There was a whistling sound. An arrow flew over our heads and embedded itself in the ground near the entrance to the forest.
I knew that signaled the start of battle1. Without waiting for a majority vote, we took off as fast as we could.
It was the first time I had ever run like my life depended on it. But no matter how hard I pumped my legs, I didn’t seem to be moving forward at all. It was like something out of a nightmare.
Even so, the forest gradually drew closer.
Just a little farther.
As I burst into the woods and started weaving through the trees, I realized how fast I had been running.
“Don’t stick together. Spread out and get away!” Shun’s voiced echoed through the trees.
I made a sharp right turn and dashed through the undergrowth until I couldn’t hear anyone else’s voice or footsteps. I was all alone.
The only sound was my own panting. Having run so around so wildly, I had no idea where I was. In any case, I had to keep going until I reached my destination.
Just a while ago I had been with four of my friends. Now I was suddenly alone. The fear of the queerats coming after me, in addition to my uneasiness at being left alone, made my chest tighten painfully. My only companion was the moon, hidden by the trees.
It was hard to breathe. I gasped and wheezed, trying to draw more air into my lungs. My thighs felt heavy, and I was losing sensation below my knees.
I had reached my limit. I wanted to stop and rest.
But if I stopped, I’d probably die.
Just a little more. Keep going for just a little longer.
Right as I thought that, I tripped over something.
I tried to right myself, but my body froze. I was suspended in the air for a moment, then fell heavily to the ground.
I knew I should get up immediately, but my entire body hurt so much I couldn’t move. I somehow managed to turn onto my back, and saw the yellow light of the moon, brighter than I had ever seen it before.
The cold ground sucked all the heat from my body through my shirt and backpack. I lay there, unable to do anything but breathe, my chest rising and falling like bellows.
Am I going to die here? The thought came to me all of a sudden. I was still young; death didn’t seem real.