She pulls her hair straight back into a tight ponytail. Stuffs the loose ends into her dirty baseball cap then pulls her long ponytail out the back. Old ripped shirt and jeans. Heavy steel toe boots. She’s ready to work.
Her backyard is open desert. The mission this morning is to clear a deadly patch of Cholla. Jumping Cholla. Cactus known to leap off at unsuspecting passersby. Thorns so long and sharp they easily pierce through the heavy duty gloves she wears. Cactus dangerous enough that it needs to be controlled or removed.
She knows todays work is not going to be much fun but it has to be done or it will continue to grow into a nightmare maze of spikey jumping thorns. She grabs her tools and heads toward the back yard.
There is an obvious transition from the open and easy to walk through desert into the ominous thick patches of Jumping Cholla.
Her chest tightens as the fear sets in. This patch of cactus is not going down without a fight. She feels it.
She uses her heavy duty rake as a defense to enter into Cholla territory. Slowly she pushes back at the angry plants to see which parts willingly fall off and which parts are ready to leap out at her with frightening speed and force.
Spikey balls of pain fall all around her as she steps ever so slowly trying with every controlled move to not disrupt large amounts of jumping thorns. Slow progress is made carving a trail further into the thick patch. With every awful clump she removes, another seems to fall in its place.
Sweat dripping into her eyes, she can’t risk wiping them, her arms now covered in thorns. The salt will just have to sting. There is no turning back now. She is fully in and committed to winning this fight.
Pushing and fighting her way through, a sense of victory is starting to emerge. She powers on knowing eventually she will see the light at the end of this very nasty Cholla tunnel.
Thirsty from so much intense work she turns to reach for her water. The hours must have passed quicker than she realized. Surrounded by thorns and overgrown cactus the shadows slowly creep in.
She looks behind her to see there is no visible path. Every bit of cactus she thought she had removed now somehow replaced and multiplied! She is surrounded. The Cholla have started closing her in.
Panic sets in as she realizes there is no path, no direction, no water. She is surrounded. The Cholla are ready to fight back.
Her sweaty hands grip the rake tight. It is her only weapon to fight this overwhelming attack. She closes her eyes tight trying to get the sweat and sting out so she can focus, but clearing her vision only makes the reality of her confinement bring on a full panic attack.
Heart racing, short of breath she spins around dizzy and scared. Where is the house? What direction am I facing? She grabs her phone frantically pushing the screen but there is nothing. It is dead. No signal no power. No way to cry for help.
She throws her phone at the Cholla that are inches from her face but that only sends more pieces of flying shrapnel into her cheek. Pain shoots through her face sending hot streams of tears stinging down her bloody cheeks.
She falls to the ground only to have a thick layer of Cholla spikes pierce her knees and shins. Stabbing through her jeans bloody pieces of her flesh hold hundreds of thorns.
She screams and tries to make a break for it. Kamikaze style she runs full speed wildly through the Cholla with it firing back from every direction.She feels the hot, sharp pain in the side of her neck and knows another clump has landed. She is the target and the enemy has zeroed in.
Disoriented, terrified, shock sets in. The Cholla are spinning all around. Her arms and legs no longer move. The Cholla tighten their hold. Coming in from all sides. Spikes piercing every inch. Encased. Held in place like a bloody and twisted scarecrow. Waiting to be found.