Flint poked at the ashes of the fire with the branch. The morning sun had not reached the cave yet and it was cold inside the cave. He went over to the stack of wood and paused to look over to the mouth of the cave where Luko lay sprawled on the ground. His snores echoed off the cave walls. Flint had been awake since it started. He was not in a good mood.
He tended the fire noisily, but Luko slept on. Warrick had not returned yet. “No one ever listens to Flint!” he complained loudly. “I told him he’d be back, but oh, no he’d go off on his own into the forest anyway! Hope the Spirit Warriors teach him a thing or two!” He chuckled to himself. “Spirit Warriors: I crack myself up! That kid would believe anything.” His eyes involuntarily glanced in the direction of the trees. ‘That kid’ had not come back yet.
“Hey, Luko! Wake up!”
“Wh-what?” Luko jolted upright. He flinched against the glaring sun and dragged himself into the shelter of the cave. It took him a while to blink the sleep from his eyes.
“Warrick went looking for you last night. Have you seen him?”
Luko’s eyes darted away. “Lookingfor me? I don’t know what you’re talking about, man: I’ve been here the whole time.”
They sat in silence for a while. Flint restarted the fire, his thoughts clearly not on the task, while Luko rolled up the sleeping bags. At any sound outside the cave, they simultaneously paused and looked towards the trees. Warrick was probably lost in the forest, scared out of his wits and it was all Luko’s fault. That was Flint’s opinion, but he chose not to voice it. Luko didn’t have an opinion to voice. He rummaged through the bags. “Flint, where’s all the food gone? There was, like, five cans of beans left!”
Flint had finished lighting the fire and warmed himself beside it. “Warrick took some with him last night; he probably reckoned that it would take a long time to find you.”
Luko frowned to himself. He let it go; he wasn’t hungry anyway.
“Where exactly were you last night?” Flint had not cared before what Luko did when he was off ‘sleepwalking’, but Warrick was missing and they would have to start looking for him soon.
Luko swallowed hard and wet his lips. “I was here...sleeping.” Flint’s stare was hard, not believing a word of it. “So, I – er – must have been sleepwalking again, huh?”
“Sure, whatever.” Flint packed up the bags and slung his on his back. Luko followed suite. “Let’s go.”
They entered the forest, a completely different scene from last night. Green covered green. Everything shone in the light of the sun. Birds chirruped happily, rustling the bushes as they went about their daily chores. Flint let Luko lead the way. There were a set of two footprints which were visible enough. They trekked deeper into the forest.
A good while later, Luko stopped. Flint saw that the set of footprints separated; one going straight, the other veering left. The second’s prints were more spaced out. “He was running from something,” Luko observed. He looked curiously at his own footprints from the night before and then followed Warrick’s. Flint was silent. If anything happened to Warrick... He glared at Luko’s back. They came across the torch and Luko’s dagger, but no Warrick.
“Warrick! Where are you?” Flint searched the greenness desperately. “Warrick!” His voice was dampened by the foliage. He turned to Luko, who was looking sickly green. “Why do you always have to do that? Warrick is missing and it’s all your fault! Where do you go, Luko?”
Luko feigned puzzlement with ease. “I don’t know, I told you! I was probably sleepwalking.”
Flint felt the blood rushing to his face. “Don’t give me that rubbish!” His body quivered with anger. “Tell me the truth!”
Luko glowered at him. “Hmm. Flint, I’m feeling kinda hungry. Or have you eaten all the food again?” He sneered at the rolls of fat protruding from his tight shirt.
Flint’s eyes widened in shock. “I...never!”
“Oh, so whose telling the truth now?”
“I...Where’s Warrick, Luko?”
“I don’t know! Where’s our food, you pig!”
“I never took your food, you liar! Where’s Warrick? What did you do to him?”
“I don’t know!I.Was. Sleepwalking!”
“No you were not!”
“Yes I was!”
“No you weren’t!”
“I was so!”
“I’ve had enough of this! Warrick is missing and we need to find him! So, let’s stop fighting! Let’s tell each other the truth for a change!” He waited, breathing heavily and staring at him.
Luko’s eyes darted everywhere, except in his direction. “The truth?” There was bitterness in his voice. “I’m sick of this! All of it! I want out of this 'adventure'!” He kicked the nearest tree.
“You?! You’re sick of living like this? What about me? I want to go home Luko!"
There was a roar a little away from them. It blasted through the trees, draining the colour from their faces. They knew that roar. They thought they had escaped that roar. They knew it was time to run but they couldn't move. Images of neighbours - people they knew all their lives - changed. Ol' Jimmy was the first to go. It started as a common cold and then it grew worse. He began to become distant , then hostile. The three of them were walking home from school when they saw him go insane. Ol' Jimmy wasn't insane, he was just old. He used to tell them stories and make tea for them on bitter cold days and the same for hot summer days. He would tend to his garden or sit in the porch, reading. He was a frail, harmless old man who snapped and ripped the head off a lady they didn't have a chance to recognise. They ran. Like they should do now.
"Luko..." A shadow flew towards them, roaring louder.
Luko yelled and sped away. "Run, Flint!"