Melted By The Bear(6)

By: Amira Rain

The back of the hospital faced dense woodland to the north that crawled up to the east as well; to the west was a parking lot at only maybe half capacity with ten or so cars and a truck parked in it. A quick peek showed me that no one was entering or exiting the vehicles, though for all I knew, there could have been someone in one, so I pulled my face back behind the pine as fast as I could.

Heading directly north to New Sunnyvale seemed like it might too obvious a path, but then again, I reasoned, if Commander Blackthorn and his men didn’t know what direction I’d taken off in, then it might not be too obvious a path, unless Jane put two and two together and told Commander Blackthorn that I might be heading to New Sunnyvale.

Starting out to the east or west and then cutting around to the north seemed too time-consuming, though, especially considering my limited resources for the journey. Through a row of young evergreens planted just adjacent to the parking lot, I could see bits and pieces of other buildings, making me think that heading west would lead me directly to the village’s “downtown.” Also, even if I could avoid being seen, I didn’t have an infallible sense of direction by any means, and I knew it was a possibility I could get turned around from heading directly north once I needed to.

I realized that precious seconds were ticking by, and that at any moment, the hospital staff could find me missing and sound an alarm, either a metaphorical one or a literal one. So, after maybe only half a minute debating my options, I took a deep breath and then began sprinting toward the thick woods near the back of the building. It was a distance of forty or fifty feet, really not much of a back lawn for a hospital, but all it would take for me to be discovered would be just one nurse taking a coffee break outdoors, or just one patient looking out a window as I dashed.

I got lucky. Once I’d made it into the woods, I turned and peered between two tall oaks, seeing that there was no one outside, and all north-facing patient windows had their off-white curtains closed. Not wanting to waste any more time, or daylight, I turned back to the forest and plunged ahead through the trees, heart pounding. Before she’d left my room earlier to let me sleep, Jane had made some brief comment about me not having even a touch of something she’d called “post-thaw panic,” something apparently some other women got in the hours immediately after being thawed. It was an inexplicable, rare phenomenon that sometimes manifested as a woman developing an urge to flee; other times, it even made some women violent. Jane had said that, fortunately, it seemed that along with amnesia, hoarseness, and joint stiffness, I’d also been spared this negative effect of thawing. I’d just nodded, already quickly heading toward sleep.

But now, speed-walking my way over fallen branches and rocks, and through occasional patches of tall grass, I wondered if I really had been spared “post-thaw panic.” After all, fleeing was exactly what I was doing.

I slowed my steps with my stomach churning a bit, though not with hunger. My massive breakfast had ensured that I probably wouldn’t be hungry again for another day.

After walking a bit further, thinking, I accelerated my pace, stomach now fine. I knew I’d heard what I’d heard when Alice and Jane had been talking out in the hallway, and I knew I hadn’t imagined their behavior earlier that day. I also hadn’t imagined Jane becoming flustered when I’d asked about Commander Blackthorn. It was clear that he was some kind of a man that was undesirable to be with, to the point of a nurse referring to the young woman that had been frozen for that purpose a “poor girl.” For all I knew, Commander Blackthorn could have been a violent woman-abusing psychopath.

Maybe Jane had just been displaying loyalty to her nation’s leader when she’d said he wasn’t cruel. Or maybe her definition of cruel was different than mine; maybe she had a higher bar to consider someone cruel than I did.

At any rate, I felt like any wise young woman would be doing what I was doing. Any wise young woman would flee. If I waited around to gather more information about Commander Blackthorn, or even meet him, it might be too late, and I might be trapped in a very bad situation. I was convinced I was doing the right thing.

I really wasn’t sure what I’d been thinking when I’d volunteered to be frozen anyway. I remembered feeling somewhat like I had nothing left to lose, because my mom and little sister had died in a car accident when I’d been about twenty, six years before the nuclear blast; and then most of my other family members and friends had died when the blast had occurred, or shortly after. During the following months, with the world in absolute chaos, or what was left of the world anyway, I’d fallen into a deep depression for the second time in my life. Once I’d been declared fertile, I’d had the option of remaining with the “survivors” and helping to repopulate the world right then, but volunteering to be frozen to help humanity at a later date had seemed preferable. A nice long “sleep” and an end to the pain without actually having to die had seemed preferable.

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