Friday, March 19, 2010

In Search Of . . . pt. VIII

Karen landed on the branch below, air lurching from her chest as her head cracked against its surface, stars cascading before her eyes. Her palmcard dropped onto her chest, held tight with one hand as the other searched for purchase, anything that might halt her descent.

Hitting another branch, she slipped around its circumference as bark grated skin, ripping away the outer layers. Shivers ran up her arm as her fingers clenched onto the rough bark. Nerve endings screamed as the nails of her left hand bent back, torn from the skin. Pain seared through her fingers, and for a moment the knot growing at the base of her skull was forgotten. The skid slowed as Karen’s body fell open to the world, dangling from her tree house.

Karen’s ankle felt like it was being held in a vise. A gnarled grunt fell through the leaves and her anxiety escalated.

She kicked and shook, trying to dislodge her attacker, unmindful of the consequences. The grunt turned to a laugh, and the grip on her leg was released. Karen toppled over the edge of the branch, pinwheeling around its fulcrum. Her eyes opened wide as she fell through the lower branches, the ground rising to meet her.

Lungs collapsed once more as pressure wrapped around Karen’s skull shooting fireworks across her vision.

She struggled to push off the ground, arms pulsing with pain as they gave out dropping her back into the earth, soil and grass caking her teeth. Lifting her head, Karen spit hard and scanned the ground. She eyed the small computer, which had fallen to one side, and dragged herself forward, her knees digging ruts in the soft earth.

Karen’s attacker dropped from the tree onto her leg, snapping the bone just above the ankle. She writhed, screaming in pain. Curled into a ball, she reached for her ankle, trying to hold it together as bolts of agony rippled across her body. Nausea washed over Karen as she struggled not to pass out, dropping her head back to the ground.

“Din’t no one tell you, ya gotta pay a tax to sleep here?” The voice was deep and harsh.

“So where’s payment?” Tears came to Karen’s eyes, slid down her cheek. She looked to her palmcard. It had a taser app in its skin, but the short distance seemed like miles. Karen couldn’t speak, had no money even if she could bargain. Her body went limp, and she gave up.

“Hey, fucker!” Another voice, almost as deep, just above her.

The first voice countered as words jumbled together, an aural crossword that made no sense to Karen. She tried to decipher words, but her body pulled away, hearing muddied as if she were being submerged in water.

And then Karen remembered nothing.


hey. wake up.” Karen’s mind rose from consciousness. For a minute she was unsure where she was, but the pain throbbing across her leg brought everything back into sharp focus. She moaned reflexively and tried to talk but nothing came out.

“Hold still. I got friends comin’. You can crash with us. It ain’t much, but you’ll be able to rest.” Karen recognized the second voice from earlier, but it was softer now. Its baritone reverberated through her fingers, soothing her just a bit.

“Why,” Karen whispered.

His voice became animated. “Someone got ta take care of our city. Ain’t no one else steppin’ up.

“Now be quiet, rest.” He sounded almost ministerial and Karen smiled despite the pain. She opened her eyes to look at him, but they were beneath the oak’s wide canopy and his face was painted with shadow.

“What about – ah!” Karen sat up quickly and pain railed across the left side of her body. Her head swam as she clutched her ankle, panting with the exertion.

“It’s here. I din’t unlock it.” His voice was stern, frustration creeping around the edges. “Now lie down or we can’t help you.”

Karen did as she was told. She fell back into his hands and gave in to the pain, allowing her eyes roll up into her head.

“There ya go. Just rest easy.” Karen felt he must have given her something for the pain. Images swam before her eyes – some familiar, others lacking context.

And she latched on to one, forcing a final gasp. “Do you know Cedric Kaczmerak? Can you help me find him?”

But her voice trailed off and she slept before a response was forthcoming.

To be continued . . .

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