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Lost in the Woods for Eight Days

October 25th, 2004

I emerge from the green summer woods onto a shaded dirt road where a dozen bedraggled refugees are standing in line before a tall barb-wire fence. “You look terrible,” one of them says to me. “I’ve been lost in the woods for eight days,” I answer. All I have in my backpack is my camera, stove, and raingear. For some reason I’m carrying a pillow from my couch under one arm. I had to leave everything else behind.

Some soldiers in jungle camo approach from behind us. The gate opens. “What do you want?” they ask. “We need your help.” They gesture us to go in. We do so, damp and bedraggled and incredibly relieved. We march until we reach another fence. It opens. “Wait here.” They disappear into the camp.

We wait, shuffling and shifting our feet. It starts to get dark.

“What the hell is this?” I ask. “They bring us in and then just leave us here?”

“They must think we’re a threat.”

Bah. “Is anybody out there?” No answer. “Screw this.” I hike up my bag on my shoulders and walk into the dark. Two minutes later I’m hit from behind, dragged to the ground, and sapped in the head.

Next thing I know I’m in a military prison. They keep telling me they’ll let me go as soon as I’m strong enough to fend for myself. I still have my camera and the couch pillow, but they took away everything else. They say they’ll give it back when I’m ready to leave. I’m not buying it.

I have a personal trainer, rather more like a drill sergeant, or even a torturer. I spend most of the day in a dank, moldy gymnasium in a basement somewhere being ground into the dirt. At some point I’m on a kind of wacko back extension machine where I’m expected to hang onto the middle of these long, foam-wrapped metal pipes, lift them back over my head until they touch the floor, and then sit up again. In the midst of these the sergeant is called out of the room, and I jump at my chance. There’s a rusty iron grate in the wall that leads to a storm drain. I pry frantically at the bars until a few of them snap loose, and dive through the opening just as the sergeant walks back in.

I escape into the woods with one other prisoner, who happens to be Erin. The original plan was to hike from Westwood to Blue Hills. We figure we can just walk back.

Down a steep, stone-scattered slope. Dangerous footing, stones slick from the rain. There’s a stairway, with a tall brick archway at the foot, but we’re afraid to take it–we don’t want to be seen.

At the foot of the hill there’s a crowd of norwood baddies playing mud-hockey, surfing on shovels in the mud of an empty baseball field. We go around them.

We stop a moment in that dream-comic store on the north side of Norwood center across from Ground Zero Games. They seem to have gone all high-end, with potted plants and window treatments for sale alongside an unusually poor comic selection. Erin goes on ahead. I tell her I’ll meet her at the department store on the corner by route 1.

And there I am, wandering the aisles aimlessly with my couch pillow,getting weird looks from all the clean and nice-smelling shoppers, trying fruitlessly to find Erin. It occurs to me this is her natural habitat, as mine is the woods. Nobody’s going to find her here if she doesn’t want to be found.

I give up, and head for the door to wait outside. Oh well. This dream was getting boring anyway.

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