She sleeps until the voices of men wake her.
She can’t understand their language, but she thinks she hears three different voices. The low, gruff sounds are unfamiliar to her. It would be three against one if they found her; she would not last long.
They sound like they are right outside her hiding place. Their voices are loud and angry, as men always are when there are more than two of them.
She thinks she hears two of the men moving away. Where is the third?
She hears no further sounds, until the dry branch in front of the cavern begins to rustle.
The man is moving it!
Her stomach lurches. She grabs for her staff at her side. Lying on her back with her feet extended toward the entrance, she tries to make herself as small as possible in the rear of the space while silently extending one of the sharpened points of the spear outward.
She watches the branch moving away, letting more of the night’s sunlight penetrate her hideaway. She sees the man’s head appear in the opening he is creating. Like the man she had met in the ruined building, this one’s head is swaddled in rags, with a dusty bandana tied across his mouth.
The raggedman clears the cavern entrance of brush so he can fit inside. He sticks his head in, and Ash hears his harsh breathing and smells his foul man-smell. Like her, he must be looking for a safe place to spend the night.
He eases himself further inside, crawling on his belly. He doesn’t seem to notice her. That is, until he pauses, panting. He happens to raise his head and looks right at Ash.
He catches his breath.
They both stop breathing.
The moment stretches.
Then he takes a sudden gulp of air and his arm shoots out to grab her leg. She is not quick enough and he catches her and holds on.
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