Smoke writhed at the edges of the flames on her makeshift torch. Coiling and uncoiling, the wisps spirited their way upward in errant directions. Rayanna blinked away the ghoulish tendrils stinging her eyes.
On the half-decayed carpet of oak leaves, her damp boots skidded downhill a few steps . The outer edge of her foot found traction against a cypress knee. At least following the river had some benefit.
Hopefully, the current would also lead her to town.
She grimaced at the chafe of her blouse’s charred edges across the wounds on her arms. No amount of adjusting the sleeve kept it from slipping back onto the burns after a few steps. With a huff, she gave up. The chilling breeze stung her raw skin, anyway.
Downslope from her path, the creek gurgled in wet laughter toward a destination it alone knew. From someplace known, not forgotten. The water ventured from some distance source beyond the tangled thickets. Perhaps it had come from some snow-capped summit. At least its past and future could be seen.
She sighed up at the inky, spangled dome peeking through the canopy. Even if she made it to town, what then? Who would take in a charred, filthy stranger with no identity?
They could never tell whether this woman might be a murderer. She couldn’t be sure of that herself.
Cracking brush snapped her out of her thoughts. A green-blue beam flashed in her direction from a stone’s throw distance ahead.
Footsteps preceded a weathered voice. “Who’s there?”
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***