A few miles north of Ginger’s place, Lizard Creek drops in close to the woods and runs deep and dark. The water is cold because it has slipped, sparkling from the tops of floating ice pieces, melted in the sunlight before reaching the narrow bend of the creek.
Evening of a cold day pushes the wind against leafless branches rubbing and banging them together like bones. The shadows fall down the hillside toward the woods and into the creek. On the creek banks, squirrels bow their heads over acorns like miniature priest statues taking communion. Sound and movement stop. It is a bright cold day passing into the night of a new moon.
There’s a toxic energy to living alone in the woods, Ginger thinks, to herself, pausing for day to change into night on the creek edge of the woods. An uneasiness that flows under the surface of all that lives in the woods. Sometimes vibrating to the surface. Squirrels nibbling nuts one minute, then scrambling into the trees for dear life the next. Violent deaths and killing along the food chain- that is the cost of residency in the wild of the woods. It’s a game of chance with one’s life, mostly. It’s a poison leaching into a person’s mind while routinely living alone out in the woods.
Ginger was making her way back home, but on the path in front of her, something moved. She hollered and wildly waved her arms in the air hoping to scare off whatever it was waiting there. Suddenly, the animal charged her. The force of each bite was like a sledge hammer with piercing teeth. The attacking animal would bite her, stop for a second, then bite her again. Over and over, for about a five minute period of time. Just as suddenly as it attacked her, the animal seemed to walk away.
Ginger lay on the ground, stunned and bleeding. She took stock of her injuries as best she could in the darkness. Mostly, puncture wounds on both her arms and down one leg. Ginger used a branch to help push herself back up onto her feet. But just as she was turning to walk back home, she heard a sound: It was the same attacker, charging her again. She fell hard to the ground, covering her neck with her arms and pressing her face to the ground to protect her eyes.
One bite clamped onto her wrist and she heard the crushing of bone. She screamed out in pain, sending the attacking animal into a frenzy, biting her on her head, her upper back and down the full length of her body. Ginger decided to play dead and held her breath without moving as the animal sniffed her hair and neck, used its cold nose to poked around her body, trying to turn her over. Ginger was dead weight, playing the dead person as best she could to save herself even as the animal continued to bite her on the head and even as she felt blood gushing into her closed eyes and onto her face. Ginger remained motionless. At one point, the animal stood on Ginger’s back for awhile, digging its claws into the flesh of her shoulders before it was gone.
Realizing it was really gone this time, Ginger instinctively sprang into action, got to her feet and ran the ten minutes back to her home. Once safely inside, panting, dry-mouthed and with streams of blood crisscrossing her face, Ginger began reviewing her injuries. Her ear was torn, flesh was hanging from her broken arm, it was mangled, her shoulder was ripped open, but her legs had only puncture wounds, her eyes and internal organs seemed fine. So she treated her own injuries as best she could, deciding she can afford to wait for daylight to go into the closest city for more medical help.
People under distress go into a survival mode. They amazingly get crystal clear about what needs to be done in order to survive, so Ginger slept. In the morning, she painfully walked to the closest highway and a passing rancher picked her up, took her to the closest medical center where she was admitted for a few weeks of recovery after major surgery to repair her serious injuries. To this day, Ginger has no idea what animal attacked her.