Image submitted by Leslie Campos, 10th grade
The sun sunk down in the sky and the stars in the night sky came out. I lost the hunter. As I run deeper into the woods, I find a space where the trees cover me like a fort. A small circle inside of them.
I sit on a rock at the base of one of the trees and use to pine tree sticks to light the fire. It’s a low glow, enough for heat and just the least amount of light to not attract attention. I watch it flicker and think about the events of today.
I think about the guards I took down. Knight was the name of the corporation that I was trying to take down. They have killed thousands and lied to the people that worked for them.
It took a long time to find them. I tried to get records and war plans, but it went sideways. I had to go in blind, no one to have my back or know if I’d survived.
I shake my head. I have always done missions when I was alone, but I was never truly alone. Now I’m alone and with a bounty on my head.
I think about the hunter. He had a strong jawline and cheekbones. He had to have been about 5`8, smaller than most of the people I was around. I am only 5`6. I laugh to myself. I am in the middle of being killed and losing everything and I’m thinking about a hunter in the forest.
I sigh and look down at my thigh. It will not be able to heal well. I can’t take the bullet out either because I could risk passing out. I untie the rag and the blood drips slowly. I grab some water from my backpack next to me and take the rag and wet it a little bit. I wrap my leg again and let a groan out.
Pure exhaustion hits me like a brick wall. I stretch my legs out and put my arms behind my head as I lay down on the ground. I look up at the sky and see the maze of stars. I watch them and my eyes start to close on me slowly. I breathe in slowly and close my eyes letting myself fall asleep.
I wake up and look around. The sun hasn’t risen, but it’s close to rising. My fire drowned out in the night. I sit up and stretch and my back pops.
I slowly rise and touch my toes. I stand straight and look at my thigh. The bleeding stopped, but I need to bandage it properly.
I sigh and look toward my backpack, picking it up and sliding it onto my shoulders. My body aches with every move I make. The darkness lightens around me as I start to walk. There is no need to run now. I am deep enough into the woods to stay hidden.
I look around the trees. I start north walking away from the way I came. The trees are glowing green in the low light. I didn’t have time to appreciate it when I first came in here. They catch the glints of light and shine dimly on the floor. It’s still dark, but orange clouds lift on the sky dragging back the darkness like a blanket.
I feel the small thorns that have scraped my open skin from running. All the pain rushes over me as I stumble on a root. The forest is quiet, except for the small rushes of river and birds.
Small duck blinds pop up on the forest floor. The rush of the creek is dull and small. I walk forward and shift my backpack on my shoulders. Tall trees litter the pathways with smaller trees growing there shadows to replace them years later and knock them down. The world is huge, but in some places the beauty of it being small is all you truly need.
My teacher once said that no matter how small you might be, there is always danger and behind that is beauty. Small people are always underestimated just because of our size.
I shift out of my thoughts when a bullet wizzes into the tree next to me. It takes me a second before I start to run.
It had to have been Knight. It’s the only logical answer.
I hear howls behind me, the sound of search dogs. I have to find a river.
I hop over a lifted root and look around the ground. I stay low to the ground. I shift my head around, looking to the right and left as I drag forward. I find some skunk weed. It’s probably better than the river. I rub the skunk weed over my shirt and my pants. I crawl along the floor.
The dogs howl louder and I curse to myself. I slide in front of a tree and place my back against it. I try and catch my breath. I close my eyes and aim my face toward the sky. I have to calm my heart rate.
I open my eyes and see the leaves scatter and dot out the sky, drawing my gun and put my head straight. I peer around the tree and see a flash of uniform.
I aim my gun at the next flash I see. I hear a cry and see a woman guard go down. I turn back and use the tree as a guard. The bullets ripple through the forest. Pops like firecrackers ring through the peaceful silence. I scream in frustration at the situation. I get into a crouching position and wait until I hear the eerie silence again.
I pop up and start to sprint. The bullets start again as I pass in front of another tree. I touch the back of my head to the tree. The rough bark of the tree fed through my hair. I breathe in and peer around the tree.
My eye and my hair peek out from the tree. The forest hides me. I see a male guard step out from a tree. I swing my gun around and shoot him in the knee. His screams fill my ears as another guard comes forward.
I can’t even think before I shoot the next guard in the stomach. She collapse to the ground and cries out. I dart back behind the tree. I want to scream so badly. I want to beat the tree to pulp. I breathe out and in. I try to steady myself. I never asked to be killer, but it`s all I have ever learned.
I can’t keep giving into my impulses. I scream in frustration at myself. I peek out from the tree and see five more guards approaching. I fire my gun and turn with my back to the forest. I run backward as I fire rounds near the trees. They dart to the ground, avoiding my bullets.
Jogging backwards causes me to stumble into the stumps on the ground. I stop firing and keep my gun level. I turn and sprint.
I look around for the duck blinds that I spotted earlier. I trip over a stump and slam into the ground. I scrape my chin and my pants tear near the knee.
I let out a cry of pain when my thigh hits the ground. I curse and push myself up. My legs wobble and I feel tears building at the edges of my eyes. I press the heel of my hand into my eyes and collect the tear before it meets my cheeks. I breathe out shakily and force my legs to move. I run along the tree line and search crazily for a spot to hide.
I see a small duck blind and run toward it. It’s a small shack covered in leaves and small fallen trees. I slow my walk so the twigs won’t snap under my feet.
I wipe my chin blood spreading over my hand and rub it off on my pants. I reach the hole in the duck blind and slip in. It’s dense and covered besides a large window facing an open field.
I sit down on the floor. Shells litter the floors mixing in with the leaves scattering inside. I move toward the window and feel the shells on the floor. The shells are cold to the touch. No one was here. I holster my gun and sit down on the ground ungracefully.
I lean against the rafters. I look up at the top of the blinds. The sunlight turning the yellow leaves gold against the pale blue sky. It was a sight like no other beauty before.
I think back to the guards as the sunlight sinks through the leaves touching my thighs. I replay the scene back of how quickly I was to shoot. My finger was already pulling the trigger and hitting the guard before I realized I was still being a killer. I feel the tears build again as I chastise myself. I try and suck back my tears. I feel a warm tear drift down my face. I swipe it away leaving streaks of it behind.
I scold at myself for crying. If I let anything out, then everything will come out. All of my anger and sadness would flood out. I start to regain myself. I stare at the rafters of the duck blind. They bend out and in creating dips in the walls. I shift my head back against them and close my eyes, feeling the low lure of silence.
The air smells like a mix of steel and a rustic. I hear a snap of twigs and suck in my breath. I scoot toward the opening and shift, laying my hand on my gun. I curl my hands around the butt of the gun my knees are pressed against my chest and I feel my chest shift with each breath.
I hear twigs snap and crackle under feet. Someone might not have been here, but they’re coming here now. I look through the large opening in rafters and see large brown boots. It’s not a Knight solider. Knight soldiers have black boots. I shift closer to the hole and try and see the face. I wait for a second as the person moves closer.
I take out my gun. If it’s not a knight solider, it has to be a civilian who is about to give away my position, which means Knight soldiers will kill them and me. I sit at the edges as the person walks closer. I won`t kill them, but if a knight solider does come, I will shoot to kill. I can’t let an innocent person die because of me. The duck blind was enough for two people. I see the boot come into view and then the face as they crouch and begin to enter the hole.
I almost laugh. Of course, it had to be him.