My mind cycled the thought over and over again. It was loud in my brain, nearly drowning out the sound of the thunder as it cracked and rolled across the sky. I ran through the dark, the pouring rain pelting me in the face and soaking me through to the bone.
Running through the storm, minutes felt like an eternity. I didn't have any focus, my emotions were running faster than I could. My racing heart proved difficult to calm as I tried to breathe without sucking in rainwater. Pull yourself together! I inwardly screamed. Don't you dare stop!
Lightning briefly lit up the forest around me, a loud crash of thunder following only a split second later. The sound caused me to flinch, startled. This storm must have been directly overhead now, it had blown in violently like many other summer storms.
Normally I took comfort in these mid-summer tempests, knowing that their passing would temporarily take the edge off the sweltering heat. Not this time, though. This was terrible timing.
The sound of voices echoed through the forest, feeding the fear that propelled me through the dark. The undergrowth raked at my legs like claws, as if death itself sought to slow me down. My boots splashed through puddles and spattered mud all over the legs of my already dirty and worn jeans.
Soon a roaring sound filled the air. My heart dropped into my stomach almost immediately. I knew what this was. It wasn't the wind, or the thunder, it was the river. As the forest ahead broke into a clearing I could hear it more clearly. The sound it produced was the kind of rumble you could feel vibrating through the air and rattling every cell in your body.
I stopped, swinging my pack around in front of me and searching frantically for the flashlight. "Come on, I know it's here." I muttered breathlessly along with a few curses until my fingers finally found the smooth plastic of its exterior. I couldn't afford to use it much, it could give away my location but I had to find the crossing. I hit the switch, holding the flashlight with one hand while I closed the pack and flipped it back over my shoulder.
The storm had brought with it torrential rains, transforming the normally quiet river into a raging rapid full of mud and debris. Spray from the water glittered as it crashed around rocks. There was no way the bridge wasn't under water here, I would have to go further downstream and keep searching for a way over it.
"Stop!" A voice ordered harshly from behind me. "Hold your hands up, and turn around!"
I could feel the blood drain from my face and my knees grow weak. Taking a deep breath I held my hands up where they could be clearly seen and I hesitantly turned around. Practically blinded by the bright beam of a flashlight, I stood there, doing my best to keep the trembling to a minimum. What now? What could I do?
"Caydie?" The voice said, shock clear in the tone. The light lowered, bouncing from the ground and faintly illuminating the soldier in front of me. The barrel of his rifle pointed downward now, instead of at me.
My jaw tightened and anxiety welled in my chest. His appearance wasn't clearly visible in the dim light, but I didn't have to see to know who it was. Of all the people that could have been part of the search party, why him?
"Damn it, Caydie! What are you doing?" he demanded, taking a step closer. A flash of lightning revealed his face for a split second. Despite the nearly angry tone of his voice, his expression had been pained.
I instinctively took a step back. "They took her, Will!" I cried. "She's gone! I can't be here!"
He was silent for a moment. I knew him, he was trying desperately to devise some kind of strategy. "Caydie, please." He begged, "You can't do this, you'll die out there! If you come with me now I can help you."
I wanted to go with him, I really did. For just a moment my judgement lapsed and I thought maybe I could, but the feeling was fleeting. I knew it was wishful thinking. I couldn't go back there and he couldn't talk me out of trouble. He had helped me one too many times already and I had to leave before he did anything stupid. I had already lost someone today, I couldn't bear to see anyone else hurt.
I could see more lights, floating through the forest like ghosts. There were more soldiers coming and as much as I hated to take advantage of his shock, I needed to. As soon as he looked toward the approaching men, his attention distracted, I darted away
The storm and the river drowned him out mostly, I barely heard him shout after me and I couldn't make out a single word. I sprinted as fast as my legs would take me alongside the river. It didn't take long before the distinctive pop of gunfire rang out, piercing and loud. I cried out in pain as I felt the sudden bite of a bullet.
I was hit! How badly, I didn't know.
No! my mind screamed. No, this can't be it, this is not how far I go. I promised!
I managed not to fall but I couldn't keep up the pace, limping now instead of sprinting. Another shot narrowly missed, hot lead biting in to the ground next to me. Mud and water flew into the air upon impact. My options were limited. If I continued on like this the next bullet might not miss.
The river was my only chance now. Summoning whatever resolve I had left, I ignored the searing pain in my leg and took a running start towards the water. I wanted to scream. The sound of my own heart beat was deafening in my ears as my feet left the ground. This was insane, possibly even suicide, but it was all I had.
Author's Note: Hey guys! Thanks for reading the beginning of my possibly novella length story! (That's the plan anyway!) If you want to read more, remember to follow! If you liked this and can't wait to read more, I have two more stories, feel free to check them out!
Comments and Critique are greatly appreciated, as always!