L. C. Frenzel: Callie Houston, A Matter for Survival

Excerpt:

I flounder through thick brush for about thirty seconds, collecting painful scratches on my arms and several spiderwebs that I frantically brush off my face. I don’t like spiders, especially the big colorful ones that like to build their food collection systems at night in places just like this one. Finally, my eyes adapt to the darkness and I see my mother moving along a path two steps to my left.

“Over here and try to move quieter,” she whispers.

I move over into a tunnel through the undergrowth; the slit of sky over the trail is a faint band of grey that glows from the reflected lights of a nearby town. That should be Hammond. Bobby has found a way through, after all. I’d give him a hug and something else if my mother weren’t between us. Behind us, I hear someone yelling. A flash of blind fear, a mental picture of Snake coming at me, erases all romantic thoughts of Bobby. Nearby, an owl hoots ominously.

“We’ll lose them in the woods and keep going left towards to the east. We’re bound to hit Pumpkin Center Road or one of the north-south roads,” I hear Bobby telling Mom.

I hope he’s right. I’m not so sure about how far we came from Hammond or if we were on US 190, but Mom seems to agree with Bobby and no one asks me. I guess I was only useful for my body, seeing as how my mind is being discarded.

We keep up a fast pace for maybe five minutes with Bobby using one of the flashlights briefly while deciding which branch to take at a fork in our trail.

 A dog barks not far from us, and a large shadow moves across the path between Bobby and Mom. Mom gives out a startled cry and I hear Bobby let go a curse. I swerve and trip over what I hope is a root.

“It’s a damned bull,” I hear Bobby say as the shadow bellows and crashes through some locust trees. I scramble to my feet, and we quicken our pace. Almost immediately we stop to listen as a new crashing sound comes from behind us.

“Must be another one of those bulls,” Bobby says in disgust and raises the flashlight to point behind us.

“Turn that damned thing off,” Mom hisses at Bobby.

Pow!” The flat report of a large caliber pistol shocks me. A bullet ricochets off a tree trunk next to me; I feel the shower of bark dust stick on my sweaty face.