Before my mind registers the burning sensation spreading up my thigh, a deafening explosion rings in my ear, halting our escape. Even after the bullet penetrates through my flesh, the sting that violently spreads outwardly, like hot heated radio dials of pain, attempt to force my legs from underneath me. I remain upright, scaling my surroundings, my heart thrashing, and my need to survive is palpable. A shrilling voice mentally screams, urging me to move forward despite the pain. While the churning sensation in the pit of my stomach reminds me that time is of the essence.
With one child cradled in my arms, while holding the hand of the other, we press forward, treading through the tall grass and swamp-like terrain. Shielded by the darkness hovering over the earth, the midnight sky enables us to go unnoticed in the woods and offers me an ounce of hope. However, the odds stacked against us hindering our escape remain high. But I refuse to die here; to waste away in this shit hole waiting for someone to find my corpse.
“Get down,” I whisper to the little boy as the three of us seek refuge behind the trunk of a fallen tree.
Adrenaline stampedes through my veins, and my breathing becomes labored when I realize that the helicopters only a few yards away, and headed in our direction. The bright white light shines through the branches of the wooded area divulging all the night secrets. And if I’m unable to find us an adequate hiding place, we’ll be spotted almost immediately.
Think Danni, think, I scold myself, while frantically searching for a way to cover the three of us despite my visual disability. It’s so dark that I’m straining to see what’s six feet in front of me, and spotting a safe location is nearly impossible.
Tears began to well in my eyes as the bright light above us travels closer. Glancing behind us, I notice there’s a hole in the trunk of the tree, so I wedge the children and myself as far into the bark as quickly as possible and cover the visible parts of my exposed body with leaves. It’s so damn hot in this compact space that beads of sweat drench my face. There’s no room to move as we’re packed in here like sardines, and I’m starting to think this plan of mines isn’t going to work.
The children’s silent whimpers add to my heightened anxiety, and I shush them, praying to God that their fear keeps them quiet even when the fired shots sound, and I know they’re going to fire again. The desperate soldiers need us, or else it’ll be there brain matter splattered on the walls and ground. So, they’re going to hunt us down until they locate our bodies, and I will be damned if I go down without a fight.
Closing my eyes, offering up a silent prayer, I allow myself to become lost in the sudden stillness that hovers around us. My eyes spring open and dance back and forth as the sound of lapping water catches my attention. Damn-it, the soldiers were closer than I initially thought.
Too afraid to breathe, I hold my breath as my entire body becomes solid and unyielding to any possible flexibility. Meanwhile, the rumbling sound of my heart suddenly becomes so loud that I’m afraid that the fucking bastards stalking us might overhear the erratic drumming. Needing to calm myself, I focus on mentally counting, one-one thousandth, two-one thousandth, three-one thousandth. I reach six-one thousandth when the air trapped in my lungs gradually seeps through my slightly ajar lips.
As fear taunts me to run until the bottoms of my bare feet bleed, I find an ounce of peace, enabling me to remain still. In the meantime, waiting for the internal voice that urged me to flee to advise and direct my next course of action. However, not given that option when debris began to whirl into the air. The once undisturbed leaves are thrust airborne and scatter along the ground exposing the red clay and my—
“Fuck! My legs.”
Panicked, adrenaline ejects into my veins, reviving my stiffened limbs. I shove myself further into the tree’s trunk, wrap my arms around my legs, and damn-near bend my body into a pretzel. I’m no longer concerned with the lack of room; instead, I create the space needed to go undetected.
The helicopter’s light grows closer, and the whirling sound of its motor obliterates the thumping of my heart reverberating in my ears, as the chuff-chuff of the blades becomes deafening. The blinding light inches it’s way toward us until it shines directly above, exposing the dangers hidden in the night, and I—I fucking gasp.
Standing amongst the skyscraping trees are at least forty or perhaps even more heavily armed soldiers with their guns pointed and ready to shoot. But their weapons aren’t aimed at us; instead, the barrel of the guns remain pointed at—