“Just because you haven’t discovered it yet doesn’t mean you don’t have one,” she said as I turned and walked away. She was right, and I knew it, no matter how much I wanted it to be otherwise. It was an unending conversation lately, and I was finished with it for the day. Everyone my age had already found theirs; I either didn’t have one or was a late bloomer, or I hadn’t been trying to find it. But we both knew by the fact we were attending school in the desert, the nearest civilization over two hours away by plane, was a direct result of our heritage, which meant I had at least one gift, one “superpower”, bestowed upon me by the gods. One gift I was to use for the betterment of my fellow humans.
Those of us given a gift were selected for this special school not by any evidence of our gifts, not by the status, position, or especially not because of the gifts of our parents. No, we had each been selected by having the good fortune of getting lost in the wilderness, surviving as long as we could while we waited for Search and Rescue teams, but never seen again. For some of us, the teams never came near. For others, the teams were literally right in front of us, looking directly at us, but seeing, they could not see; hearing, they could not hear. So it was with me.
But I was so weakened from the days or weeks of waiting, I could do nothing more to make myself known to them beyond hollering, “I’m here! Right here!” Come to think of it, I was weak enough that my brain did everything required to holler, but my jaw muscles didn’t comply. They tried to comply, but it would have been of no use, as my vocal chords didn’t have any air passing over them, because my diaphragm wasn’t paying attention. The sun was nearly overhead when the would-be rescuers were before me. After they moved on, and later gave up the search, I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke, it was night; the sky was cloudless but moonless. I felt more energized than I had earlier, so I started crawling in search of food and a warm place to sleep.
I was in the woods halfway up a mountain, so I headed downhill, hoping to find berries or some small game I could observe to see what they were eating. I’d have tried to eat them instead, but I needed something more than my bare hands to catch them, and I doubted I could eat them raw and furry. When I realized I was lost, I had a compass and a knife, but no map. I no longer had my knife: I had a hole in my pocket in its place. By the starlight, I thought I saw a rabbit, so I crept nearer. I could see the creature’s eyes and fur, and finally its ears. Yes, a rabbit. I could eat rabbit food. I watched it for a while, but it simply stood still but for the occasional twitching of its ears. Reluctantly I stalked nearer, afraid of scaring it away, but wanting to find something—anything—to eat.
I was within a foot of the rabbit before I stopped. It watched me quietly draw near, and as I reached out, now exhausted, I fell asleep again. I don’t know how long I slept; I only know that it was evening when I next awoke. Feeling a bit more energetic, I stood up slowly, but still too fast. The flora spun around me, and I fell on my face. I tried again, and with the help of a nearby tree, I made it to my feet. That was when I saw the rabbit again. Or at least, a rabbit, but it looked like the same one. When it saw me, it started hopping away. I tried to follow, but quite literally tripped in a rabbit hole. I fell forward again, but managed to get my arms in front of me to brace myself against the impact. This helped me to keep my balance, and I stumbled forward and down the mountain some distance before collapsing against a stump and sleeping more.
The next few days all passed like the previous few. I do not know where my energy came from. I recalled no water, nor morsels of food passing down my parched throat. When I reached the edge of the forest, there was a white two-passenger airplane waiting, and two people waiting on the ground. I was confused: I thought I’d been rescued, but the numbers didn’t add up. It was too much for my weary mind and I was asleep again.
I had several nightmares as I slept, until at last peaceful dreams chased the specters haunting my mind away. I felt a warm sensation, something I hadn’t felt for a long time. It felt like there was something on top of me. It was a little bit rough, a little bit soft, and smelled familiar. I let myself be warmed by it, and resumed my peaceful dreams. I had been rescued at last, after all.
It was another week before I learned the world presumed I was dead.