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  • Mercedes

Wednesday, January 22nd

Steps: 5,318

Max HR: 134

Min HR: 69 (resting)

I met someone today.

I’ve explored all of the arena, and while it has some food and water, I felt like I needed to expand my search. Staying in an abandoned place running through my rations seemed like a great way to end up dead, so I prepared to explore further.

All I know about jungles is what I’ve seen on TV, and nature specials have led me to believe that there are a thousand different ways to die in the jungle. So I’m taking a weapon with me; a knobby stick, but not too heavy so I don’t tire myself out carrying it. I find a sack and a jar with a screw on lid that will work for a water bottle. With water and food packed, along with my stick, I take a few steps into the trees.

The jungle is thick enough I can’t use surrounding landmarks to orient myself, so I plan to walk in just one direction for today. To be sure I can find my way back, I use a rock to mark trees at about shoulder height every so often.

I have nearly talked myself into believing that I’ve somehow been transported to Brazil, and all I need is to find my way to an airport that will take me back to Michigan. The fruits, even though they’re strange, could be species I haven’t heard of. The insects, although large and sometimes glowing, could be an evolution that scientists haven’t photographed and told the internet about yet.

And then I meet Gyri.

She looks kind of like a dog, but more the size and shape of a teddy bear, with two stubby horns behind her ears. I immediately feel bad for how fluffy she is, because of the humidity in this jungle. I’ve been soaked with sweat every day I’ve been out here and I’m just in basketball shorts and a tank top.

When I met her, she had a mouthful of some root vegetable she’d been tearing apart with her claws.

And she spoke to me.

“Have you also been left behind?”

I’ve never been allowed to have a pet, but my uncle raises police dogs. When I went over to his house, I couldn’t pet any of them, or give them treats. They were going on to become working dogs, and they had to learn to wear vests and do drills from the time they were puppies.

When I see Gyri, I want to put a collar on her, bundle her up, and take her home with me. Have the pet I always wanted, and teach her to be good.

Of course, there’s a complication here. As cute as she is, she can talk, and probably doesn’t want to be a pet. Probably has a little family here in the forest and all that.

Or does she?

“Left behind?” I ask.

“My pack has moved on without me,” she says. “I could not keep up. I am not very strong.” She turns in her little paws together, as though she’s worried I’ll scold her.

“They left you?” I step closer.

“Please do not reset me,” she creeps backward into a bush. “I am not strong.”

“I wouldn’t do that, I promise.” I raise up my hands to show they’re empty. Nothing to hurt her.

She’s still clinging to that bush, so I crouch down to her level and hold out a hand. I know she’s not a dog, but I hope it acts as a sort of universal gesture of goodwill.

“Hey, no need to be scared.”

She reaches out to sniff my hand, and seems startled when I give her head a pat. She doesn’t push away, but doesn’t lean in either, like she can’t decide whether or not she likes this.

“If you’ve been left behind, you can come with me.”

I know I have no guarantee that her quality of life will improve by teaming up with me, and my whole plan is to get home as fast as possible, but even if she just hangs out with me for a day or two, it would be nice to have some company.

“I’m Mercedes, like the car,” I say automatically. Then, after a minute, “you guys don’t have that here, do you?”

“I’m Gyri, like the river.” she says. “At least, that’s what the others called me. I believe it is my name.”

It’s getting dark, so we head back to the arena. I fill up a bowl with water for her, and tear open another instant meal for myself.

I can’t stop thinking about what she said before. Don’t reset her? Is she a robot?

She doesn’t look like one. When I pat her head, it doesn’t feel like there’s metal or circuits underneath. Then again, robots on earth are getting more and more advanced. Who’s to say all the little bugs and animals here aren’t some kind of artificial metal life forms?

Gyri definitely sneezes and drools like an animal, so maybe not.

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