November 24, 2009
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I decided to go hiking.
I'd hiked most of the trails by the cabin, but there was one I'd never been brave enough to try, it was steep, and it wound up a good half of the mountain the cabin resided by, with narrow path that I'm almost positive wasn't made for humans because it was incredibly easy to fall onto the cactus below you. But that didn't stop me, today I felt like conquering something new.
I set out as the sun was beginning to hit the highest point in the sky, and by one o' clock I was halfway up the trail. I stopped to get a drink, raising the cold bottle to my dry lips and drinking off the remainder of my second but not last bottle of water. The backpack on my back felt heavy, and the tank top I was wearing felt thick. I wiped my brow and continued. I slipped a few times, catching myself before I stumbled into and had the chance to encounter the cactus firsthand. I mulled over the thought of how easy it would be for Sky to walk this path now, but I quickly shook the thought from my head, I didn’t want to think about those things here. One advantage I had was being able to hear all of the animals before they heard me; I was able to avoid a few rattlesnake encounters by carefully stepping over their dens after hearing their low, dormant heartbeats. I heard mice scamper when they heard me. Coyotes called longingly in the distance too far to be considered a threat.
I heard the foot steps before I heard the heartbeat.
I was walking to the peak of the mountain, the sun was starting to lag in the skyline, it had taken me longer than I thought to breach the mountain, so I thought maybe it was Sky, Shay or my father. But coming all this way to get me? That seemed odd.
And then I listened for the heartbeat, because that would surely tell me who they were, if I knew them or not. When I first failed to hear it, all of the reports of girls going into the desert and never coming back flashed through my head in a vivid shout of panic. And then I noticed something much, much worse.
There was no heartbeat.
I kicked up my pace, the feet were still about a hundred yards behind me, and the heartbeat was still nonexistent. I had to get away from whatever this was, but I was too scared to look back. I got into a good rhythm, seemingly calm for whatever was following along behind, and it stayed back there, which made me calm down after about ten minutes. Anyone trying to attack me would have surely caught up to me by now, but the fact that I couldn't find a heartbeat was still unnerving.
I was ten feet from the peak when I realized the fault in my plan. There was no way down beside the trail I was on. Even though I was almost positive this heartless figure wasn't following me, I still didn't want to know what it was, or what it looked like. I’d come to somewhat terms with the idea of a heartless figure following me by this time, when you’re part owl and there is actually a mad scientist giving people animal abilities, you get used to things. I started looking at the other side of the mountain when I reached the top. I didn't even have time to admire the view, I was just desperate for another way down, and the footsteps were getting closer. The nonexistent heartbeat seemed to be getting louder.
I turned around just as the footsteps reached the top where I was.
I gasped and my heart skipped a beat.
The heartless stranger standing ten feet across from me was an angel. His dark eyes danced with confusion, shock, and other emotions I couldn't read, his body seemed to be chiseled out of stone, his tone arms seemed flexed. His perfect face was knit into confusion. He seemed to be hesitated, measuring as he stared at me.
I stared back, wondering who, what, he was.
I walked toward him carefully, pondering vaguely what could cause him not to have a heartbeat. I didn't think he would hurt me, but I still didn't understand why he was looking at me like that. He looked human enough, but it didn’t seem to add up. I cocked my head.
He reached for something in his pocket when I approached him.
I thought maybe it was water, or food.
It was a Taser gun.
I pulled my eyebrows together and took a step back out of instinct, obviously weary of a stranger with a weapon. I continued to stare curiously, wondering why he was holding such a thing, seemingly at me, in the middle of the desert. He had been the one following me, so why was he pulling a Taser gun out now that I’d turned around? Who was this guy?
Reality hit me like a cold wave, I screamed.
He was here to catch me. The camps.
I tried to talk myself out of it as he walked slowly toward me.
But considering he was still holding a Taser gun and still coming for me, it seemed as if a new plan might benefit me more.
I turned and fled for the opposite side of the ledge, skidding to a halt at it's edge, looking down at the tall drop and forest of cactus below me, wondering why Dr. Gorvorshchski couldn't have given my the power to fly when he'd infused me with a bird.
He laughed coldly, "Didn't think about it, did you?" his voice was deep and rough.
I didn't turn around, instead using my hearing to calculate his footsteps, when he was directly behind me I turned and twisted toward the right, successfully dodging him and sprinting toward the trail, hoping to get away from him.
He swore lowly, "Come on!" he yelled, "I don't want to tase you!" I could hear him running.
I didn't slow as I rushed down the cramped trail, the beautiful demon close behind me.
I was halfway down when I tripped over a rock.
I hadn't seen it before, but there it was, right in the middle of my path. I fell on my knees first, skidding across the dirt on them before falling over to slam my head onto the trail so hard it felt as if my brain might have just crushed the front of my skull. My mouth jaw locked and then opened, allowing grit and soil to enter almost choke me. I did this dance three more times before finally tumbling to a stop. Dirt was intermingled with saliva, drying out my mouth and leaving it with a bitter taste. I moaned lowly.
The stranger leaned over me, his eyes were vacant and he looked disgusted by my crying, "At least I don't have to tase you." He picked me up and swung me easily over his shoulder.
I flitted in and out of consciousness as he carried me, losing it when he reached the bottom the trail and regaining it when we were back at the cabin.
It took me a moment to figure out where we were, when I saw the familiar jeep I snapped my head up, looking around, "Sky," I moaned softly, "Shay." Next to Shay's jeep was a big gray van.
We had stopped walking; I could hear alien heartbeats and familiar ones.
My father’s was closest.
"Daddy," I called, craning my neck to see him, his heartbeat he was right in front of me.
When I finally found him, his eyes were hard.
"Daddy, help me." He didn't respond to me, he was focused on the man next to him, who was tall, with intense blue eyes and thick black hair.
"Daddy." I repeated, confused, "What are you doing? They're going to take us to the camps! Daddy?"
"Shut her up." The man with black hair barked.
The person holding me sighed, "All right." he turned to me, his beauty meshed with coldness, and he lifted the butt to his Taser gun up and brought it down onto my temple, strongly.
The familiar pain came rushing back at me, and everything went black.

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