Beck's body rigid, unmoving. Her eyes scanned the tree lines all around them. She couldn't tell which shadows were those things; but somehow she trusted that this guy could.
So, she waited.
"Now!" Beck suddenly yelled out as he fired a shot into the woods straight ahead of him.
Without hesitation, Tess jumped to her feet, and ran.
The gun shots faded behind her as Tess ran along the river bed. She feared going into the woods, terrified of running into those things. The narrow river snaked. She zig-zagged with it. The only things she heard now were her wheezing and the pounding of her heart. Still, she kept running. If Beck couldn't kill them, the creatures would no doubt hunt her down.
But where was she going? Where was he taking her?
It was then when she noticed that everything disappeared ahead.
Where did the trees and river go?
Her question answered as she peered over the ledge and down some thirty feet. The river fell in a roar to the large rapids below. Rocks and boulders spread all along the sides.
Tess glanced to one side, and then to the other side. She could try and run in either direction; but it might lead her directly to the beasts. Her eyes returned to the drop-off below. If she jumped, would she survive? Even if she did, the temperature of the water had to be well below freezing ... she might die of hyporthermia well before those things caught up to her.
She had to make a decision. But she couldn't.
Her hearing picked up something. What was it?
The sounds of multiple branches snapping. Oh no, something was coming.
"Beck?" It came out like a whimper that only she heard.
Her blue eyes darkened as they peered into the shadows of the forest behind her. A figure was coming straight for her. She strained to see who or what it was, but the dark woods cast long shadows which enveloped the squiggling form making it impossible for her to recognize.
She needed to do something. Anything.
But she couldn't.
Tess struggled to move her feet, but they were rooted in the mud and pine needles. She glanced back into the trees. The silhouette bounded directly towards her.
"Jump!" it yelled.
It was Beck!
But he wasn't alone. Close behind him were multiple moving shadows.
"Jump, you idiot!" he yelled out again.
Tess spun back around and stared down at the frigid waters below. She had to jump. The voices in her head screamed at the limbs to carry her off the ledge, but they refused to obey.
You coward! You're going to die! Now move!
Whether she moved on her own, or by Beck's body slamming into hers, they both flew off the jagged edge, and into the misty air.
For a brief moment, time froze.
Tess looked up into the sky. High white clouds joined by wispy gray ones that hung below them. She heard only the breeze whistling in her ears.
Then a whisper.
Close your eyes.
Tess did. She could feel her body relaxing as her arms and legs flailed on each side.
Whatever happened next, she was ready.
She felt the impact as the coldness washed over her body.
She floated. No, it felt like she was flying, like an eagle, only she couldn't see anything.
For the first time, she wasn't afraid. Is this what death is like? Was this what her parents experienced the second those bullets entered their skulls?
If so, she welcomed death.
Something changed. Tess felt her back pressed against something firm.
No, something pushed down on her chest. She felt the breath move out of her mouth in huffs.
A muffled voice sounded in the distance. It slowly grew clearer.
"Breathe, damn you!"
A hand slid behind her head, and lifted it up. She felt her mouth opened. Then, a kiss?
No, someone breathed in her mouth as the warmness filtered through her lungs.
"Come on, Tess!" Beck panted. "Don't you die on me!"
Hands shoved into her diaphragm sharply.
Suddenly, she felt something gurgling deep within. Her body shuddered.
Oh, God! I can't breathe!
Tess tried to take a deep breath, but burst into a coughing fit. She felt herself being rolled to one side.
"Good girl." Beck held her firmly in place. "Breathe."
With each breath, she felt pain radiating through her chest as water spewed from her mouth.
Moments later, she breathed normally.
"Can you sit up?"
Tess opened her eyes for the first time.
She was lying on the wet ground. The waterfalls loomed behind Beck.
She nodded once and allowed him to help her to a sitting position. Everything looked lopsided as her head spun.
She felt his warm hand softly brush the side of her head.
"You're bleeding," he muttered.
"My head hurts," she said.
A mournful howl sounded in the distance. Instinctively, they both looked up. A hunched figure stood on all fours on top of the ledge where they once were.
Beck turned his attention back to Tess. "We need to move."
She nodded as he carefully pulled her up to her feet.
"How much further?" she whispered.
"Hopefully, not much longer now," Beck answered as he took one of her hands and led her back into the woods.
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