After the hours he had spent seated on the soft moist moss, Alexander opened his eyes. Though weighed he couldn’t rest. The trail he had been following had come to and end by the tree whose stump now supported his back. Five days worth of walking, itches unscratched, now lay at doors of vanity. The exhale that accompanied the slump was full. His feet twitched from toe to hamstring once the weight of his upper body was off. Now stretched before him, he could see the punishing he had given them. Closing his eyes he assured himself that the thirst he sought to quench was worth more than bruises, grazes, holes from thorns removed, rashes from nettle bouts.
Footprints; they were crucial but few. Whenever he had considered turning back their direction would call to his mind the possibilities; the reality of the dissatisfaction from which he had embarked turned his toes to face his leader’s. Soft earth was his map, twigs and warm fire stones – always five – proof that his journey wasn’t vain: but vain it was becoming at this stump.
On his emptying steel water flask he saw beards, hair surrounding dehydrated lips, a mane where there was none. The nails hampered by his teeth were now flourishing: this was a stranger, a man he was growing to like. His fingers shook as he lifted it, trembled as the last drops from it disappeared onto his parched tongue: they weren’t enough.
Head lowers with the flask. Eyes go from flask to forest floor. Beneath a brown leaf, footprints.