Jacob kicks his way through the brush. He feels burrs catch on his arms and in his hair. He feels sticks break under the soles of his Geox Borealises. He tastes the rainwater collecting on the leaves when they catch in his mouth every now and then.
After what seems like a million years of this, he pushes one final branch out of his face and emerges into open air. Thank god. He left the campsite before in a fuss. It was more of a “fuck you” gesture to Dad than an attempt at getting to any one place in particular, and so he didn’t really have any plan other than to choose a direction and go forwards until he found somewhere he could sit down. After a while, it started to seem like a really bad idea. He even stopped five minutes into his walk and considered sneaking back to the trailer, but he’s glad now that he didn’t.
The area is less of a clearing in the woods and more of a plateau, or a cliff, almost. On the ground in front of Jacob, the dirt and grass stretch for a couple more feet and then give way to rock that stops very quickly and drops off something like the height of two or three townhouses. Below there’s more forest. Out in front of that there’s a lake that looks cold and unfriendly.
Jacob sits down on the ledge. He kicks his legs against the rock shelf. He collects spit in his mouth and then leans forward and drools on purpose to see how far he can get it to hang before it breaks off and falls. Eventually, he picks up a stone. He turns it over in front of him. It’s heavy and ovular, with a stripe of something through it that looks like quartz, and when he throws it, it falls for a good second or two before it hits the ground and makes a satisfying clacking sound.
He picks up another stone. It’s similar to the last one, but smaller, and, this time, Jacob imagines that Dad is living inside of it — either in a little house or just curled up like a baby that hasn’t been born yet. Dad is living inside of the stone, and when it gets thrown and cracked into pebbles on the ground below, so does he. Jacob throws a second stone, this time with his brother inside of it, and then another, with Dad again. He feels better each time. He forgets what even made him mad enough to leave the campsite and come out here. He throws Dad and then his brother again. He leaves the situation at hand behind entirely and starts throwing old teachers, bus-drivers, estranged friends. After Mom’s boyfriend, Nick, goes over the edge, though, Jacob stops. Something has moved in the brush behind him.
When he gets up and turns around, there’s a Lynx standing still at the edge of the grass and looking him up and down. It’s gray and all skinny and matted-looking, like it hasn’t eaten in days, and even though it’s smaller than Jacob, the claws he can see protruding from its two front feet look about twice as big as his thumbs.
Jacob takes a step back, but realizes he can’t move any farther away without falling down, himself. He looks around for a stone to throw, but can’t find any more within arm’s reach. He puffs up his chest and curls his arms out like a cartoon strongman. The lynx doesn’t react. Realizing that he’s mostly run out of options, Jacob dashes to the left to try and strafe his way around the animal and back into the woods. As he does this, though, the lip at the bottom of one of his Geox Borealises catches on a crack in the rock, and he falls down hard on his left arm.
Jacob starts bleeding. He’s scraped himself down from his elbow to the side of his hand, and his arm hurts like crazy. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to stand up without putting pressure on it and making things worse. When he looks over to where the Lynx was before, too, it hasn’t moved at all.
So Jacob screams. As a last resort, he screams like a dying animal. He screams like somebody in a tiny house inside of a stone falling off of a cliff. He makes eye contact with the lynx, and he screams like every part of him wanted to scream at Dad back at the campsite before he decided to run away and hide instead. “Don’t touch me!” the scream says, “Don’t come any closer, and don’t touch me! I’m crazy and I’ll fight you to the death if you try to do anything to me, and even if you win, I probably won’t taste that good anyways!” After a minute of this, Jacob runs out of breath and starts coughing. He starts coughing, and then the fact that all of this is happening makes him feel so scared and pathetic that he starts crying and then just closes his eyes and waits to die.
But nothing happens. Jacob stays like this for as long as he thinks it will take to get disemboweled and then stops. He opens his eyes. The lynx is standing exactly where it was earlier, and before Jacob can think of what to do next, it turns around and walks calmly back into the brush.