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Her pace was too slow to reach the end before nightfall, and an anxiousness began to settle in as she hustled through overgrown weeds growing out from cracks in the gritty pavement. Clumsy idiot, she thought when her foot became caught for a eye-blink's length on a thick coil of dandelion. She was alone. Her party had been pulled into the thick jungle that surrounded her and she was left with nobody to help her; there was nobody to carry the purification tablets or the tarpaulin or the blankets or the weapons. As each woman and man was snatched, screaming in a panic without struggling (just flailing, she recalled, like dolls in the wind) as they were devoured by whatever lurked in those woods. A heavy wind blew through the trees and all the foliage rustled. She paused for a moment, her hand firm on the handle of the sword on her hip―the one left behind by Santiago when, terrified, he dropped it and bolted away from the safety of the group. She would not make the same mistake, she resolved, even though she carried the burdens once carried by a dozen dead. She would carry the weapon with calm resolution. Then a heavier crash of wood and leaves befell the entirety of the jungle to her right. For a moment she prayed, her mouth drooling with horror, that it was merely a stronger gust of wind. No, she though with prayers interspersed in her mind, not me. I will not go out this way. Bags and suitcases dropped from her back and she heard glass shatter from the impact. Sliding her right foot forward and lowering her head (if she had learned anything, it was that raising the head high made the neck an easier target for quick decapitations), she held the sword and sheath firmly. She shook and felt her stomach growl, aching for a meal before that encroached upon her. Like water, the huge thing spilt out onto the road, refracting the forest and pavement. A hollow moan, more like air whistling and curving across a jagged mountainscape, bellowed forth into her ears, and she fell deaf. She suddenly lost all sense of balance, her legs wobbling beneath her, but she felt a warm wave of optimism overwhelm her.