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Matt Coughlin says: . Wish I hadn't run out of gas and the flashlight wasn't dying--on a deserted trail at night trying to find help. Dry branches biting and grabbing at my arms. The wrong shortcut on the wrong night.
Matt Coughlin says: . I press against the door. It gives slowly, unwillingly. The utter silence is unnerving--no creaking of rusty hinges, no straining of old wood. The cold door simply moves away. I lean my hand against the doorframe, and feel what could only be described as teeth. Raw fear grabs me as my hand whips back--the fingers of an infant fleeing a burning stove top. Gingerly, I feel the edge of the doorframe. Damage. Someone breaking in ... I draw a breath, then another, and step inside. ... or breaking out?
Matt Coughlin says: . Darkness seeps into my brain. I barely manage a faint thought, "My God! Stay conscious!" And then everything fades. How long I was out, I don't know. In a dream, I feel a growing pain in my ankles and fiery aches on my back, like being dragged by my feet. Then I realize that I'm no longer asleep, and that the loud breathing I hear... is not my own!
Matt Coughlin says: . My eyes open in a panic; the hair stands up on my body. Faint moonlight casts a pale glow over the room. A few feet in front of me, lying down on a cot, is something vaguely human, apparently fast asleep. I'm afraid to move or even breathe, lest it should wake.
Matt Coughlin says: . There's something ... Too afraid to form coherent thoughts, I reach down to my sore legs. Trembling fingers find cloth wrapped around one leg. Another hand slinks to the side and feels a wool blanket underneath. Pressing down on it ... a bed of straw. ... different than ... My brain is telling me something. I can't read it. Aches and wool and hay and sleep and ... ... I thought.
Matt Coughlin says: . Epilogue I awake to full morning light, resting against a wall in the house. The front door, a few feet away, stands open. I rise to my feet ... The aches will stay with me for a while, but it's a small price to pay. ... and step through the doorway.
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