“Get him out now—the hunters are coming!”
Shit! Cory dropped to his stomach and reached into the hole. “You have to get up!”
“What’s he saying?” Maddy asked fearfully.
“What?” Maddy insisted.
“The hunters are closing in,” Cory said. “This is one of their traps.”
Maddy hauled himself up on his good leg and looked up at Cory. “Get out of here.”
“What?” Cory shone the light on him. “What the hell are you talking about? I’m not leaving you.”
“You can’t get me out in time. You need to go.” The boy was trying hard to be brave, but they both knew what happened to the hunted when caught by the hunters.
“Fuck that.” Cory swallowed hard. “I’m not leaving you… to them.”
Maddy’s voice wavered. “There’s nothing you can do to save me. There’s too many of them to fight… and they have guns.”
“I’m not leaving you.” Cory got to his feet and made a quick sweep of the area. Finding a broken branch, he returned to the hole and thrust it down inside. “Grab onto the branch. Hold tight and use your good leg to climb. I’ll pull you out.”
Maddy didn’t argue and grasped the tree branch.
“Hold on tight.” Cory crawled to his feet, secured his grip on the branch, and pulled. The jagged limb caught on the debris covering the hole, snagging against the earth. “Fuck…” Cory heaved with all his strength, feeling a slight give as Maddy helped as much as possible from down in the pit. “Don’t let go,” Cory panted. “It’s working—”
Something landed around Cory’s throat, cinched tight, and jerked him backward off his feet.
Cory gagged and lost grip of the branch, the air bursting from his lungs as he hit the hard ground on his back. It took a moment to comprehend what was happening when the rope pulled tighter around his throat as he was dragged across the frozen earth. He clawed at the coarse rope choking him, his short nails scraping the skin of his throat and neck.
“Yee-hah!” someone whooped as Cory writhed and bucked, fighting to free himself of the rope before he passed out. “We got us a live one!”
When he flipped onto his stomach, a heavy boot came down on his back, pushing between his shoulder blades and pinning him to the ground. His cheek against the frozen earth, Cory growled through a clenched jaw, “Let me up, motherfucker… and I’ll kick your fucking ass.”
Laughter rumbled through the hunters—Cory didn’t know yet how many.
“Cory!” Maddy called fearfully from down in the pit.
Cory closed his eyes, his heart racing.
“What’s going on?” Papa Jo demanded frantically.
“The hunters—” Cory started when one of the men ripped the earpiece from his ear. Cory twisted his head and looked up.
“Game over,” the hunter snarled into the device and dropped it on the ground, crushing it beneath his boot.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish