Brida skidded to a grinding stop, falling to her knees, not caring that she was scraping them. Panting, she doubled over, with arms pressed tightly against her abdomen. She was gasping, gasping, gasping for breath, as though the oxygen that now flooded her lungs could never be enough to satisfy her body's craving for clean air.
Still stunned, Brida swallowed hard, in an attempt to keep from hyperventilating. But just as soon she finished swallowing, her mouth opened wide again, and she restarted her vigorous cycle of inhaling and exhaling. Her world was spinning, and her form practically radiated nerves.
Beneath Brida, the earth trembled, ever so indistinctly.
Slowly, it became aware to Brida that Shale was not, in fact, in their meetingplace. Brida wracked her brain for any remembrance of seeing Shale among the running, screaming escapees, but all such images fled her mind. Had she passed her friend? She couldn't be sure. But she hoped that she would have had the presence of mind - and of heart - to have noticed Shale, had their paths crossed in the mad scramble out.
As Brida's doubts began to formulate, she registered her surroundings. Wind. Trees. Fresh grass...unlimited grass! Nature was teeming with exciting adventures - oh, as soon as Shale arrived, the two of them could finally explore the real outdoors!
But as of yet, Shale had still not arrived.
If only there were some way of telling the time! Brida glanced up at the sky, trying to determine the time of day by reading the placement of the sun, but no such luck befell her. When it came to real life and real nature, she was helpless. How could she have known how to gauge the position of the sun, if she had been cooped up in a cell for ages?
Crawling the short distance on hands and knees, Brida approached the tree nearest her and leaned back against it, her breathing having slowed to a nearly normal rate. She was aware of the way strands of red hung in front of her eyes, but she couldn't find the energy to shove them away. Instead, she closed her eyes and began to count. If Shale did not show up in a matter of minutes, Brida would go out and see if she could learn of her friend's whereabouts.