Chuck knelt down, eyes fixed forward. The forest ahead was incredibly thick, allowing him vision of no more than a few feet, let alone the few miles he assumed he needed. He’d been out hiking—on an adventure to cross through to Missouri—for well over three hours now, yet hadn’t initially realized the map he’d brought with him was from the year 1820. He had wondered why Missouri was depicted as being so large, but assumed it was simply because he had never seen a proper map before. He now understood that he was looking at a picture of the Missouri territory. Chuck sighed. He was lost and he knew it.
Chuck slid his backpack off and dropped it on the floor in front of him. It was his brother’s bag, he had grabbed it off the shelf before leaving the house. It was colored “forest camouflaged,” which Chuck figured would help should he be hunted by serial killers. The last thing he needed was a high-visibility bag to make skinning him a walk in the park—he’d seen enough movies to know how that turned out. In fact, Chuck was dressed entirely in camouflage to deter this very outcome—the harder he was to see, the safer he was.
Chuck stuck his hand into the backpack now resting in the dirt and began taking inventory of his possessions. He had one flip knife, a magnesium fire starter, two sandwiches, two bottles of water, a cell phone, and his Official Sassy Survival Guide. He had grabbed the guide off a shelf before leaving the information kiosk. They suggested he bring one with him just in case. He took the first one he’d seen.
Chuck picked up the cellphone and held it close to his face. He had full reception, LTE, and 1% battery. Had he not spent the morning playing Angry Birds on his cell phone, perhaps he would have been able to conserve a bit more battery. However, Chuck had set a top 30 world-wide high score and decided that no mistake had been made. He swiped his finger across the screen, apps lining the page that followed, and glanced at the battery – still 1%. He paused for a moment and then clicked on his Facebook app. As quickly as he could, he updated his status: “Lol shit, lost in jungle. Phone has 1% bat, not gunna get ur texts. Pls help lol.” Chuck re-read the status and pressed submit, content with the wording he had chosen. He swiped down to refresh the page, ensuring his post had successfully gone through, then completely turned off the cell phone. Help was sure to arrive now.
Chuck placed the phone back in his bag. He felt a little hungry, so he grabbed the sandwich from within the backpack and opened it up. Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat. It was his least favorite sandwich. His mother was always trying to make him eat them; she said they were great for keeping his energy up. He shook his head, how naïve she was—he was totally awake and full of energy, all without having a single peanut butter and jelly sandwich yet.
Chuck stared into the jungle – emerald vines extended down the forest floor; the ground was concealed in a layer of dirt, dead leaves, and various plant life. He couldn’t recognize a single one of them beyond the name “plants.” He sighed and took a bite of the sandwich. It was all right, but he really preferred ham and cheese. He threw it on the floor and kicked a little dirt on top, just as he’d seen Bear Grylls do when putting out a fire. He then opened up his bag and pulled out the second sandwich. He unwrapped a corner – ham and cheese. He smiled and took a bite. It was delicious. He wasn’t quite starving, but he was certainly a little peckish. He took three more bites of the sandwich, then threw the crust on the floor. He moved on to the second half, but found he wasn’t hungry enough to take more than two bites. He threw the remainder on the floor, covering both remaining halves in dirt.
Chuck surveyed the area around him; the sky was almost completely blocked by a canopy of trees. The darkness above reminded him of the foreboding, black sky before a thunder-and-lighting storm, which, in turn, also reminded him of water. He grabbed the two bottles from out of his bag, then opened the first and poured it over his head. He was feeling a little warm, the slightly cooler water helped make him more comfortable. He emptied the remainder out onto his hands to clean off the crumbs. Chuck then grabbed the second water bottle and had a sip. It was very refreshing. He had another sip, then drank the entire bottle. Chuck smiled and let out a sigh, then threw the two bottles into the jungle. They went further than he anticipated; he congratulated himself for a wonderful throwing arm. He briefly considered trying to find them so as to bury them in the dirt, but ultimately decided against it.
Chuck knelt back down and resumed digging through his bag. He was not quite hungry anymore, but he figured it was time to figure out some next steps – help was already on the way, thanks to his Facebook status, but he may as well start some survival precautions regardless. He grabbed his Official Sassy Survival Guide and opened to page one:
“SASSY SURVIVAL – A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the World.” It was written in pink; the word “SASSY” drawn in cursive, “SURVIVAL” glittery and rough to the touch. Chuck flipped to the table of contents and ran his finger down the titles, stopping at “Forest Survival – 47.” He flipped to page 47.
“So you’re stuck in the forest,” it read. “That sucks! Try to make the problem less mentally distressing. Think about the hottest guy you know. Now imagine he’s touching his belt – that’s a good sign, it means he’s into you!”
Chuck closed his eyes and tried to think of the hottest man he knew. He didn’t really have much experience in thinking about hot guys. As a heterosexual male, he’d always thought of women as being the “hot” ones. Sure, he’d been in situations where he had seen men and thought “that guy is attractive,” but he’d never really thought of them as hot. Instead, Chuck decided to just think about any guy with a belt. His grandfather popped into mind – he always had on a belt with a large buckle. Perfect. Chuck opened his eyes and glanced back down at the book.
“Next, you want to observe your surroundings. Look for things you can use in every-day life. Did you know a hot pine cone attached to a stick works as a great curling iron in a pinch? Do your best to find substitutes to your favorite everyday items!”
Chuck stood up and looked around him. He didn’t really need a curling iron – his hair was already quite curly. He also wasn’t sure how to use one. Do you just place it on your head, then wait? Or do you have to get more involved? Chuck began walking toward a pine cone half buried in dead leaves, but decided it would be best to wait until later to spend time learning to curl his hair. He read on.
“One important aspect of survival is to remember to look sexy at all times. Rescuers are often rugged, hot firemen looking for that damsel in distress. Don’t be some unattractive loser covered in mud, make sure you’re always looking—and feeling—sexy!”
Chuck placed the book on the floor. Again, he wasn’t too interested in looking great for any hot firemen. However, should a rescuer come in the form of someone like Kate Upton, he wanted to look good. Chuck grabbed his bag and fumbled around until he clasped his palm around a small metal object. He pulled out the magnesium fire starter. It had a mirrored metal case which was cold to the touch. He lifted it to his face and stared into it. His was hair was a mess, curling wildly in various directions. It looked good, though, like he had styled it specifically for that “bed head” appearance. Chuck smiled and ran his hand through it. It popped right back up. He threw the fire starter on the floor then buried it under a thin layer of dirt so as to avoid a forest fire. He picked the book back up.
“If you’re going to be looking sexy, make sure your hair looks perfect first and foremost. After all, that is where most guys will look first!”
Chuck nodded, knowing his hair already looked great. He read on.
“Now, while you’re out in the jungle, make sure you’re protected from the sun. The last thing you want is unattractive tan lines when you’re being rescued. Placing leaves under and out of the sleeves of your shirt is a great way to avoid a farmer’s tan.”
Chuck looked up at the canopy above him. A thin beam of light pierced through the leaves, running at an angle toward the ground several feet away from him. He shrugged, then picked up a branch from the floor. It had several still-green leaves on it. He snapped three off and slipped the stems under his t-shirt so that the thicker portions covered the skin on his upper arms. He then tore three more and repeated the process on his other arm. He felt safer already and decided to read on.
“Don’t forget to try to keep fit while you’re lost in the jungle. No one is around to see you get sweaty, so start those fitness programs up! Do 10 jumping jacks, then 10 pushups, and finish with a nice ab-building sit-up and crunch circuit for 10 reps each! You definitely don’t want to look fat and out of shape when those firemen get there.”
Chuck was still uninterested in the firemen, but definitely didn’t want Kate Upton to think he was looking chunky. He placed the book on the floor and began doing jumping jacks. After ten, he moved on to push-ups. The book depicted them as placing his knees on the ground, rather than his toes as he’d learned in gym class. He figured the book knew more than a simple, lowly high school coach and did as it instructed. It was easy—he was amazed by his strength. Chuck quickly finished ten, then lay down and began his sit-ups, followed by crunches.
Chuck stood up, breathing heavily as he wiped his forehead with the bottom his shirt. He quickly glanced at his stomach. “Jacked,” he thought. He picked the book back up and read on.
“SASSY SURVIVAL TIP: Did you know rocks can really help in a survival situation? Contrary to popular belief, a rock is a lot like a man’s penis: It might not be ideal, but it gets the job done! Find yourself a nice long, hard rock and keep it with you. It’ll be great on those lonely nights when you don’t have your man around, while also serving as a wonderful hammer for hitting things (such as that hot rescuer – just in case he isn’t jumping your bones immediately!).”
Chuck, again, shrugged his shoulders and kicked around in the dirt for a rock. He had seen *Castaway* with Tom Hanks and knew why he’d need a rock for company. The hammer portion also seemed useful, although he had never hit a girl before–let alone Kate Upton. He was determined to do what he must to survive, though. Chuck continued kicking in the dirt while reading.
“SASSY SURVIVAL TIP 2: When you’re stuck in the jungle, make sure you have some extra leaves in case it happens to be *that time of the month.*”
Chuck placed the book down and stared at it. What time of the month? It was very ambiguous. He read the tip again; it made no sense. He shook his head and stuffed the remaining leaves from the broken branch in his pockets in case he figured it out later. He resumed kicking the dirt and reading.
“SASSY SURVIVAL TIP 3: Now that you’ve got your skin protection and your supplies, the men should be on their way to save you. Go find somewhere warm and sunny and get your tan on!”
Chuck turned the page. It read “SURVIVING YOUR PROM” in big, pink letters coated in glitter. He closed the book and threw it on the floor, then kicked dirt over the top of it. A long rock poked out of the surface next to where he had buried the book. He knelt down and picked it up, rubbing it with his hand. It was smooth and oblong, maybe six inches in length. It looked almost identical to the picture the book had provided. He placed it in his back pocket. It was now time to survive, he told himself.
Chuck tossed his bag over his back began walking, eyes fixed straight ahead. The thick jungle seemed to extend forever. He placed his hand in front of him for balance as he climbed over dozens of tree roots crowding the floor, walking nearly blind through the vegetation. For five minutes he ventured onward, stumbling with almost each step, until he entered a wide clearing. A swing-set creaked softly a few yards ahead as a woman pushed a small child. Several families sat on picnic benches. Chuck approached one of the families.
“What state am I in?” he asked.
“Kansas,” said a woman at the head of the table, turning her head slightly and staring at Chuck.
Chuck kicked the floor. “Dammit, this isn’t Missouri.” He turned and walked back toward the jungle in what he assumed was the direction of Missouri.
Writing Prompt: A man lost in the wilderness consults his survival guide, only to realize he bought the ‘Cosmopolitan’ of survival guides.