The nine survivors huddled cold and scared beneath the shade of the fallen tree and shivered. In the distance, they heard the cries of their captors boom through the valley. They knew it would not be long until they were found. The only question was, once they were found, would they be killed on the spot or would they be taken back to the compound?
Sgt. Rachel Friedman remembered the Fourth of July. She remembered when her family would drive out to Lake Havasu before it was finally closed indefinitely because of the toxic levels of pollution found in its water. She remembered how she and her brother would have their dad light sparklers for them and they would run in the night and twirl the sparkling sticks and hold them high and watch the lights flicker and fall and extinguish before finally reaching the ground. She remembered the smell and the sounds they made.
He peered through the wooden slats on the windows: It was dawn. It was dry outside but there were tall pine trees stretching high toward the sky, mingled with desert plants. If he had to guess, he’d say he was in southern California, somewhere north of where Los Angeles used to be. Or northern Arizona, up by Sedona or Flagstaff.
If he’d had a chance to study the animal life, he could be more certain—hell, they could be up near Portland for all he knew—but these quiet moments in the morning only lasted so long. It was enough to feel the breeze, understand the beauty of sunlight… and then their captors would march in, like clockwork, the same time every morning.