There was little about the rest of my journey that was civilized. I considered plunging into the river to let it carry me to safety, but I knew I might not make it. I walked all night and slept all day in the warmth, my body recovering as the river quenched my thirst. There was little I could do about my starvation, but the water made it much less painful. I ate what I could along the way until finally, finally I heard a sound. When I fist heard it I started and almost fell over. It was a deep rumbling, like thunder but much quieter and further off, coming from the trees up by the river. I turned my head to the side to hear it better. I could hear a car shifting gears. Celebrating my success with a drink from the water, I began to walk as fast as I could up the hill by the riverbank. I walked through a dense forest of spruce and birch trees on this dark night, slipping as I did so. The late summer rain made the trek a muddy mess, but I was almost to the road. As the sun began to rise, I could barley make out two voices talking in the forest. I was nearly safe.
As the voices grew louder I saw smoke up in the sky. I could smell something cooking, sausages and eggs. I could tell the accents were british, which I thought was perfect. Hearing the european accent reminded me of home. As I continued walking, I could make out a tent and a fire, with a man and a woman sitting around it. I paused, almost frightned by their presence. But it wasn't anyone I knew, and certainly wasn't Monica or Jerry. I couldn't tell who it was. I coughed cautiously and began to approach. Both parties turned their heads, slightly shocked by my presence.
"It's a child," the woman said.
The man just stared for a minute and began to mumble something. "Where are your parents?" She said.
I didn't speak much english yet, but I tried to say something. "Mama," I said. I touched my scabbed hands and feet. "Hurt," I said in my broken English. "Hurt much."
I was trying to communicate that I wanted to see my mother but I didn't know how to say it. I mumbled something in French which I don't remember. "He speaks French," the woman said.
"We should call the police," the man returned. "I don't see any parents around here." He was right, my parents were long gone and probably thought I was dead. I nearly was, I was starving for something to eat.
"Food..." I began to say something about eating.
"We'll give you food," the woman said. "My name is Aly"
"I'm Jim," the man said.
That was all I needed to hear. I quickly ran over to their fire and began to help myself to a sausage, then another. Real food tasted amazing now that I was out of the wilderness. "What is your name?" The woman said. I just stared for a moment.
"Je" - "Ich" - "I'm..." My broken language skills failed me, just as I realized I couldn't remember my name. My brain had been damaged from lack of food and water, shrunk up in my head and began to absorb its fats to fuel my body as I had nearly died. It was my own name and I couldn't even remember. Maybe this was for the better because I had this strange sensation that my last name wasn't one people wanted to hear. People never liked saying it in the past and I won't say it here, because I suppose it is far less than ideal.
The man and woman took me to a hotel with a landline phone. They quickly called the police, who called the US Marshalls, who were almost instantly by my side. They whisked me away back to Europe asking questions which I could only answer in broken English and other languages. I wasn't sure who I was or who they were, but I was sure I wanted to see my parents. And I was glad to be back to saftey. The police made it clear to me that I wasn't going anywhere where people would hurt me and implored me not to run away again. They began to talk about my medical condition seriously and found me doctors who were just as serious. I didn't understand words like "somatosin" and "stunted" but it was clear to me that something had gone severley wrong with my life. Something was very wrong, and I wasn't sure if I would ever understand what. My whole body still hurt and I could hardly sleep. I felt so traumatized by what happened, although happy I survived.< Chapter 13 Chapter 15 >