I let my arms go limp. I felt heavy, tired, suddenly deeply sleepy. I allowed myself a moment of transcendence as my mind drifted far above the suffocating canopy and away from the falling rain. I was not in a forest anymore; I was in crystal waters, sitting on a surfboard, basking in late afternoon light, clean sets moving in perfect formation towards me. I exhaled. Everything was going to be fine.

I twitched.

What the hell is that?

Something in the physical world brought me back to the present with the slamming realization that I was not there. I was here. It moved on the back of my neck. I jolted, tore at the itch with my fingers, found something and pulled it off. Holding my hand up to the darkening sky, I saw the sharp silhouette of a leech wriggling between my thumb and forefinger. My face twisted in disgust. Remembering Rudi’s comment in the morning about the rain bringing them out to feed, I reeled at the significance of the finding. I sat still, daring not to investigate. To do so was to know, and to know was to acknowledge the severity of the situation. I shook my head in denial and disbelief, but as I did so, I felt an overpowering crawling sensation on my legs, chest and back. It was impossible to ignore. Leeches were moving all over me and opening my skin to feed. With a sense of revulsion and impending doom, I lifted my shirt and felt my ribs and under my arms. I moaned in horror.

I was no longer alone. The forest had found me.