Hanging By A Thread
Girija Krishna Kumar, Grade 9
Hanging by a thread
“Alexa Mackenzie…the name known to all in our neighborhood. You galvanize our denizens that induce a jealousy in my heart, you bees knees! “Good Bellings finally assented after denying the same point for weeks in utter envy. I placed the teacup after drinking the rest of it. “I have been singing your praises and there you are decoding an antiquated Latin text!” She hollered. “Bell, you comprehend the fact that I detest being showered with praises, don’t you?” I threw a rhetorical question at her. An awkward silence fell between us. It was disrupted soon though. I ran helter-skelter to answer the ringing phone.
“Hello, this is Alexa Goodville Mackenzie. May I know who I am speaking to?” I questioned. “Hi Miss Goodville. This is Rodger Kenyons from the department of human resources speaking. I have heard a lot about you.” A familiar voice sprung up. “Good things, I presume” I said. “Exceptional” He said. “Things were rather happy in my life till my cousin, Aldous disappeared. We were the only ones living in the house after both our parents died in an accident… and now he’s…he’s…missing.” He sympathetically bemoaned. I stood there with furrowed eyebrows, as I pitied the person. “Don’t be vexed, sir. I will find him for you. May I know where he was last seen, Sir?” I questioned. “In the Arabian desert. He had departed there for an expedition.” he replied. “I will take care of everything sir, you be relaxed.” I reassured him and hung up the phone. “Bell, my good friend lost his cousin and we have to find him. Would you be of accompaniment for me on my journey?” I asked. “Well, sure. Anything for my role-model.” She complied.
We started off the next day itself. Taking the necessities that would enable our survival on our journey was vital, as no one knew what lied ahead for us in the deepest regions of the all-time mysterious Canyon, where deaths occur one after another in an alarming rate. We did not even consider the possibility of returning home alive as just about anything could happen in our menacing destination. We disregarded our thoughts though and thought that even if fate gives rise to a situation that would lead to our deaths, it would have been for a good cause. Wishing myself the very best and praying for ourselves, I stepped outside the comfort of my home, mentally prepared to face the cold world that laid in front of me, choosing to accept another challenge daringly, which might even lead me to my death.
We then heard the nuzzling, followed by the marching outside our house. “Come on, Bell. Don’t want to keep the camel waiting, do we? Let’s depart.” I said, with an unusual eagerness that gave me goose bumps. Bell looked at my unique blue eyes that twinkled in excitement.
We rode for almost 3 hours and stopped in the middle of nowhere, to quench our thirst. Our journey then continued for another hour, but little did we know that our lives were going to be put at intense risk. “Sheldon! No!” My lips were pulled back into a strangled scream. We climbed down from Sheldon and watched him hit the ground with a thud. His eyes glistened in the brightness, which seemed as if he was crying innocently. Tears rolled along my reddened cheeks. The soft moan of the creature was followed by the sound of the rattle. I watched as the predator slowly slithered down a rock.
“We just have to walk by foot to the city nearby, I guess. The missing person would have possibly gone to the city. We must make a presence back home, with the missing person in five days’ time.” I said strongly. I started to worry. The sound of my heartbeat filled my ears as I looked around, realizing that we were in the middle of nowhere. Not letting us get scared, we motivated ourselves as we gathered all our courage and started walking. After hours venturing into the deep regions of the desert, we stopped for a drink, then continued our journey. Hours passed and during our final pause for drink, “ Alexa! We are left with only a meager amount of water!” Bell hollered. I looked into the bottle and realized that we were counting on 4 inches of water for our journey. I moistened my lips as I fidgeted in fear. We then came to a place with a fence. Upon seeing it, my face lit up. “This could show the way to civilization!” I exclaimed. However, there were two ways we could go, one was along the right of the fence and the other was along the left of the fence. We prayed hard as the decision that we were going to take could either save us or bring us deeper into the desert, killing us. The rate of my heart beat increased. After a few minutes, we decided to head along the left side of the fence. We were helpless as we could do nothing but only pray that we made a good decision. After an hour of walking,we realized that we have ventured deeper into the desert. We started walking and then paused to take our final break. It was then when we emptied the 4 inches of water. We started panicking. “We have to hunt for water now.” I said. We went in search for water for a few minutes. Unfortunately, all our efforts went in vain. We suddenly heard sounds of a vehicle approaching us. We looked around and saw a jeep. “Oh my god! We are finally saved! Lets go and ask help from the driver!” I screamed in sheer pleasure. We approached the jeep and asked for a lift to the city. The driver could hardly hear what we were saying as there was no moisture in our mouths. “What amiga?” was the reply. “We…need..a lift….to…Greyhills..” I said in despair. “I think she is trying to find the way to the mental hospital! Isnt that right amiga?” The man said with a hearty laughter. “Please I’m thirsty!” I pleaded him. “Thirsty? you want a drink?” He said, pointing to a water bottle filled with sparkling fresh water that tempted me. “Yes I do!” I said happily, reaching out my hand, expecting to receive the water. “Here you go..” The man said and started drinking the water. He then spat it on my face and drove away, laughing once more. “See you later amiga!” He shouted as he drove away. I ran after the jeep, only getting my face covered in sand. An intense helpless feeling struck me, which I had never experienced in my entire life. “What else could happen to make the situation worse?” I thought, only replying the question I asked with an answer of ‘nothing’. The heat of the sun was suffocating. Bell and I were losing our own battle of survival.
I looked around, not knowing where the ending of the desert was. I thought hard as a solution finally mushroomed to me. “Hey! Lets call for help using my mobile phone!” I exclaimed. I Watched the automatic expression of Bell as she smiled, revealing a row of gleaming teeth. I pulled out my phone and dialed in the ‘Rescue Coordination Centre’ number, which I had luckily saved in my mobile the previous day. “Please pick up the phone..” I prayed. Unfortunately, the phone read “no network connection.” Upon reading the message, my heart was in my mouth. My eyes grew large as tears rolled along my cheeks. The heat of the sun was unbearable. Both of us cursed the sun, but even this did not stop it from showing its vengeance towards us. Beads of perspiration formed on our foreheads as our legs somehow managed to continue walking. Just then, I spotted something. Something that could change our fate. We walked towards the network tower. “Finally our problems are over!” I exclaimed in sheer content. I took my mobile phone, ready to be saved. On the contrary the sight I saw heightened the intensity of our problems. Black was the sight. I desperately pressed buttons but all I saw on the screen of the phone was black. “The charge…its out!” I screamed and stood rooted to the ground. “How on earth are we going to get saved??” I asked Bell, knowing that even she would not have the faintest idea. All of a sudden, another jeep came towards us. This time, I felt uneasy. The jeep, after nearing us, stopped. I looked through the front window to see the faces of the drivers. It suddenly dawned to me that far from rescue; the people were members of the well-known notorious gang of human smugglers from the Mexican border. “Run!” I yelled out to Bell as I rummaged through my bag and took out my gun from it. I held my gun, pointing to the jeep. The jeep then took a U-turn and vanished from our sight. I was relieved at the thought of how my bravado paid off.
Suddenly, I looked up to see the sky that brought a twist to our plans. It was dark. Pitch dark. Sound of crickets filled the air. Only one option was present to us, which was to spend the night in the Arabian desert, which claims the lives of 200 a year. The thought of the wild animals threatened us, sending spine-chills on our backs. Bracing ourselves, we found a spot near the tower. There was absolutely no shelter whatsoever at all. It was a do or die situation we were forced to face. We lied down with nightmares even before we slept. Suddenly, it dawned to us that we should not fall asleep as if we did, animals known for their wildness can claim our lives. It was difficult though, as our eyes automatically closed every 10 seconds. We then decided to take turns to sleep. Temperature was entirely opposite to that in the day. It was bone chilling. We got frostbites in our legs and hands and felt like being in a freezer. Exposure to the freezing cold climate caused our bodies to shut off the blood supply to our extremities to protect our vital inner organs. We shuddered at the thought how frostbites can claim our fingers and toes and that this was just the first stage of the onset of hypothermia, as when temperature starts declining further, the brain will shut down. I drew on my athletic training back in school and started doing crunches to keep myself warm. The person staying awake had to do at least a sit up every 5 seconds to guarantee us staying alive for the next 3 days in the Arabian desert.
In an incredible feat of physical endurance and mental stamina, we willed ourselves to survive. We somehow pulled through the night. After taking the last shift of staying awake, I looked at Bell, with her eyes closed, sleeping contentedly, despite the climate. “Wake up Bell! Its time for us to go in search of water. We ran out of it!” I said, shaking her. “She must be very sleepy, she is not even getting up!” I thought and shook her once more. All of a sudden, a thought flashed through my mind and threatened me. Cold sweat ran down my spine, stinging it. My hands trembled vigorously as I reached out my forefinger and placed it under her nose. My heart skipped a beat as I collapsed in utter shock. “She is..no but she can’t be…but she is dead!” I cried out in grief. I played through the memories of my best friend sailing through the high school journey with me. “She was such a good friend…she died at such a young age, missing out on the rest of her life! I was the reason why she came along with me that killed her!” I screamed as droplets of my tears fell on Bell’s arms. Guilt pricked me. I should not have asked her whether she would be of accompaniment for me…I shouldn’t have..” I thought. I sat in the Arabian desert, crying. “No, wrong sentence,” I thought. “Crying like an idiot. What did I achieve by being a famous adventurer? Nothing! I might die any moment in thirst and I just lost a friend!” I screamed in hatred for my foolish decision of coming to the desert. I then took a decision. A decision, which might be wrong but a decision that will definitely save me, and that was to dump the mission of hunting for the missing person and find a way to get back to my city.
I slowly picked Bell up in my hands as I decided to give her a burial back in my city after reaching there. with an unusual belief that I will get there. I walked as my throat cried for water and as my stomach growled for food. After hours of travelling, I sat down, ready to take a break. The mental pain I had overpowered my physical pain. I was in the verge of giving up, but soon believed in an opportunity that will get me out of there. I still could not believe that I was stranded in an uninhabited wilderness for 2 days. It seemed like a nightmare. My physical condition was deteriorating fast. I was having sunken eyes with shriveled and dry skin that lacked elasticity and did not bounce back when pinched into a fold. I was not even shedding tears when I was crying. I then realized that I had to do something if I wanted to continue living my life. I was basically fighting for my life. Out of the blue moon, I heard a sound. Not just any sound but a sound that came from something which could save my life. I look left and I looked right. No sight of the source of sound. I then looked up. Happiness was written all over my face. My happiness upon seeing a helicopter in the sky knew no bounds. I then waved my hands frantically in the air, hoping the driver would see me. Unfortunately, he did not. I then had an idea. I took two stones and rubbed it, causing fire and lit it to the scarf I was wearing. I then tied it to a long twig and waved that desperately in the air, in an attempt to catch the attention of the driver. Momentarily, the helicopter took a diversion and started descending. “I am going to be saved, Bell!” I shouted as I looked at Bell. After a few minutes, the helicopter landed. The moment it touched the ground, I was mad with happiness. I started jumping up and down. “Madam! Do not worry. We have brought water and food with us..and we will bring you to the hospital!” A man from the helicopter said. He then handed me a 2 litre can of water. I started drinking it. I climbed into the helicopter with Bell still in my arms. The helicopter then took off. I then thanked the driver. “I still remember the day I was stranded in the Arabian desert just like you, separated from my cousin..” He said. I paused for a second. “What is your name?” I asked, expecting for the reply of Aldous’. “Aldous Alger” He said automatically. “My cousin and I lost both our parents and now I have been kidnapped by a group of competitors for our company who demand me to give them my monthly salary. Sooner or later, they would ask for a ransom from my cousin.
He said. I then narrated my story and the purpose of my visit to the desert. I then thought of a plan. “The kidnappers know the whereabouts of the helicopter. So let us abandon this helicopter and instead ride a camel back to our city!” I said. We did as I told. Since camels were easy to find in the Arabian desert, we managed to find two within the next 2 hours itself. We traveled for several hours and reached the city at last. Upon arriving in the city, I felt the comfort of home. After a few minutes, I was admitted in the hospital to treat the wounds I received. I went under treatment for a few hours. As I opened my eyes, I saw Aldous and Roger. I smiled as both of them thanked me. “No, I should be thanking you as Aldous saved my life! Without him, I would not be here, speaking to you. All the credits go to Aldous. Aldous, thank you so much. I know this is not enough for the great help you did to me but this is the least I can do.” I said. “Oh, I was just doing my duty. By the way, our problems are over as well. We just heard the news that the kidnappers who kidnapped me passed away due to a fight between the Mexican smugglers during their search for me.” He said, with a scintillating smile on his face. “Oh, that’s good.” I said, feeling happy for him. I turned to the left to see Bell, who was already placed in the coffin. “Poor girl, she just recovered from the sorrow she received after losing her parents, and now another tragedy happened to her, which ended up taking her life away.” I whispered. “I am sorry I couldn’t save you Bell, I am sorry.” I cried, as tears fell on her arm. It suddenly felt as if she said “Its alright.”