"Come on!" the dark-haired Karina whispered harshly to her two comrades, crawling on her stomach through the marshland. "If we can go twenty more yards, we'll be safe."
She kept crawling, squirming in the mud, sweating hard. Behind her, she could hear Meadow's rapid, heavy breathing. She was concerned about the little girl's health, but anything was better than being in that prison they had been enclosed in just minutes before.
"I hafta go--" Meadow spoke loudly, and at the sound of the loud, sudden noise, Karina cringed. She stopped, turned around, quieted her young friend, and kept crawling. The were almost at the line when Karina heard footsteps approaching. Everything had gone so well up until now.
Ushering the children ahead of herself, the teenager kept quiet and tried to calm the little girls. When Penny tried to ask her what was going on, Karina hushed her urgently and forced her to crawl on.
The line of escaping girls seemed endless. There were, in all actuality, only around twenty, but most of them were too young to understand and carried by slightly older children.
Once everyone was over the line, Karina smiled to herself at a job well done. She scurried over the line to join the kids and rejoiced when she realized that everyone was now safe. Nobody would ever catch them. The small imprints they'd left on the soldiers' lives would soon fade away like the color of a dying flower.
Standing up and ignoring the mud all over her knees, Karina finally looked up to see what had made the noise in the grass. Nothing on this side of the line had made the noise; she turned around to look back at where she and the girls had journeyed from, that Hell on the plains, and she was alarmed to see a soldier standing almost three feet in front of her, over the line. The soldier looked out, eyes scanning the rows of escaped prisoners, but saw nothing. The line was the place where no soldier could cross--they had no desire to. The line was the place where prisoners escaped to because no soldier could see what lay beyond. All the soldiers saw were empty plains. It was as though there was some curtain drawn between Karina and the soldier--one that she could see through, but her opposite was oblivious to. The outside world's noises and culture couldn't seep through the curtain either.
Turning sadly away from the soldier, unperturbed by the ignorant but brutal man standing so near, Karina looked back at the girls. Meadow's eyes were round and glossy, staring up at the soldier. "K-k-karina!" she whispered hoarsely. "There's a soldier!"
Nodding, Karina held the six-year-old tightly in her arms and assured her, "She can't see us. She can't hear us. To her, Meadow, we're invisible now."
The youngster's bright green eyes widened at this knowledge. "So the legend is true?" she asked, stunned.
Karina nodded. "I wouldn't tell you lies about our escape in advance, would I now? I've been here before."
Meadow's mouth dropped open and Karina was alarmed that perhaps the girl's jaw would actually fall off. As she tried to make sure the jaw was still connected, Penny cautiously asked her own simple question. "Do you know anything else of the outside?"
Sure that Meadow's jaw was plenty secure, Karina looked carefully over at Penny. The twelve-year-old had copper-colored hair and eyes--perfectly round eyes with thick black lashes shielding them, and flawless tan skin. Just like her mother, Karina thought sadly. If only she could see Penny's mother just once more...
"I was born outside the prison," Karina explained, "but I was only five when they stole me away."
"You were born out...out here?" asked Penny, jaw dropping almost as far as Meadow's had earlier.
The older girl nodded and sighed. She wished she had someone she could relate to on this journey. Being the only fifteen-year-old in a group of young girls ages two years to twelve years was going to be long, hard, and lonely.
"We're all going to rest for a while while I go get some food," Karina instructed loudly and suddenly. All the little girls obliged her and sat in clumps on the ground, skirts muddy and hair messy. All looked exhausted. All were exhausted.
IT only took a few minutes for Karina to stumble conveniently on some blueberries in the nearby woods. Once she'd gathered what seemed like enough in her muddy apron, she carefully carried them back to the girls. On the way back, she stopped on some raspberries and even found some ligonberry.
A sudden cry for help startled Karina, causing her to drop some of the berries. Remembering the girls' empty stomach, she salvaged what she could and raced back to camp. Penny looked relieved to see her, but at the same time, somewhat panicked.
"What's wrong, Penny?" Karina asked, looking among all the little girls, making sure everyone was alright. "Is Meadow's jaw okay?" Nobody appeared to be hurt or dead, and Meadow's jaw was still completely secure.
Penny tried to speak, but instead just shook her head. Once she found her courage and her voice, she spoke slowly and softly. Each word seemed like a sentence and had a long pause between, but when she was finished, Karina was alarmed.
"It's. A. Boy."
Those three words would bring joy to most of the female population in a hospital room, or maybe even at the mall. But to Karina, those three words meant pure Hell. She turned her head, and sure enough, there was a member of the male half of the species standing about twenty feet away, looking innocently over at Penny and Karina, seemingly seeking acceptance. Karina was certain she knew better.