Where fallen words forever live, interred.

***

All we’ve managed on the edge of this forest is a squat stone home with a flat roof and a single door, which I’m working on alone. Elijah’s run off into the woods against my advice. He said something about gathering berries to tame a Triceratops, but what we needed, I’d told him, was not a large quadrupedal for a pet but a tall wall around our home to ward off the Velociraptors. But, no, domestic duties bore Elijah and—oh no, the woods are moving. I see it emerge, a red raptor, running at me now and I know I can’t take it on on my own with my ramshackle spear so like a coward I run inside and slam the door, which the raptor slams against. Trapped. Now Elijah’s voice through the gaming headset: “I, uh, just died.”

 

***

The last thing I remember before the mask attached to the long tube slipped over my face was the surgeon’s warm, reassuring hand on my arm and the surprise I felt at human emotion in that brightly lighted arena. Then I woke up, exhausted, in another room. These two memories feel like film strips cut and taped together, but it’s the missing section that’s important. The surgeon entered my right knee in those 89 minutes in between to rebuild my ACL and repair my meniscus, and now, best case, post-op, I’m looking at eight months until I can return to the life I love. Eight months. That’s 234 days.

I want to cut this strip from the story and take you right away to the resolution, but as of this writing I’m only at day 23. The distance is harrowing. I’m of the category of people best described, in clinical terms, as “fitness freaks.” I fear inertia. I fear it so much that I’ve constructed my adult life around four activities: backcountry skiing, ice and rock climbing, mountain biking (which is what did this to me), and trail running. A pathetic fact about me is that when I’m not in motion, for only three or four days, I begin to crumble. I just get sad. It’s like there’s a dark well deep inside me.

***

Further in the cave, the glow of daylight disappeared and Alvey-Mudd and Shafer scanned their headlamps up and down the limestone walls searching for bats. They dragged themselves on padded knees through a passage that flashed with thousands of green and gold lights — dew-clad cave fungus, the native kind, and also some fools gold refracting the headlamps — but no bats. They crawled above a stream where salamander larvae, miniature white shrimp and leopard-printed pickerel frogs swam in cold, clear water, and they ducked their heads to avoid a bat hanging from the ceiling. Shafer added it to her tally.

 

As they pushed deeper, Alvey-Mudd thought out loud.

She saw several bats stuffed in a crack.

“They’re like playdoh.”

She saw another bat hanging from the ceiling.

“Nope. His nose looks good.”

But now, in a crater above her head, she spotted three bats: tri colored. Their fur shined silver like tinsel: condensation. Alvey-Mudd didn’t need her thermometer to know these bats were warmer than they should be. Something had disturbed their sleep.