Kiah's Soul-Shifting Journey: (1)
Author: Ann Denton

Chapter 5
Chapter Five

Chapter Five                        

            I feel warmth on my face. I open my eyes to the bright sunlight shining through the window. I am in Ryker's arms, on the floor of what used to be my home.

            Sally is already dressed and is putting on her boots when I go into the bedroom. She has placed my clothes on the bed. I look at her when I see the baggy, orphanage clothes, and she understands my confusion. "Sorry," she says. "Ryker wants us to look plain and ordinary for the walk home."

            I smile. Ryker is trying to keep me safe by making me look plain. I don't think he understands that it wouldn't have mattered what I looked like yesterday. It was the evil in his heart, not desire, driving that animal. If it makes Ryker feel better, I will wear my plain, baggy clothes. I do wonder though, if he is expecting more trouble than he implied last night.

            Before I leave my mom's room, I decide to take something of hers, as a keepsake, because I will probably never return to this house. I rummage through her dresser drawer and find a ring that I remember seeing her wear. I lay it on the top of the dresser and open the next drawer. Lying on top of her clothes is a book. I remember that she used to love to read. I try to open the book, but I realize it has a lock that requires a little key. I rummage through the drawer looking for the key, but I don't find it. From the other room, I hear Ryker asking Sally if we are ready. I throw the book in my bag, throw the bag over my shoulder, and walk out of the room, trying not to cry. I feel like I did the day my dad took me to the orphanage, like I am leaving a part of myself behind.

            Sally and I go outside where Ryker has two pistols that we took from the troopers' tent. "I want to show you both, how to use these." He hands one to me. "They are loaded, so be careful where you point them." I look up at Max.

            "Hey! You know I was just messin' with ya all those times, right?"

Sally and Ryker laugh.

            After instructing us how to take them off of safety, how to take aim, and how to squeeze the trigger, he shows us how to tuck them in our pants. Tucking a pistol in my baggy pants is difficult, so he unbuckles my belt and cinches it as tight as possible. His touch ignites a fire that burns to my soul. He smiles knowingly. "Now, don't be afraid to use it."  

            We walk deeper into the woods than we did yesterday. Ryker and Max, take turns pulling the cart. I notice them switching more frequently today than they did yesterday. It is much harder to pull through the brush now that it is full of supplies. After walking for about an hour, I remember that I didn't pick up my mom's ring from the dresser. I know there is nothing I can do about it now, but I can't keep the tears from running down my cheeks.

            As the terrain gets rougher, it is harder for Sally and I to keep up. The thick brush and pine needles tear at our pant legs and scratch our legs. Sally has been softly humming for about thirty minutes when I hear her screech… "Ouch! I think I have a rock in my boot." She sits on the ground and unlaces her boot. Ryker and Max don't notice that we have stopped, but I think we can catch up to them since the cart is slowing them down. Sally turns her boot upside-down, and something shiny falls out. "Well that is weird," she says.  She picks it up and looks at it. "Isn't that your mom's ring?" She holds it out, and I take it from her. "How would that have gotten in my boot?"

            I look at it. I'm as shocked as Sally is, and then I hear her. "They're coming, Little Butterfly! Get out-of-sight. There are four of them." I look around and see troopers coming out of the woods behind Ryker and Max. I grab Sally's hand and pull her behind a tree. She looks at me, like she thinks I have lost my mind. I put my finger to my lips and point to the troopers. I take my gun out of my pants. I push the safety button and motion for her to do the same.

            By this time, two of the troopers have their guns pointed at Ryker and Max. The third trooper is standing off to the side. I see Ryker looking around, probably for Sally and me.

            "What are we gonna do with them?" I hear one of the troopers say.

            "We're gonna shoot 'em!" The other one laughs. "We sure ain't takin' 'em with us."

            "Oh c'mon, they're just kids. You don't have to shoot them. Just tie them up and leave them here," says the third trooper, who doesn't look like he is much older than us.

             As quietly as I can, I slip to a tree closer to the troopers. Sally follows me. "You get the one on the left. I'll get the one on the right." Sally whispers. "Just shoot to bring them down. If that doesn't work, shoot to kill." I wonder if she thinks that I would be more likely to shoot if I didn't have to kill them.

            As the two older men put their guns to Ryker's and Max's heads, Sally and I step out from behind the tree and shoot. Both troopers hit the ground, moaning in agony, but they are both alive.  With my gun ready to shoot again, I look up at the third trooper, and he is just staring at me. At first, I think he is going to drop his gun. Suddenly, he points it right at me. We both pull our triggers at the same time. I see him drop to his knees "Son-of -a …  you shot me!"

            I hear something behind me. When I turn around, I see the fourth trooper drop to the ground on his back. He has a hole right between his eyes. Blood is covering the ground under his head. Ryker runs and scoops me up in his arms. "Are you okay?" He turns me away from the gruesome scene on the ground.

            "He saved my life, and I shot him," I whisper. "I didn't know there was anyone behind me."

            "It's okay, he's not dead."

            Ryker and Max tie up the older troopers while Sally tends to the younger one. She is using her belt to make a tourniquet on his leg. "His leg is bleeding badly," she says to me. I kneel beside them. "That bullet needs to come out."

            "Well you ain't doin' it." The young trooper winces in pain, and the color drains from his face.

            Sally goes to check on the other troopers, and I stay beside the young trooper. "You're 'The One,' aren't you?" he says.

            "I'm sorry…" I whisper. "I didn't know there was anyone behind me."

            "That's not what I meant. I know that you are the one that shot me." He reaches up and touches my face. "You're 'The One.'" He says again.

            Ryker steps up behind me. "Touch her again, and we won't even have to worry about getting that bullet out of your leg." He kneels beside us and puts his gun to the trooper's head.

            The trooper pulls his hand away from my face. "I wasn't going to hurt her." He smiles at me. "She's too valuable to hurt."

            Ryker gives me a questioning look. I shrug my shoulders. I am just as confused by his words as Ryker. He glares at the trooper "Kiah, go get something to eat. We need to get back on the road." I'm not sure why Ryker has so much hatred in his eyes for this man, but I get up and go sit under a tree to eat with Sally and Max.

            "Kiah…" Max says. I stop peeling my orange and look at him, waiting for something stupid to come out of his mouth. "I just want to say thanks to you and Sally. I'm pretty sure that Ryker and I would be dead if it weren't for you both." Max drops his eyes to the apple in his hand. "And while I'm at it… I'm sorry…well, I'm sorry for bein' such a jerk all o' these years." He looks up and holds his hand out. "Can we call a truce and start over?"           
             I shake his hand and smile. Sally reaches over and tousles Max's dark, shaggy hair. "Ahh, Max, I knew you were a good guy."

            Ryker walks up and sits down beside me. "I agree with Max. We would probably be dead if you two hadn't been thinking."

            "It was all Kiah," Sally says. "She knew they were there before we even saw them." Ryker looks at me but doesn't say anything as Sally continues. "What are we going to do with the troopers?"

            "I think we should strip 'em to their underwear, take their boots and weapons, and tie 'em to a tree," Max says.

            There he is, the old Max with nothing but stupid coming from his mouth. I think to myself.

            Sally rolls her eyes. "You're such a jerk, Max." She punches him on his arm. "We can't leave the young one. They would kill him for killing one of their own, and I think he's a nice guy." I notice Ryker clench his jaw. "And besides," Sally continues, "how do you know that they're even wearing underwear? I, for one, would not want to see them without underwear! I'm okay with taking their boots, though."

            I smile, and Max gives one of his snorting laughs, but Ryker looks like he is deep in thought. "I don't really want to take him with us, but Sally is right, they would kill him," Ryker says. "He can't walk, so he will have to ride in the cart with the supplies. Max, you and Sally go make a spot for him in the cart. I want to talk to Kiah for a minute."

            Max and Sally leave to get the cart ready. Ryker takes my hand and looks at me. "Listen, I don't like that guy, and I don't trust him. I want you to stay away from him. Okay?"

            "What do you mean? I …"

            "I mean, I don't like the way he looks at you, and he has already tried to put his hands all over you."

            "Ryker, he just touched my face." I realize why he is behaving like this. I have to laugh.

            He gives me an irritated look and stands up. He pulls me to my feet, "I don't see what is so funny. Why are you laughing?"

            I wrap my arms around his neck, and he puts his hands around my waist. "Because, you have no reason to be jealous," I repeat the same words he had said to me.

            "Jealous? I'm not…" He stops when he sees me smiling. "Okay, maybe I am jealous, but be careful, okay?" He kisses me and holds me tight. "Kiah, how did you know that the troopers were there?"

            I touch his face. "I will tell you sometime, but now is not the time." I glance at Max and Sally. I really don't want them to hear me, especially if I am talking about my dead mother.

            "Promise?" he says.  I smile and nod.

            "Lover boy…" Max yells. "Can we get some help over here?"

            Max and Sally help the young trooper into the cart while Ryker ties the other two troopers to a tree.

            "I guess… if we are going to be traveling together, we should introduce ourselves," the young trooper says. "I'm Sam." He holds his hand out to shake mine. Ryker takes a step toward him.

            When she sees the look on Ryker's face, Sally holds her hand out. "I'm Sally, and this is Kiah. She doesn't speak."

            Sam looks surprised because, of course, I have already spoken to him, but he doesn't say anything. He just winks at me. "Really? I have a feeling that one day she will emerge and speak to the masses."

            Ryker jerks his head around and glares at Sam. "Why don't you do us all a favor, and keep your feelings to yourself."

            "I guess you're the boyfriend...Ryker, is it?"

            "Yeah, that's right, and you'd be real smart not to forget it." Ryker picks up the cart handle and gives it a hard jerk.

            Sam winces in pain from the jolt. "Not tryin' to step on your toes, buddy, just makin' conversation." He smiles and winks at me.

            I feel the blood rush to my face and notice Sally smiling at me. Did Ryker say I was his girlfriend… in front of Max and Sally?  Even though my heart is filled with excitement, I'm hoping the walk home goes by quickly. If Ryker is around Sam much longer, I'm sure that there will be another major war for the history books.

             We are moving at a slower pace because the cart is harder to pull with Sam in it.  We haven't heard anything from Sam in about two hours. Sally checks on him when we stop to get a drink. "I think he is unconscious." Sally looks worried. "He is burning up with fever."

            "There is nothing we can do about it," Ryker says. "We should be home in about thirty minutes. Then, Marion can deal with him."

            The sun is just going down when we walk up to the barn. Marion runs out of the house, drying her hands on her apron. "I was getting worried about you. Did you have any trouble? Ryker! What happened to your face?" She stops to get a better look at his bruises and swollen lip.

            "We had nothing but trouble," Ryker leads Marion to the back of the cart.

            "Good Lord, who is this and what happened to him?"  She examines Sam's wound.

            "It's a long story…" Ryker takes my hand in his. "But he needs a doctor. He got shot in the leg and I think infection has set in. He has lost a lot of blood, and is running a high fever."

            "Ryker!" Molly screams as she flies out the front door and throws her arms around his neck. "I missed you."

            I start to pull my hand out of Ryker's hand, but he holds it tighter. I'm not sure if he is holding me tighter to reassure me or to keep me from clawing Molly's eyes out.

            "Molly! Control yourself." Marion says.

            Molly looks at Sam. "What happened to him?"

            "Kiah shot him. She's pretty good with a gun, so don't make her mad." Max snorts, obviously trying to get a reaction from Molly.

            Molly looks at me, and now she notices that Ryker is holding my hand. "Put a gun in a brain-dead freak's hand and look what happens."

            "Shut up, Molly!" Ryker says.

            "Oh, what? Did you play house with…"

            "Molly!" Marion scolds, "Go tell Mary to get down here, and then you go to your room and stay there."

            Mary comes running out of the house, and Marion tells her to take the truck to get Doc Henderson from up the road. "Max, help Ryker get him up to a bed." she nods toward Sam. "Sally, go get clean towels, and Kiah, you go get a bowl of ice water."

            I bring the ice water to the bedroom. Sam looks pale against the white sheets. "Kiah, dip that cloth in the ice water and wipe his face down." Marion says. "When the cloth gets warm, dip it again." His skin feels burning hot. After the third time of dipping the cloth in the ice water, he reaches up and takes my hand. It startles me at first, but then he opens his eyes.

            "She's with you, you know." He whispers so softly that only I can hear him, and then he falls unconscious again.

            When Doc Henderson arrives, Marion sends us all out of the room. Ryker and Max go outside to unload the cart while I sit at the kitchen table with Sally. She places a cup of hot chocolate in front of me. Hot chocolate is a treat that we very seldom get at the orphanage. But apparently, it is a staple for the troops, because they had several boxes in their supplies.

            Sally sits down. "You know, if you're feeling bad for shooting him, you shouldn't. I didn't see the other guy either, and I'd have done the same thing."

            I look at her and know it's time for me to speak. "Thank you, Sally. You're a good friend."

            The look on her face tells me that she is not surprised that I am speaking. "I was hoping you'd trust me enough to speak to me someday."

            "You knew?"

            "I've heard you talk to Ryker," she says, "so has Max, but don't worry, he won't say anything. He really is an okay guy, you know. He's just a little…"

            "Obnoxious?" I roll my eyes and we both laugh.

            Sally reaches over and touches my mom's ring. I had slipped it on my finger earlier. "Kiah, how do you think that got in my boot?"

            I look at the ring and then at Sally. "I don't know."

            "I think someone was watching out for us. If we hadn't stopped right then to get it out of my boot, I think we would all be dead right now." She says, "…and I never felt it until that very moment. Maybe we have an angel or something watching out for us. Does that sound weird?"

            I give her a hug, "No, it doesn't sound weird, and if you are right, I hope Sam has someone watching out for him too."


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