“What do we do?” Eve whispers, the sound of fear thick in her voice.
“Only thing we know how to do,” I smile. “Run.”
As soon as I say it, I sprint toward the goal The Geek has provided for us. He said it was an island. That means water. If there’s one thing swarms don’t do well with, it’s water.
A quick glance at my GPS shows me we’ve already made it halfway there. Not great, but it could be worse. Eve’s hot on my heels. Being good isn’t enough here, we have to be amazing.
I should have figured they’d send out the drones. No, not me, The Geek should have known they’d be covering everything between Canada and Boston with these suckers.
We cross another highway. Off to our left I see another swarm coming in fast. Up ahead on the right I spy a privacy fence. Quick thinking puts me at the fence and over with very little trouble. Eve lands beside me with a quiet thud and we press ourselves against it, hoping the drones don’t decide to look on this side.
The sound gets louder and then fades. We got lucky. We have to do better than lucky.
Back on our feet, we jump over the fence again and continue our course. The sound of drones is loud in the distance, but still far enough away to give some comfort. Trees on the right. They should slow the drones a little.
Eve’s already drawn the same conclusion and she’s taken the lead. A few feet in and we find ourselves stepping out into the middle of a golf course. I instantly regret the decision, but we can’t turn back now. The drones are back, closing in on us from our left and in front of us. Eve looks at me in fear. Going back through the trees won’t be any better.
I see a water hazard off to the right, grab Eve’s arm, and pull her to it. I catch sight of a glint of silver just barely visible in the corner of my eye marking the arrival of our mechanical enemies. No time to spare. We hit the air as we reach the hazard, flying face first into the water.
The water covers me. It’s freezing. No clue how long the drones are going to take surveying the area, but we have to stay under as long as possible. My lungs burn. I’m out of breath from running so hard.
The freezing cold doesn’t help anything. I feel my lungs constricting in my chest while wanting to burst at the same time. My body begins convulsing as it battles my brain to bring us back to the air. In a fit of panic, my lungs involuntarily inhale, causing me to take on a ton of water. I cough uncontrollably, which only makes things worse.
The coughing makes my decision impossible; each cough fills my lungs with even more water. Just as darkness clouds my eyes, I feel Eve’s hand on my arm as she pulls me up.
“Let’s go,” she whispers. Although I try my best not to, as soon as I bring oxygen into my lungs, they respond with several loud and painful coughs, spitting out water and bile as I do. The sound of drones nears. Gotta move.
We splash our way out of the water and I hear The Geek yelling through my headphones.
“The island’s just on the other side of the course.”
That’s all I need to hear. Exhilaration fills my limbs and I’m back at full speed. My lungs burn from the lack of oxygen, my head pounds, and a growing urge to vomit builds. A sharp pain in my side causes me to keel over as my stomach releases its contents.
I push on, the pain in my gut growing. The sound of the swarm gets louder once again and I suddenly grow concerned about the pile of DNA I just left on the green of the eighteenth hole. I don’t remember if drones even look for that type of stuff, but if they do, that would be definitive proof we are here, which runs the risk of bringing down the entire SP force to our location.
We duck into the trees which line the perimeter of the course. The drones are heading towards us fast. Does that mean they found my puke? The trees will slow them down, but nowhere near as much as we’ll need.
“Head east!” The Geek yells through the headphones. “River is just a few feet away.”
Just under the hum of the drones, I hear running water. I grab Eve’s arm and pull her toward the source of the sound. The trees disappear and in front of us is a small river. The drones are right behind us now. I pull Eve into the water, dunking our heads under the freezing liquid as I do.
The water pulls us away from the shore and down its path. I hope it’s pulling us toward the island, as it’s impossible to swim against, especially in my current state. Drones don’t usually fly above water, but will have their eyes all along the shore so we have to be careful as we bring our heads up for air. I hope I can do it fast enough for them not to have the time to register me on their sensors.
We come to an overpass, still seeing no signs of the island The Geek was talking about. The water is just slightly higher than my head, which is great for keeping out of sight, but horrible for keeping alive. Eve’s still clutching my hand, so she must be alive. That’s something, at least.
My world has become a haze of murky water with only short glimpses of the sky above me.
We pass under the bridge and ahead I see what looks like a fork in the river.
It’s still got to be at least a quarter of a mile away. I’m not sure I can make it, but I don’t really have a choice. I just hope Eve is doing better than I am.
I feel her hand pulling me forward. She must have seen the island as well. We pick up the pace. Well, she picks up the pace, pulling me along with her. Time slows to a crawl. I’m certain I’m going to drown. I still feel sick. My head is pounding. And most dangerously, I feel like I’m going to black out.
I can’t move. My legs refuse to push my head above the water. Blackness keeps invading my vision.
Again my lungs scream out to me. Eve pulls me forward. My legs drag against the ground. I’m slowing us both down. Eve’s hand is the only thing keeping me alive, the only piece of this life I can still recognize, but even it doesn’t work as a substitute for good old oxygen. I put every ounce of willpower I have left into focusing on not inhaling any more water.
My knees hit something and arms pull at my shoulders. I urge life into my muscles and lunge forward, my face lands above water and on dry land. My eyes try to roll into the back of my head.
Can’t happen yet.
Eve yells something, but I can’t make it out. I strain to turn my head and look at her. I see her lips moving, but I can’t hear anything. The world slowly comes back into focus, but only slightly, just enough to hear her say one word.
I had been so focused on not inhaling water that I hadn’t allowed my natural responses to do their job. I inhale deeply. Stars fill my eyes at the sudden surge of oxygen to my brain. I hold the air in my lungs as though it’s the most magical thing that has ever entered my body. Finally I exhale, causing another eruption of coughs, bringing up all the water I had inhaled only moments ago.
“They’re coming! Come on!” Eve helps me to my feet and we run through the trees. Just off the riverbank, a trail appears. We run along it, moving as fast as my legs will allow, which isn’t all that fast.
Eve pulls at my hand as hard as she can. I fall to my knees, coughing up more water. And then my stomach churns once again, relieving me of the last of the baked goods we had eaten ages ago. My head clears at this final act of sickness. Eve pulls me to my feet and we run down the trail.
With my focus returning, I become aware of the sounds around us. Unfortunately, the one sound which seems to overwhelm the rest is that of an enormous drone swarm bearing down on us. It’s much louder than I’ve ever heard before. Just ahead on the left is a small building. An old park bathroom. Not where I’d choose to hang out, if given the choice.
Eve pulls us into a door marked “Women”. She slams the door behind us, locks it, and drags me in front of it. I slump over.
I see her running around the room, pulling windows closed, slamming toilet seats shut, and covering the windows with anything she can find. Paper towels, toilet paper, and seat covers all are used to keep prying eyes from seeing what lies inside.
The last thing I see before succumbing to the dark is Eve falling to the floor at my side, exhaling a deep sigh of relief. Now we can rest.
Go to Chapter Thirty-One