It was morning, or so you thought what with the faint glow of light bleeding through the thick overcast and Spanish moss overhead. Your eyes had slowly opened, un-sticking the lashes that had adhered from the muddy adventure the night before. You brushed your hand lazily down your face, subconsciously dusting away the dried particles and clots that stuck to your eyebrows, cheeks and nose. You wouldn't even bother with your hair.
Once more alert, you glanced to see if your partner was still snoozing. Instead, an open can of beans met your face. The old, rusty tin and strange label made you wonder if it actually outlasted its shelf-life. With slight grimace, you pulled it closer for better inspection. The brown goopey mush with what appeared to be chunks of beans stared back. It seemed... edible. A frown furrowed at the corners of your mouth as you pictured what it would taste like.
"Sorry princess, did you want the casserole instead~?" Nick mockingly sympathized while stooped at your ear level.
"Yes?" You pleaded, a sorry smile gracing below your puppy-dog eyes as you gazed up at him.
He smiled back, just as pathetic, then threw a rotting opossum carcase in front of you. "Eat up." You nearly gagged as you clutched the sacred beans close to your face, scrambling backwards on the slick mud.
"NICK! What the- did you kill it!?" He seemed insulted.
"Um, no. I do not 'game', sweetheart. One of your hill-folk buddies must have dropped it last night."
"And you had the balls to pick it up?!"
He smiled. "It was worth it."
You glared sharply through his smug persona, unable to come up with anything to retort against him. "... dick." You muttered as you turned away to strap your gear on. Not a moment after retrieving your first aide alongside your can of mystery food did his index finger creeped over you shoulder to pull out a scoop of your beany goop. You turned to watch, disgusted, as he slid it in his mouth and mooshed it around his cheeks before swallowing.
"Don't worry, precious. It ain't poisoned." He clinked the can with his fingernail, discarding the few remains that clung to his appendage before sauntering ahead. "And try not to get left behind this time, will ya?" He smirked.
"Yeah yeah...." You shuffled your carry-on weight then followed the dapper con-man once again.
More hopeless hours crept bye. The scenery had yet to change. If you weren't mistaken half the time, you'd be sure you were wandering in circles. You thought you could handle the waiting, the walking, the endless silence and following.
"Nicky!" You yelled out, irritated. His stroll halted as he turned back, eyes narrowed in displeasure with that name. You got his attention, but didn't really know what to say.
You stood there.
".... I'm waiting." His impatience broke your nerve even more, you bit your lip, fearing you wouldn't come up with anything to say that would change something. His eyes lost yours. He turned away and kept walking.
"Uh, I bet you! I bet you I can find a way out of here! I bet my whole wallet! Credit cards, cash and all!" He stopped.
"You think cash would get me anywhere these days, sweetheart?" He turned back with the most faint devilish smile. "Throw in your first aide and the clothes off your back, then I'm in." Your heart dropped. Was he being serious? Would he really just leave you with nothing if you were wrong? He must have been bluffing; just trying to get you to shut up. You sucked it up as hard as you could, and remained strong in your presence. He obviously was trying to weaken you back to his little tag-along. No more.
"Okay." His hidden surprise was almost noticeable. "Same deal from your end."
"Sure, Princess. You lead the way for 3 hours-"
"Okay, fine. 5. Wouldn't make a difference anyways. You have 5 hours to find some sort of route out of here, if not an actual difference to our beautiful scenery, or you're strippin down for me, babycakes."
"Ditto... Nicky~." He smirked. It was a side of you he hadn't been expecting to see, and he was enjoying it. If you weren't able to leave this shit hole, at least he could have some entertainment.
"After you." He dramatically lured his hands to accentuate your direction. Head held high, you marched past him, throwing him a sideways glance to mark your dominance. That coy smirk he was developing grew. "Don't get too cocky, ____. It won't look good when you're naked."
Your pace whilst leading was much quicker. Or, it could have just been that Nick was silently following at your slower pace and it just seemed like you were faster. Whatever the case, you had but 4 hours left to come across anything to get you both out of this mess.
You started to regret even making the bet, whether you both survived or not would have been decided, but you just put yourself in a position that could possibly leave you stranded. No matter how friendly or comfortable you made yourself around your companion, you were probably not willing to trust him in a situation where he could benefit more greatly than yourself.
"This is nice. I would have chosen this direction too." his words fluttered through your ears like you were on some happy road trip. Then it dawned on you that you had taken the lead only to walk in the same path that Nick had already drug you along. You held your flustered face from his view and jumped the next small bank left, towards more trees and mud, but not the same trees and mud that he would have gotten you lost in if he was leading. "This way's nice too, I suppose." He smiled on with his cheesy persona.
"Why thank you, Nicky babe~! You inspired it." a small, scoff of laughter blew past his lips at your mocking touch.
Another hour passed. The lighter gray hues to the thick, gnarly cloud lines above were succumbing to the more black pigment of the night. It was difficult to deal with a lack of sunlight, let alone moonlight day in and day out. The small amount of food that you both carried wouldn't last more than 2 more days. It was becoming clear that you should find some sort of exit or way out soon. There's no way 2 people could be lost in the swamps for this many days and NOT find any sort of sign of freedom; unless you'd been wandering in circles.
"Nicky-er Nick?" You slowed down to converse with the quiet man.
"... hmm?" His response was solemn, and lazy. He sure was enjoying being the follower for the time being.
"Have you ever seen a map or picture that showed how big these swamps are? I mean, just anywhere at random?"
".... nope, can't say I have, sweetheart." He smiled as though he was lying, or only wanted you to think he was lying, so you'd get more upset. You stared through the look, trying your best to fish out which angle he was playing at. He just kept smiling.
It was more painful than being shot.
"Goddamn it." You sighed and kept walking. No matter how much of a dick he was, you were only delaying yourself.
Another hour passed. It was dark, and the waters and become much cooler. You had but 2 hours left to make a dent in this escapade before turning your supplies and drawers over to the man in the suit. His patience and taunting smile irked you. You started to understand how irritated you must have made him while following his pace. It wasn't much fun being leader of a duo in a hopeless adventure. Let alone being a leader with their life on the line in your case.
You had pretty much decided your fate when losing your cool those hours back, but kept walking forward. You looked up from your pensive state and paused. A glimmer of golden light shown through the dense shrubs on the left. You drew closer to make sure you weren't seeing anything; and yet a few more glowing orbs shimmered from the darkness.