He stared down at the sheer rocky cliff before him, only loosely aware of the fire charging forward to overtake him. It didn't matter anymore. It was like he was caught between an advancing army and the defensive line. Neither would let him pass, and both would kill him should he try.
His stupor lasted all of five seconds, though those were very precious seconds. Giving his mind a mental shake, he seemed to wake up from some absurd dream where he'd already given up his life.
With the roaring battle cry of the fire behind him, he surveyed his surroundings with new eyes. Trees, small rocks, vines, larger rocks, wind. He mentally catalogued these things, willing a plan to form in his head. He kept looking from one object to another, a scowl forming on his face. "What am I supposed to do with this?" he yelled out in frustration. But he couldn't let his emotions get the better of him. If he got off track again, he was good as dead.
The heat was already searing his back, and it only grew hotter and closer. That's when the strangest thing happened. Everything began to shift around as if he were wearing someone else's glasses. The trees and rocks shivered once, and everything seemed to get nudged to the left momentarily before snapping back to center.
A crippling wave of nausea forced him to one knee, and for a terrifying moment he couldn't breathe. He could suddenly feel ash and soot in every crevice of his being. It his hair, on his skin, in his lungs. Hard coughs racked his body, and suddenly he didn't have the strength to hold himself up anymore. He felt like a toddler that had missed nap time and bed time, as well as all the meals in the past month.
There, face pressing against the small pebbles, barely hanging on to consciousness, he wondered for the first time just how he'd ended up in the burning woods of a mountain range just after coming home. His home, in Florida.