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Kate on the wing

Here’s a piece I couldn’t bring myself to delete along with the rest of the draft it was in . . .

She ran, choosing no direction, expecting blackness to enfold her at any moment.

It was larch forest, old growth, sparse, the low limbs reaching out to her in the darkness, snagging the heavy folds of the stolen coat, whipping unheeded across her face.  In ten minutes she hit the crest of the rise, and the darkness intensified as the bulk of the hill came between her and the light that had spilled from the compound. Now the moon rode alone and unchallenged, and she spared a word of thanks that it was nearing full.  She went down headlong, aware of her feet slipping in the heavy boots but scarcely registering the pain. She skittered across iron hard frost, half stumbling, upright through chance more than reason. She could not have stopped her flight now if she had wished to, and came to rest at length only because at last she tripped, pitching onto the bank of a small stream, relieved not to have tested the frozen surface. She calmed her breathing with effort, and the forest was still around her.

She stood, tentative on the treacherous ground. In the clear night she was chilling rapidly, the thick coat clammy with her sweat. The terror that had driven her was ebbing, replaced for now by a kind of fierce elation, and as she stood she was able to survey her position rationally. Even with the hard frost she had felt the thick bed of needles giving under foot, and she must have left a clear trail down the hillside.   In the flood of endorphins the opposite hillside did not daunt her, but she curbed her still-panicky instinct towards flight, knowing she would leave as plain a trial up the other side. Downstream was tempting, but perhaps too obvious a choice.

Pavel would expect her to turn upstream.

Pavel knew her altogether too damn well. She found she had bundled the coat into a manageable parcel, almost without thought. She knew that she must run, soon, before the rush of elation entirely left her, before the cold defeated her, before the men who must be mustering to pursue her could find her trail.

Pavel had been reassigned.

She turned upstream and, revelling in the joy of the wild freedom of the night, she ran.

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