And So It Begins

Lightning flashed briefly across the midnight sky, giving fair warning to all that a downpour was soon to follow. The lone figure of a man paused briefly under the moonless sky to check his surroundings and catch his breath. He scanned the area around him, listening patiently for any sound of his pursuers.

Wiping the sweat from his weary brow he closed his eyes to scent the air for food or water. But it was no use. In this city of concrete there were no rivers teeming with fish, nor was there any wildlife. He could last a few days with no food to fill his stomach, but he knew instinctively that without water he would soon be dead.

Shelter for the night was a necessity also. Someplace quiet to lay his head for a few short hours and regain his strength. He calmly edged his way along the exterior of an abandoned building. Keeping to the darker recesses, he stealthily wove his way to the open doorway. A sudden swirl of dust in the air caught his attention and he looked skyward for the culprit, shielding his eyes from the sudden brightness. Hovering silently, the giant machine caught the wild man in its sight with a high powered beam of light.

Without a second's hesitation, the man was on his feet running like his very life depended on it. The search beam followed, relentlessly tracking its prey like a big game hunter in the sky. The man dodged left, then right, hoping to throw the giant machine off his tracks. But he was growing increasingly tired as time dragged by. Lack of sleep was weighing heavily on his sluggish brain, causing him to make mistakes that could lead to his capture. Sounds of running feet and commands let the man know how close they were. He was becoming winded, his heart beating frantically against his chest, but he pushed on. He wouldn't be taken so easily this time.

He kept up his break neck pace, weaving his way through the lonely streets and back alleys. Avoiding the men on the ground, trying to ignore the piercing pain from his bursting lungs. But the machine in the sky kept up its relentless pursuit. The muffled sound of silencers pierced the air and rained their missiles all around him. Still he kept running. Dodging the light whenever possible behind abandoned cars, keeping one step ahead of the men on the ground.

He was growing weary of it all. His thoughts were jumbled and he was completely alone. He had no one to comfort him in his hour of need, no one to turn to for solace. He wished that for just one moment in time he could revisit his old memories. Memories of better times when he was surrounded by loved ones. He vaguely remembered a time when he had been surrounded by people that had cared for him deeply. That memory had been so long ago. But they were long gone and it made him sad. He knew realistically that he shouldn't dwell on such things. It only served one purpose. That of longing. That emotion had no place in his heart and it was better left untouched. Nothing good would ever come from it.

He lovingly caressed the locket around his neck and smiled. Maybe it was just as well. He was alive and well for the most part. But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to this than meets the eye. Something was missing in his life, but he couldn't put a finger on it. He felt incomplete. Something, or someone, perhaps a mate, would make him feel whole again. He didn't know for sure, but whatever it was he was feeling, he knew he couldn't ignore it for long.

Up ahead in the distance was a sight that made him pause momentarily and smile. He breathed in deeply the heady scent of grass and trees that beckoned to him. But before he could reach the forest he needed to circumvent the fenced in area. The fence extended for miles in both directions, and he didn't have the time or energy to go around it. Only one thing to do. Up and over. And with the army of many on his heels, he gladly welcomed it.

The area before him became a safe haven, with its many hiding places it would be more difficult to be tracked. He ran eagerly to the high chain link fence and scaled it with ease. He vaulted to the other side and landed on all fours in the hard packed earth. He barely concealed himself behind a stack of tin metal before the light had a chance to find him again.

A different noise assaulted his ears. The sound of barking animals. They had been brought in to track him by scent. A distinct disadvantage to be sure and it upped the odds against him. But nothing or no one would stand in his way this night. He kept his wits about him, remembering all the hard-earned lessons of his youth. Memories flooded his senses, taking him back to his jungle home and he smiled. The memories kept him focused, kept him alert and centered.

A sudden change came over the running man. His demeanor went from being the hunted to the hunter. He was in his element. It mattered not if he wasn't in his beloved jungle home. He could adapt to this place just as easily. With every labored breath he took, he knew it to be true.

The wind picked up considerably, which left the hounds confused. They bayed in the night, seeking their prey amid the rubble and ruin. The man took it as a sign of good luck and scrambled behind the rusty remains of a long forgotten van. He felt something wet and cold against his fevered skin. He opened his mouth greedily and turned his face upward. The sting of the rain pelted his body and mouth, bringing welcome relief to his parched tongue. Still it wasn't enough. He searched inside the van and found a metal pan and set it outside to catch the rainwater. He knew instinctively that he couldn't stay in this place too long, but it was a welcome respite.

The rain poured down harder as he dragged his tired and aching body inside his makeshift shelter. He hunkered down on his haunches, drinking the water in two big gulps. With his thirst quenched for the moment, his next move was to find someplace more suitable for his needs. And of course, find something to eat. That was going to be a challenge. There was nothing to hunt in this strange place. He wondered how anyone managed to survive without fresh game. But at the moment the only pressing thought in his mind was getting some much-needed sleep.

Listening to the steady downpour of the rain on the van's roof lulled the jungle lord into an easy slumber. He clutched the locket in his right hand tightly, dreaming of his long lost parents. In his dreams he remembered with crystal clarity the softness of his mother's face as she leaned in to give him a hug. Her overlong blond hair would tickle his nose, making him giggle. She in turn would tickle him under his arms, laughing out loud at his constant squirming. Finally spent, both mother and son would collapse on the floor of the playroom to catch their breath.

The scent of his father's favorite cologne hung heavy in the bathroom. John looked down into the sink at what remained of the broken bottle and panicked. He knew his father would be angry when he found out. He had to clean up the mess before his dad got home. He grabbed a towel from the rack and tried to scoop up most of the broken glass without getting cut. John had most of it picked up when he heard voices coming from the next room. Oh no, his parents were looking for him. He had to hurry. Closing the towel carefully, he quickly stuffed it under the cabinet just as his dad peeked into the room. Hiding his panic behind an innocent smile, John ran into his father's open arms.

His parents had known right away what happened. The stink still hung heavily in the air and on their son's clothing. John had been given a punishment suitable for a curious four-year-old. His favorite afternoon TV show was off limits for the next week. His innocent mind rebelled, but after his parents had explained to him the dangers of getting cut on sharp glass, he'd relented. They were just looking out for his welfare because they loved him.

Tarzan sighed in his sleep. A telltale tear slipped down his check as he dreamed on. He welcomed these rare moments when he could visit his parents again. They were a welcome respite from the harsh world he'd grown up in. But he'd gladly endure the pain of a thousand beatings if they would free him of his uncle's clutches.

Outside in the downpour the manhunt had come to a standstill. Richard had no idea how his nephew had managed to elude his men once again. He was fit to be tied. The night was a total loss. In the morning his men would pick up where they left off, but it would be a cold trail. He had to hand it to John; he was one crafty sonofabitch.

Richard called his security chief to wrap it up for the night. He made his way back to the waiting SUV to confer with Nash about his next strategy. He was feeling energized after his little excursion and he owed it all to his untamed nephew. He'd always known that John had been a bit of a rebel, but he would never have guessed that his nephew could be so worthy of his regard. Richard smiled smugly to himself. He was going to enjoy running John to ground. He never felt so alive.