Given the fear I felt, it seems strange now that I think back on it that I didn’t run headlong into the woods. But, as frightened as I was, I somehow managed to maintain some semblance of control of my faculties.
Determined to stay on course using the compass as best I could under the trying circumstances, I checked the dial every minute or two by the light of the headlamp. I was doing just that, checking the face of the compass illuminated in the narrow band of light when to my horror, I saw the needle was spinning crazily and oscillating backward and forward. It was like a Bermuda Triangle nightmare. It was if the laws of nature had ceased to operate in my vicinity. For the first time, I felt myself losing control. My fear turned into pure terror. The compass had been my last remaining anchor. I’d counted on it. Now it had stopped working.
Suddenly, there was a loud noise. To my shame, I can admit now it may only have been my own frightened shrieking. The next thing, I had thrown off the pack and was running headlong through the dense forest, bouncing off tree trunks, branches slapping me in the face. I was simply running like some demented animal, desperate to escape some threat I couldn’t even identify. I slipped and fell often.
It may have been only a few minutes. It may have been hours. I may have been sobbing in utter terror. All I remember for certain was the blind, panic-stricken flight. Once my headlamp illuminated two disembodied eyes in the darkness. I screamed and ran from them as fast as I could. Once I ran into a band of deer, startling them into flight. One or more of them buffeted me, knocking me to the ground as they bounded away in the darkness. I sprang up and just kept running.
At some point, the clouds broke, and the moon came out, casting an eerie glow on the trees and the side of a slope. I realized I was going uphill again, which meant at least I wasn’t about to run straight into the Gila River and drown myself. I began to slow and then stopped, unable to run any further. I fell to the ground, gasping for breath. After a time, I started to gain a grip on my emotions. I marveled at the stupidity of my panic-stricken run through the wilderness in almost total darkness. For the first time in my life, I had been seized by complete, unreasonable fear. It had gripped me like the claws of some great predatory beast. I had surrendered to it, and the fear had propelled me like a twig caught in a surging river.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish