standing around them. Some of the needles were pricking her body, and she sat up and scratched herself. Compared with the menace of the jungle, the prick of pine needles seemed as gentle as the touch of velvet.

She then turned her attention to Nim. The girl was lying at a little distance from herself, stark naked, sound asleep; neither the chill of the morning nor the bright sunlight had managed to waken her from her slumber. Dar spent some time looking at her. There was some change, both in her appearance and in her mien. She looked fuller in face and body, no longer the emaciated creature found among the ruins of her house. She also looked calm in her sleep, almost happy; she had lost the haunted expression she had been wearing since Dar had found her.

As she watched, the girl moved her hand as if to drive away some irritating insect. She lay quietly for a moment on her back, before opening her eyes. Then she stretched on the ground, an expression of deep happiness spread over her face. Dar could see how really beautiful the girl was, now that she had filled up. She opened her eyes, and they shone bright green under her glowing golden hair. When her look fell on Dar, a question appeared in them, and for some reason both women reddened. Dar’s eyes were directed, involuntarily, to Nim’s naked body; the girl looked at herself, her blush deepening. She pulled the blanket from under her to cover her nakedness.

“Whatever’s happened, Dar?” She asked with a quiver in her voice.

“Don’t worry,” Dar said, pulling her backpack toward her, taking out a change of clothes and handing them over to the girl.

Nim put on a pair of underpants, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

“Do you remember anything?” Asked the physician.

“I remember a strange dream. It must have been a dream, mustn’t it? We were in the rain forest – how was that possible?”

“I suppose it was a dream,” Dar said, slowly, “only that we dreamed it together.”

Nim looked at her, barely understanding. “There were all those little Indians. Weren’t they funny people?”

“You did not think them funny at the time. You actually seemed to like them...”

Nim reddened again. “Is that why I was naked? I’d never been with a man, you know...”

“You still haven’t, not outside your dream,” Dar felt the need to reassure the girl. After all, sex is too important an experience to do it while one is asleep. Especially the first time...

But Nim was still bothered about the whole affair. “Do you remember much of it?” She insisted, trying to find out.

“Vaguely. I was mostly interested in their ways of healing, you know. There was that old woman, who knew things. But it’s completely irrelevant to our world, as all that vegetation and animal life has gone forever from the planet.”

“It’s such a shame,” Nim reflected. “I think I really enjoyed life there, although I hardly remember any of it.”

“I think you really did,” Dar said. “Maybe you can keep the sense of happiness even without remembering the details. You already look better than a few days ago; don’t you also feel better?”

Nim reflected for a few moments. “It’s a much better memory than what had happened to us,” she agreed. She rose, collecting the blanket and shaking it from the pine needles. “There’s just one thing, Dar. What did you mean by the beginning of the end?”

Dar, surprised Nim had recalled especially that one phrase, reflected a little. “I mean,” she said, ponderously, “when the individual becomes more important than the community. It must have led us to that, I think...” she made a sweeping movement with her arm.” Now, Nim,” she continued more briskly, “I think it’s time we move on.”

“You’re right,” Nim replied, looking around her, “this wood has turned into something rather creepy, hasn’t it.”

Indeed, that sunny brightness of early autumn that had poured on them through the thin foliage did nothing to alleviate the dark menace impressed on them by the vision of the long-gone South American jungle.

The two women shrugged on their backpacks, which had suffered no loss since their dream adventure; weeks had passed there, but no more than a few hours on the wooded hill which overlooked the devastated earth. Far below them, they caught a glimpse of the river, and Dar pointed their way down in its direction.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Tala Bar

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