Written by Carter Pierce


Ivan Molchalin’s thoughts whirled as he slowly regained consciousness. It was dark outside. He was freezing. His brother’s murderer had gotten away.

He tried to move his legs. They wouldn’t respond. They were stuck. Mud?

And then it all came back. He’d jumped out of the airplane after Jack Raummi. He’d hit a bunch of trees on the way down. They’d slowed his fall somewhat, but not nearly enough; he’d hit the bog hard. It’d felt like concrete. The plane had crashed. He’d heard it.

He wondered how many people he’d inadvertently killed.

He hadn’t wanted to murder anyone.

He just wanted to avenge his brother.

A sick feeling overpowered him. He was a killer. He had the blood of dozens of people on his hands now. Before, he hadn’t thought it’d be so bad. Before, he had but one initiative. Now, he realized something. He’d taken something very important from all the families of the people on the plane. They’d never see their loved ones again.

He’d become a worse rendition of the man he was trying to eliminate.

And Jack Raummi was still at large. The real killer. The intentional killer. The cold-blooded killer.

Ivan knew what he had to do: Jack Raummi had to either be thrown in prison, or else removed from this world in the other, less pleasant way.

Whatever it was, he couldn’t be left to slaughter more innocent people while Ivan stood by and did nothing.

He groaned as he stood up. The plane had crashed sometime around noon: he must have been lying there for several hours. His muscles were stiff and cold: the mud hadn’t helped his cause. Something was slithering across his foot. He shook it off.

As he rose, he reached out and grabbed in the dark for something to hold onto, finding a protruding branch. He hauled himself into a standing position and rested there for a few minutes. His head felt light. He was still sick to his stomach.

Eventually the sickness lessened, and he was able to move forward. The forest slowly enveloped him.

For hours he trudged on, stopping often, gasping for breath, waiting for his lightheadedness to subside before stumbling forward a few more steps.

Just as dawn began to break, off to his left, he stumbled over something. At first he thought it was a log, but then he realized it wasn’t hard enough.

It was a body.

Someone from the plane.

He knelt down beside the man, rolling him over so he could see him.

Covered in blood, scratched and scraped from the trees, Jack Raummi’s face was a terrible sight. His nose was broken. His lower lip was split, and he had a black eye.

But he was alive. Ivan’s first thought was to end it right then and there, to kill him. Mercilessly.

But he was no cold-blooded killer. Deep down inside, he knew he couldn’t deliberately take another life. The first time had been accidental.

Never again.

He gently ran his hands over Jack’s body, checking for broken bones. There were quite a few. His back was still in pretty good shape, maybe bruised and tweaked a little. But several of his ribs were cracked, and his left shoulder was dislocated.

Ivan rolled him onto his back. No use letting the man’s full body-weight rest on a shattered ribcage. He scooped a pile of fallen leaves under Jack’s head as a makeshift pillow.

Then Jack Raummi’s eyes fluttered open for a moment. By now the sun was almost up, golden light slanting down through the morning mist and the leaves. Ivan saw the movement clearly.

The fallen man murmured something unintelligible.

Ivan leaned closer, putting a hand to his ear.

Jack tried again, forcing syllables out between chipped and bloodied teeth. “Pleased . . . to meet ya.”


Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved


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