Liz breathed. It hurt. She felt like she had been screaming for a very, very long time.
Someone had been strangling her, and she was not dead. She wasnt sure what had happened, but now the boys were gone. And her knife and her pack were her own.
She sat up, and coughed white mucus into her hands. Her hands were trembling. She needed a cigarette badly. Her pack of Camels was smashed, but still good. She went through her bag methodically, to see if they had taken the lighter. They hadnt. Thank God.
It was her most expensive possession. A thirty dollar Zippo, chrome inlaid with a copper ring of fire.
She squeezed the Camel until it was vaguely cigarette-shaped again, and lit it. Smoked with quick breaths that turned the shaft into a cone of ash. Took the cigarette out of her mouth to avoid hyperventilating.
So it turned out looking like a freak had disadvantages as well as advantages. Go figure.
She needed to hide. Now. And needed to prevent people from seeing her until she could leap down from a high tree and scare the shit out of them because her face was covered in dried blood and she was near a staked head.
She needed a weapon. Ranged, better then rocks. Rocks wouldnt cut it. Unfortunately, the boy with the crossbow--Teo Weinstock
, she reminded herself of names--was gone. Not that he looked likely to lend her a crossbow anyway.
Her boots, a size too large, were stuffed with black socks. She pulled off a boot, pulled the sock out, pulled herself over to a nearby proto-sapling in the sandy soil and re-stuffed her boot with leaves. Sorry, proto-sapling.
Then she filled the sock with sand, knotted the end, and threw it.
It hit the nearest tree with a satisfying thunk, and didnt seemed damaged by the impact. So now I have a makeshift cosh. Two, if I stuff my other sock.
That was a weapon anyway.
She stuffed her other sock, damaging another proto-sapling for the trouble. She walked unsteadily to the nearby tree, picked up the first sock, and sat down again. She was dizzy still. Jesus Christ.
She closed her eyes. They burned. No crying.
She shut them tighter.
Nausea flooded her throat.
She was trembling all over now.
No. No. No. No.
Breaking down like this was not an option. She hugged the nearby tree, and held herself still. Dry-heaved suddenly, coughing, until she spat out a wad of blood and mouth-snot the size of a golf ball. Shed bitten her own tongue.
Bad. Shock is bad.
She moved her shaking hands to her bag, pulled out a bottle of water, and drank cautiously from it. Her tongue stung, and she tasted blood, but at least the pain helped her focus.
So, dying. Not an option.
Lesson number one was that death was scary. She didnt want to do it. Her life hadnt flashed before her. There hadnt been a moment of airless calm, or ecstasy. There was nothing, really. Just funny lights, and fear, and dark. And the strange thought, who are you to judge?
It wasnt a thought shed expected to have in her last breath.
She was a freak. Everyone could judge.
She didnt want to think about it. Back to lesson number one. She didnt want to die.
She stood up.
Her neck was starting to ache. She touched where Nicks fingers had been, gingerly. Tiny, dark bruises had formed.
Well. Maybe Ill just look more like a scary goth girl.
She put on her pack, and headed for the woods.
(Liz Polanski continued in Hideaway