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First Serial Rights Approx. 600 words
MOTHER’S LOVE by Dennis Gamblin This forest seems too dark as shadows dance and skitter with each heartbeat and blink of the eye. Jenna’s legs hurt. Her chest heaves, begging for more oxygen, but she does not stop to rest. She only stops to look up at the canopy of leaves and limbs above her; one more hour of darkness, then daylight. Maybe then she will be safe. They do not hunt during the day. But she can hear them behind her. They always seem to be just behind her, hunting. The bundle in her arms -- her child -- begins to stir so she cradles him tighter. “Quiet now,” she whispers. They can not be allowed to hear. Those bastards -- bloodthirsty bastards who, ever since the plague started, could care less who they kill. They just kill. The dew-soaked leaves slip from underneath Jenna’s feet as she climbs the steep hill; her knee comes down hard on the rocks underneath. A thin trickle of blood runs down her leg like a new born river. Slowly at first but as her heart pumps harder the blood river branches out into smaller tributaries. With one stroke of her finger the river is gone. Jenna looks at the red stain on her finger, the blood. The fuel for the plague. The river of life for the living as well as for the ones who wish they were dead.
Mother’s Love/Gamblin/page 2
She limps to the top of the hill, the ache in her leg does not slow her as much as the child in her arms. Jenna stops and looks behind her. She can hear dogs barking in the distance mingling with far away shouts, but she can not see them and they can not see her. The child is heavy, like dead weight. The tendons and muscles in her arms tighten and strain to the point of wondering if she will ever be able to straighten her arms again. If she could just put him down for a minute, two minutes. Forever. She could put him down and run away, never look back and they would not follow her. Because they would have the child. They want the child. No. The caves are just ahead. If she can make the caves before daylight she will be safe. She puts one foot in front of the other, and then the other. Make the caves. Before daylight. Safe. They don’t hunt during daylight. She can see the caves, just ahead, but the bastards have gained ground on her. They are close, so close that the dogs have panicked. The dogs do not want to come closer. But they will come. The men from the village will come closer. The mouth of the cave is hidden but she knows where it is. Jenna has to crawl under the bushes and the burrs, the thorns tear at her clothes, her flesh. The child in her arms squirms and fusses. He is awake and hungry. “In a minute,” Jenna says as she now stands in the cave. “Quiet now.” The men lose her trail just below the cave, maybe because the dogs are fighting against their collars and leashes or because an early morning mist has turned to sprinkles,
but they are close. She can hear them.
“Damn those dogs,” a man from the village says with a spit. “Why do they shy away when we get so close?” “We’ll get ‘em,” another man says. “Soon enough we’ll get ‘em.” The men soon leave and Jenna lets out a relieved breath. But the baby starts to cry. “Shh. It’s okay now.” Jenna, the young mother, sits with her back to the cool wall, the baby in her lap. She takes a small knife from her pocket and slits her index finger, she presses the cut with her thumb until the blood starts to pool. “You must be hungry, my precious.” She places her finger in the baby’s mouth. The baby nurses.