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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bon Voyage (09/05/05)

TITLE: The Hunt
By Maxx .
09/11/05


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Kiersten tried to shrink beneath the bushes. She didn’t dare breathe. The footsteps were near and drawing closer. Time was running out.

She willed the darkness to fold in about her, to cover her like a cloak. Her only choice was to hide; hide and pray that they’d pass by. Hope that God would blind them to her location, folded under the branches, trusting the leaves to block the shafts of light from the crescent autumn moon.

A footfall only yards away, the snap of a twig beneath solid boots. She gasped, her ragged breath a visible cloud in the falling temperature. Despite the cold, sweat beaded her skin and began to mingle with the tears on her cheeks. She stared through the gaps of her entrapment, eyes wide with terror.

She held her baby close, keeping the blanket tucked about his face, hoping he would remain sleeping until it was safe.

He kicked and stretched inside of his swaddle.

“Russ, where are you?” She didn’t speak the words, but they echoed through her mind as if she were shouting. Her husband had circled down to get the Jeep, back when the angry voices were still distant, before the sun had set, before the gunshot.

A flashlight beam sliced across her hiding place, searching, lingering. Every instinct screamed for her to break cover and run. She struggled to hold onto reason with a tenuous grasp, a control that was slipping by the moment.

The baby squirmed and yawned.

A man stepped beside her, muddy boots and torn jeans within inches. She could smell his body odor. The flame from a lighter illuminated his face as he lit a cigarette. He had a scar on his cheek that looked like a claw. He blew a cloud of smoke from his haggard mouth and spit into the leaves.

“Go down the hill. She’ll try for the road.” His voice was harsh, the words chilling.

They wanted her.

Figures, shadowed and murky moved away through the scattered trees, their lights flickering like receding fireflies.

She tried to measure time by the pounding of her frantic heart. Had it been seconds or hours? She forced herself to breathe. The men would be coming back, sooner or later they’d be there. She coaxed herself out of her hiding place. She couldn’t stay. It was only a matter of time before the baby cried and they were both discovered.

She crept through the pitch, struggling up the unfamiliar grade.

A light swept across her, followed by shouts from below.

She broke into a labored run, but her pursuers were making up ground. It was hopeless while she held the baby.

A wave of nausea crippled her. A cry of panic shredded her lungs. Images of her captors ripping at her clothing and dragging her into the wilderness played across her mind like news reel footage. The trailer read “Family of Three Found Murdered.” She squeezed her eyes shut forcing tears to stream down her face. “Please, God,” she choked, “please save my baby.”

She stumbled over a rise and blindly clawed her way through the underbrush. Kiersten stopped and spun about, searching for something, anything, to help them.

The crashing of the hunters was near.

A boat was tied to a makeshift pier along the banks of a lake. It was surrounded by an overgrowth of reeds. The moon illuminated the water, too small of a body to offer escape. She ran to the shoreline.

The baby blinked trusting eyes. He cooed in her arms and reached for her.

She forced a smile, “Oh my precious one.” She kissed his cheek. “You’re all that matters.” She reached into her pocket and removed a pacifier, slipping it into his eager mouth. “Father, You give and take away. But please, not him.”

She lay her child in the boat as lights crested the hill above. She pushed the vessel into the reeds and gasped. “Oh God, my baby… my baby!” She tore herself away, making certain to cross the searching beams before climbing once again.

Branches slapped at her from the gloom as she struggled forward. She looked back. Ghostly figures spread out in pursuit below. She gazed past them, through the darkness to the silver water and the laden boat drifting in the reeds. Hope lay there, no matter what terrors she would encounter during the night. “Be safe on your voyage,” she whispered. “I’ll come back for you.” She turned and fled into the mountains.


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This article has been read 1240 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita Neuman09/12/05
You had me holding my breath the whole time I was reading! And how dare you leave us hanging like that?!?! I hope you're working on more and you'll let us know when the 70 000-word version is in print.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/12/05
Ooooh. Like a modern day Moses story. I loved it. Gripping and very well written. I have a feeling I know who the author is. Hmmmm. Have to wait til hinting time to know for sure. Regardless, a great read.
Well done.
Val Clark09/12/05
An emotional, on the edge of my seat, read. Lots left to my fertile imagination. Evil pursuers. A mother's sacrificial love for her baby. The affirming provision, by God, of a safe place for the baby. It all works. Thanks, Yeggy
Debra Brand09/14/05
Excellent. My heart raced and fear crept in with shivers!
Jan Ackerson 09/14/05
Masterful writing. Perfection.
darlene hight09/15/05
Could feel the impending danger as if I was right there. You are a master word weaver!
Karen Ward09/16/05
Ditto to all the other comments...my heart is still pounding as I run with her, but most of it is with the baby, willing him to be safe. Please expand and post this somewhere!
Garnet Miller 09/16/05
I loved the suspense! Why are they being hunted? Tell me please!
Linda Watson Owen09/16/05
Telling you that you're a master at weaving gripping sensory imagery is really stating the obvious, isn't it! Wonderful!
Brandi Roberts09/17/05
This must be continued. I don't think I even breathed through this whole thing (although, I must have because I'm still alive). WONDERFUL job! Thanks for sharing!
Crista Darr09/17/05
I absolutely love the intensity in your writing. One question: why didn't she get in the boat too? Anyway, another piece of excellence. Your work inspires me.
J. C. Lamont09/17/05
Excellent writing. But like the others, I too wish to know who the hunters were and what happened to her husband.
Shari Armstrong 09/17/05
Wow......
janet rubin09/18/05
Hee hee, I "hunted" you down by finding the one article you didn't comment on! This was great as usual. You always keep me reading.
Sally Hanan09/19/05
Brilliant, as always.
Nina Phillips09/19/05
Awesome Maxx..I thought this was so neat.
God bless ya,
littlelight
Karen Ward09/19/05
Congratulations again Maxx, now PLEASE tell me the rest of the story! ;) Karen
Suzanne R09/20/05
Yes - PLEASE tell us what happens - you can't leave us hanging - can you?

Congratulations, anyhow. Even if I won't sleep tonight :-)
Deborah Porter 09/21/05
Maxx, I was judging for the Bon Voyage Challenge, and thought this was an outstanding entry. We did have some "Moses" stories in the pack, which I thought was pretty clever thinking anyway. But your modern twist was a heart pounding thriller. Suspenseful, excellent - the only thing was that it left me wanting questions answered. Things like, who is chasing them? How did they end up like this? What happened next? Even so, those mysteries didn't detract at all from the story. Very exciting read. With love, Deb
Jessica Schmit05/29/06
Impressive. Once again, your descriptions were dead on. I felt like I was watching CSI. I could see the woman clearly, the baby. The moonlight streaming through the forrest trees. You paint your words very well. I loved the message of hope as well. Although, I did feel that the goodbye from the mother to her child was a little les intense than the rest of the story. Could just be me. I really liked your modern day adaption of Moses. Very clever and impeccable writing (as always)