Choosing Theo: Chapter 4

“Is this city a goddamned mirage?” Jade yelled in between panted breaths.

She’d been walking in the direction of the city’s spires for almost two days and was only slightly nearer. Those spires must be much more massive then she’d thought.

Jade was exhausted, dehydrated, and had discovered cuts and bruises all over her body from her adrenaline-fueled dash through the forest.

Yesterday, she’d come across a few streams of water but had refrained from drinking anything she didn’t know for certain was safe. A few hours into her trek this morning, however, had made her realize that in order to keep moving toward the elusive city on the horizon, water was necessary.

At about midday, when Jade was ready to suck the moisture out of the next dirty puddle she stumbled upon, she came to a small stream running downhill. Without a second thought, she crouched down near the stream and gulped a few handfuls of water. Jade took the momentary break to study small curling plants near the stream’s edge.

As a child, her aunt would take her out into the woods behind her home and teach her which plants could be eaten, which were poisonous, and which could be used for other things. In South Carolina, Jade would’ve been able to forage and survive in the woods for months if she had to.

The small plant she was currently examining had fuzzy curling leaves that rolled in on themselves when her hand drew near.

Jade let out a panicked squeak and snatched her hand back. She watched as the small leaves unfurled themselves once again. This isn’t home. You don’t know what edible plants look like here. Don’t try.

Her aunt’s voice played through her mind, chanting her favorite phrase to utter while teaching Jade to forage: “If in doubt, leave it out.”

The phrase reminded Jade that if she didn’t know for sure what a plant was, she shouldn’t be putting it in her mouth. Even on Earth, the very poisonous plant hemlock was often confused with parsley.

What she wouldn’t give for some green goo right about now.

A wave of sadness hit her as she thought about her aunt. She would know what to do.

Moving to the edge of the hillside, Jade sat on a clear flat stone that was lavender in color. With her back to the stream, she gazed down over a beautiful sprawling landscape. Well, at least I have a killer view, she thought as she waited for any negative side effects from the water.

The hill led down to a flat valley that stretched on for miles before disappearing into another dense forest. A shining river wove through the brightly colored grasses of the valley until it too disappeared into the forest. Jagged narrow mountains rose crookedly from the horizon, jutting into the sky at an unnatural angle.

The sun that burned brightly above her was slightly smaller and more orange than the sun back home, casting the whole landscape in warm light.

“Wow,” was all Jade could manage. Up to this point, she’d been afraid and angry that she had been transported unwillingly to an alien planet.

Sitting alone and admiring the beautiful scene before her made her stop and think about how wondrous this place was. She may be temporarily stranded on an alien planet, but she had to admit, it was painfully beautiful and surreal.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted movement and rolled behind a large bush.

About a hundred feet away, a round silver object slowly floated along down a narrow, cleared area of the valley. Her heart leapt. That looks like a road!

The large silver ball had to be twelve feet tall at least, but the gleaming silver surface was so reflective that she’d almost not seen it. If she was right and that was a road, it would make sense that the ball was a vehicle of some sort.

Fatigue threatened to overwhelm her as she gazed longingly at the floating object. If she didn’t eat something or drink more, she’d never make it to the city. Hitching a ride would be her best bet at survival.

Indecision warred within her, and she bounced on her heels, trying to choose whether to chase the moving object down or stay hidden. While it was true the object could be some type of vehicle, it was also true it could be a million other things she’d never even considered.

Even if it was a vehicle, she had no idea what kind of creature she’d find inside it. What if the alien that had tried to collect her from the forest was in the vehicle now? She hadn’t stuck around long enough to get a good look at her abductor, only heard their footsteps. She’d have no way of recognizing them unless they happened to be the solitary creature on this planet with two feet.

The vehicle wasn’t coming from the same direction as the forest she’d escaped from, but that didn’t mean much.

Glancing down at her blistered shoeless feet, she decided she’d have to risk it. Her fear caused the small amount of water she’d consumed to sour in her stomach.

With the bottle of sleep spray clutched in her hand, she forced herself to jog briskly down the hill to intercept the flying vehicle. As she neared, it started to travel faster. I’m not going to make it, she thought, pleading with her legs to pick up speed. Almost there.

The silver ball was moving too fast for her to reach it in time on foot. Thinking quickly, she threw her tube of sleep spray as hard as she could.

Ping! The tube hit the side of the ball as it passed, but the silver object didn’t slow. She sprinted, waving her arms above her head.

Just when she thought the ball was going to disappear over the crest of a hill, it stopped.

Jade fell to her knees and almost cried with relief when the large ball began to slowly move toward her. Cold sweat beaded her forehead, and spots danced in front of her eyes. She was going to faint again.

Please let these aliens be kind, she thought as she fell onto the ground.


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