Chapter 5

My heart was beating wildly and I felt a wide grin spread across my face as I ran into the forest. The leaves crunched under my bare feet and I tried to ignore the pain as they crashed against the hard sticks and stones scattered across the forests ground. I could hear the counting fading behind me as I ran further and further into the forest.

          “Twenty-one, Twenty-two, Twenty-three…”

          My heart was racing and I finally reached my destination. In front of me lay a dead tree. It had fallen so that the top had hit another tall tree; it was sitting straight up, caught against it.

It had fallen only a mere week ago, the loud crash waking everyone in the society up. My parents had gotten up and told me specifically to not leave the home as they left to go check things out.

          Of course I didn’t listen.

          Clara and Levi knocked on my window only five minutes later. I had climbed out of my house in only my nightdress and followed them into the forest. We were curious kids and constantly didn’t listen. When we reached them we saw the society surrounding the dead tree and I could hear everyone chuckling.

          “False alarm!” a man had said.

          I don’t know what we truly thought had happened, but I know that the first thing that came to mind were The Dead. I was afraid that they had finally come for us, even though I didn’t know what for. It was only the next year that I realized what they really wanted- our flesh. Only the next year that Nicholas had told me, and my father had died.

          Everyone laughed half-heartedly, relieved. It was simply a harmless tree that had been dying in the forest for a while now. Some sort of odd looking infection of white dots had infected the poor tree, killing it. Now that the tree was dead, the white dots had finally disappeared.

         I stood in front of the tree still, gasping for breath and trying to calm my breathing.

         “Forty-five, forty-six…” I could barely make out his loud chants as he counted higher and higher.

         I stood there for only a few more seconds before gaining my courage. I stepped closer to the dead tree and grabbed one of its many branches. I tugged the branch for balance and hopped atop its dead trunk. I bit my lip, uncertain, looking down at my feet. I jumped once, testing it to see if the tree would snap, but it didn’t budge. I knew it wouldn’t break. I started up the tree, getting higher and higher with each passing second. I climbed the many branches tugging and tugging until I had reached the top. I then sat right there, as high as I had ever been.

         “Ready or not, here I come!” the shout rang across the quiet forest.

         I smirked to myself. He would never find me all the way up here.

         I looked around me and was surprised how much I could see from so high up. I was on one of the highest trees in the forest, and if I looked around I could see everything. If I looked to my right, I could see where our houses must be, because there was scattered smoke rising into the sky. If I looked to my left, I could see the beautiful ocean and the sun setting red above it.

         I heard a twig snap below me and looked down to see my father, searching around.

         “I’m going to find you, Avery!” he said, teasing.

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