When he woke up Jack remembered how important it was to keep moving. The morning cold became so unbearable that it turned common. Jack slept on a wooden table; resting in a place where he would not attract the attention of the world. Away from everything he remembered longingly, letting his imagination run wild while he slept.
Dawn was still a long way off. However, the pain he felt was irrelevant, the only thing that remained clear when he woke up was running away.
The feeling of having to protect his back didn’t diminish with time. It could even be said that it was increasing. It had been two weeks since the incident, since he had to do something that he did not expect to be capable of.
Jack opened his eyes and came back to reality, to the chill of the morning air that somehow seemed to be slightly warming his body, to the dampness of the dew. With his numb muscles he moved, noticing a pain on his neck.
I better find a new place to spend the night, he told himself, reaching the bottom of his head with one hand.
Shortly after he got up and went to look for his motorcycle in the bushes, well hidden to give him a little security. The world he lived in was dangerous, even for him.
Jack started the engine and felt the roar of combustion, immediately climbed up to feel the heat between his legs, and made sure to fasten the collar of his black leather jacket. Taking a pair of gloves from his pockets, he prepared to leave the temporary home where he had to spend the night.
The chill of dawn intensified with speed, the cool breeze crashing against his body, leaving an almost imperceptible layer of moisture on his blue jeans. Jack was used to the cold, he even learned to prefer it.
The trip took about fifteen minutes, riding on the empty city highways, until he reached the turnoff. There she was, in her carved black leather suit and her black motorcycle. Her head was covered by a helmet.
“It’s about time,” Dahlia said, lifting the motorcycle visor. “Come on, we’re running late.”
Jack didn’t have time to turn off his motorcycle engine and saw Dahlia speed up. This woman will be the death of me, he thought and sped after her.
The trip was longer than he expected, the motorcycles moved at high speeds on forgotten roads. Although for them, the bad conditions of the terrain, it was the best part of the trip.
Jack traveled close to Dahlia, close enough to let the rising dust pass under his motorcycle. They passed through vast ancient forests, over rustic wooden bridges, farther and farther from civilization.
Once Dahlia found the perfect spot she stopped, got down and removed her helmet. She opened one of the bags that hung on the side of her motorcycle.
Jack stopped a few steps from her, but before he could get down Dahlia approached him.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
Jack took off his helmet. “Better now than never.”
“This is going to help you,” she said as she finished rolling the joint in her hand, then she lit it.
Jack stared at Dahlia smoking for an instant, a part of him ready to reach out and receive the lit joint.
“The plan is simple,” she said and continued smoking. “On the riverbank we’ll find the merchandise. We may be the only ones here, but one can never be sure.” Finally Dahlia passed the joint.
Jack tried to hide his anxiety to reach it, but he couldn’t wait a second before placing it between his lips. The smoke entered his lungs quickly, for an instant Jack left behind all his memories or ideas…only concentrating on the sensations that were about to arrive. By letting the smoke out he already felt different. Anyway, he continued smoking.
“…I’ll take care of the motorcycles,” Dahlia said. “All you have to do is retrieve my package and get back here.”
“Okay…” said Jack, passing the joint.
Dahlia went off to smoke alone as she watched from the edge of the road the river at the feet of the hill. Then, she returned and passed the joint before heading to her motorcycle.
Jack went back to smoking… by now his body already felt different, the smoke lingered in his lungs for just an instant before letting it out. He continued smoking as if it were a normal cigarette, while he watched Dahlia search one of the bags on the side of her motorcycle.
“You might need this,” Dahlia said as she returned with a silver pistol gleaming with the rays of the sun.
Jack opened his mouth without noticing. “And…what is that for?”
“Just a precaution,” she said and handed over the gun. “It’s loaded…I have another one in case things get complicated.”
The river and the feet of the hill was the border dividing two countries. Dahlia hid the merchandise a week ago when she was followed by border agents. She was willing to do whatever it took to retrieve her investment.
“Okay,” Jack said and took the gun. Then, he passed the joint back to Dahlia.
Dahlia smoked while looking at Jack tucking the gun behind the belt on his back.
“How am I going to find the package?” asked Jack.
Dahlia pulled a small pair of binoculars out of her jacket. “Look at the rocks on the side of the road, a few feet from the river bank.”
Jack took the binoculars and got off his motorcycle, he walked towards the edge of the road to get a better angle. Before long he found the green square package. “I see it.”
“Finish this,” Dahlia said while releasing a cloud of smoke from her mouth.
Jack took the joint and smoked, watching the landscape in the distance. “Let’s do it,” he said as he tossed a small piece of paper and ash.
The two got back on their motorcycles and drove down the old road. Before long they stopped in front of the entrance to a barbed wire fence.
“From here you must continue on foot,” Dahlia said. “I take care of the motorcycles.”
Jack hung his helmet on the steering wheel and went on. I still don’t understand why she can’t retrieve the package herself, he thought. I don’t think the border guards will be around.
He carefully crossed the fence and followed a narrow path until reaching a small forest. He continued walking cautiously, making sure there was no one around. Soon after, he saw the river again, and found a small path down. Going through some brush he returned to the road that crosses the river and after wetting his boots to cross Jack found the package.
That wasn’t that difficult, he thought and tucked the merchandise inside his jacket. “Easy money,” he said and turned back… when he heard a familiar growl.
Jack immediately turned to find the source of the sound and saw two large dogs. He desperately looked for something to protect himself, a stick to keep them away. Nothing…the animals continued to growling.
One of them approached while the other descended towards the river. Jack noticed that they were surrounding him and decided to get back. Of course, the road where he previously crossed was protected by one of the animals, while the other continued approaching.
Jack began to cross and noticed that the river was deeper, he had no alternative. Stepping backward to not lose sight of the growling beasts. The water was up to his knees…the other dog crossed the river through the road to block the escape.
The beasts growl showing their fangs, Jack noted that they were very well fed and large―with their black eyes gleaming at him. The approaching dog also began to cross the river, both of them stalking him from different angles.
Jack could only back away, while he continued looking for something to defend himself with…when the animals started barking. I have to get out of here, he thought and picked up a rock from the river bank and threw it.
The dogs watched Jack turn and start running. The one who was still crossing the river went after him, while the other turned to return to the road.
Jack ran…looking for a way up to the forest. But the undergrowth and the uneven terrain made it difficult for him, while the dog ran a few steps behind him.
You can do it Jack, Dahlia thought when she heard the barking.
Jack kept running in search of a way back when he saw the second dog waiting in front of him. Damn it, he thought and changed his direction… unable to stop while the beasts followed closely behind. Dahlia, I’m going to kill you.
The path he had to take was getting further away, Jack had to find a way to climb towards the forest. Each step he took made the climb even more difficult. Jack reached for the gun at his back…I can’t.
The animals were running closely, trying to bite Jack’s ankles, but he kept his speed to avoid being caught.
If they wanted to hurt me they would have done by now, Jack thought and stopped to face them.
The growls became clearer as the dogs slowly moved around Jack.
Without a choice, Jake took the gun from his back and aimed at the dogs. I can’t do it, he thought and shot into the air.
The animals recoiled from the explosion.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” said Jack, watching the animals return to their aggressive state.
Jack tucked the gun behind his back and grabbed a branch from the ground.
The animals continued to stalk him.
Jack was breathing heavily as he looked from side to side for a path to escape. The forest he had to return to was so close, he only had to climb a wall. Jack continued to take steps backward.
“This way,” Dahlia said from the forest and threw a rope.
Jack looked up and ran to grab the rope.
The dogs ran behind him, one of them took him by the pants, while Jack tried to climb. The weight of the animal forced him to stop, Jack looked down and saw the other dog jumping, trying to reach him.
After a short time the pants ripped and Jack was able to continue climbing.
“Do you have the merchandise?” Dahlia asked when Jack reached the forest.
“Yeah…” said Jack, trying to catch his breath. “Why didn’t you tell me there were watchdogs?”
“Hurry, they must be coming,” said Dahlia and ran off.
Jack followed her to the motorcycles, the barking heard in the distance.
“You’re crazy,” Jack said when they were safe.
“Easy money,” Dahlia said, raising an eyebrow.