All right, all of you STUNG lovers who want to know if Jonah will ever find love. Here’s a little short story about him. He doesn’t find love in it, but he meets his perfect match. Tell me what you think!
Before you start reading, let me give you a little background. This story takes place the day after Jonah, Jack, Fiona and everyone else arrive at the settlement at Ward, Colorado. . .
When Kevin’s grandfather opens his sister’s cage to administer the cure to her, she escapes. They search for her that day, but don’t find her. During the night, a wind blows the first snowfall in, so Jack, Kevin and Jonah set out to track Kevin’s sister. This is told from Jonah’s point of view. Enjoy! And leave a comment telling me what you think.
“She’ll stay close to the settlement because there’s wild game around here. She can eat it,” Kevin says.
I stop walking and watch the snow fall, how each flake floats down, silent, until it joins the others and blends into one perfect whole. I stand out, bruised and scarred, a flaw against the white. A flaw against humanity.
“What is it?” Kevin asks, stopping at my side and following my gaze to the snow-covered ground.
Jack pushes through the bushes and stops beside Kevin. She lifts a dart gun to her shoulder and points it in the direction we’re staring. “Do you see something?” she asks.
Yes, I see everything, but I shake my head and say, “No.”
Jack sighs and slowly lowers the gun. Her hands are trembling, and I can see the tension pulling her wiry shoulders taut.
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right, Jack?”
She looks at me, and I don’t need to hear her answer to know that, no, she is not all right. She swallows and tries to blink the fear from her dark blue eyes. Kevin presses a finger to his lips and creeps forward, winding his way through the remains of pale aspen trees.
“What’s wrong, Jack,” I whisper.
She looks at the dart gun in her hands and bites the inside of her cheek. When her eyes meet mine she says, “I’m supposed to shoot Kevin’s sister.”
I tilt my head to the side and study her. “But it’s just a dart gun, with darts filled with the cure.”
She blinks haunted eyes. “But what if I hit her in the wrong place? Like her eyeball. Or her temple. What if I accidentally kill her? Kevin would never forgive me.”
“You won’t miss. You’re a perfect shot,” I say, but there is a small percentage for human error, and she knows it. And I know it. And I can see that the fear of hurting Kevin’s sister and losing Kevin’s love and trust are so massive that the chance for human error is increasing by the second. “I’ll tell you what. When we find her, I’ll go after her. I’ll restrain her so you have a perfect shot.”
Beneath my hand, her shoulders melt with relief. “That sounds good. I’ll pay you back somehow.”
I shake my head. She’s done more for me than anyone since I was rehabilitated. Most importantly, she gave me the courage to face my mother. “No, this is me paying you back.” I squeeze her shoulder and drop my hand.
An owl hoots. Jack raises her eyebrows. “It’s noon,” she says, turning her face up to the clouded sky. “Owls are night creatures.”
“Nocturnal,” I whisper, and my pulse starts racing. “It’s Kevin. He’s found her!” I lean forward on the balls of my feet and—despite my awkward ankle—sprint forward as lithe and nimble as a deer, dodging trees and dead brush like I was born with superior grace. I wasn’t.
Kevin is squatting beside a tangle of dead scree, his eyes intent on something. I follow his stare and see, far far ahead—like a hint of fall leaves through the trunks and boughs of leafless trees—a flash of fire.
“What is that?” I ask, squinting, wishing both of my eyes worked. Jack crouches beside me.
“That’s her,” Kevin whispers, not taking his eyes from the distant color. “Get the dart gun, Jack! If we creep close enough you’ll be able to shoot before she ever—”
I don’t wait to hear his plan, and I don’t look back as I leap through the tangle of scree. It pulls at my clothing and hooks into my skin, tearing both, but I don’t slow. Branches snap and shatter against me and break under my feet. Snowflakes stick to my face and bare hands as I run. I’m making noise, lots of noise. She either doesn’t hear my approach, or doesn’t care. In an instant I know the answer to that. She doesn’t care. When I was a beast—when I was like her—I had no fear. No care for my own safety or anyone else’s. All I cared about was filling my belly.
She is in a small clearing, where the snow has accumulated enough to completely hide the ground. I break through the trees encircling her and skid to a stop. She’s been kept indoors for four years, untouched by sunlight, with skin barely a shade pinker than the fresh snow. Tangled, dark red hair frames a face that could be made of porcelain. She stares at me with startled, pale blue eyes, and I find my mind is blank. All I can do is watch her. She glares and bares her teeth. They are tinged pink, with wisps of brown fur caught in between the spaces.
Without taking her eyes from me, she lifts something to her mouth. A rabbit. Raw. Fur covered. Gnawed on. Dripping blood. Her fingers are red with it. She tears a piece of flesh from the carcass, and blood drips down her chin as she chews.
I take a very slow, very calculated step forward so that I am standing within arm’s reach of her. Crouching down, I put my sun-browned hand on her pale wrist. Her skin is like ice, and she’s trembling. I tighten my fingers. Her bones feel small and hollow, like a bird’s. “I’m here to help you,” I whisper.
She stares at me for a long time—so long I wonder if she understands me. And then she explodes into action. Her body crashes into mine with the impact of a bag of bricks, and the air whooshes from my lungs as she slams me to the ground. And then she is leaping over me, and I am left to stare after her as I fight to get air back into my lungs.
When I can breathe, I press my hands into the snow and climb to my feet. I shouldn’t have let my guard down like that—should have expected her to run. I look like a freak. Any sane person would run from me. Any insane person would run from me, too, obviously. A bitter smile quirks my lips at the thought.
Kevin and Jack burst into the clearing. Kevin’s eyes lock onto the masticated rabbit and he nods. “At least she’s eating. And she’s leaving a perfect path for us to follow.”
I look down. The snow has her footprints in it. Bare footprints. She’s got to be so cold. So miserable. My heart clenches at the thought. “I’ll find her,” I say, and start running again. It doesn’t take long, not with her pathway so perfectly marked in the snow. She is huddling at the base of a boulder, her arms wrapped around her body, shivering so hard I can hear her teeth clattering together. As I approach, she stands and presses her back against the rock.
Three steps from her, I pause and wonder if I should attack and restrain her, or wait and let Jack shoot her from close range. My eyes sweep over her narrow shoulders and long neck, her thin arms, her bare and bleeding feet, and I decide to wait for Jack, but she clearly doesn’t know that is what we are doing. She throws herself forward, digging her feet into me and climbing up my body. Her legs wrap around my waist, her fingernails dig into my shoulders, and she bites the soft flesh where my neck and shoulder meet.
I gasp at the pain of someone trying to eat me alive and then wrap my arm around her head. I flip my body forward, and together we fall to the ground. In less than one second, she’s pinned beneath me, her head cradled against my arm. Her mouth leaves my neck and for one startled moment her eyes meet mine. Her body feels fragile beneath me, and I worry that I’m hurting her. A drop of blood falls from my neck and splatters right between her eyes, and it is as if she’s been reawakened. She starts thrashing, fighting like a mountain lion, but I am huge compared to her and stronger, even if she is nine times stronger than the average woman. She’s relentless—scratching, kicking, snapping at my close face. By the time I hear Jack and Kevin approaching, I’m panting with the effort to keep the girl restrained without physically hurting her.
“Hurry up, guys!” I yell. She yanks her arm out of my sweaty grasp and swipes her nails across my face. Before she can scratch me a second time, a finger-size dart with a small red-feathered tail appears just above her elbow. Another follows, with a blue tail—tranquilizer—and I hold her tighter than before, waiting.
At first I wonder if the tranquilizer is working. Her fighting becomes more intense and I have to wrap my arms around her as tightly as I can, squeezing so hard I worry I’m going to crush her ribs. But after a minute her thrashing grows less violent, and her eyes start glossing over. After another minute, she softens and sags beneath me, and then her head lobs to the side.
I carefully ease off her and slump in the snow at her side, trying to catch my breath. Kevin falls to his knees and cradles her head, rubbing the blood from between her eyes. “Is she hurt?” he asks.
“No. As far as I can tell she’s as healthy as an ox.” I press a hand to my neck and cringe. It looks like I’m going to have another scar to add to my hundreds.
“Thank you,” Kevin says, standing and helping me to my feet.
“You’re welcome. Let’s get her back to the settlement. She needs to warm up fast.” I bend over and pick her up, cradling her in my strong arms like she’s a baby. Her head rests against my shoulder and I savor the human contact. I know, when she awakens, she will be repulsed by me.