Lost and alone, armed only with his flintlock pistol and a dagger, the explorer plunged onward. This strange New World seemed to be shrouded in a canopy of never-ending greens and reds. Plants sprung up everywhere, trees with broad, multi-colored leaves blocking the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. He waded through the ferns, afraid that at any moment some sort of creature would drag him into the leaves and devour him. His fellows on board the ship had told him stories which had shook him to his core—tales of beasts and violent natives. He was scared when he was with the others in this odd, foreign place. And now he was cut off, helpless.

He had prayed nonstop since he had lost his company. They had been heading back to the ship, defeated at not finding any gold, nor any natives to trade with. He also knew what was on everyone’s mind, even if it wasn’t on their tongues–the fabled Fountain of Youth. A great thunderstorm had struck at sunset, rain hammering down on the trees. Lightning would give him sight periodically, followed by screeches of terrified animals in the trees. He had panicked and fear had welled up inside him that night like he had never felt in all his years. Before he knew it, the other sailors and explorers had vanished into the darkness. Had they been killed? Was he the only one left? Was God punishing him?

He didn’t know the answers to these questions, but he hoped he soon would. At least now the sun was out, even if it was barely visible through all the vines, plants, and trees. He lamented having lost his broadsword in the storm. He imagined angrily slicing through the foliage with it. The thought occurred to him that perhaps he would find his broadsword in the foliage, offering him a brief moment of calm. He went onward.  

To his dread, it wasn’t long before a low, grumbling roar reverberated through the forest. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and cold sweat dripped from his brow. The trees seemed menacing as he scanned them, his flintlock in his hand. The roar hadn’t ceased. It was now a low hum, the sound of an animal waiting to pounce. If he stood still, he would have more of a chance when it leapt at him, so he stayed still. His eyes burned from keeping them open. Where was it? Was his mind playing tricks on him?

He blinked, and before he knew it, a dark shape plunged at him with a deafening bellow, knocking him to the ground. He felt fur and cold flesh. He pulled the trigger. A plume of smoke rose from the pan and clouded his vision. He shut his eyes, ready to meet his end. Then he realized the forest was still and the beast was nowhere to be seen. There was only the gentle chatter of bugs and birds. He sat up, expecting to see the beast limping away from the shot or waiting to strike again, but it was nowhere in sight. Once more, he was alone and fearful.

He hurried through the forest, quickly reloading his flintlock with the little bit of shot and powder he had left. His heart hammered, but the fear quickly subsided as adrenaline surged through him. He ran and ran through ferns and past trees covered in vines. He could hear a new sound now—the gentle trickling of a stream. Not too far in the distance, water cut through limestone—a wondrous sight, even in his current state. Within the stream, much to his surprise and relief, lay his broadsword. His heart leapt as he ran forward to grab it. Hope was not lost after all, and perhaps God had not abandoned him. Just as he grasped the hilt, the echo of a low, throaty roar issued through the trees.

Edited By Renee Luna

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