How long had she been running?
Sara didn't know. It could have been minutes, hours, a day. Time didn't seem to pass.
Everything looked the same. Trees in every direction, unending, layer upon layer. But she kept running, numbly pushing away branches and jumping over fallen trees. All she cared about at the moment was getting as far away from Town as possible. Her survival depeneded on it.
Since she had pushed away the terrible memory of that day thirteen years ago, Sara hadn't thought of anything else. She had let her mind go blank and let her body and instincts take over. Thinking was painful, remembering was painful. The numb, mindlessness of running through the Woods wasn't even close to comforting, but it stopped her from thinking.
Branches scratched at her face, thorns at her legs. But Sara didn't notice. Brambles got caught in her slightly curly, dirty blonde hair and a stick caught the edge of her jacket and ripped the pocket. But she didn't notice. She had to get away. Plus, who knew what creatures were lying in wait, silently biding their time until she ran out of energy.
Eventually, Sara had to stop. Her body was so fatigued that she couldn't continue to struggle through the brambles. Sara knelt down and breathed in slowly, trying not to think. She tried not to remember that she was in the Woods, what had happened back at Town, the terrible horrors that might come out of their hiding after seeing that Sara was now helpless. Sara wanted to just pass out. Sleep would be a welcome distraction. Then she wouldn't have to think.
But Sara knew that she couldn't. She had to accept the situation that she was in and make the best of it. Still not wanting to confront the memories that would come flooding back if she remained stationary, she quickly set herself to work, gathering sticks to make a fire.
A fire would be good. It kept the rats away back in Town, so hopefully it did the same for whatever lived in the Woods.
Searching for the driest wood she could find, Sara kept looking over her shoulder and hoping that she wouldn't see anything. Her hands trembled as she picked up another small stick and added it to the pile that she had in her other hand. Whether it was from the cold or her fear, Sara couldn't tell. It was probably both.
Sara thought she saw something out of the corner of her eye, a shadow moving through the trees. She dropped the wood she had so carefully gathered and whirled around, her eyes scouring the trees for the shadow she had seen. But nothing was there.
Cursing, Sara bent down to pick up the branches and twigs she had dropped. Grabbing them, she then cleared an area on which she would build her fire. She set down the twigs and slung the clothe bag that she had been carrying off her shoulder and onto the ground.
Where is it? Sara thought as her hands scrambled in the bag, moving the items around, trying to find what she was looking for. She kept looking up, afraid that she would see the shadow again.
Finally, her hand grasped the object that she was looking for. With a short feeling of triumph, Sara pulled the flintbox out from the bag. She glanced at it. Elder Namara had given it to Sara, and everything else in the bag, right before the Elder had...had...
Sara shook her head, removing the thought from her hand. Her hands fumbled with the flintbox. She struck the starter, the sparks flying off and onto the small twigs that she had gathered.
But the sparks just harmlessly bounced off the twigs, unable to ignite them. Sara cursed again and realized she needed something else for the tiny sparks to live on. She dove back into the bag, scrambling to find something, anything that was flammable.
Her search resulting in nothing but lost time, Sara turned to her surroundings. Sara saw something that might have the answer to her problem. A large, white birch tree leemed 40 yards away, its light colored bark sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all the black trees. Sara went back to the bag, grabbed the ax, removed its leather cover on the the top to prevent it from cutting through the bag, and ran to the tree.
Scrambling, she began to shave the light, flaky bark from the tree. It was the exact same stuff they had used to start fires back in Town. She collected the shavings in her jacket and ran back towards her "camp".
Suddenly, something crashed into her left side, flinging her like a rag doll through the air. She blindly swung her ax and felt it connect to something solid. However, she didn't get to see what she had wounded her attacker or not because her head landed on a rock.
Blackness flooded her vision, and Sara knew no more.