The woods behind me crackling and burning. I glanced over my shoulder and saw flames leap to life with terrifying hunger. They were angry-bright fire demons filled with the lust to consume.
The sky was darkness lit into orange gray by the inferno. Cones of light shot down and I could make out the dark forms of helicopters above the flames. The government had arrived, drawn by the crash of the alien ship. Soon there would be more helicopters, more men, more searchlights. I could feel them closing in and the thought of it terrified me.
Branches slapped my face and arms, but I ran faster. I slipped in the mud, got to my feet and kept going. Smoke filled the night air. I drew in deep breaths of it as I ran. I gagged and choked but didn't stop.
Twice I dropped my electronic tracker. Twice I pulled it out of the mud, wiped it off and found the blinking green dot again. If I could just make it to the cave, I might have a chance. I could hide out and wait for Mark. He'd said he'd meet me there in two days, but surely to God with the alien ship crash, the raging fire and the arrival of the Feds he would come earlier than that.
I had no idea how long had passed from the moment Mark forced me out of the car and abandoned me with nothing more than a tracking device. All I could do was to keep running toward the cave.
My legs ached as the elevation increased. The ground was less mud and more rocks. The blinking green light was bigger and flashed faster than before as though I was getting closer. I collapsed on a boulder the size of a Smart car. I hung onto its slippery, wet smoothness like a drowning man clinging to a wind-tossed reef. At that moment I was so exhausted and in so much pain that I didn't care if the government finally caught me as long as they gave me a clean, dry cell.
The night roared with fire, jets streaked across the sky and helicopters flashed their searchlights. The rain and wind grew violent. I could not understand how anything could burn in such a storm. My clothes and hair were so wet I felt like I'd crawled out of a lake.
I pulled myself off the rock, straightened up into the storm and started walking. I was too exhausted to run. I didn't look back. My mind couldn't take any more. I just followed the green blinking light of the locating device.
By the time I found the cave, I was too worn out to worry if it was filled with snakes or bats or bears. I just shuffled mindlessly forward one painful step at a time, ready to lay down on the rock floor and fall asleep.
I'd walked fifteen feet or so into the darkness when the locating device screen turned solid bright green. My hand looked like I'd borrowed it from a muddy green goblin, but it was the only light I had so I aimed the device around the emptiness. I saw rocks and dried, dead wood that looked suspiciously like small bones.
When I aimed the device toward the back of the cave, I saw only a wall of lumpy rock. The whole cave was only twenty feet deep and four feet wide. There was nothing to hide behind. No cracks or crevices to conceal myself in. If the Feds found the cave, they'd find me.
I opened my mouth to swear just as the back wall of the cave slid aside.