TREE OF LIFE II
“…then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations…”
Revelations 22: 1-2
It was 3 AM.
Out in the park, along the side of the creek, Nicole dashed down the bike trail like a cheetah on its prey. If there had been bicycles on the path by her side, she would have passed them. If there had been cars along the path, she probably would have passed them too. She was silent as she ran. She was a ninja. She was speed itself.
She so enjoyed her exercise when she had the time for it. Running was her favourite. All around her, the city was asleep. She had been running about two hours straight now. And she knew she ought to get going, except she had still to break a sweat.
She reached up to check her pulse. It was about seventy-two. Any normal person at rest was about sixty-four. She bent her head. She sped up. Now, even faster, her feet barely touched the ground. She was airborne, flying above the dirt on the path. Leaves rustled and were churned up in her wake as she scorched by.
Three miles later, she checked her pulse again. Eighty. Well, that’s a little better. She smiled.
Ever since the incident with the Tree of Life and Julian and his father, her body and the bodies of her two friends had been changed forever. They had thought they had just gotten taller and stronger at first, but that was only the beginning. As the years went by, they came to learn just how much they had been re-made from the inside out.
A tug in the back of her mind. She stopped. She drew up to a tree nearby.
That’s odd, she thought. It feels as if…no. She shook her head. That’s not possible. It’s been too many years. Why would he come now?
She resumed her run. But the feeling was still nagging away at her. She checked behind.
There! A shadow between the trees, some half a mile back.
No, she thought. It couldn’t be. A crooked smile came to her lips. But I guess I could try to find out…! She sped up.
She broke away from the bike trail, racing out of the park and back onto the streets. There were some stray cars going by here and there, even at that hour, so Nicole slowed to a snail’s pace until she had arrived in the not-so-busy part of town. Once there and she felt it was safe, she sped up again. She stayed in the alleys as she raced along, hiding herself in the shadows. This way, she could maintain her break neck pace and still not be noticed for some strange scientific phenomenon.
She looked over her shoulder. The shadow was keeping up without a problem.
She smiled. Not bad!
She took to the rooftops. Springing up a fire escape, taking it a flight at a time, she scaled her way to the top of a set of low-rise apartments inside of twenty seconds. She stopped and stood there on the roof. She surveyed the ground behind her.
Over there. She could see the shadow now slinking into her alleyway another two blocks down the street. He was going to catch up to her soon. She turned and took off again.
Racing up to the edge of this building, she took a big breath in as she leaped off the end and over toward the roof of the next building beside it. Flying through the air and then a final somersault, she made the landing onto the second building with plenty of ground to spare. She didn’t slow down. She ran to the edge of this new one and did it again—launched herself into the air, soared through the night like a hawk, somersaulted near the end and then made a perfect landing on the roof of the next building over.
She stopped. Taking the fire escape down this last structure, she wended her way back down to ground level and stood for a moment to get a sense of where she was and where she wanted to go next.
“Hey, girly! What are you doing up this time of night?”
Nicole spun around to the voice.
Two men dressed in drab clothes and reeking of alcohol approached her with a swagger and a tendency to fall over. One of them whipped out a knife.