Bombs were going off all around them. Cadets Jake and Lori felt as if their eardrums were exploding. She wanted to go one way, he wanted to go another. Their team was divided, and their alliance was shaky. Every time they made a move, something blew up in their faces or somewhere nearby. At times they found holes in the ground to hide in, but trouble always found its way into their hiding space. Tired of the confusion, Jake grabbed Lori, uncovering themselves from their protection as they tried to find their way out of the maze of trees. They turned in time to see their newly evacuated hiding hole blown to kingdom come.
“I can’t go any further!” she yelled over the booming and crackling noises that seemed to be coming from every direction. “Yes, you can! If you’re not there to watch my back we’re not going to make it out of here!” he told her. She looked behind him, and screamed. Jake turned as an enemy leapt from the mound of rubble and on top of him. They struggled. “Move it…!” Jake shouted to Lori. She managed to get to her feet and ran behind a tree, but as soon as she was in place, and Jake had gotten to his feet, the enemy was gone. “Where’d he go?” he said. “I don’t know!” Lori said looking around, her weapon now drawn. “Let’s go,” Jake said once his breathing calmed, somewhat. “Maybe we shouldn’t try to get to base right now, I feel so exposed. Like they can see us,” she said. Jake shook his head. He wanted to find that base as soon as possible. Too much danger was around them and the closer they could get there, the better. They would just have to fight all the harder, use what weapons they had. “We gotta keep moving,” he said pulling her along. “No!” she said. “We keep traveling like this and we’re going to get caught by more than just one of those things,” she said squinting in the sun’s light.
Jake was overcome. He wasn’t simply trying to get away from the enemy, he wanted to get her to safety. She was injured, and he didn’t want to be in the middle of the forest if she couldn’t go on. They would both be in trouble. He paced. “I know you’re hurt, Lori,” he said. “I need to get you to that base…please,” he almost pleaded. “But…if we get caught, we’ll never make it,” she said, her eyes stinging. “And I want to make it.” Jake swallowed hard. He closed his eyes and silently prayed for direction. He reached out and gently turned her around. He opened her backpack and searched for the first-aid kit. He went still just as he heard footsteps and pointed at the small opening between the trees. She saw his gesture and both quietly crawled into the space. She could feel blood seeping from the open wound on her leg. Jake covered it with mud so that the enemy that hunted them would not be drawn to it. He wrapped and tended to her leg as quietly as he could. Just then, the crunch of the leaves came closer until they could feel the weight and presence of the enemy nearby. Lori wanted to scream out in frustration, but knew that would not help them at all. She covered her mouth as Jake drew his weapon, ready to run out and defend them both until he saw four pairs of legs. Lori was right, he thought with a sickening feeling in his stomach. There would be more than just one, she had said. And they could not take them all out without sacrifice, but Jake was certainly willing to try so that she could make it to base. “The others didn’t make it, Jake,” Lori whispered. “Somebody has to…please.” He stopped, considering her words carefully until, finally, he remained inside, but poised just in case…
Night came. It was so dark it was almost too thick to see through. Jake extended his hand and Lori held on for dear life, following him through the trail of trees and bushes. He saw a light. It was base camp. He wanted to sigh with relief but they weren’t out of the woods just yet, so he stayed alert. Just as they were getting closer to the perimeter, shadows rose from their hiding places, positioning themselves between the cadets and their camp. Lori couldn’t even scream. Her mouth hung open in shock. She looked down at their hands as Jake began to slowly pull them apart. “No,” she whispered. “Go,” he said, eyeing the enemies in front of him. “Get to base,” he said, turning to look at her. She hated that look, because she knew exactly what it meant. In disbelief she shook her head, but Jake was getting angrier. She knew it would be easier for him if she just listened. “Jake—” she mouthed before he pushed her down the hill toward the camp. He raised his weapon and ran, meeting the shadows head on. Jake blinked as he heard the muffled sound of his name being called. He was in a bright room, in a bed with Lori hovering above him. “What happened? Am I dead? Are we dead?” he said. Lori laughed. “No, not even close. We,” she began with a smile, “…just graduated. Now get up. We’ve got a ceremony to go to.” Lori pulled her fiancé up very carefully, and helped him dress. “Shouldn’t we heal first before we get married? We can both barely move...” Jake said, checking to see if she caught his meaning. Lori giggled. “We just survived marriage boot camp 101, I think we can handle…our honeymoon,” she smiled.
S. M. Phelon is a homeschooling parent living in Memphis, Tn. with her husband and three children. She enjoys writing fiction, romantic mysteries, and relationship-based stories. In her quiet time she reads, watches football, soccer, and well-written movies. Her style of storytelling is very versatile and reflects, quite perfectly, the nature of her personality.