The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I, page 7
It felt to Maya as if she had jumped into the sunset. For the briefest of moments, the world froze and she felt like she was floating. The Burned Plains and glowing red horizon spread out all around her. Then she felt gravity tug at her bones. Holding each other’s hands tightly, they plummeted towards the earth, straightening their legs and tucking their arms into their sides just before piercing into the Memphis River like twin daggers.
The drop was far enough that the icy water knocked the wind out of her. She kicked to the surface and as soon as she took her first gasp of air, began paddling for the other side. She had lost Michael’s grip when they struck the water, but then saw his head pop up next to her as she swam. Red streaks zapped the water around them as soldiers fired from the rooftops.
Maya swam so fast that her arms and lungs screamed, but the hot summer days had narrowed the river and in a moment she found herself clambering through the thick mud on the far shore. With her blood pounding in her head, she shouted at Michael, “Get to the trees!”
He ran after her into a copse of oaks. More red bolts shot past them, burning smoking holes in the tree trunks as they took cover. Then the shooting abruptly ceased.
The two of them peered around their wooden sanctuary towards the walls of Alexandria. Vicious explosions were still rattling the city from the battle in the plaza.
“They’re probably getting the dogs,” said Maya, twisting the water out of her long hair.
“We have to keep running,” said Michael.
She grabbed him by the hand again and they took off.
They did not follow any trail. They ran west across the vast rolling plains, through the grass, doing their best not to stumble over hidden rocks or cottonwell burrows. The night sky was clear, but there was no moon. Only starlight illuminated their path. After what felt like hours, they came to a large ditch in which a small stream flowed. Maya supposed that during the rainy season it probably flooded into a wide creek, but during the summer it was dry enough to serve as a good hiding place. She jumped in and her feet sank deep into the soft earth. She heard a series of small splashes as several green carbuncle frogs fled into the creek.
“Do you think we’re safe here?” she asked Michael as he crawled down after her.
“I don’t know,” he huffed. “I’m not sure we’re safe anywhere.”
“But for now?” she asked, hoping just to rest for a moment. “I don’t know if I can run any further.”
Michael slumped down into the stream bed with his back against the trench wall. “I need to rest, too,” he said.
She was thirsty and her legs ached— not just from running, but from being on her feet for the last week taking care of injured people. She sat down next to Michael, too tired to care about the mud staining her jeans. After a while, their breathing relaxed and she felt her sweat cool in the night air. They sat for a while without speaking. Finally, she asked, “Was that really your dad?”
“It was my whole village,” he said, looking down glumly. “It was everyone I ever knew.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly.
“I’m sorry, too,” replied Michael. “We just left behind your home and family, as well.” They were silent again for a moment, then Michael asked, “Who are those men? Where did they come from?”
“I have no idea,” Maya shrugged. “A week ago they just marched right through the front gate and began firing, shooting everyone in their path.”
“Killing them?” Michael asked, wrinkling his forehead with concern.
“No, only stunning them,” she sighed. “A few of the faculty and master Movers put up a fight while others tried to escape, but there were hundreds of soldiers. I was in my bedroom when the attack started. My mom and two of my sisters were downstairs. I heard shouting in the streets and looked out my window just in time to see four soldiers kick down my door. There was a commotion downstairs. I heard several loud bangs, plates and windows crashing. My mom was shooting at them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of her screaming at them to get out of the house. She cried for my sisters and I to run away, but what was even worse was when she went silent...” Maya paused for a moment remembering that awful moment. “…and then I heard their boots stomp upstairs. They kicked down every door until they came to my room. I wanted to run like my mother told me, but there was nowhere to go. I hid in the closet, but they found me anyway. I didn’t put up a fight. I just trusted that if I was patient there would be a chance to escape later.” She paused again. “No one was ready for this— there’s no army in Alexandria and barely any police. The whole city was subdued within an hour.”
They paused contemplatively again for a while. Then Michael said unexpectedly, “I think I know you.”
“What do you mean?” she raised an eyebrow.
“Well, we haven’t met before,” Michael began awkwardly, “but I think I’ve heard about you. Do you know Jake?”
“Jake?” she asked, surprised.
“A stocky guy with brown hair?” Michael described. “Kind of has a foul mouth?”
Maya laughed with half a snort, “Yeah, he was my study partner until he tried to, um―” she broke off, embarrassed.
“Kiss you?” Michael finished for her.
“Yeah,” she said, giving Michael a puzzled look.
“I’m guessing he wasn’t particularly smooth about it.”
She nodded and smiled. “He was about as smooth as a hedgehog tree. How do you know him?”
“I grew up with him. He was never too suave about anything. He can be a nice guy though, when he’s not showing off.”
Michael gazed at his feet. She could tell he was thinking of his friends standing in rows with their families back in Alexandria. “They’ll be okay,” she said comfortingly, “even Jake.”
“I just hope he doesn’t tell one of the guards to stick anything up his round brown,” said Michael.
Maya laughed, this time snorting for real. She must have heard Jake say that a thousand times― every time he screwed up an answer. Michael laughed with her, but they had to stifle themselves lest anyone hear.
Maya laid her head back against the muddy wall and looked up at the stars. They were numerous there on the plains, far from the lights of city streets and college dorms. She could feel her eyelids getting heavy.
“They have dogs,” Michael warned, but she was too tired to worry. “They’re good at tracking,” he went on, ignoring the fact that she was falling asleep, “but they’ll need something of ours to follow the scent. If they can’t find something easily, then we may have a solid head start.”
Maya bolted upright. “Oh, brown!” she exclaimed.
“What?” Michael jumped.
“They won’t need to look very hard,” she said. “We left your bloody shirt in the dorm room!”
“Brown!” echoed Michael, pulling himself to his aching feet. “We need to keep moving, but I think I know a place that may be safe.”
The sun had not yet risen when they reached the shadowy edge of Palmyra Woods
“We’re going to take sanctuary in there?” Maya asked hesitantly. She gawked at the expanse of trees whose tangle of thorns and vines appeared darker than the night sky above. “I’ve heard it’s full of dangerous animals. Even hunters don’t venture in there!”
“It’s not so bad,” said Michael, sounding far too optimistic. “My uncle Sefu has lived in there for twenty years.” Michael reconsidered for a moment, “Well, he’s not really my uncle. He’s more like my godfather, but he is a great Mover. If we can find him, we’ll be safe.”
Maya didn’t really care about who he was so much as where he was. “Do you mean you don’t know where his house is?”
“Not exactly,” said Michael as he prodded around the edge of the forest looking for a way into the grim snarl of foliage.
Maya was upset. “You brought me to this horrible forest and you don’t even know where we’re going?!”
“Where are you going?” she complained as she chased after him. She did not want to be left alone anywhere near this place. A few people had gone in a long time ago and never came out. No one ever found them. Who knew what strange Folds or monstrous creatures dwelt within?
Michael came to a stop before a gnarl of thick, thorn-rimmed vines and began carefully sifting through them. He gingerly pulled leaves and brambles aside so as not to get stabbed by the tusk-like spines.
“If you want me to follow you into this forest, please don’t run off like that!” Maya implored as she caught up with him.
But Michael was not paying attention. He was engrossed with his search through the vines.
“What are you looking for?” she asked, her annoyance shifting to curiosity.
“These!” proclaimed Michael, twisting an immense, bulbous fruit loose from its thorny stem.
Maya’s eyes went wide. “Giant raspberries!” she gasped.
It was bigger than a grapefruit and its numerous drupelets glinted in the starlight. He passed it to Maya.
“My dad used to take me here when I was a kid on the way to visit my uncle. He said there’s a hidden Fold nearby and that’s why they grow so big.”
“Are they safe to eat?” she asked, cautiously inspecting the giant fruit.
“Definitely!” said Michael, pulling another berry loose.
Maya bit into one of the tangerine-sized drupelets, but had to jump back as the juice burst forth from the taught skin.
“It’s better if you make a small bite and suck it out,” said Michael, demonstrating on his with a satisfied slurp of syrupy pulp.