Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?
Terry really, really didn’t want to open his eyes. He knew, deep in his bones, knew, it was a bad idea. With a groan of realization he cracked his left eye. As he had feared he was not at home. He was supposed to be at home. His wife was expecting him at home, and if the sun was telling the truth he was very, very late in getting home. He groaned again and let his eye close.
He was not at home. And he was definitely in trouble.
And his head hurt, and his mouth felt like something died in it.
Yes he was hung over. His wife might very well skin him for this. She was having a dinner party last night and he’d blown it. He thinks. Last night’s mostly a blur that hurts to think about. He shifts and something rustles under him. Did he see the sun when he opened his eye? Yes definite red glow filtering through, and there was a dampness soaking through his shirt that he knew wasn’t from some hotel or a friends couch. So he was probably outside.
Outside was bad. Outside meant a lot more places he could be with the possibility of not having civilization around to get him aspirin. A very manly whine may have escaped at the thought of waking up without aspirin. All the same his shirt was uncomfortably wet and the red haze was sharp and demanding. He rolled so the sun hit his back. All he accomplished was a sharp pain on his ribs that had him yelping and sitting up much too fast.
He found himself relieved of last night’s meal. Huh, looks like he made it to the dinner party then. So how had he ended up outside. In a forest if the pinecone he’d damaged his ribs on was anything to go on. He squinted through the pain and found himself staring at the damp bark of a pine tree. Which he decided made sense what with the pinecone of doom that had attacked him.
He managed to lean onto the tree’s trunk and may have fallen asleep. It was a stupidly loud bird call that made him groan awake once more, this time his pants annoyingly wet as well as his shirt. He really couldn’t get a break. With a sigh and more than a little help balancing from his friend the pine tree he managed to stand up.
For the first time he really looked around and was surprised that he was not in a forest. Sure there were pinecones and pine needles and even his very own pine tree to rest against but beyond that, nothing but a Martian landscape of red hills and dirt. He shook his head and winced. He was mostly certain he was not on Mars. Why and how would he be on Mars? He was at his wife’s dinner party last night, at some point.
He took a worried step forward and his foot hit the Pinecone of Doom which slid out from under him and sent him falling back onto his trust friend the pine tree. He looked between the pine tree, and look behind him more sparsely spread out pine trees, then out to the Martian landscape. Not the dirt of the red planet he assured himself. Red clay. Georgia. That’s right his wife’s dinner party was his wife’s mothers dinner party. He had been out with his wife’s brother and his friend, they had gotten to the party and that last glass of wine had turned into a whiskey then … He wasn’t certain what happened after that, something about baiting the crew.
What crew he wasn’t sure. But it had sounded like a wonderful plan at the time. He scanned all around, he couldn’t see a house. Just red clay a couple pine trees and more red clay. God his head hurt. He contemplated sleeping again but everything just ached. He wanted a shower and about ten aspirin. Also to punch his brother-in-law … yea punching him sounded pretty good right about now.
He scanned some more and saw a glint of .. something off by one of the large hills of clay. Gathering himself up he managed a few steps. Then a few more, soon he was walking like he’d done it his whole life. Albeit with his hand pressed to his head and his eyes barely open. The sun was too damned bright in the south.
Cresting the hill was difficult, his feet kept sticking in the clay then sliding where it formed a slick mud coating. His hands were filthy and he couldn’t wipe the gunk off of him even as it dried forming a second orange skin complete with cracks over his knuckles that mimicked the wrinkles in his hands perfectly. Finally he made it to the hill top and was surprised at what he saw. The glint that had drawn him was metal. Big yellow metal construction tractors. Several of them silent in the afternoon sun. He was at a construction site. In Georgia. Somewhere near his wife’s mother’s house. And it was Sunday. No one would come today and send him in the right direction. He pressed his fingers to his eyelids and immediately regretted it as the clay crumbled slightly leaving dust in his eyes when he opened them.
He grunted and looked about. He could see much more from his new vantage point. The tree’s where he’d been asleep, the machines dotted around the construction site and more tree’s, on the other side. He stood staring for a minute and could honestly not decide which way he should go, but it seemed a shame to backtrack to the trees he had left earlier, not to mention the Pinecone of Doom would probably kill him if he returned.
He started carefully down the clay hill and was shocked at how quickly the trees were gone from his site. If he had woken here, he may well have believed in aliens. Giant metal yellow aliens though, he could still see the large trucks with their claws to shape the earth. He started up the next hill and stopped.
He heard something, something shrill. Something pissed off and worried. He smiled, he would call back but he was certain that was a very bad idea given the state of his head. Instead he hurried back down the hill and followed the call as best he could. Minutes later he was climbing up another crumbling yet damp clay hill, and really why was Georgia earth so determined to contradict itself he was not certain. He managed to clear the top and smiled at the sight he managed through his squinted eyes. A shame faced brother-in-law with a clear red handprint on his cheek and a worried wife calling incessantly for him to stop fooling around. He raised his hand to wave and miss-stepped. He yelped as he slid down the clay hill, dirt and rocks slidding up under his shirt, one rock gouging a line all the way to his shoulderblade before wedging itself in tight, his left shoe filling with loose powdery dirt that had dried on top while his sock cuff managed to slick up with wet clay from underneath the dry. He lay still at the bottom of the hill for a moment eyes shut and really, did he want to open them again? He wasn’t certain.
Then there was a cool hand on his brow and another on his cheek. Soft words, that didn’t hurt his head. He smiled softly. His wife. He frowned. That meant his wife’s brother was there. All this was his fault. In a snap he managed to open his eyes stand up and plant a mean right hook on the brother-in-laws jaw.
He may have yelled something about pinecones. But he wasn’t sure. He was certain that he’d have to try again when he wasn’t so hungover, the brother-in-law had barely rocked back. Although he was grinning like a fool and patting his shoulder. He decided he would wait until the headache had passed. He may have whined about needing aspirin. He really didn’t care though. His wife’s hand was on his back her soft voice scolding her brother made him smirk as they carefully negotiated the construction site and headed back to showers, and beds, and aspirin.
He really needed an aspirin.