"You're not going anywhere! Not while I'm still fucking breathing!" Alex P. White brandished his torch. "Drop the fucking knife!"
You're being stupid. I'm not going to listen to you.
Liz considered her options. Her feet hurt. Her backpack was weighing heavy on her back. She had her knife out. She was going to cut him to pieces.
Only she wasn't, because she was small, exhausted and bruised, and he was a 173-pound wrestler, taller than her, with muscle on his frame. She had been in this fight before. It had left her with bruises on her neck. She was not going to be able to take him, even with a knife.
Her other option was fleeing, and fleeing meant the fire swamp.
She backed up. The mud was giving away behind her. She snuck a glance.
Fire was burring on the surface of the water. The oil was burning. Yes.
If she got under the water, she would be safe. And Alex P. White seemed too stupid to immediately realize that the oil was only burning on the surface.
She backed up. He approached. She slipped off her backpack, quietly. Threw it in his face. Then fled.
Keep a dry grip on the Zippo lighter. Dive into the water. She thought she remembered it being deep enough to sink her. She remembered correctly. She was not dead.
The water was murky around her. She swam breaststroke, trying not to break the surface. Trying not to break her grip around the lighter. The fire was flickering and iridescent on the skin of the water. She had to breathe. Adrenaline had depleted her lungs. But there was fire. Too much fire. The air up there would be too hot to breathe.
Not if she got high enough above the fire.
She swam down until her feet hit the mud, head spinning. Then she pushed off the bottom, breaststroking, pushed the oil away with her hands, erupted from the water, breathed, and sunk again.
The air was warm, but not too hot. She was not dead.
She swam until she couldn't see the fire anymore.
She broke the surface, finally, again, tasting mud, gasping, sucking in water, coughing. She could feel her head falter sickeningly. Her legs were singed. Her feet hurt. Her hands stung. There was water in her boots.
She had thrown her supplies at Alex P. White. That wasn't wise.
She looked behind her. Alex and Milo were no longer visible. She pulled herself out of the water, sat in the mud. Unclenched her Zippo lighter. Her hand was burned, swelling and blistering. She dipped it in the swamp water to try and clean the dirt out.
Then she sat back. Her throat was bruised. Her hands and feet were burned. Her backpack was gone. Apparently plan pretend-to-be-a-psycho wasn't working out.
She would have to think of a better plan.
She dipped her hands in the swamp, began scrubbing the dirt and blood off her face. Her inventory was now one pair of combat boots, dark fishnets, cargo pants (singed), pocketed skirt, black turtleneck, t-shirt with writing on the breasts, a stick of black lipstick, a Zippo lighter, a search-and-rescue knife, a netgun, and a makeshift cosh. The swamp water was warm, like taking a bath. The fire, far away, cast an eerie glow. She reapplied black lipstick to her swamp-lit reflection.
Skin was coming off her hands, her feet, her legs, her neck. She was coming to pieces in the middle of a swamp. She hurt. Adrenaline was fading. The pain was coming hard now.
Pain is just a message. You can ignore that message.
She wanted to scream. Instead she sat very, very still.
She needed a new plan. She fingered her collar. She needed to survive.
Curled over herself, she lit the Zippo lighter. It flickered and ignited.
(Liz Polanski continued in The Man-slut, the Cocktease, and the Lover