Trouble in paradise

The journey Ch.5TravisTrouble in paradise 

Travis took a red-eye flight from John F Kennedy international airport to Innsbruck, Austria.He barely slept because of his restless leg.It had been tormenting him on and off for years.He knew this would be an arduous flight.He had already devoured his allotted airplane snacks, started and stopped several movies, read magazines and did yoga in the aisle; getting the attention of curious passengers.Nothing helped.The tingling, burning sensation in his leg wouldn't let up.The passengers were sympathetic but had also become restless and agitated watching him pace up and down the Aisles.They were praying he would just fall asleep.Some offered him alcohol which he refused, others donated cookies and candies from their personal stash. One woman in the seat in front of him took candy from her six-year-old to give him so he would stop kicking the back of her seat.The captain desperately asked the stewardesses to go above and beyond the call of duty and take one for the team. "This guy is disrupting the whole fucking plane." It's not that they wouldn't under different circumstances.They thought he was cute and quirky but they had their careers to think about.Finally, a reformed Skinhead with a tattoo of a Swastika carved into his forehead, and according to the stewardesses was "a really sweet guy..." came to the rescue.He offered up his last Valium which Travis gratefully accepted. Notwithstanding the tattoo the passengers were grateful to him for his generosity. It worked wonders for the remainder of the flight and he eventually fell asleep.
After landing, He took a train to the Red Trail and slept during the entire trip.He  planned on hiking a portion of the Alpine trail from Austria to Monaco.A 435-mile journey. The Red trail starts in Triest, Italy and ends in the principality of Monaco.It crosses over the borders of eight countries; Monaco, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and Switzerland for nearly a 1500 mile stretch.Hikers travel on old Roman roads, medieval footpaths, through glacial peaks and to many quiet mountain villages along the way.Some choose to rough it and Bivouac, some use the well established Network of huts along the way and others stay at comfortable village lodges and dine on local specialties.Either option offers alpine Trekkers  numerous opportunities to resupply at the many small  villages along the trail.
He slowly made his way down the other side of the mountain the hard packed dry clay soil  took a toll on his already tired body.He had difficulty navigating around and over the slippery flat granite stones jutting up from the ground.This slowed his pace considerably.He used his hiking poles for balance and welcomed the soft cool southerly breeze that brushed against his face.There was a familiar sweet pine, floral scent  in the air. He surveyed the area around him taking in the beauty of his surroundings he had missed out on during the last ten years tucked away in his classroom dreaming of a day like this. He made his way down the mountain and through a narrow pass where a river carved through the earth thousands of years ago creating the ravine he now found himself in.The granite walls on either side of him were waist high.As he walked farther down the old river path the granite walls grew taller and steeper. Off in the distance was the source of the sweet smelling air.The narrow pass opened up to a sloping valley carpeted with lavender, Edelweiss, and other wildflowers.The  sky was dark blue and the snow-capped Mt. Ebenalp towered in the distance-elevation 5,380 ft. One more mountain stood in his way before reaching the village of Taveyanne. His map showed this unnamed mountain at an elevation of 1500ft.He reached the valley floor the size of a football stadium where honey bees and butterflies were busy gathering Nectar.The mountain valley grass and wildflowers stood knee high.The sun was threatening to set before he reached his destination. It was six o'clock.There were approximately three hours of sunlight left. He would be at the trailhead in a few minutes.from there it was a 1.5-mile hike up and a 1.5-mile hike down to the village.He was thirsty and tired so he decided to take a ten-minute break and would make up the time later, hiking down the other side of the mountain that stood just three hundred yards away now.He sat down on the valley floor and gazed contentedly at the beautiful view.He took out his  pad and pencil to capture the image.As he was sketching he saw movement in the distance which startled him.Two figures were silhouetted against the setting sun on a ridge to his left approximately one-quarter of a mile up. One was tall, the other much shorter.They were stopped staring down at him.The shorter of the two made a waving gesture with his hiking pole. For a full minute, he followed their movements with curiosity before they disappeared behind a line of trees.It has been about a week since he saw anybody on the trail.  He was excited to meet fellow hikers.They shared a special bond and often would speak as if picking up a conversation from earlier. When hikers met regardless of the circumstances there were certain questions they  ask right from the start like: how  far until the next water source?Where are we on the map?What time is it (aka how much daylight is left)? Can I have some toilet paper? Hikers rarely shook hands to avoid fecal contamination. He studied the map the night before and the only trail on the map was the one he was on.How did they get up there, he thought.He made another observation which troubled him for some reason. It was the awkward way the two hikers used their hiking poles.With poles in hand, their arms were extended out in front, with each step they planted the poles straight down.As they pushed down all of their energy was wasted going into the ground. Travis's technique and any hiker knows that you must  plant the poles at an angle towards the front of your  toes and push down and back as you take steps to propel you forward.He picked up his pace now and was getting closer to the base of the mountain. Soon he will enjoy a long overdue shower, a hot meal, and warm bed.When he arrived at the base he sat on a boulder took a sip of water from his canteen.There was enough water to last one night if necessary.  He then began taking inventory of his supplies. His backpack  contained: 1 tarp,a lightweight pot and cooking utensils,Flint,a WW11 combat knife with 6.75 inch blade,a sleeping pad,a sleeping bag,fifty foot of natural fiber rope,1 Water filter, 2 Curry Chicken  MRE's,1 granola bar,2 bouillon cubes,beef jerky, 2 instant coffees packets,2 sugar cubes, 4 Hershey bars,1 pack of Charms candy,1 package pipe tobacco,a pipe,1 bottle of water purification tablets,flashlight,a map,a first aid kit,a Sketch pad and pencil, 1 flare,The Art Of Happiness by the Dalai Lama:hidden between the pages were 500 dollars in American Express travelers cheques. His passport was in a secret pocket on the bottom of his backpack velcroed shut. In a zippered pocket on his torn hiking pants was his plastic waterproof wallet containing the equivalent value of two hundred US dollars in Swiss Francs, his drivers license, and a Visa card. He had found some objects along the trail and secured them in his backpack for later use. There was a six-inch railroad spike, which may come in handy for digging, Cat Tails and dry Birch bark for tinder, and a rubber inner tube from a mountain bike.He wasn't sure how this would come in handy yet.His staff was dangling from a side loop on his backpack. He began putting his supplies back when he heard some twigs snap.He looked up and  about twenty-five feet away were two men standing side by side looking too interested in what he was doing. He didn't know how long they were standing there watching him.One was taller about 6.2, broad shouldered and well muscled the other much shorter, about 5.6.They were both in their twenties he estimated. The taller man had a well-manicured goatee and black eyes, the shorter was of a slighter build with brown  hair and a clean-shaven face. The taller man spoke first"Hallo!American?""Yes ."Replied, Travis."You have lots of supply.Ve are short on supply.Do you have some vater.?""Sure!",replied Travis"where are you from?"As he opened his backpack the Men came in closer.He grabbed his canteen, filled a 6 oz tin cup and handed it to the tall stranger."This is all I can spare sorry.The village is just over this peak. I'm headed there for some provisions you are welcome to join me.""Zank you. Ve are from Ukraine. Ve came 200 kilometers away on the trail. Vat  else you have in backpack?Big Mack? Ha ha!"The shorter man laughed too and said;"And Mc fish sandwich haha.Amerikan like MacDonald Eh!"Travis was starting to have a funny feeling about these two and asked: "what trail did you come on?I didn't think there was another trail.Where  did you get on the trail from?""Oh ve com from 200 kilometers"Travis looked down at their feet and saw the taller man with a pair of clean white Pumas, the shorter was wearing practically new Fry boots."Maybe I'll see you in town" Travis felt uneasy.He threw his backpack over his shoulder and started off on the trail. "Ver  you go? ve just met.Stay!""Gotta get to town before dark. I don't want to camp out tonight.""Ah okay, Mr. Mac Donald ve see you later."He put about two hundred yards between them before he glanced back.He saw the two men running up an embankment on the western side of the mountain. On all fours again he was climbing up the steep slope.He was in the zone again and loving it.His pants were torn at the knees and stained with dried blood from the last scramble.He was breathing heavy, the sweat was traveling down his forehead  burning hs eyes, blurring his vision. He stopped to wipe the sweat off his brow. He needed water. Just a small sip.He should have saved at least a quart of water for a hike like this.He had miscalculated. He assumed he wouldn't need it for the last three miles but this last climb was killing him.In the distance to his left, the sun was getting closer to the horizon.It was now 7'clock.He had two hours before sunset. He pushed on harder and was determined to get to town and sleep in a real bed tonight.As he saw the top he moved faster.He lost his footing numerous times and slipped down a few feet. He dug in harder and finally reached the apex.He threw down his backpack and was standing bent over in the tripod position trying to catch his breath. As soon as he heard the voice he felt trepidation."Mr Macdonald are you ready for Happy meal and toy?"He looked up, he was too tired to move and saw the shorter man  in front of him. His foot landed deep into his stomach and cracked some ribs.He heard the men laugh"Too many Big Mack eh!"Travis fell forward to the ground in agony.He was laying on the ground in a fetal position with the wind knocked out of him.He struggled to keep his eyes on the two strangers.They were going  through his backpack now. Travis saw as the taller man upturned his backpack, transferring all of his belongings into a saddle bag." Ve did well. I like knife. Ve will take everything"He then pulled his zipper down and urinated inside Travis'sbackpack.Laughing, the big man said: "Mr MacDonald I leave you backpack  and some vater" After several minutes Travis began to catch his breath but he was still in pain. Slowly, he tried getting up but stumbled a few times. "stay down old man," finally on his feet his adrenaline was kicking in and the pain was dissipating. The two men gave him a passing glance. It was obvious they were not concerned. "Please don't leave me out here without any supplies" Travis inched slowly towards the shorter man extending his arm.He pleaded with them. "I'll die out here"The short man grabbed his left wrist.Without hesitation, Travis twisted his wrist and raised his arm simultaneously.This caused the short man to loosen his grip slightly.Travis Peeled off the strangers hand then grabbed it in a wrist lock and began to twist and bend it in a un-natural direction.Unable to handle the pressure he bent forward.Travis  delivered  a knee to his face  shattering his nose. Blood spurted out and he fell to the ground unconscious.This technique took ten seconds.It was barely enough time for his collaborator to respond.He looked at Travis puzzled.There was a brief silence then  he said:"Ah very good.Ve vill hav fun now." The stranger thought this would be a quick humiliating defeat but he underestimated Travis's strength and conditioning for a man nearly twice his age.The big man dropped the items he was collecting from Travis's backpack. " I vil kick shit out of you.then gut you like pig vit yoor knife."Within seconds, he was directly in front of him. Travis deflected a front kick as he side stepped off the line of attack.In succession, a sidekick was heading for his sternum.Travis dropped his right arm and tucked his elbow in tight to his body blocking a direct hit to his injured ribs.The big man continued his relentless assault.Travis's guard was down now.The stranger took advantage of this and threw  a left hook to the temple nearly knocking Travis to the ground.He then followed up with a right cross.Travis fell hard to the ground.This opened him up to yet another attack.He saw it coming but could do nothing about it.The strangers big white sneaker was coming towards his face.Travis heard a crunch and winced in pain.Blood poured from his nose.Dazed but quick thinking, He threw himself into a forward roll again and again to escape.He got to his feet barely able to stand.He managed to put some distance between them.They Were fifteen feet away now.The big man warned;  "Stay down old man it's over. I was champion kickboxer in my country."
During the first blows, he concentrated on defense to get his rhythm after several blocks and redirections it was clear to Travis that he  may have to kill this man.He was bigger and stronger and fighting with an intensity that Travis could not continue to defend against unless he delivered some strikes of his own.He was already exhausted before the fight began,now having taken several hits resulting in cracked ribs and a broken nose he wasn't sure if he could beat him.The past ten years Travis faced opponents in the Dojo but It was different than street fighting. He wore protective gear and it was usually stopped before someone was seriously hurt. He did Randori or free style practice where he had to defend himself against a series of random attacks as Uke: the receiver of the technique or as Tori: the initiator of the technique.He tried to think of a way out of this but giving up was never an option he would consider. He needed to fight for his life now. He needed his staff.The stranger threw a straight kick to his groin followed by two left jabs.Travis blocked the kick, moved his head under the incoming  jabs then countered  with a combination uppercut and a left hook.The big man fell back gasping for air.Travis ended with a roundhouse to his face.He smiled showing his bloodstained teeth then fell to the ground.This was all the time he needed.Travis ran for his Bo staff.With staff in hand, his confidence was immediately restored.He saw the big guy slowly getting to his feet  and to Travis's surprise reached behind him and pulled out his combat knife.Enraged and frustrated he  charged Travis closing the gap within seconds.Travis used a side strike to disarm him. It struck the flat side of the knife hard but remarkably he held on.Upon impact,He slid the knife down the length of the stick cutting Travis's hand.He released his hold on the staff with his bloody left hand and backed up.They were both exhausted and bloody.They stood staring at each other evaluating their next move.The stranger lunged forward with the knife aiming straight for his heart.Travis averted sudden death by side stepping.The knife only grazed his shoulder slightly.
The beautiful image of the mountain valley that he had sketched earlier came to him.The beating he was taking was suggestive of his past. Defeating him would be to finally let go of years of painful memories, fear, and self-loathing.Travis was not afraid of dying.But he did not want to waste any more time not living.He was ready to live in the present and savor every minute.With this clarity came purpose and determination.He knew what he had to do.In an odd way, he was grateful to the stranger.It was time to end this.
The stranger lost his footing, Still bleeding from the cut he suffered to his hand, Travis firmly Grasped the staff with both hands and swiftly delivered left and right side blows to the legs of his adversary shattering both of his knee caps.He fell to the ground screaming. As he lay motionless on his back Travis raised his staff and was ready to jab the point into the man's throat when He muttered:"You vin,Please don't kill"Then he heard another voice in perfect unaccented English "Please Don't  kill my brother."Travis paused...then..

The End

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