Kyrie forced herself to calm down and breathe. She reached out again, searching for the signs of nearby threats, but she only felt a scattering of animals. She looked over her mother’s body, searching for signs of injury. She had not heard any gunfire and she found no blood or bleeding wounds.
Kyrie refused to acknowledge the cold feel of her mother’s body and reached deep within herself. She pulled at the energy that had grown in her over the years and tried to force the power into her mother. She tasted the salt of the tears running down her face as she searched for her mother’s subconscious mind. However, her mother did not respond, and no matter how much she pleaded, she could feel no life in the body that had cared for her every day. “No, Mom.” She wiped her face, smearing the dirt that became streaked by her tears.
Desperation ran through her and Kyrie looked around at what had been her world. She jumped to her feet and raced down the slope, absorbing more and more energy with every stride. Her parents had always told her if anything happened to them, her first priority was to get to safety, but she could not bring herself to abandon her mother. She fundamentally knew that resurrection spells did not exist. They were merely a construct in Dungeons & Dragons, but when her father had died, her mother had sobbed that if someone had only gotten him to a hospital sooner, he might have lived. We won’t fail! Kyrie swore as she leaped over a log and landed nimbly without slowing. She sprinted past the cabin and raced along the rutted and decaying road.
The seldom used road zigzagged back and forth down the mountain; the switchbacks evening out the slope to something reasonable for a four-wheel-drive. However, the winding road spanned four and a half miles to reach Ms. Conner’s house and Kyrie felt the press of time on her. At the first switchback, Kyrie leaped into the pine forest and continued to run down the steep slope. Loose soil, rocks, and debris followed her instinctual foot falls, leaving a mini landslide trailing in her wake.
She burst through a wall of pine branches, crossed the road, charged back into the forest, and within fifty paces, emerged into the clearing under the electric lines. She ran like a gazelle through the open space, using the power in her body to leap over fallen trees, rocks, and other debris. The energy continued to flow, burning nerve endings and bringing her pain, but she ignored the discomfort.
Her heart pounded in her chest, but her body responded easily to the physical effort. Since she turned six, her parents had made her run down and back up the road every day. Coupled with living her whole life on the mountain, the thin air did not bother her, but fear for her mother pushed her much harder than normal. Soon the energy draw became too painful, and as it slowed, her breathing turned into ragged panting, leaving the taste of blood on her breath.
She knew the distance to Ms. Conner’s house on the road, but she reduced her run to under two miles by going straight down the mountain. You just need to get Mom to a hospital. She did not really know what one was, but she remembered the word from when her father had died.
Nearing exhaustion, Kyrie stumbled over a ridge and emerged into the clearing around Megan Conner’s mobile home. Rusting cars, old refrigerators, and debris generated by humans filled the yard. Kyrie ran up the metal steps and banged on the door as she bent over to catch her breath. Blood dripped on the dirty welcome mat and she wiped her face, smearing blood, sweat, and dirt. Scrapes and cuts from her hasty descent covered her exposed skin.
Kyrie pounded on the door again; she felt Ms. Conner taking her time to emerge from deeper within the old building.
“What in the hell is all this racket?” demanded a gravelly voice.
“Ms. Conner!” Kyrie shouted before she gulped down another breath. “My mother! I couldn’t heal her. Something’s wrong.”
The door opened revealing an old woman with thinning hair and a weathered appearance only achieved through lots of sun and smoking. The woman’s face dropped. “Dearie, what sick bastard did that to you?”
“Please Ms. Conner, my mother needs a hospital!”
The old woman stepped back. “I’ll call Sheriff Sawyer, he’ll be able to get an ambulance, but the nearest hospital is three hours away.”
Kyrie brushed passed the word ambulance, uncertain of what it meant, but she knew three-hours seemed like far too long to wait and her parents dislike for law enforcement made her bite her lip. “Do we need the sheriff? I just need a doctor to help my mother.”
“Dearie, you need Sheriff Sawyer. Let me make this call and then I’ll go with you back to your cabin.” Megan Conner removed a rounded yellow rectangle from the wall and started pressing buttons on what Kyrie guessed was a phone. “Was your mother bleeding? Did she fall or hurt herself?”
Kyrie shook her head; her breathing already normalizing. She felt a sense of mistrust coming from Ms. Conner and it made her uncomfortable. “No. I found my mother slumped over in the field. She felt cold and didn’t respond to me.”
Kyrie sensed a sudden change in Ms. Conner’s demeanor, as if the urgency of her mother’s condition had diminished.
“Sheriff Sawyer. It’s me, Megan Conner. It seems Rachel Smith may have had a heart attack or something. I’ve got her girl with me now. Oh, I don’t know, I’ve not gone up the slope yet. The girl is covered in cuts, but I think she ran down the slope. Yeah, I’ll keep an eye on things.” Ms. Conner started tapping her foot. “Look, can you call Paul’s boy and get him up here just in case there is something he can do? I’ve got to take Kyrie back up to Stan’s cabin. Yeah, thanks, see you shortly.”
Kyrie had tried to hear what the sheriff had said, but her heart still pounded in her ears and she felt herself growing physically weak.
“Here, let me get you a soda,” Ms. Conner said, “then we’ll take my truck to your parent’s cabin. Hopefully my old wreck can make it.” The older woman opened the off-white refrigerator, pulled out a cylinder like ones Kyrie had seen littering the ground along some streams on the outskirts of the valley. She took the cold metal container from Ms. Conner. The older woman then grabbed her keys from a wooden bowl nestled between several piles of disorganized papers covering the small kitchen table. Kyrie peered at the oddly shaped container in her hand. She could feel the sloshing of a liquid inside, but where she had seen an opening before in the cans littering the streams, this one only had lines etched into the metal.
“Come on,” Ms. Conner said, ushering Kyrie from the house as the woman slid into a heavy coat. The older lady closed the door behind them and nodded her head toward a truck whose original color could barely be determined as green. The fact that it had inflated tires was the only visible difference from the other vehicles in the yard.
Kyrie pulled at the latch and climbed into the passenger side of the truck. She had only been out of the valley four times that she could remember. She had seen the exteriors of cars and trucks and had seen how people opened the doors, but she had never been inside one and no vehicle had ever made it all the way to the cabin since she had been young. That was in great part because her parents had carefully damaged the road to make it look like rains had caused deep ruts.
Ms. Conner climbed into the other side of the truck, fidgeted with something near the steering wheel, and pressed on something on the floor. After a bit of growling, the metal beast came to life. Kyrie would have watched more carefully, but her thoughts kept returning to her mother laying in the fields above their cabin.
Ms. Conner manipulated some levers and turned the wheel as the truck lurched into motion. “Don’t you know how to open a soda can?” The older woman reached one hand over and tapped on a bit of metal attached to the top of the can. “Pull that forward to open it.” The woman shook her head and made the engine roar as they bounced over a small rut in the gravel road. “I respect those that home school their kids. Best way to ensure you don’t grow up with socialist ideas, but have mercy, someone your age should have at least seen a soda can.”
Kyrie closed her mind; not only did her head hurt from the energy she used, but she knew the disapproval Ms. Conner felt was not with her and she did not want to feel someone thinking badly of her parents. Kyrie looked down at the top of the can and noticed words she had missed earlier. She used her dirty fingernail to pry up the metal tab before pulling it forward. Foam and liquid erupted from within the metal container, flowing over the top and spilling down her hand and onto her pants.
“Keep it off the seats! Someone your age should know not to open them so fast on a rough road.”
Kyrie looked down at the sticky brown liquid. “What do I do with it?”
Ms. Conner shook her head. “Drink it.”
Although it was mumbled, Kyrie clearly heard Ms. Conner say, “Daft Girl.” Feeling obligated, Kyrie took a sip of the liquid, trying to hold the can steady as the truck bounced and lurched over the road that had as little maintenance as the clearing under the power lines. The sweetness made her sick, and she simply held the can away from her as they made their way slowly up the mountain side. The slow progress made Kyrie wish teleport spells existed in reality.
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