I stared up at him in shock. Was he saying what I thought he was?
“Truth!” he said above the loud sounds of the cargo opening. “Do you understand what I am saying? Escape. This is your one and only chance.”
Pike was trying to help me. He cared. He did.
“And do what?” I asked. “Take my chances with the mutants? Live and die alone while I wait to have the flesh torn off my bones?”
“Survive god damnit! Do whatever you have to do to stay free and survive. Do not go with those men. I know you can do this. I know it. Run.”
I nodded and turned to look at Cross one last time. Tears welled in his eyes as he mouthed goodbye, turning his back so he didn’t have to see me leave. I looked back at Pike and smiled.
“Run, Truth. Run.”
I nodded and walked slowly toward the men waiting to take me off to the mines of Canary. When I disembarked off the ship, I followed Pike’s command, pivoted on my heels, and ran as fast as I could.
I hadn’t bathed in weeks—not since escaping from the fate of becoming a canary—and I’d be damned if I’d spend another night choking on my own musk. I raised my arms, flipping my tangled white hair into a loosely wound topknot. Piss yellow stains crusted in the pits of my fitted white t-shirt. I blinked as if sensing something rumbling through the tall grass. I knew standing around too long was asking for a world of trouble.
I had seen the canaries first hand. Not all of them were killed at the mines when the mutation occurred. In fact, many had clearly overtaken the miners, killing all and now free to roam and cause death and destruction throughout the planet. Only a day after Pike told me to run, I’d stumbled upon a mine and was shocked to find chewed, bloody, half-eaten bodies all around. Signs of a battle were evident, but clearly the canaries had won. And in the far off distance, I could hear a sound that would forever be ingrained in my head.
Teet, teet, teet, teet. The call of the canary.
I didn’t know if I was safer on my own on a canary-infested planet, or risking my chance with the toxic gas and seeing if I became a mutated canary. Regardless, I was alone to roam with the creatures who were caught in the vicious cycle somewhere between life and death. It didn’t taken long since arriving on Canary for the soldier part of me to take over. Goodbye Pallid Slave, hello Unin soldier.
I heard the faint rippling water even though I couldn’t see it yet. After walking further into the trees, I saw it. I hadn’t seen crisp clean water in so long, the whole thing felt slightly dreamy. I unraveled my laces, kicking my boots to the side. Smooth rocks were scattered on the damp edges of the bank. With no one anywhere to be seen for miles, I slunk out of my shirt and shimmied out of my filthy pants. Water squished between my toes, and I’d never felt more alive. If being chewed to death by rotting cannibals was the best I could hope for—I reasoned—what’s left to lose?
Cupping water into my hands, I poured it slowly over my ivory hair. It dribbled down every crease and curve before zigzagging down my thighs.
Teet. Teet. Teet. Teet.
Suddenly, I narrowed my eyes. I picked up my crumple of clothes, my soggy hair swinging in my face. If the mutated canary found me, it would only take seconds until it gored through my pasty flesh and gnawed on my bones. My neck craned at an angle. I needed a quick plan—the faster the better. Out in the clearing, I saw a gray structure sticking out like a knife. After promptly jumping onto the bank, I turned. Dark moody eyes greeted me. It began moving toward me. Teet. Teet. Teet.
Drooling. Spitting. Gnashing.
No way out.
Worse, I had only one chance to make a break for it.
“Fuck it,” I mumbled under my breath.
I fled barefoot, jamming one leg at a time in my pants. The canary lurched after me, crunching dead detritus under his gnarled feet. I hooked a left, rustling the leaves on the trees.
Oh God, oh God, oh God!
I saw other staggering figures along the way, lumbering in my direction. For the next few seconds, I pictured the end of my life. I could hear Pike’s voice in my head. Run!
Finally, I neared the shimmering pewter-colored structure, an old mining station. Small. A gleaming handle caught my eye, and I clung onto it with both of my hands. Hearing scuttling noises close at my back, I frantically jerked at the door, but the damn thing didn’t budge.
Teet. Teet. Teet. Teet.