Skip was hungry. The screams and gunfire from last night had left him uneasy, but the deer assured him that almost all his pursuers had been dealt with, almost. He focused on the river which occasionally would widen to nearly one-hundred feet across and then diminish into a rough channel of water less than two car lengths wide. Some white puffy clouds had made their way into the sky and overall, the day was beautiful. A slight breeze seemed to scoot the clouds through the tangled mess of tree branches letting a few rays of sunlight to break through the canopy and touch the soft earth. Little white and yellow butterflies danced between trees. Squirrels thrashed about the underbrush arguing with each other in a language of tiny little barks and chirps. They never really rested, only slowing the pace a few times. She eventually wandered off and brought back another branch of berries. The day was flying by.
“We will reach the boat soon.” She said without breaking her step. He allowed himself to wonder if there were Inquisitor Office agents in the woods looking for him right now with no idea the size of force they would bring. He noticed the doe standing as still as a rock focusing on the woods, her head would swivel to a different direction after she had looked in one place for a long moment.
“Let’s go. There is still a hunter in the woods.” They once again were moving up stream. This time their pace was deliberate, and they moved with a sense of urgency. Then he saw the wooden fishing boat ashore on a gravel beach a few dozen yards ahead. He rushed up to it and tossed his pack in. The small boat smelled of mildew and moss, and there was only one old wooden oar in the bottom of the vessel.
“You sure she is sea worthy, captain?” He said to the deer with a little chuckle. She did not respond. He pushed the boat into the water a little and looked back at his guide. “I guess this is goodbye.”
“Goodbye, path maker. Find your way.” She turned and bolted into the forest her white tail flagging with each bounce. He was now alone on the shore with a rickety old boat, and his assumption being it he was to now float down this little river until he found someone or something that would begin his new life. He pushed until the scraping sound coming from the shore ended and the boat felt stable. This was his first attempt at climbing into an old boat like this, yet after a few tries he managed to climb in and only get his pants, shirt, and most of the contents of the boat wet. He rowed out into the middle of the water and hoped the rougher waters would not be the end of his boating career. He found it nearly impossible to steer and regularly wound up facing up stream as he helplessly drifted backwards. He decided to fill his bottles with river water despite his knowledge that it could be less than pristine. Rounding a corner he could see bouncing white tops of the narrower rough part of the river. From this perspective they looked far more dangerous and daunting than from the shoreline. The boat’s speed increased with every few yards. He soon began to bounce from wave to wave which forced him to drop the oar and hang on to stay upright. The boat spun and heaved splashing water over the sides drenching him. Water was starting to stand in the bottom of the boat and the first considerations of structural integrity became concerns. Then, like that, it was over.
He looked to the floor of his boat and began bailing the water with his hands. He had just tossed the third handful of water over the side when a bullet skipped off the edge of the boat just in front of him causing an explosion of ruptured wood into the air. His head snapped to the shoreline thirty feet away. He saw a man in a black suite with dark hair pointing a black handgun at him. He dove to the bottom of the boat as another shot shredded the surface of the wooden plank he had been sitting on.
“I finally found you heretic,” Trevor shouted from the shoreline. “You are mine, and God’s judgment your only mercy.” He aimed at the side of the boat where he thought Skip would be ducked. He squeezed the trigger putting a hole in the side of the boat eight inches above the water. Skip felt the boat wiggle with the impact of the shot. He did not want to die in the bottom of a crappy old fishing boat he stole with the help of a deer on an adventure he took up because a rabbit told him said it would be a good idea. He put his hand up. When it was not blown off he looked over the edge at the man. He stood slowly.
“Okay, you got me, just don’t kill me.” He yelled.
“I do not even know how many agents were sacrificed to hunt you down. I plan on ending you.” He drew the gun up to his face and lined the sights up just above where he guessed the target’s heart would be. He softly exhaled and put pressure against the curve of the trigger. He squeezed with ecstasy.
Skip watched as the gun was leveled at him and aimed carefully. He closed his eyes and heard a shot followed by a splash. He opened his eyes to see the man thrashing in the waters of the river, as two wild dogs tore and crushed flesh and bone. The man was flailing about, panicked cries that would haunt Skip for life. He turned away looking down river until the cries stopped. He turned back to see the dogs trot back into the forest, and he could just make out the black, floating body bobbing near the water’s edge. Soon the river carried him away from the scene, and soon he found himself looking forward rather than back.
He had survived the NRCC’s hunter, and as the water pushed him, he made the decision to seek out and help others that had escaped the agencies grasp, to make a path for others.