Exhaustion hit me like a sledgehammer. Trudging down the long route of the forest hike, I longed for an icy-cold drink. I kicked a pebble and scowled. Why did I ever agree to accompany Frank on this forest hike?
“Hey Joe! How about a race down the last one kilometre?” Frank asked hopefully, “Or are you too scared to lose out to me?”
I agreed reluctantly and soon, we were racing down the torturous forest trail. In a few minutes, we were a long distance away from our hiking group and just a few metres away from the finishing point.
“Yes! Yes!” I urged myself, panting like a pathetic fish out of water. Cool icy-drink. I could perpetually imagine the taste and the feel of the cold water flowing down my throat, cooling me down.
Suddenly, a faint cry snapped me out of my reverie. I stopped in my tracks as Frank ran past me, grinning from ear to ear. I frowned, knowing he must be feeling ecstatic that he had finally overtaken me. I turned my head around, stared at the green undergrowth. Not a sound could be heard in the distance. What was that? My mind was aching from a throbbing headache and I could not think straight. Then another shrill cry rang out in the distance. I shuddered. A chill ran down my spine as the huge tall trees cast elongated shadows amongst me.
“A hungry jaguar or a huge, fierce bear?” I wondered, as my aching mind struggled to snap back into reality. I shook off and ridiculed the thought of wild animals as curiosity overwhelmed my fear and I decided to investigate the undergrowth around me.
Creeping stealthily towards the tall, green undergrowth, my heart pounded at an amazing speed but my mind continued to will my feet to move forward. As I peered into the undergrowth, I was met with two shiny and bright eyes staring back at me.
“Ahhhhh!” I screamed hysterically, as wild thoughts flooded my mind. “A Bengal tiger,” I mouthed the words slowly. Then, I shook my head vigorously. What was I thinking of? A Bengal tiger hiding in the undergrowth? Impossible, I thought.
My mind, once again, willed me to go and find out what was causing the noise. I bent down, looked into the undergrowth and felt the smooth fur of an animal. My heart stopped for a moment as the animal staggered out of the undergrowth painfully.
It was but, a dog.
The dog stared at me with its pitiful eyes and I found myself staring back, realizing it was the most beautiful dog I had seen. Then the puppy whined painfully and my eyes ran down its body to its hind legs. There was a wound as a thorn had been stuck into its paw. The puppy’s eyes captivated me, compelling me not to go away. It was telling me something. Looking at the puppy’s crest-fallen face, I knew what I had to do – help the dog.
Blood was oozing out of its wound profusely. Slow but steadily, I put my sweaty palms on the sharp thorn, and pulled it out. The puppy let out a low growl, then a pitiful whine, followed by a sharp bark. I looked into the dog’s eyes and saw a smile. A smile of gratitude.
“Joe! What are you doing?” A familiar voice rang out. I turned around and saw my classmates.
“Why didn’t you respond to our calls?” they called out indignantly.
“We were having a rest… and a drink!” my teacher added.
“Calls? Drinks?” I frowned, puzzled. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the cry I had heard was not from the puppy but from my own classmates. I sighed.
“Any drinks left for me?” I whispered, hopefully.
“Sorry, buddy! We were all too thirsty!” one of my classmates smiled and put on a mischievous grin.
I stared blankly at the ground. Argh! I stamped my feet, frustrated, as I picked up the puppy and stormed down the trail, irritated and annoyed.