Short Stories

Short Story: Deserter

The sun shines through the spring leaves, and for a moment, I float. Gravity loses its meaning, and I’m as weightless as the light. Don’t ask me if that is in accordance with the laws of physics. For now, I chose to ignore any formulas I’m meant to follow. You might wonder how I have gotten to this point where I render the strings pulling me down and let my mind wander free. I can’t exactly tell you. All I know is that I have been running ever since I can remember. What was before is gone, and all I have ever known was to be hunted. If I deserve it or not is beyond me. But I can tell you. I won’t let them kill me.

I leave the leaves behind me and run. I heard them last night—the snap of the branches and the murmur of their voices. I must have done something terrible for them to follow me into the heart of the wilderness. All I want is to remember. Then I could let go. Now all I can do is push deeper and disappear until I can come in on my terms. But I’m strong. That much is clear despite who I was and what is my name is gone. There are old scars and new cuts and bruises all over my body. Not done by me. Impossible. There’s a massive bruise on my lower back, and it aches every time I turn in my sleep. Whatever caused it must have happened less than a week ago. So are the other bruising. If I took a wild guess, I would say they were done to me. I wish I remembered.

I can’t run farther. There’s a steep vertical drop. Part of me says turn around. Another part that takes over begins to climb down. The body remembers while I don’t. Or I think it does. The other possibility is that I’m desperate enough to do such a foolish thing. One slip and I will die a certain agonizing death. They are here, I’m sure of it. I press against the cliff. I wish there to be a cave, but I would use such a rare gift for something bigger when it comes to wishing. I glance up and saw a boot peak over the edge. Either they don’t see me or think I’m suicidal enough to care to take a better look. I hold my breath and wait, dare not to go down. With breathing, you can slow a second into a ten, minute into five, and feel the now. I’m still an eternity, and they are gone.

I hear them turn around and leave me alone. But I’m not saved. When they lose my trail, they bring it forth. I might not survive this time. Last time, jumping to the river had kept me alive. Whether or not it’s coming matters little right now. I have only two choices, up or down. I chose up. My arms are already burning. So is my back, leaving me to climb back to the top. I look over the ledge and don’t see them. I push up and follow the edge.

Soon a silence takes over the unbroken forest. The birds stop chirping. And I know it is there—the unnatural dog. There’s no way to outrun it. But for now, I have an advantage. I know it’s coming, and it doesn’t know yet where I am. There’s no doubt in my mind it doesn’t find me. It does. Seeing and calculating the environment better than a living flesh would. So I run. I keep running without looking back. Any direction would do. But there it is. I can hear it over my heartbeat. The leaps it takes as it runs. I dare to take a glance over my shoulder. The robotic hound is there, chasing me. And I trip to a root, sending me to fly and stumbling against the ground. I wait for it to catch me and tear into my flesh, but it never does. There’s a loud noise, a metal exploding. I lay there when I finally stop rolling down. I’m not sure what happened. I’m not sure if I have the stamina to find out. But a hand reaches to me, offering it to me.

I look up, and a woman is offering her hand to me. Near to her, there’s a crew of men and women looking at me. One of them is putting a gun back on his shoulder. They wear the same uniforms as those who are after me, but something is different. The insignias are gone, and the clothes have seen use.

“Major,” the woman says as I just stare. “I think we can be of some use.”

I cough. It has been days since I spoke to anyone.

“Save it. Let’s get you out of here before they come.”  

Thank you for reading, and have an adventurous day ❤

P.S. No short story next week. I travel to visit my family.

© K.A. Ashcomb

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