PART II: SEVEN NEW FRIENDS
A badger was looking down at Dave.
“Judy,” it said, not breaking its stare. “He’s awake.”
“Oh,” Judy said, crawling up Dave’s chest. “Dave, this is Badger.”
“It’s a pleasure.”
“That’s Bear,” she said, pointing toward a bear sitting a few yards to their left. “It’s okay. He’s a good bear. And that’s Snake, Hawk, Porcupine and Buck,” she continued, motioning to four animals standing together. They exchanged nods.
“Why don’t they have real names?”
“Those are their real names.”
Dave looked at his feet. A fox was chewing one of his shoes.
“Is that Fox?” he asked.
“We don’t know,” said Badger.
“He just kind of showed up,” said Buck. The animals looked at the fox, then at Dave, then at each other.
“Oh, how rude of me,” said the fox. “I’m Trent.”
The rest of the animals introduced themselves to him.
“Are we going to do this before the sun goes down?” asked Snake. “I get cold.”
“Maybe he can move now,” said Judy. “We have to check. Dave, can you move?”
“I don’t think so.” He wiggled his nose. “No. Only from my neck up. Are you all here to help me?”
The animals looked at Judy. She rolled off his chest and crouched by his ear.
“Can you feel that?” she asked.
He followed her gaze as it moved to his feet. Trent the fox was taking quick bites at his toes. Blood was seeping through the socks.
“No,” he said, “but I think it’s still bad for me. Can you stop, please?”
Judy looked at the fox but said nothing.
“I can’t feel it,” said Dave. “I can’t feel anything below my neck, and I can’t move. I think we all get it.”
“Go ahead, Buck,” she said.
Buck thrust his antlers into Dave’s chest. He jerked his head upward, tearing into Dave’s ribcage and lifting him aloft to drive him to the ground. Buck ground his antlers inside the cavity, tearing through Dave’s ribs and skin. The rest of the animals cheered.
“What are you doing?” Dave shouted. “What are you doing? Judy, what is he doing?”
“Can you feel it?” asked Judy.
“He’s gutting me. Jesus Christ.”
Buck stepped back, and Badger moved in to pick away the bone fragments and strips of flesh that filled Dave’s chest. Snake slid inside, and Dave watched her outline beneath his skin as she moved down his arm and burst out at his wrist. He screamed, gargling the pool of vomit that had gathered in his throat.
“Dave,” said Judy, “you need to be quiet. You’re scaring Porcupine.” They looked at Porcupine, who had shot his quills into Dave’s leg.
“You said you would help me.”
“I said I would come back.”
“What’s this?” called out Hawk, holding Dave’s phone in his beak.
“It’s a phone,” said Judy. “It calls people. Dave can call someone to come find him.”
Hawk set it down in front of the bear, who crushed it under his paw. Trent laughed, dropping one of Dave’s toes from his mouth.
“People are going to be looking for me,” Dave said through clenched teeth. “They’re going to find you.”