I was cold.
I didn’t know what else to feel besides cold. There wasn’t anything else to feel. My head hurt. There was a taste of blood in my mouth. My body was tingling with fear, fear so passionate that I was too afraid to open my eyes. What would I find there?
Finally, I found myself able to open my eyes. White. I was surrounded by a blanket of white. Snow. That was the only reasonable explanation. I was in snow. I rolled over, looking up to see that it was, indeed, snowing. I was staring up at a white sky, surrounded by a forest. Isolated. My body managed to sit up, which sent a wave of sudden pain up my spine, through my neck into my head.
There was red snow from the blood in my mouth. I lifted up my hand, wiping away the remaining blood. Where was I? Away from any civilization. That was for sure. I couldn’t recognize the place, it was easily forgettable. Like any other patch of a forest in winter.
I was wearing a pink pair of Nike shorts along with a Manchester United tee shirt. At least I had a sweatshirt on over that. My shoes were black Toms. This wasn’t exactly a winter hiking appropriate outfit. Whoever had captured me hadn’t bothered to change what I’d been wearing the day I’d visited that castle with Elizabeth, which I now regretted.
“Just wakin’ up? I was beginnin’ to think that you were dead!” a voice exclaimed. I didn’t even turn around before a loud POP was heard from above. Immediately, I felt something plunge into my shoulder. I screamed out, my knees hitting the ground. A bullet. The pain was unimaginable, like nothing I’d ever felt before. Almost as bad as that shark bite. “I’m just here to make sure that you don’t survive or anythin’. And after that, I’d say that considering you’re a fair few miles away from any town, that you’ll die pretty quickly...”
The pain didn’t register, I was too cold to feel that much of it. And after everything I’d been though, I had a high pain-tolerance level. I sucked up the bullet wound and turned around, only to see a man up on a cliff area in a mountain that was about fifteen feet off the ground. I didn’t think about what I was doing, and took off, up towards the area where he was. Blood poured out of my wound as I did so, pain shooting all through my body up my legs into my shoulder and then to my neck and head.
Toms aren’t exactly hiking or running shoes, so the man simply stood there with his gun in hand, laughing at me. I recognized the voice from before, the one who’d whacked me with the pipe. He obviously didn’t think I could make it, and would torture me somehow if I did. Most likely he figured I’d fall, which I thought was true for a moment.
Once I finally reached him, he opened his eyes with surprise. “Looks like you made it up here, Anna. That bullet didn’t get to ya yet? Maybe I’ll place one in your knee. Very painful I hear...I ain’t just gonna shoot ya. You ain’t that lucky. I’m gonna let you die here, sweetie. In the cold. Painfully. Slowly.” He had an evil-sounding laugh reminded me of a politician’s laugh.
I lifted up my leg, kicking him in the gut quickly. That at least got his attention. It threw him back a foot or two, and he looked at me with wide eyes. “You’ve got some guts, girlie.” Once he was on his feet again, he stood on the stone ‘platform’ we’d been standing on and lifted his fist up, whacking me in the jaw. That made me fall backwards, blood forming in my mouth again. The man didn’t give a second glance at the thought that he’d just shot me in the shoulder, he moved his gun horizontally into my gut, causing me to tumble backward, throwing me off the miniature cliff. I was too scared to scream. My mouth opened, but no sounds came out. I covered the back of my head and neck, trying to make sure I didn’t get killed by falling.
I landed on my shoulders. Where I’d been shot. Yippee. I screamed this time, feeling the horrible sense of pain rushing through me again. Who was this man? What was happening to me?
When I looked up, I found that the man was gone. I was alone again. Shot, bleeding, injured, and cold. With nowhere to go. No one to go to. Where was a mother when you needed one? But I didn’t want to die out here, not that I wanted to die at all. The man had said I was ‘a fair few miles away from a town.’ That didn’t sound too close to me. But I had to make it. I’d made it to a boat in the middle of the ocean, I’d been bitten by a shark, I’d made the boys’ varsity football team for crying out loud! I could walk a few miles and find this town even if I had just been shot! I had to do this! Otherwise, I’d most likely end up dead soon.
First thing’s first, and in this case, that was making sure that I didn’t bleed to death. I glanced down at my pink sweatshirt and sighed, this was going to hurt. After a few moments of ‘preparation’ I lifted my arms up, enduring the pain that throbbed in my shoulder as I did so, managing to get the sweatshirt off. I stood there, cussing under my breath, before I finally mustered up the strength to use my arms again, tying my sweatshirt around my shoulder in a sash-form as best as I could to apply some pressure to my bullet wound. The sweatshirt was as tight as it would go without choking me. It didn’t do much, but it at least it was better than not having anything on my shoulder.
Then I tried to decide which way to go. What time was it? If I knew the time I’d be able to figure out north, east, south, and west. A sundial. It wasn’t like there was one here, but I’d be able to roughly make one and figure out the approximate time. But to do that I’d have to watch what I made for a longer period of time. I didn’t have time. Moss. Moss grows on the north side of a tree. There were plenty of trees in this forest. There had to be moss on at least one of them.
I fumbled around for a while, trying to look for a tree that had some form of moss on it. It took me a long time, but I finally found one. There was moss. Which was, obviously, facing north. Where was the sun? I glanced up towards the sky, managing to spot it. There it was, on the west. Which had to mean that it was later in the day.
Now one problem still remained. Which way to go. Flip a coin? Too bad, that wouldn’t work. I didn’t have a coin, which would be helpful. I didn’t want to make a trip over the mountain, so that was out of the question. Through the forest where there might be predators? It was either the mountain and the forest, and my gut told me to go through the forest. I sucked in a deep breath, but managed to embark on my journey. To the north.
The trip already felt like hours even though I realized that I’d been in the snow for only a matter of moments.
As I trudged through the deep snow, I watched with pained eyes as drops of blood slowly dripped from my shoulders an sweatshirt onto the white show beneath me. My hands had been scraped, most of the skin was falling off of them. My head hurt from the blow I’d taken earlier when I’d been in the palace. My mouth still had the taste of blood accumulating. The taste became so unbearable that I had to stop occasionally to spit out onto the snow.
I watched with horrible as what should’ve been puffy white, Christmasy snow that would’ve been beautiful to see in any other circumstance, turn into a bloody red. It felt unnatural, and it wasn’t. If some hiker came by they’d think it was animal’s blood, that an attack had taken place. Except for my footprints. Maybe they’d think I was a hunter. Was it even hunting season? Hopefully if someone did spot the prints and blood, they’d follow them.
It wasn’t long before I saw exactly what I was trying to avoid. Standing in front of me was what looked like a type of cat staring straight at me, ready to pounce. But this wasn’t just an ordinary cat. It was gray, and huge. It had to weigh at least eighty pounds. It was on all fours, its orange eyes eyeing me. I froze, staring at it. I wasn’t supposed to run, right? That would only tell the animal that I was prey.
After a moment I identified the predator as a lynx. I’d never seen one up close and personal, at least I thought I hadn’t, but they were much more scary than they seemed. My eyes widened, looking at the creature. What was it doing here? That had to mean I was even farther away from a town than I thought I was, which wasn’t very good news. The chance I had of survival was thinning slowly as time went by, I was losing blood and now I was up against a wild animal. This wasn’t how I’d imagined our wonderful ‘find out who I really am’ trip would go.
The animal circled me as I stood there, debating whether or not I was prey. Its eyes stared at me, its claws digging into the ground as it prepared to make its pounce. This wasn’t going to be fun. My only option was to fight off the creature. Yes, I realized that it was an endangered animal and didn’t deserve to be poached. But then again, if it tried to attack me I felt I deserved the right to fight back.
After it circled me, it let out a low growl. Then immediately, it pounced on my from the back. I felt it’s claws dig into my lower back. I let out a scream. Please, don’t let it get to my shoulders. I tried to roll over or kick it off somehow, but that didn’t work. This creature clearly had longer nails, and sharp teeth. My nails had been bitten, chewed on, and weren’t exactly very sharp compared to the lynx’s nails. My teeth weren’t what you would call sharp. Yeah, sure they could rip apart gummy worms. But not as strong as this animal’s.
I threw my left arm back, managing to meet the creature’s gut. I used all of my strength, shoving the creature to my side. Quickly, I hopped up. For a few seconds, the lynx was on the ground. It wasn’t much time, but it gave me some time to try and find some sort of a weapon to fight it off with. I ran towards a tree and picked up a stick. It was the best I had. This time when it ran and leaped, I hit it with the stick.
The animal was taken aback, falling backwards. But it was persistent, now it was angry. It was on all fours again, that was when I realized I was practically pinned against a tree. The cat reached its claws up towards my face, and I soon felt scratches were they. There wasn’t a whole lot of blood, thank goodness. I lunged forward with the stick again, trying to imitate a sword fighter from The Princess Bride or some other medieval movie. It jabbed the lynx in the chest area, throwing it back once more.
“Aha! And don’t ever return!” I teased the animal, getting a bit caught up in the heat of the moment. The animal ran off when it saw I wasn’t going to give up. And I bet I didn’t exactly look good to eat. Well considering I’d been attacked by two animals, I must’ve looked appetizing.
When I watched the hungry creature run off, I decided that some sort of a weapon to defend myself would be good. Some sort of a stick or a stone. I could make a knife, but then again, that would take a great deal of time. I didn’t have a great deal of time. I grabbed a few sticks and picked them up, weighing to see if they were heavy or not. It seemed reasonably light enough to carry. So I looked around for something to tie it up with, and quickly spotted a vine. I picked it up, stringing the sticks together. It gave me a sort of weapon, even if it wasn’t exactly the strongest or most convenient weapon in the world.
After a while I lost track of time. The only thing I knew was that it was getting dark. The sun was setting, night was approaching by now. Was I really going to sleep in the cold snow? It didn’t seem that practical to me. An easy way to freeze, which didn’t sound like a particularly enjoyable. I’d have to set up some form of a camp, perhaps try and start a fire. Dying of frost bite didn’t sound particularly enjoyable from my point of view. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d sort of prefer something quick and painless, where you didn’t even see death coming. That way you were actually living life to your fullest, not worried about whether you’d die or not.
I formed a pile of sticks and surrounded it by rocks. The only way to start a fire was the old fashioned way. I grabbed two sticks and rubbed them together quickly, trying to start a spark or two. After what seemed like an hour, which I’m sure it really wasn’t, I frowned, tossing the sticks into the fire.
I grabbed my jackets, curling my legs together and placing my head on the weapon I’d formed. Better than the snow, right? It took me a long time, but I finally fell asleep.
In about the middle of the night, I heard footsteps. I half-opened my eyes groggily, only to see a figure leaning over. I opened my mouth to speak, but was only given a ‘shsh.’ I felt a blanket or some form of a cloth being placed over me, and the weapon being taken out from under me only to be given a pillow.
“Go back to sleep, Anna. I’ll explain in the morning.”
Only being half-awake, I drifted off back into sleep.
That night I dreamed of my family. Elizabeth’s family. Not my real family. When my blue eyes opened, I was shocked to find someone turned way from me in a sleeping bag. I practically screamed, hopping up. Then I remembered the person from last night.
The person jumped up, turning towards me. I examined the figure. An African boy about my age wearing a pair of blue jeans and an unbuttoned jacket over a tee shirt of some band. He had short dreadlocks, and looked rather strong. Once he was standing I could see that he was wearing hiking boots. Who was he and what was he doing here? Didn’t he realize not to go storming into peoples’ camps at night?
“Who are you?” I practically shouted.
“Calm down, Anna...” the boy began.
“And how do you know my name?”
“I’ll explain everything later...I promise. My name is Kamau. I was here camping when I stumbled upon you. And, no offense, you didn’t exactly look that prepared. Plus you’re wounded. Would you rather I just leave you here?” he asked.
I blushed, looking down at the snow. “I guess not...Thanks. But how do you know my name?”
“It’s a long story. Can I please just explain everything later?” I nodded in response, looking back up towards him. “Good. Now eat some breakfast and I’ll try and help you with your shoulders.”
“Breakfast? But I don’t have anything to eat-”
A granola bar was tossed to me. Sure it wasn’t much, but it beat nothing. “Those are the only things I’ve got. You can have my extra water bottle. I haven’t had any water from it,” he added, grabbing a water bottle from his backpack and tossing it towards me.
That was when I noticed that there was a fire burning in front of me. I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders, creeping towards the center of warmth slowly as I ate my granola bar in silence, deciding not to question Kamau anymore. He was busy packing up some things, rolling up his sleeping bag. He didn’t ask for the blanket, so I didn’t offer it. I was freezing cold.
Once he was finished packing and I was finally done with the granola bar after nibbling on it slowly, trying to savor the taste, we began putting out the fire.
“You’re going the wrong way.”
“I came from over the mountain, that’s the way back towards town. So therefore, you were going the wrong way. You were headed towards an unforgiving forest. Mind if I ask how you ended up here?”
“I could ask the same to you.”
“I was looking for you. We’ve had a search party for about a year.”
“I said I’d explain when we got there.”
“Do you know my parents?”
“Do you know anyone in my family.”
“Don’t ask so many questions. It’s annoying.”
I didn’t respond to that, not wanting to aggravate the boy any further. Once we reached the mountain, I found myself looking up with a hesitant gut. This was where I’d been shot, and I wasn’t exactly too keen on the place. There were still blood stains on the ground from where I’d fallen. Kamau headed up anyway, not noticing that I was lagging behind.
“Are you coming?” He halted, turning to face me.
“Huh? Oh yeah!” I responded quickly, running up as fast as I could to keep up with him. He’d thankfully stopped and reached out a hand, helping me get up to where he was.
It was a while before we reached the top of the mountain. The site didn’t exactly please me. We were standing in a valley of mountains, staring at dozens of mountains that continued for as far as the eye could see.
“You crossed all of these?”
“How did you know where I was?”
“Then where were you going?”
“And the reason you didn’t just take a plane is...?”
“I prefer nature,” he replied with a shrug. We then headed down the mountain down to more mountains. Of all the times I wished I could fly, now was one of them. “Think of it this way, if I hadn’t walked I wouldn’t have run into you,” he told me with a small smile.
That was true. And I probably still would’ve been in the snow if it wasn’t for him. Without a fire through the night.
“Thanks for what?”
“For saving me.”
“Oh. No problem.”
We hiked for a while. Well more than a while. It felt like hours that we were in the mountains. Considering how hurt I was, the two of us moved at a slow pace. Every so often we would stop and nibble on our granola bars, eating away what was left of them, trying to preserve our food and water.
It wasn’t before long that we came upon a stream. Kamau knelt down by the water, filling up his water container. I did the same. Even if I was unsure of how clean the water was, it was better than dying of thirst in the middle of nowhere. I decided to finally break the silence and figure out who this Kamau person was.
“So, Kamau. Where are you from?”
“What’re you doing in Europe?”
“It’ll become clear to you once we get there.”
“Where is there?”
“Didn’t I tell you not to ask so many questions?”
“But you just asked a question.”
Kamau smiled a bit, sealing up the case to his water bottle. He shrugged at my statement, looking around. Then he pulled out a compass and a map.
“You mean you’ve been just relying on your gut until now?”
“I remember the way I came here. Unlike you.”
“Hey I was dragged here!”
“It was a joke, Anna.” I blushed, looking away for a moment. The boy gestured for me to come over to him, and I did so, leaning over the map. He pointed in a certain direction, assumably the way we needed to go. “We’re heading towards a small town in Italy. Once we arrive there you’ll need serious medical treatment.”
“You’ve been shot.”
I shut up after that and allowed Kamau to do the talking. “Once you’re fixed up we’ll contact the others.” He didn’t even appear bothered by the fact that he’d practically just forced me to ask another question. I didn’t ask who the others were though, not wanting to aggravate him anymore than I probably already had. I didn’t see why he was keeping silent about these mysterious other people though. I’d figure out who he meant eventually.
Kamau sealed the map away and placed it in his backpack, heading off in the direction he’d pointed towards.
“How much farther?”
“This is the last mountain, believe it or not.”
“Phew!” I exclaimed, looking at Kamau with a relieved expression. He only laughed as we continued on walking.
It wasn’t long before we reached the outskirts of a small town in somewhere. “Where are we?” I asked, looking up towards him with an eager look. All I wanted now was to get out of here and find Elizabeth.
“Germany? How did we end up here?”
He only shrugged as a response.
Not many people were around, by now it was the dead of night. “Where are we going?” I asked him, following his lead through the small town. He seemed to know where he was going. Even though it was probably best not to question him, I was curious.
Bloody footprints were left behind as I walked, that was when I realized my shoes were falling apart. It was a miracle they were still on and in tact. We arrived at a large, modern house that overlooked a cornfield . Without knocking, Kamau walked in. “Ich bin Haus!” he shouted. I didn’t know what it meant, but I figured that someone else in the house would.
A girl about my age approached. She had fiery red braided hair, and had to be about 5”9. “What is she doing here?” the girl asked, her tone icy. She wore a pair of blue jeans along with a red plaid shirt and black cowgirl boots. The way she spoke it was if she knew me, as if we had something bad in our past. “Where’d you find her?” Kamau growled a bit at her. He kinda looked like a wolf in a way.
“Ooh a girl!” one boy said in an excited tone. Immediately, a boy with blondish hair exited one of the rooms. His skin was like snow, not like Snow White pale, but the kind of pale you get from not having a tan. He wore cut offs and a green Hollister tee shirt. When he saw me, he looked at me then at Kamau, who he practically had a stare down with. They were staring at each other as if having a contest, yet there was a grin on the blond boy’s face. “Why so serious?” the boy asked, imitating the Joker.
Rolling his eyes, Kamau turned to me. “Just ignore him. He doesn’t know anything. Is either of you going to go get Peter?”
“Why don’t you get him? You found her after all?” the girl asked.
“May I remind you of the time I carried you across the desert?” he asked her. She shut up, giving a ‘hmph’ before heading on outside. I don’t know what it was, but I just got the feeling that the three had been through a lot together. It was what he’d said most of all, him carrying her across a desert. No random people would do that for each other. But Kamau did it for me, so maybe I just wasn’t as special as I thought I was. He turned to me apologetically. “You can ignore her to.” He flashed a smile, his white teeth standing out.
The blond boy turned to me, the air suddenly turning serious. “Oh yeah, you might want to sit down or something. What happened?”
“I was uh-shot or something like that. I don’t remember everything.” I found myself blushing. It was sort of a miracle that I’d even survived so far. It was a miracle that I’d made it before Kamau got to me. He was a literal life-saver. “I’m Anna by the way.” At least I think I am. I added mentally.
He suddenly realized he hadn’t introduced himself and immediately did so. “I’m Zack Ull. Do you wanna go sit down or something?”
Nodding, I followed Zack into a living room area. A TV was on, showing the winter Olympics. Glancing briefly at the screen, I sat down carefully, not wanting to get too much blood anywhere. Zack spoke to Kamau for a few moments in hushed tones before coming back to me.
“So, your fist time being trapped in the woods?” Zack asked me with a smirk, sitting down and looking at me with his icy blue eyes.
I couldn’t help but smile. “What, is that so uncommon around here? It happens all the time down in Cape Cod!” I told him with a smirk in return.
Zack was about to speak when a man came running in. He had shaggy, dirty blond hair and brown eyes. The girl was with him. “Anna!” he gasped, looking at me. Had I even told the girl my name? Once his eyes locked with mine, he stopped, staring. “What is she still doing here? Get her into the car!” he shouted at Zack, who obviously wasn’t eager to move. “Now!”
“All right, all right. Relax, she’ll be fine...” Zack muttered before hopping up out of his seat. He helped me to the car, placing me in the back seat. I was on the right with Kamau and Zack. The red-headed girl was in the passenger seat. “Peter, where are we going?” Zack asked.
Peter. That was who she’d gone to get. He looked at Zack, then to me, then back to Zack. “The hospital of course. Where else would we be taking her. There’s not one near here, so it’ll be a long ride. Don’t worry though, we’ll make sure we get you there.” He sped up the car, going at least over a hundred. Right, kilometers. I’d have to figure out how many miles that was.
On the way there, I couldn’t help but notice that we passed a hospital. “Hey, isn’t that a hospital? I thought you said there wasn’t one near here!” I insisted, turning to Peter.
“Yeah, but that one’s not very good. Trust me, they uh...messed up on an operation they had to do with one of my friends. It’s pretty dumpy anyway.” Deciding to take Peter’s word for it, I ignored the hospital we just passed and waited.
We rode on a bumpy, dirt road through a forest. Are we even going to a hospital? I wondered to myself as we approached what appeared to be a cliffside. What the- My thoughts were cut off as Peter spoke. “Here we are.” He stopped the car then got out.
“I really don’t think this is a hospital, are you sure you know where we are?” I asked him, not wanting to be rude. Trying to look like I was appreciative, I went ahead and got out of the car. “This looks sort of like a cliff.” Oh yeah, ‘cause it is!
“Follow me.” I found stairs at the edge of the cliff leading out into a pier area. Even from fifty feet above the water, I could tell that it was icy. The waves came up against the rocky cliffs, crashing against them with such a force that made me take a step back. “Come on!” he insisted. There was a boat at the end of the dock.
Tediously, I stopped once we reached the pier. “Aren’t we supposed to be going to a hospital?” I asked him. Immediately, Peter grabbed my good arm and practically dragged me to the boat. And that was the last thing I remembered before feeling something in the back of my head.