This one is smaller, intimate, and there's a fire going, woodsmoke filling the air. A pile of wood and small kindling is close by. It smells like leather and sage, not unpleasant. And there is what appears to be a bed next to the fire. Animal pelts of various furs that are spotted and striped lay over a wooden frame.
“You live here?” I ask, taking it all in.
The fire is warm and enticing and I realize I'm shivering. Night came quickly. And I suppose I don't know how long I was out cold.
“I'm going to need to take a look at the cut on the back of your head,” Stone says.
“All right,” I say as he tells me to sit down on a leopard print that is not some faux pattern like I would've bought on a pair of leggings at Target. No, this is the real thing. I run my hand over it. Did Stone hunt this leopard down, kill it? How has a man like him survived out here with so many wild animals?
I blink, thinking of my life before I took the one-way ticket to Mexico. What would Sarah and Tori think right now if I told them I'd traveled through time and was being taken care of by a goddamn caveman?
They wouldn't believe me. This is a Lifetime movie on steroids.
“So your name is Skylar?” he asks as he pours some water from a hydro flask over a cloth. He must have come to this place with some gear, same as me.
“Yeah,” I say. “I was backpacking through Mexico.”
“You got many supplies in there?” he asks, eyeing the bag still attached to my back.
I shrug it off, setting it on the floor of the cave, trying to think what all is in there. “Some stuff, sure. A water bottle, a sleeping bag, some dehydrated food and a lamp.”
He nods. “Let me just clean you up,” he says.
I pull back my hair, wincing as the cool water touches the cut. “Is it bad?”
“Not so bad, which is a good thing considering I couldn't have given you stitches.”
“I have a first aid kit,” I tell him. I open my backpack and reach for the little pouch, but he shakes his head.
“No, you should save that for a real emergency.”
“A gash on the back of my head doesn't constitute a real emergency?”
He shakes his head again, kneeling next to the fire, looking up at me. He lifts his arm, showing me the underside of his bicep. There's a six-inch scar. “That was a cave bear attack. Year one.” He lifts his leg and on his calf there's another sizeable scar. “Year two, hyena.” He lifts the cloth covering his man parts. On his upper thigh there's another gash that's been stitched back together and healed. “Woolly rhino. Year four.”
“You've been in a war zone,” I say.
He shakes his head. “Nah, I’ve been in an actual war zone, this is different. This is very different.” He swallows. His eyes look out over the fire. To a faraway place. And I wonder what it would be like to live in this land for so long alone. “I was in the military before I ended up here. I was on a mission in that underground cave and hell, things went sideways, as I'm sure you can imagine.”
“Unfortunately, yes,” I tell him.
There's a look about him that is commanding. In control. And a shiver runs over me as I take him in. His strength is different than that of the CrossFit junkies back home. He is a real man, a real caveman.
He tells me to lie down and I do, feeling like right now I’d do anything he asked. The attitude I wear as armor falls aside as he places a blanket over me. His hand stills as he tucks me in, and his eyes meet mine. For a moment, as he leans down to me, I have the urge to wrap my arms around him and thank him with a kiss.
But he pulls back, as if the moment has become too intense too fast. It dawns on me that we might very well be the only two people on earth. It’s an overwhelming thought.
He adds wood to the fire, making sure the flame grows. And he reaches for another pelt in a corner, wrapping it around himself like a cape.
He has an edge to him that is rugged and wild. And I feel like I would've been screwed if I had wandered into this jungle alone.
“So what are we, like a million years back in time?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Give or take a couple 100,000.”
I laugh. Tight. Sharp. It hurts. “Did you ever try to leave?” I ask him.
“The first year, yeah. A lot.”
“What do you think made the portal open?” I ask.