You yank the wheel hard to the left. For a surreal split second the sunlit jagged snow-capped peaks fill your view, then the wheels hit the pavement and thelong wheelbase of the old tan jeep spins in a 180 -- the long wheelbase nearly causing it to go off the shoulder in the opposite direction.
The engine roars as you straighten out. You are flattened to the seat back, a glance in the shaky mirror shows Karen slouched low down in the seat, clutching the seat belt to her chest, jean-cut off shorts and bare legs spread apart for balance. Her eyes are wide, and lips pursed in a terrified pout.
You try to catch your breath, then you realize its been an eternity since you have breathed. There's too much to live for, you think, and you're suddenly filled with an intensity you never knew living back in the American suburbs.
That life seems a long time ago -- years of boredom stretch before your decision to leave the country and go traveling for the summer in Asia. Some high school buddies had convinced you to go to Beijing with them for a 2 week summer trip. You had quit your job weeks prior, and there was really nothing for you to hurry back to you, so you just stayed on, looking for more interesting places to travel, and ended up in western China. Something tells you that was about 6 weeks ago, but right now, that seems like another lifetime.
You yell with adrenalin, and the truck pulls ahead, leaving the mysterious gunman behind. A few moments more and you will have cleared the a corner.
POP POP POP.... The truck's weight shifts strangely and suddenly. Am I dead? "They're shooting the tires" Karen yells out. She's bright, seems more composed than you.
You still manage to lurch towards the corner, but as you do you feel a large bump as you run over something. You glance in the rearview mirror. A shredded black strip flaps on the road. Lost the entire back left tire.
You ease up on the pedal a little bit. A high embankment is now between and the gunman that was shooting at you. You start laughing and look at Karen. Your laughing seems far away-- Your blood pressure is so strong you feel your heartbeat pounding loudly in your ears. She takes a look back over her shoulder then slides forward into the seat next to you.
"I think we got away," you exhale nervously. The sound of the bare wheel rim scraping the aged pavement doesn't reinforce your confidence.
"Keep your eyes on the road and drive as fast as you can without tipping the back wheel. I'm sure that guy has a vehicle," She says.
You nod. The vehicle lists whenever you jerk the wheel. You drive a little more, and the car straightens out and the scraping stops. A loud hiss is coming from the front of the truck. Did he hit another tire?
"Why was he shooting at us? Pull apart the glove compartment! Look at the that vase again. Pull apart the seat. Anything! Quick!" you yell.
Karen looks at you and nods, and rams her fist in the glove compartment. The door drops open and she pulls out papers, and wrapped among them is a small-caliber handgun. She holds it out. Might need that, you think. Just as that thought crosses your mind, you hear the high-pitched whine of an engine behind you. A motorcycle comes into view behind you. Both of you scream and you floor the gas.
It's gaining rapidly, "It's him," Karen yells.
You pull around the curve hard, and but as you do, you feel all power go out of the steering. The jeep spins our of control as you speed towards a sandy berm. You smash into it, your chest and face hitting the steering wheel hard, but you roll to a bouncing stop, the front of the jeep nosed into the sandy embankment 20 yards off the roadside.
You spit out a mouthful of blood. Aside from a bleeding limp, you seem to be fine. Karen is slipping out of her seat belt, still holding the gun. You notice that there is an angled cliff just over the berm side and glance towards it, and then towards each other with a knowing look. It seems just steep enough to roll down quickly, with enough tree cover that you could hide.
The motorcycle driver has now stopped a ways back on the road and is walking slowly and nonchalantly to your car, rifle by his side.
You realize you have a couple choices.