Picture it like this: you’re a trained explorer in a remote jungle, but you’ve been here before.
Hundreds of times, perhaps even thousands. You know the terrain like the back of your hand, and can see it on a map.
One day, you’re sent back to the jungle.
It starts out fine. You’re enjoying it.
The plush green canopy, which conceals the elegant chirp of tropical birds you cannot see, but are unafraid of. You keep going. Past your favorite waterfall with crystal clear blue waters that crash into a flowery lagoon, sending up a cloud of mist and dragonflies.
Then, maybe one night, a night not unlike any other, you doze off in the soft, pillowy grasses under a thick canopy, warm and unafraid.
You dart from your sleep.
Looking around, you aren’t in the idyllic forest you remember.
Everything around you looks familiar, but you’re trained to know, it isn’t.
‘There’s no way this is my beautiful forest I’ve spent years growing, and loving and living in’ you tell yourself.
You stop moving.
You swear you heard a shuffle in the dark, dense, unknown of the trees in front of you.
Well, you’ve seen enough of your fellow explorers succumb to dangers to know that you should not approach the noise, and so, you stop moving.
You stop moving because what if it is a cheetah, stalking you, waiting, just waiting for you to make the first move before it jumps out and destroys you?
The ominous shuffling, which turns to a low grumble, incessantly gurgling like blood, never stops. You hear it in your head at all times, and from all sides.
You must dig in if you want to survive.
You tear away vines and wrap them around you, concerned only with staying alive.
You know this is a cheetah.
You haven’t seen it, but you’re an expert. You know there are no chances to be taken out here.
Days. Weeks. Months. Maybe even years, pass by.
You’re trying to eat what you can to not wither away, but the noise is so consuming even food slips your mind.
You’re withering, and you know it. Your hands are always shaking, and your heart pounds in your chest, anticipating the unknown. Around you, above the grumble, other explorers are moving, walking through the jungle as you once did. You want to scream. To warn them. To tell them what you heard, and warn them to not move on, but you risk exposing yourself, or maybe even hurting them, so you stay quiet.
You stay quiet as everything continues to move around you in the familiarly unfamiliar you have found yourself in
It stops making sense how you got here. How an expert like yourself could be so duped by something you cannot see.
Maybe one day they’ll find you. Or at least your body.
They’ll say they couldn’t find the culprit of your fear. That this jungle wasn’t known to house evil things, but you know.
You know that they couldn’t hear the murderous jowls of this hidden assailant, dripping red with blood. They couldn’t hear it because the cheetah wasn’t looking for them. It didn’t want to hurt them, they were young and had yet to understand what lurked here. You hope they never need know.
Maybe they were right. Maybe there was no evil. Maybe the rustling was a baby bunny in search of food, or maybe it was once someone coming to rescue you when you stopped showing up. But you couldn’t take that chance, because maybe it was…
But what if it wasn’t?
It’s too late to find out now.