I PROBED IT, I hit it, I shoved it, I did everything but beg and when everything failed I begged, too. The rock didn't care.
It held me gently but firmly, like a mother an unruly child, a vice of stone across my broken ankle.
I refused to die there. I pushed the rock, yanked on it, banged my fists against it. The vultures circled above. One by one they landed. I threw stones at them, shouted at them, cursed them. They were like rocks. The sun scorched us all, human, bird and rock. When it faded below the horizon the land grew cold, then freezing.
The night was bad. In the morning the ants found me and the day got worse. That evening my father came by, pulled up a chair and chatted about the news. I tried to hug him but he evaporated. Mother didn't deign to show. Not her type of company, rocks.
I was going to die here, the cactus told me. I could live with that.
It was the thought of landing in the tabloids that annoyed me. If only I'd gone to Disneyland instead. The rock listened to my complaints. It was a good listener.
That night it sheltered me, shared its warmth with me. A kind rock, that. My kind of rock.
We lay together, shared stories in soft voices and when the humans came and dragged me away I cried for the loss of my friend.
By day, Filip Wiltgren is a mild-mannered communication officer at Linköping University, where he also teaches communication and presentation skills at a post-graduate level. But by night, he turns into a frenzied ten-fingered typist, clawing out jagged stories of fantasy and science fiction, which have found lairs in places such as Analog, Grimdark, Daily SF, and Nature Futures. Filip roams the Swedish highlands, kept in check by his wife and kids. He can be found at www.wiltgren.com