PROLOGUE
Run Like Never Before In My Entire Life

The bullet split the air with a dreadful ripping sound and whizzed past my ear like some horrifyingly angry insect. The experience was completely new and terrifying to me, and it was one that I could have happily lived the rest of my life without having had. After hearing the bullet rip past me (and feeling it, too, since such a terrible sound is felt as much as it is heard) everything that followed seemed to happen all at once in excruciatingly slow motion.

What was that?!? I asked myself as I bolted upright and my brain tried to make sense of what it had just experienced. But I already knew full well what it was. My brain was slow to accept what it already knew to be true, because with that acceptance came the realization that someone was trying to kill me, and had the bullet not missed, I would already be dead.

After accepting what was happening, panic began to set in. People sometimes talk about being frozen in fear—like a deer in the headlights of a car—but for me, the fear had the exact opposite effect. All I could think was that I needed to run; I needed to get out of here—right away—and to anywhere other than the middle of the road where I was exposed and vulnerable to being shot at a second time.

Fortunately, my brain had the good sense not to run toward the source of the gunfire, and I managed to scramble down the side of the road and take cover in the ditch. Somewhere up the road, men with guns were pulling themselves out of their wrecked automobile and planning to come after me. If I stopped breathing for a second and strained to listen over the sound of the wind, I could hear them grunting as they pulled themselves free of the car accompanied by the sound of broken glass raining onto the ground.

“You have to get out of here,” the little voice in my head reminded me. “You don't have much time!”

I know, I told myself. I tried to breathe normally and stay calm. I didn't have time to make any mistakes. Even the smallest misstep could cost me my life. All I could do was run, but where could I run to when I was on a road in the middle of nowhere? If I got back onto the road, I would be completely exposed, even in the dim light of the early morning.

“The only place you can run,” the little voice said, “is cross-country.”

I lifted my head for a second to see if anyone was coming after me. I couldn't see anyone, but that didn't mean no one was out there, so I kept my head low, ran across the ditch, and scrambled up the rocky ledge on the other side.

Please, God, don't let them shoot at me now, I thought as I climbed up the ledge and out of the ditch.

Once I was at the top, I crouched low and surveyed the way ahead of me. The landscape was rocky and rough—full of places to hide and take cover.

“Maybe that's what you should do,” the little voice suggested. “Maybe you should just find somewhere to hide? It's pretty dark out here and there are plenty of shadows you could crawl into. Just hide somewhere until they decide to leave you here.”

I shook my head.

“It won't be dark for long,” I murmured to myself as I looked toward the brightening horizon where the sun would soon be rising. “And I am not just going to sit around helplessly waiting for them to find me. I am going to get as far from them as I possibly can.”

“Then what are you waiting for?!?” the little voice replied, still panicked.

I peered over the ledge and back up the deserted road to where the shot that had barely missed me had come from. I still couldn't see anything—not even the hulk of the wrecked car that I knew was back there—and no one was walking up the road toward me. I closed my eyes and tried to listen for any sound of movement over the howling wind.

“You have to go!” the little voice screamed. “They could be anywhere! They could be standing five feet away from you, ready to grab you again!”

The voice in my head was right. I had to go. But I kept listening, waiting for clarity. Somehow, I felt that I had to have some idea of where they were, because it terrified me much more not knowing anything at all.

And then I heard it—the faint sound of angry voices carried on the wind down the road toward me. They were speaking some foreign language, and they could have been saying just about anything, but I only heard, “That stupid girl is going to pay for this. Let's go get her.”

A cold wave of fear washed over me. My heart pounded like a jackhammer, and a sickening chill poured deep into the pit of my stomach.

“Now I run,” I whispered to myself, and sprang to my feet. “Now I run like I've never run before in my entire life.”


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