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I’ve always been a little different to everyone else. Even at age 22, people don’t really want to talk to me. They don’t stop in the street and say hello, or smile on their way past. I have very few friends, and spend a lot of time in nature to try and feel like a part of something. I live on the coast in a small UK town, and I have more open space around me then I know what to do with. I could walk different routes for a year and still see something new.

Last week, I woke up around 6am, had some cereal and headed off for my first walk of the day. I usually walk for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, however I felt like doing a longer stint that morning. As the sun was beginning to rise, I remember feeling really hopeful about the day. The smell of freshly cut grass was in the air, and it was time for an adventure.

I walked one of my favourite routes, which takes me around an old farmhouse and to an old creek. I headed in the direction of the old building, and continued on until I felt the ground beneath me get wet and sloshy. It was hard to pick up and move my feet in this swampy grass, and I loved it.

The creek was particularly beautiful that morning. The green-tinged water was still, bugs were dancing on the flowers and the sweet sound of humming birds was echoing around my ears. As I continued into the marshland, something felt a little bit strange. I felt someone else was here. As a loner, I am almost certain I have trained myself to feel the vibrations of another human being when they are close. That might be spiritual bullshit, but I felt something.

A few steps forwards, and my assumption was proved right. There was someone lying down next to an abandoned car that had been stripped right down to its barebones. As I carried on, it was clear that this guy had been here for quite a while. His tshirt and shorts were drenched with mud, and there was a crusty bloodstain across his neck.

I was a mere few metres away when he turned to look at me.

“Thank god! Please help me. Get me out of these chains”.

I was puzzled at this statement until I noticed the heavy metal chain, constraining his wrists to the skeleton of the car. I walked a bit closer and took a seat in the mud next to him.

“What happened to you? Why are you chained to a car?”

He looked at me blankly, before starting to pull as hard as he could on the chain. His face scrunched into a grimace, as the wounds on his wrist reopened and started to spray blood across his arms.

I looked at him for a while, before deciding to speak up.

“You’re not going to be able to break those chains. They look pretty strong you know” I said. He turned to give me a “fuck you” expression and started to speak.

“Please find a tool and cut me loose. I don’t have much time.” You could tell this guy didn’t like nature. He didn’t appreciate the crisp Spring air. Or the beautiful singing of the hummingbirds. This is why I don’t like people. No-one ever wants to just sit and relax, or enjoy the freedom that surrounds us here on Earth.
I wanted to help him. But I also figured that most people don’t get that much time outdoors, and it was up to me to show him a good time. He was in MY home now, after all, and I wanted him to feel welcome and comfortable.

This man was becoming increasingly agitated as I sat and asked him questions, but I just wanted to know a bit more about him. I asked him about his life, what he does for work, and what events led him to being chained to a car in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t get much out of him, but I was feeling so happy. I was connecting to someone, finally, and it felt so nice to have an adult conversation.

He begged to be cut free, and this was really hurting my feelings. Finally, I’d found someone to talk to, and even he wanted to run away. I don’t think so. I made a deal with him. I would let him go, as soon as he had told me about his life and spent sometime asking me about mine. It had to feel natural, otherwise I wouldn’t be helping him. My time was worth something, and so he had to offer me something in return. That’s only fair, right?

His face wasn’t selling it for me. Nope.

He was asking stupid, forced things. Oh, “How old are you?”, “Where are you from”.

I wanted to answer, about as old as you and I obviously live around here. He wasn’t trying. I’d have given him a second chance, but by this point I had been out a few hours and was getting thirsty. I told him that he hadn’t satisfied my criteria, and that I would be back early afternoon.

At home, I enjoyed a glass of iced tea, some more cereal, and I hung out with my dog for a bit. Around 2pm, I decided that swamp man can have another chance.

I arrived not long after 3. As I got to the car, I saw him squirming with a piece of metal he had pulled from off the car. He was prying at a heavy duty padlock with this metal, trying to set himself free. Was I really that bad a person, that he didn’t want to just have a nice conversation with me? I’d had enough of people always running away, turning away from me, leaving me to be alone. Life is to be shared with relationships of all kinds, and the only one I had right now was the one with myself and my dog. I needed a friend.

I struck him across the head with a metal flask I had brought with me from home. I explained to him that I had made a coffee for us to share, a big flask full, enough for 2 to 3 cups EACH. Once again, he complained some more and kept asking me to release him. I’d had enough.

I opened my flask and pulled out a cup from my bag. I poured in some of the steaming hot coffee, and took a sip. It was far too hot for my liking, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my day with a burnt tongue.

The temperature was perfect. I discarded the cup and the lid to the flask to my side. Swamp guy was still squirming, trying his best to smash through a lock with the limited movement he had in his arms.

I walked closer until I was above him, and turned the flash 180 degrees. The hot coffee rushed out of the flask and drenched the skin of friend. It sizzled as it washed away the mud stains, a cloudy brown stream of molten beverage.

He screamed some more. Complained some more. Blah blah blah.

As he began to settle down a bit, I noticed a tattoo on his arm. Now, I would have used this as a conversation point, but seeing as he didn’t really want to talk, I didn’t want to waste my time any more. The symbol was two triangles, crossed over each other like a venn diagram. I wasn’t really too knowledgeable about symbolism, but this tattoo looked like it had been done very recently. And not with professional equipment.

A few hours passed, and I just sat there in silence. Swamp guy was wriggling around, saying something about how cold he felt. I just wasted my drink on that son of a bitch, and he says he is cold? I was over this situation, and decided to leave. He screamed a bit, his voice breaking into a whisper when he tried to hit his high notes. Oh, now he wanted some company did he?

This would be the last I saw of him, if it wasn’t for something really peculiar. I noticed the symbol he had on his shoulder on a nearby tree. It was carved quite haphazardly, but it also looked quite fresh. I took a different route home that evening, and before I was ten minutes out of the creek, I saw the symbol again. This time, on a flag tied to the tree. Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to walk on and see where the symbols lead.
As night started to fall on the woods, I had seen about six symbols already, and was on my way to finding more. An hour later, I was almost back where I began. And then I saw it.

Just over by the abandoned car and swamp guy, a huge flag had been erected. The symbol took pride of place, painted black on a white sheet. Surrounding the car were ten to fifteen men, all dressed in red robes with their body painted bright white. I managed to get a little closer to the action, but didn’t want them to spot me.

I could tell the screaming came from swamp guy before I even got any closer. He had this whiny tone that really grated on me. The next thing I heard was some ritualistic garbage, a stream of words coming from the mens’ mouths. One of them was reading from a big dusty book, perhaps something religious. Perhaps they just found it on Etsy. I don’t know.

Before I knew it, they were all chanting. It was in another language, but I actually found it kind of catchy. A few minutes passed by, and all of a sudden, they all started to scream at the top of their lungs. Each of them was grabbing a liquid with cupped hands out of a big bucket, and splashing it onto him. Ten seconds later, a match had been lit and dropped onto swamp guy.

The screaming was incredible, not in a good way, just in a really crazy way. I’d never heard someone scream like that. He was in flames and screaming for a good minute before it stopped. The men gathered their items and walked away, obviously ignorant to the causes of forest fires, but that was for another time.

As I got ready to go home, I had just one thought. At least he wasn’t cold any more.