You can read the previous post in this series here: Part 6
Finding an easy-to-climb tree, Sage shimmied up quickly. He found a branch sturdy enough to support a shelter. Then, he hurried down and called out to his companion.
Livia ran to him with an armload of broken tree branches. “I collected some wood,” she said.
“That’s great! We’ve to strip off the bark from these branches,” Sage instructed.
Together they prepared the wood for their treehouse. Later, Sage climbed back up the tree and let out a shout, “We won’t starve to death!”
Livia looked up in bewilderment. “What’s so exciting?”
“There are carambolas on this tree. You know, those star-shaped fruits?” Sage said.
“Oh yeah! These fruits are edible. We can eat dinner tonight!”
“How do you know…,” Sage started.
“You learned the art of survival. I love botany. I’m learning about edible plants and herbal cures.”
“Wow! That’s awesome! You never told me about it.”
Did I just get praised? Am I dreaming? Livia thought as she smiled softly.
Sage returned to work on their treehouse. His mind wandered as usual. Let’s do this! Brilliant! How cool am I? Thud! He smashed onto the ground painfully.
Livia burst out laughing as he got up and dusted himself off. With a vengeance, he climbed up the tree and made a bare-bone floor.
“See that?” he said, showing off to Livia.
After some toil, their basic treehouse was ready. Sage tightened the vines
he had used to tie the planks together. We don’t want to crash land, he thought.
On completion, he jumped down on the ground. Finally, he leaned back and admired his masterpiece. My survival skills came in handy, after all. Well, I would’ve preferred a known jungle back home.
Meanwhile, Livia had made an ax as taught by Sage. Grabbing the rough ax, he started running. He then remembered that he had to care for Livia.
Pausing for a moment, he yelled, “I think I saw something important. I’m going to get it. Stay in the treehouse until I return.”
After a short run towards the setting sun, he reached a cave. The sound of gushing water reached his ears. A cave on river banks! Amazing! Maybe this cave has some easy-to-break stalactites or stalagmites?
Cautiously, looking out for wild animals, he entered a chamber of the cave system. He broke off a few loose stalactites. These have sharp tips. We may need them if any wild animal finds us. After a bit of search, he also picked up flint for making fire.
Rushing to the fast-flowing river near the cave, he quenched his thirst. Then, he filled as much water as possible in a rock shaped like a cup. Livia will need water, Sage thought.
Retracing his path, Sage crossed the cave and walked a few steps away from it. A loud noise arose from behind him, and he spun around ax at the ready. A leopard walked towards the cave! Sage’s heart pounded. Narrow escape, he thought as he ran back to his treehouse.
When he returned, it was almost nighttime. As they sat in their tiny and crude treehouse, Sage prayed, Hopefully, that leopard doesn’t show up here.
Reaching out of the treehouse, Sage grabbed a branch and some vines. A weapon or two could help us, he thought.
Just as he started curving that branch, Livia said, “You do realize that this is all your fault? We wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been stupid.”
For a while, Sage ignored her. Then he couldn’t hold it anymore, “My fault? If I recall correctly, it was you who slapped me in the face.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t have to start a fight! It’s all your fault.”
“Calm down, Livia. What’s the point of fighting? Does it have to be anybody’s fault at all? We’re here, and let’s deal with it,” Sage said, working on his weapon.
Sage’s words confused Livia. She sat quietly, and tears rolled down her eyes. Both her parents were top achievers in the corporate world. Her whole life, she had gathered that for one to go up, someone else had to go down. Competition was their way of life, and if anything went wrong, it was always someone else’s fault.
Here, she was with someone who handled difficult situations with grace. He was frightened. Yet, he asserted that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. At times our buddies teach us better things than parents! Compete? Why should I? Teamwork is more fun, she thought.
“Thank you, Sage.”
“After fighting with me, what was that for?”
“Nothing,” Livia said as she went back to thinking.
Sage left her alone. After some effort, he succeeded in making a bow by bending a branch. A few moments later, he had made one for Livia as well.
Using some sticks and those stalactite tips that he had picked up, he made a few arrows. He pulled the string and tested them. The bow worked, but he missed his target by a considerable margin. Think of hitting a running leopard, he sighed.
“We should probably get to sleep,” he said, tired and frustrated.
“This early? The sun just set a few minutes ago.”
“We’ve got a ton of exploration to do tomorrow. If we sit in this treehouse forever, we’ll have crooked backs for life! We should travel west.”
“West? Why?” Livia asked.
“That’s the where I found the river. Maybe there’s a village out there?”
“How do you know?”
“I saw smoke on the other side of the river. And smoke usually means people.”
Their minds raced, thinking about what the next day might hold for them. It was a while before the two of them dozed off on the treehouse’s rough floor.
Note: This is a collaborative effort with Rishi Sridhar.
You can read the next part in this series here: Part 8