Melted By The Bear(5)

By: Amira Rain



*

The leafy green trees in the forest were tinged with shades of pale gold and even a little orange in some places, making me think that it must be somewhere around the middle of September. This early autumn foliage, dappled with sunlight, made a beautiful backdrop for the ugly, snarling, shadowy creature slowly lumbering toward me.

I didn’t know what I’d been thinking. Really, I hadn’t been thinking. It had been a slowly rising tide of paranoia and panic that had driven me from the small, single-story village hospital.

When I’d awoken from my extraordinarily long nap late in the afternoon, I was alone in my room, and more than a bit fuzzy-headed, unlike I’d been that morning. I made a trip to the bathroom, and once back out in the room, I heard voices coming from somewhere out in the hallway, voices that sounded like Jane’s and Alice’s. I paused about halfway to my bed, listening. After maybe a minute, I hadn’t been able to catch all of what they’d been saying, but I’d heard enough. I’d heard my name, Aria, and poor girl, and Commander Blackthorn, and so unfortunate.

Within the span of a second, my fuzzy-headed feeling lifted, and several things clicked into place. Despite Jane saying that Commander Blackthorn wasn’t a cruel man, it was now clear to me that he must be at least partially cruel, or very undesirable in some other way. This was why Jane and Alice hadn’t been very warm to me initially; they’d both probably figured that a friendly, upbeat welcome would have been disingenuous. Being that it was now clear to me that Commander Blackthorn was the man I’d been thawed to provide children for, Alice and Jane had both probably felt sorry for me from the moment I’d awoken.

In the peaceful haze of the anti-anxiety medication earlier, I really hadn’t been too concerned with the identity of the man I was to bear children for. Maybe I’d been curious, though in an abstract sort of way. Now, however, I was concerned. I was miles beyond concerned, actually. The anti-anxiety medication had definitely worn off.

No matter why Commander Blackthorn was an undesirable man, just knowing that he apparently was one was enough to make me certain that I never wanted to mate with him in order to give him a child. I knew there was a possibility he might force me to mate with him, though, which maybe Alice and Jane knew was a possibility, too; so I realized that if I wanted to stop this possibility from becoming a reality, I couldn’t be anywhere around when Commander Blackthorn returned from his “surveillance mission” that Jane had mentioned. I had to flee. I had to get far from Blackthorn City, maybe far from Michiana altogether, eventually.

That morning, when she’d given me my clothes, Jane had mentioned something about there being a pair of tennis shoes in the closet I could trade my hospital slippers for when it came time for me to be discharged. Now, the moment her voice began to fade, probably as she and Alice made their way down the hallway, I dashed over to the closet, found the plain white tennis shoes, and quickly put them on. I also found a large plastic bag for patient belongings in the closet, and I grabbed it and stuffed it with a few bottles of water and a half-dozen packets of crackers from one of two tray tables in my room. This small amount of sustenance surely wouldn’t be enough to fuel me for the journey I planned to undertake, but it would have to do. I’d supplement the crackers with nuts and berries, maybe crab-apples. I’d fish if I had to, making a rod and lure out of...I didn’t even know what. I’d figure it out later.

While she’d been telling me more about Natalie and her family before my nap, Jane had mentioned that she had a cousin who lived in a tiny village of a hundred or so people about sixty miles “dead north” from Blackthorn City. Jane had said that this cousin, named Marta, was “a real sweetheart of a woman.” I was going to try to make a break from Blackthorn City and head to Marta’s village, which was named New Sunnyvale. There, I’d beg Marta to take me in and hide me, maybe in a basement or something, in case Commander Blackthorn and his men searched all the little villages and hamlets in the nation for me. I just had to hope Marta was as kind as Jane had described her as being. She’d probably have to be brave, too.

Once I’d stuffed the plastic bag with everything I thought might be useful to me on my journey, including a roll of toilet paper, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a thin throw blanket, I opened one of the wide windows in my room. After poking my head out to make sure there was no one around, I tossed my bag on the lush green grass below and then just climbed right on out of the hospital.

I’d emerged at one end of the small brick building, and after creeping over to conceal myself behind a nearby evergreen, I took a few seconds to orient myself. The front of the building faced a paved road running parallel to it. Along this road, at least the part of the road I could see, just a single beat-up truck chugged along. I was close enough to see that the driver, a woman with a ponytail, hadn’t seen me, mostly hidden behind the pine. She hadn’t even turned her gaze toward the hospital for a second.

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