A day ago, if you’d had told me my friends were going to try to eat me, I like to think that I wouldn’t have believed you. But 24 hours can do a lot to change a person’s mind. It’s not always the most strikingly obvious things that bring you around. Sometimes it’s the little things. Like finding two of your best friends strewn across the kitchen counter top with their faces missing. Stuff like that can really force you to look at the world in a new light. In my case, it jumpstarted a whole new set of calculations, and made me consider new facets of life like never before. Such as suddenly evaluating the survivability of my situation. The odds of keeping my face suddenly much lower than before, I began to consider novel ways to mitigate the risks and twist those odds back into my favor. 

 

Needless to say, the camping trip had not ended well. I was in a tree, clinging for dear life, watching the pining horde beneath me. I looked over their horrid, gore-frozen faces, surveying the clawing bevy for the umpteenth time. Some of them were my friends. Or, had been my friends until just recently. I can’t say they seemed all too friendly now. We’d known each other since grade school. I’d dated some of their cousins. If this was some kind of sick revenge for that fact, then I certainly can’t say I didn’t deserve it. 

 

It was at that moment, while staring intently into the eyes of John Krasner, whose wedding I’d just given a speech at a month prior, that the phone I’d jammed deep into my pocket hissed and cracked. 

 

“Nathan, do you copy?” the disembodied voice broke through the denim like an iceberg through a doomed ocean liner. “This is Farris reporting in. I say again, do you copy?” 

I scrambled to dig the phone out of my jean pocket, rushing only as much as I dared. If I dropped that phone, I wasn’t ever getting it back. I’d seen people meet unpleasant results retrieving personal items they’d dropped on the tracks of the subway. My current situation was far worse. If I got caught down there, a death blow from the third rail would be a mercy. 

 

“Farris,” I said after securing the device. “I read you loud and clear. Over.” I let go of the button on the screen that allowed my voice to project across the air waves. The CB app on my phone simulated the crackle and pop of genuine static as my newfound friend’s voice came through. 

 

“What’s your status? Over.” 

 

“Down to four percent battery life,” I told him. “Over.” 

 

I held onto the tree with my free hand, gripping the bark so hard that it left unnatural imprints in my palm. Every waking hour was the same. I’d hold on for dear life, though logically I knew there was no holding on forever. I’d done my best to rig up a living hammock among a few of the bigger branches. So far I hadn’t fallen out in my sleep. Then again I didn’t often dare to close my eyes. 

 

“Okay, don’t sweat,” he said. 

 

“Easy for you to say,” I said. “The amount of actual sweat I’d soaked into this tree should have poisoned it to a withering stump by now.” In fact, I’d needed to readjust my grip on the branches many times over during the course of an hour alone. My white-knuckled fingers slipped against the bark, betrayed by the slickness exuded by their terrified owner. 

 

“I’m still stuck in my basement for now. But I’ll be coming for you as soon as the horde thins out, just like I promised. Just hang on a little longer.” 

 

I didn’t mention how hard I’d been hanging on, quite literally, for over 36 hours now. “How’s it looking out there?” I asked. 

 

Crackles and pops from the phone. “Some of them started to wander off. I’ve tried hard not to make too much noise. That seems to be working much better than dumping .20 gauge shells into their ankles all day. I can barely see through this tiny ground-floor window to hit the bastards anyway.” 

 

I laughed, and was immediately upset that he couldn’t hear it due to not having pressed the virtual push-to-talk button on the screen. “Well you just keep yourself quiet down there. I’m counting on you to get me out of this hell hole.” 

 

“That’s a big ten-four on my end. I’ll have you out of there in no time.” 

 

Somehow I doubted that “no time” would be as short a time as I would have liked. Throughout my life, whenever someone used the expression, I always liked to start counting. Because I realized, rationally, that saving me in “no time” is impossible. Nothing can be done without at least some time passing. So the counting helps me bridge that gap, emotionally. The closer to “no time” that Farris actually gets here, will be the determining factor in whether or not I kick the living shit out of him for lying to me or not. “Roger,” was all I said on the subject. 

 

“Continuing emergency communication measures,” came the reply. “Farris out.” 

 

 

 

 

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