Duncan awoke to a chill morning. The bed of grass that had seemed so soft and inviting last night felt as hard and unforgiving as stone after a fitful night of cold semi-sleep.
He stiffly gained his feet and took stock of his surroundings as he absently swept the loose grass off of his body. He had hoped that the light of the morning would make a lie out of the events preceding his slumber last night, but as he surveyed the odd plant life near his feet and the foreign landscape, he knew that his recollections were accurate.
Yesterday he had been in the middle of a basketball practice when all of the sudden the entire gymnasium seemed to pause in mid-step. Two of his teammates had been jumping for a ball and they had been frozen in midair. No sooner had he stopped to gape at this than the ground opened up under his feet and he fell right through with a yelp.
He fell for what seemed an eternity before his feet again touched the earth, but instead of the hard surface of the gymnasium he felt soft give of earth and vegetation beneath his feet. He found himself standing in absolute darkness and suddenly cold in his basketball uniform. After a few moments he became aware of the stars overhead and some of the shadows that made up his immediate vicinity.
He had stumbled about in the dark for what had seemed an eternity looking for any sign of a town or a car or any form of civilization. He knew that any man-made light would indicate some kind of shelter may be available. Eventually he had given up and had just burrowed deep in the grass to sleep until morning.
"Now what?" he said to himself.
With a big sigh he set his feet to walking. All around him was a gently rolling countryside. The vegetation was not a crop of any kind that he could tell, but just a natural growth of grasses and plants that came up to his thigh. They were wet with dew and it was only a few steps before the lower half of his body was well and truly wet.
Duncan noticed the hazy outline of some mountains just edging above the horizon. They were a good distance off, but he could make out one peak that seemed a little taller than the rest and he decided that he would walk directly toward that landmark until he happened upon something he could recognize.
His thoughts tumbled around his brain like a clothes in a dryer. He couldn't process what had happened. What mountains are those? There are no mountains in Saskatchewan. Has all the training really messed up my brain, like my sister is so fond of telling me? Have I really lost it? Am I dreaming? Where are the people!?!
After a few hours his stomach grumbled unhappily and he started casting his eyes around looking for something to eat. There were bushes here and there on the hillsides, but after close inspection of a few of them decided that none of them held any berries to sample. He found a sprig of what looked like carrot and pulled up the root only to be disappointed there as well.
Only when the sun was brilliant overhead did the chill finally leave his bones. If it wasn't for the growing gnawing of hunger he would have started to really enjoy the walk. The land was gorgeous and untouched.
A the day wore on his thoughts swung from confusion and curiosity, to a sinking despair. After a time only one real thought kept cycling over and over in his head: where are the people?
He was having such black thoughts when he stumbled out of the tall grass into the lane of a track of some kind. The sudden absence of the tall grass almost sent him sprawling into the dusty track. Two dusty ruts cut through the countryside, with a little hump of stunted vegetation in between. Never had a sight been more welcome to Duncan's eyes than this.
Filled with renewed vigor, Duncan started really moving along the path. His pace picked up to the point where he was actually jogging more than walking as he tracked along. Being a member of the track team had never seemed as useful as it did now. Every road that he had ever travelled upon had a destination and he was anxious to see something other than rolling countryside so he might be able to figure out what had befallen him in the past day.
He had travelled a good distance before he found anything. He had abandoned the long jog and was enjoying the breeze on his sweat dampened body when the grass on both sides of the road gave way to fencing and enclosed pasture for some odd looking animals that looked like a cross between a goat and a pig.
They had long curling horns atop a head that looked too small for them, and large round bellied bodies and short legs, but were entirely covered in curly hair in different dusty shades. Duncan had spent enough time around farmers to know this was unlike anything ever heard of in his part of the world, and he felt his skin grow cold at the implications of that.
He found a path running perpendicular to the road that led up to a little stone cottage with a grass roof and a busy looking yard filled with some kind of birds. He feared what knowledge awaited him inside that little cabin.