Every step that I took hurt more than the last. Pain surged through every part of my body. I wiped my sweaty forehead with a charred piece of what used to be the sleeve of my shirt. The place smelt better than what it did a few days ago – the burning wreck was replaced by the smell of fresh violets. I felt a little soothed. I had absolutely no knowledge regarding my whereabouts or what day it was – the only thing I knew for sure was that I had to keep walking.
The western sky soon turned to a shade of purple that was closed to that of the bruises that covered my body. There was not a single human in sight. The only non-perishable food that remained in my sack was a couple of packets of crisps and the last of the three bottles of water. The little water that remained was enough to quench my thirst just once more. I had already consumed the raisins, apricots and biscuits. I looked at my bloody arm. Fortunately the blood had started to clot and this deviated my mind for a short while from the pain I had been in by walking without stopping in the needle-like grass. I had failed miserably in my desperate attempts to find another human being – from the crash or otherwise. Tired, exhausted and dejected, I decided to rest a little.
The otherwise rejuvenating sleep now became a source of constant nightmares. It seemed as though the crash replayed itself every time my eyes closed. It happened so fast and was so lifelike – I remember jumping out of the emergency window just in time. I didn’t even have the time to wake the lady sitting next to me. After the fire had calmed down a little, I had climbed the wing to see if there were any more survivors. All I could see was yellow oxygen masks strewn all over and charred bodies of people. I found a child screaming for help and got him out. He died in my arms moments later. Two hundred and thirty nine people including the crew of TransContinental Airlines flight TL-78– all dead! At this point I found it extremely hard to decide if I had been incredibly lucky or the most unfortunate to have lived.
After my futile attempts to sleep, I decided to keep moving on. But alas! My legs could take no more. I collapsed yet again, unable to get up this time. Non-stop walking, hunger, thirst, loneliness and wilderness had taken their toll on me. I sat down in the thorny grass, trying to regain whatever strength I could. Thankfully no wild beasts had attacked me yet. My gaze shifted to the eastern sky, which now had slowly started to brighten. I took out the sheet of paper that I had carried and marked one more line on it with the pen I had found in the sack. There were seven lines now, signifying the seven horrifying days spent without any human contact.
After finishing the last packet of crisps, I decided to resume my journey. Fortunately, a couple of hours of travel brought me near a stream. Although it was not the cleanest of water that I could imagine, I was more than happy to see it. Filling the bottles with the cleanest part of the muddy stream, I decided to rest a little again. I now had to sustain myself on the grasses and wild berries I caught sight of occasionally. Although I had no clue if those berries were harmful, I decided that it was worth a shot and filled my sack with them.
I sighed as the sun set. The uncertainty and the gravity of the situation slowly set in. I now started to doubt everything that gave me hope. A thousand questions burned through my traumatised mind. “Why me?” “Will I ever live to see any other human?” “Will I ever see my family again?” “If I am just supposed to die anyway, why am I dying all alone? Why didn’t I die with the rest of them?” Trying to ignore the thousands of voices in my head, I decided to walk a little more before it became it became completely dark. I got up with the last ounce of my strength but unfortunately my body couldn’t keep up with my mind. My feet had swollen and the pain kept getting worse. Ultimately I decided to give up all hope and sleep.
The next time I opened my eyes I was on a bed in some kind of a cottage. I wondered if I was hallucinating. Although my legs didn’t hurt that much, they felt incredibly heavy. About an hour later an old lady walked in carrying food and warm clothes and an interesting-looking bottle. “I assumed you would have woken by now. It has been two days since I found you,” she said. “I have cleaned your wounds and bandaged them for now. You are lucky I found you just in time. Drink this.” “What is this?” I asked. “This is Somras. Don’t say anything loud. Just drink it. Don’t mention anything to anyone” she replied. I was awestruck. The only words that left my mouth were… “So you mean…I am in…Meluha?”