Only Ash~ Chapter Four, pt. 1 of 3
Posted January 8th, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: I should post Kuebiko, but instead i'm doing this so...meh.
Part One of Three
We keep a steady pace, directed east. We’ve reached the more thickly wooded area, and the terrain is noticeably slanting up. I can only imagine that the slant will get steeper and steeper as we go along. After all, we’re headed straight at the Urals. Delilah is frowning, and Bakari keeps casting uneasy glances at the sky. I catch myself staring up at the roiling black cloud that’s rapidly eating up the periwinkle of the northern horizon. Every now and again a bolt of bright gold lightening snaps free of the growling stormhead. Maverick sent Sky to check out what was going on below it nearly five minutes ago. If he reports back that the storm won’t be navigatable then we will use the time before it hits to locate a safe place to hunker down in. That shouldn’t be too hard, from what I’ve seen, caves are common here. When nobody is paying attention, I reach out a knock on the scratchy bark of a couple of the trees we pass. I’m not superstitious, but the action is mildly reassuring for some reason, as if I’m putting a voice to my silent prayers without actually speaking. With any luck, this storm will be a mild spring shower. However, if the creaks and groans of my warped bones and the heavy scent of ozone hanging in the air have any say in the matter, that black cloud harbours an equally black storm.
The blur that is Sky comes tearing from the north.
“Wegottagonow.” He slams down on his heels, skidding to a stop barely short of body-slamming Bakari. He bounces back on the balls of his feet, words fly a mile per minute from his mouth, while rainwater runs down his pale face and plasters his ginger hair to his forehead. “We have to haul serious arse right now, or we won’t have any arse left to haul latter.”
Maverick springs into action less than a quarter of the way through Sky’s warning.
“Go, run!” He gives Delilah and Piper a push between their shoulder blades to get them moving faster before breaking into a run himself. The rest of us, finally processing what Sky said, follow suit. A warm breeze has kicked up, swirling between the tree trunks and setting the hair on the back of my arms on end.
“How bad is it?” Bakari calls. Sky, now running only slightly faster than me, threw his hands in the air to pantomime an explosion.
I want to convince myself that he’s exaggerating, but the guy is soaked from head to toe, and he’s certainly winded enough to have had a rough time getting out of the storm once he was in it. I grit my teeth, and lean into the run. The woods we entered not long ago whizzes by on either side. My calves born and my lungs ache. Deep down in my bones each step vibrates dully. The sensations bring to the front of my mind memories from the compound. Running on a treadmill until we dropped from exhaustion was one of the many physical tests the white-coats ran on us daily. I never ran the fastest or for the longest, after I shattered my legs I was one of the worst runners in any given pack. My stamina was fine, but the corded muscles of my legs had been weak from unuse after a month of healing, and my bones, by the stars, they would hurt. From the fine bones of my ankles, to my shins, to my pelvis, it had felt like they were splintering under the abuse, the shards burrowing into my flesh and needling their way out from the inside.
My legs hurt now, but not in the same deep, shattering pain that used to come from thumping foot after foot after foot on the treadmill for hours on end. Without pain consuming my mind, I can focus on other things, so I do. I scan the area for a cave to wait out the storm in.
Ten minutes later we haven’t succeeded in finding a cave, and the storm hits. Sky might’ve under-exaggerated a tad. Lightening cracks and thunder shatters the air every other breath. Rain like razors beats down, gusts of wind rip up trees by their roots and fling them like twigs. Guess we know why there isn’t all that much greenery around here. We press on, we don’t have another option. The going is slow, every other second the wind knocks someone down and it’s a struggle to drag them back onto their feet against the gales. Delilah and Bakari are the only ones not getting completely bullied by the storm. Bakari because solid rock emerges from the terrain and encompasses his ankles and calves, anchoring his feet solidly to the ground. I’m not sure why Delilah isn’t having as much trouble as the rest of us, maybe she’s aerokinetic. At any rate, anyone not effected by the wind is still nearly blinded by the pouring rain.
I’m worried by how slow we’re going. Time is of the essence and we’re wasting it trying to beat back an uncontrollable force of nature. Frustration builds as the minutes tick past and we press on at a snail’s pace. Where are all the damned caves!
Ice it, Trick.
Maverick’s voice projects in my mind. It’s crystal clear, and probably the only way he can speak to anyone over the howling wind. Dual-way telepathic communication is one of the many tricks in the grab-bag of skills the white-coats unlocked when they messed with Mave’s brain. Right now, I really wish it wasn’t.
Out of my head!
I snap. My mind, as previously stated, is off limits. To my minor satisfaction, Maverick does not reply. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not still poking around my thoughts. I stop grumbling to myself, partly because Mave might be lurking, ready to chide me again, and he doesn’t need the distraction of ensuring everyone stays positive to go along with the self-imposed responsibility of keeping us all alive.
“Shelter, ho!” Piper bellows. His words are nearly lost to the wind. A bright flash of lightening reveals the shelter; A teensy cave mouth that juts from the ground like a beastly maw. The entrance is pitch black, for all we know a wild animal has made it’s home in there, prepared to tear apart any poor creature that dares seek shelter inside. None of us are too concerned with that at the moment. We straggle to the cave. Once inside, the relief is instantaneous. Most of us fall to our hands and knees. The only exception is Bakari, who takes a moment to shake his feet free of the earth before collapsing against the frigid cave wall. Nobody talks, there’s a lot of coughing and sputtering, a lot of heavy breathing. Water runs from our sodden clothes and forms puddles on the cave floor. Thankfully, the cave mouth opens to the east, it blocks the wind swooping in from the north, only the occasional frigid gust manages to sneak it’s way in. The cave itself isn’t fantastically warm, and since we’re all chilled to the bone from the icy rain, the cold is that much more noticeable. I shiver, and tuck my knees up to try and bundle any body heat I might have left into one place. My glasses slip down my nose, I don’t bother to adjust them.
Piper is the first to move. He is the only one not shivering, which I find strange considering he has the slightest build of our group. He begins running his hands over the cave wall and scuffing the floor, scraping lichen from the rocky surface. He kicks something and it skitters deeper into the cave. He sighs and follows after it. When he bends to retrieve it I see that it’s a stick, or rather, a dried-up long-dead twig. He straightens and pivots to return to the group, his eyes skimming for more of what I assume is going to end up fuel for a fire. Something catches his eye, and he hesitates. A puzzled expression crosses his face. I close my eyes, and silently beg for there not to be some angry wildlife glaring at us from the cave mouth. Piper says nothing, and after a moment I hear his footsteps coming closer. Relieved, I breath a heavy sigh. We’re safe, for now.
Then Piper speaks up.
See more stories by AstraMendaxRe