12:05 a.m. Mid-Summer, 2045
Crap. Holy crap. He's going to kill me. He's going to kill me and bury me right here in this forest. It's so dark that no one would see. The ground is soft; you could easily dig a hole in just a few minutes, which is nice because he'd probably make me do it.
I can picture it now: "Why, no, Officer, I haven't seen him. He probably ran away to Hollywood." That would make sense – that’s what Emma Dinkle did.
One day, she disappeared with her boyfriend, and no one heard from her again. Until late one night, she showed up on a pantyhose commercial. Ended up changing her name to Emma Waters. I guess it has a certain flow to it.
Okay, Evo, concentrate. How did Furly know you were here? Forget it; just focus on getting out of here. Which way do I go?
In haste, Evo had sprinted out the backyard, across the field, and straight into the forest. There was nothing this way for hundreds of miles – just national forest scattered with hiking trails and wild animals.
At seventeen, Evo was five feet, eight inches, and weighed one hundred and sixty pounds. He was by no means massive. His actual name was Zeus, named after some burly god from a time before technology. Evo had looked it up once: Zeus held a thunderbolt, had white hair, and hated wearing a shirt. Nothing like Evo.
His parents hadn't referred to him as "Zeus" since he was a child. His mother always said it was because "Evo" fit him so much better. "Like the next generation," she used to say. Though he suspected it was because he didn't live up to the name, unlike his brother, Bronze Adonis.
It wasn't fair; "Bronze" wasn't even his name – it was "Adonis." He had been named after some handsome god who wore the envy of all.
Everyone called him Bronze because of his inexplicable, natural tan. Bronze, at six feet, two inches, was as stocky as he was tall. Bronze was the football star, the athlete, the favorite of everyone. Evo, by comparison, was quiet, pale, and much thinner. They could not have been more different.
Evo's parents weren't well educated – just simple farmer folk with good hearts. His father had taken some botany classes at the local college. It was an education that included, among its electives, a Greek mythology class.
It was a class he referred to on all available occasions, which was essentially all the time. No one was surprised when he insisted on naming his children after his favorite mythological entities.
It wouldn't be fair to call Evo "lanky," as he didn't have the stature for such a label, but "clumsy" definitely fit the description.
He never liked sports and couldn't catch a ball to save his life. Should such a scenario arise, he needed to remember to plead for a more plausible challenge.
To that extent, he had never joined an after-school club or even considered an extracurricular activity. If there is anything worse than being named after someone you can never live up to, it's being overshadowed by someone who actually does.
Bronze had the attention and admiration of cheerleaders, teachers, and parents alike. Just because he could run and catch a ball, he received showers of praise from everyone (except for the one person who mattered to Evo).
The one person Evo had always had an eye for was Lily Jean Furly. He had loved LJ since they were children. For as long as he could remember, she was all he cared about.
His life had become a constant endeavor to steal a gaze and to see her smile.
The day she finally smiled in his direction is when his life had changed forever. He knew then that he would someday marry this girl.
They were ten at the time, and they had been in love ever since — there was the soft look in her eye when she met his gaze. A few strands of hair seemed to always fall over her left eye, defiantly resisting conformity, just like Evo and Lily.
Everyone wanted to keep them apart. But Evo was committed to her; he was willing to risk everything for her. At a moment’s notice, he would give his life for hers, if he must. However, he never dreamed this pledge would actually be put to the test.
Back in the Moment
Evo had never been out this way. No one in their right mind would come out here. It was Oddam Furly's place, and Oddam was nuts. Completely nuts, as in stalking squirrels with a banana and wearing a camouflage tutu.
Everyone had heard the stories. Old Man Furly once chased a deputy off his property with a shotgun, in his underwear. The deputy was, of course, wearing a uniform.
How could he know? He was supposed to be gone! Who ratted me out!? Forget it; just concentrate. Get through this, and then you can think about it all you want.
I can barely hear myself think, my pulse is so loud. Okay, I ran for what, eight, maybe ten minutes? I don't know, can't remember.
If he catches me, he'll kill me. He said he would when I ran. I saw the gun in the kitchen, right there for everyone to see. LJ said it's loaded. He'll kill me if he catches me. Who told him!? I bet it was Briar, that shifty snake. He's always wanted LJ!
Just catch your breath, Evo; think. Where are you? It's foggy, and I can't see a thing. Okay, remember, you ran for ten minutes, and you hit the forest after about seventy-five yards. You stopped running once you hit the woods, two minutes ago.
Tree limbs everywhere – if you run now, you could impale yourself. Just think about that. You would be hanging there on a tree limb, gasping for breath. He wouldn't have to kill you.
He would walk up to you laughing, probably poke you in the eye. Maybe tell you a story about garden gnomes and unicorns as he throws pebbles at your face. He wouldn't even have to try. Oh, what a glorious day for him. I can see it now. Stop! Snap out of it!
You have to concentrate if you want to make it out of this; daydreaming is what landed you here in the first place. You have to keep your mind on what you're doing. Always going off on one bunny trail or another—stop! You're doing it again!
Great, you're going to die, while on a bunny trail, about a bunny trail, literally on a bunny trail. All in the middle of the forest while being tracked by a crazy man with a gun.
Is that water? Maybe it’s a small creek far away. What else do I hear? It's quiet, too quiet. Don't move. Don't try to hold your breath; you need to catch it. Breathe rhythmically, calm — concentrate, smooth in, smooth out. Now listen. Dead silent, just one more minute.
Okay, okay, think. You've made it, what, a quarter mile? You left the main trail as soon as you hit a corner in the forest. Who knows—he could have been watching you with binoculars. Probably not my best decision to leave the trail.
I mean, progress in a staggered pattern. Moving away from the trail is a great tactical move. It's what they would do in the movies; let's hope he doesn't watch movies.
With that in mind, when they do this in the films, they always seem to know which way they're supposed to go. Well, unless it's a horror movie. In which case, they run directly for the bad guy and trip before they get there. Ironically, they always look behind them, in the direction they should be going. But that's not going to happen. This is not a movie or some storybook; I have physics on my side. Crack. Twig snap.
Shit! I did it again. Where did it come from? I was so quiet! How did he find me? Calm down. The twig snap was soft. I only heard it because it's night and dead still.
Sound travels well at night. The air is crisp, and the sound reverberates off the trees. It could have come from anywhere, but it had to have come from the trail.
He's not on top of me, but he's closer than I'd like. Is he still on the trail? Did he see where I left it? Shit, I should have been more careful; how could I not have been more cautious? Did I leave tracks when I left the trail?
Shit, I mean crap. Mom would smack me good if she heard my mouth right now. Do I run? Crap, holy crap! Look for a clearing. If you move, he'll hear you.
Are there any branches? What do you see? There's a clearing there, I think — stupid fog, why now? Had to happen right now.
Snap. Shit. That was much closer; how is he moving with no sound? You have to go for it. He's getting closer; it's now or never.
Wait, there's a stump; it's dark over there and surrounded by bushes. Oh man, I hope they're not sticker bushes. Even worse, I hope nothing lives under there.
Snakes love places like that, I think, or maybe muskrats? Are muskrats a thing out here? What is a muskrat? Quietly and slowly, put your hands down and crawl over there. Don't make a noise.
The ground is so moist. Did it rain recently? How is the ground so wet? Initially it seemed damp, but my knees are soaked. How did I just notice that?
It doesn't matter; slowly, make your way to the stump and hide.
"I know you're out here, boy. I can smell your fear!" Oddam started shouting from the trail.
"You been sniffin’ ‘round my daughter an awful lot, and now you’re gonna pay for it!" Chick-click.
Shit, I know that sound. Everyone knows that sound. It's a shotgun. Shit, shit, I mean crap!
What does it matter? He's going to kill me. My mom will never even know I was cursing. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be home, getting scolded for having a potty mouth.
Mr. Furly continued yelling, "I see you left the trail, boy. Think you're clever? Think you can get away from me? I know these woods like the back of my hand! I'm gonna find you, boy, and when I do..."
Thank God he didn't finish that sentence; I really don't want to know what he's going to do when he catches me. With a little luck, I'll never find out.
Almost there, just lift the branch. Man, even the branch is wet. I don't remember it raining. Stop! Concentrate. There is a man with a gun after you, and he has already taken the time to cock it for you.
You made it; now, climb underneath. Tuck up under the stump and don't think about spiders. Crunch, crunch, snap.
"I'm coming for you, boy!"
He's not trying to be quiet anymore. Branches are snapping like a bigfoot tromping through the forest.
I'm gonna give Briar the worst swirly if I get out of this! More than a swirly—I'm going to pants him in front of everyone! Pants him and tie him to the flagpole in front of the school!
Think; look around. What do you see? You're on a hill, with large trees all around, hiding behind a stump. The slope goes down ten to fifteen yards, and I have no idea what's at the bottom. Could be anything, and there is water somewhere.
The last thing you need is to fall into the water. To slip on this amazing moss, land in a river, and get sucked away by the current. Seriously though, this moss, even in the dark, is brilliantly green.
Forget the moss. I need to run. Maybe if I hit something, it will be soft. Okay, so I run downhill – then what? There is nothing this way. Get lost in an endless forest?
Where is he? I haven't heard anything for a minute. Why has he gone quiet? You have to look. You have to know where he is. You can do this, Evo. Be brave, just...just do it slowly.
Let me ease up and look over. Almost there. Is that him? Just a little further. With all the fog, I can't tell. It looks like him, but the fog may be playing tricks. A bit further.
Snap. Shit, that was me.
The twig snap caused Oddam to speak up. "I heard that, boy. I'm coming for you!"
Snap, crack, crunch.
"I know where you're at now!"
More snapping and crunching; he's heading this way! Shit, what do I do? Do I run, or do I stay hidden? He's getting closer; run! Down the hill, slide, and run. Come on legs; I said, run!
Smack. Right in my face, oh that burns, crap! I hope it's not bleeding. Smack. That was my eye, crap. Watch out for that rock covered in ivy.
"I see you, boy! I got you now!" CRACK!
That was the telltale blast of a double-barrel shotgun.
Thumpf! Evo hit the ground with the signature sound of a stump hitting soft, moist earth. When his body hit the ground, he stirred up a cloud of spores that enveloped him on contact.
Attempting to move the branches out of his way had prevented Evo from bracing himself. That was the least of his worries.
The spore cloud was thick and shimmery, a beautiful blue and silver. It danced in the flurry of his wake, like it had a mind of its own. Evo tried to concentrate, but his vision was blurring, and it was getting hard to think.
Wow, that's a crazy looking flower…
Evo closed his eyes and faded away.