Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thirty Five

Diana opened her eyes, but couldn't see anything. She frowned and felt a few pebbles grind into her forehead. What was she doing with her face in the dirt? Dimly aware she was in danger, she tried to get up.

The pain took her breath away.

She slumped back to the ground. Everything hurt and her body felt like it weighed at least a thousand pounds. Danger or no danger, unconsciousness was better. It was comfortable and warm.

Cold. That was why she felt so heavy. She needed to do something about that. Cold could kill. Bracing this time for the pain, she hoisted herself onto her elbows. The still form beside her brought everything back with a rush. She looked around. Seeing only a single raider nearby, dozing in front of the dying embers of a fire, she dragged herself to Macy's side. Yes, she was alive. Her ribs were rising and falling faintly. But she was struck by how cold her friend's skin was. Was her own body this cold? No wonder she could hardly move.

She scrabbled at Macy's tangled hair and whispered in her ear. "Macy, wake up."

No response. In the moonlight, she could make out several ugly bruises, and Macy's arm lay at an unlikely angle, probably broken when she fell off her horse. What other kinds of injuries did she have? Diana didn't even want to think about her own bruised and bleeding body. She had been unconscious for most of what had happened, but she knew what those men had done. She also knew that if she was still alive, it was because they'd be back for more as soon as they woke up. This was no time for self-pity.

Slowly, she got to her feet, looking for the other raiders. They were a little ways away, also asleep, probably drunk. Their horses were wandering loose, and she thought she could make out her own among them. This was better than she had any reason to hope for. She looked around for something to put on. She was so cold! They had moved her from the place where they had cut off her clothes, and there was nothing here she could wear, not so much as a scrap of old blanket. Her eyes returned to the drunken guard. He wouldn't be needing his clothes after she got through with him.

She approached the man on silent feet, picked up a nearby rock and brought it down on his head as hard as she could. Then she jerked his knife out of the sheath, plunged it into his throat, and twisted until she felt the blood spurt over her hands. "Fucking rapist son of a bitch." She was seized with a desire to stab the knife into his belly and rip his insides out, just because she could. She was too numb to be shocked at the pleasure the thought gave her. But no, she needed his clothes and they were in a bad enough state as they were.

She fumbled with the buttons as she undressed him and pulled the clothes over her own chilled body. Everything was too big, and the pants were particularly troublesome. She pulled the leather cord from her braid and tied a few of the belt loops together, then rolled up the pant legs. That would do it. The belt for the man's holster was hopelessly loose, but the pistol would fit in a pocket, as would the knife.

She paused for a moment to rest. Every move felt like it was through something thick and sticky, like molasses. Maybe it wasn't the cold at all, but the knock on the head that was making her feel this way. Or was she hung over? And the most difficult tasks still lay ahead. She needed to get her horse, get Macy onto it and somehow get away without the other men waking up. What a shame there were too many to kill. From this distance it looked like there were four, maybe five of them. She could shoot one or two, but then the others would wake up and that would be the end of it for her. Who would get Macy home then?

She moved toward the horses, seeking out her own. Flecha recognized her and made the job easier by walking over and lowering her head. Diana rubbed the mare's nose, grabbed the dangling reins and began leading her away. Then she stopped. Her befuddled brain had managed to come up with an idea.

She approached one of the raider's horses. It was still saddled, and she loosened the girth strap to complicate any effort at pursuit. She repeated this with the other horses, grabbing a rolled blanket from a pack behind the last one's saddle. Then she led her mare to where Macy still lay motionless on the ground.

"Macy, wake up. Don't talk. Just wake up, okay?" She shook her shoulder hard.

The girl stirred slightly and moaned.

"We can get away, but you have to help me. Stand up. Just for a minute."

Her head pounding, Diana pulled Macy to her feet. But as soon as she let go, Macy's knees buckled under her and she sank back to the ground.

"Stop that!" She dragged Macy closer to the horse. The little mustang was accustomed to Diana's strange training methods and stood still. "I'm going to help you up again, and you're going to stay standing this time, got it? Lean on the horse. It'll only be a few seconds. Understand?"

Macy's head bobbed in an approximation of agreement, and Diana helped her up again, this time positioning her against Flecha's shoulder for support. Every movement agony, she grabbed the girl around the knees and hoisted her across the horse's withers. Macy let out a dull gasp as the sudden movement knocked the air out of her lungs. Diana tucked the blanket around her. Now she had a new dilemma. How was she supposed to get up there, herself? There was no way she could vault herself onto the horse's back, even if she could withstand the pain. She would have to lead Flecha for now.

Impatient with this new delay, she began walking the horse away from the camp. Before she had gone far, she saw what she was looking for. She scrambled onto a rock and lowered herself onto Flecha's back. The pain of straddling the horse made her gasp. If it felt like this now, what would it be like once they started moving? And where were they going, anyway? She kicked the mare into a walk, then a bone-jarring trot that nearly made her cry from the pain. But pain was good. It kept her mind off everything else.

She set out into the pre-dawn darkness, dimly aware of riding down forest paths and across meadows.

Sometimes the trails were broad, almost like roads, other times they narrowed into traces.

The journey seemed to go on for hours, although she knew she couldn't be more than a few miles from camp. Why couldn't she find it? The sun began to rise, casting everything in a pink glow as she wandered in circles. Finally she let Flecha choose her own path. The pain had dulled, along with her ability think, and Diana only realized she had lost consciousness when shouts and a pounding of hooves startled her awake. Raiders again? She put a hand on Macy's back and reached for her gun as she made to kick the horse into a gallop. But then she realized she was surrounded, and it wasn't enemies but Harley, Sachi, Tiffany, and Ikea. She nearly fainted with relief.

They stopped her horse and asked her questions, but she couldn't understand what they were saying. Their voices kept getting farther and farther away, even as someone lifted Macy onto their own horse and someone else took the reins out of her hand. She draped herself across her horse's neck, closed her eyes and let them lead her where they would.

It could've been an hour or only a minute, but then she heard Auntie's voice. The horse stopped and a pair of strong arms lifted her down and carried her into the mine. Auntie was nearby, giving instructions, but Diana couldn't make sense of her words. It was as if everyone was speaking some unfamiliar language. Then she was resting on her own pallet and someone was cutting the raider's stinking clothes off her. She opened her eyes to find Auntie bathing her with rags dipped in warm water that smelled faintly of herbs and flowers. She wanted to thank her, but before she could get the words out, the world slipped away.

Previous Entry
Next Entry


Alice Audrey said...

Thank you for not making me live through the worst of it with her.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Are you kidding? I wasn't up to going through the worst of it with her.

Alice Audrey said...