Chapter Seventy-Six

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The next morning I woke up and nearly forgot that I was still being held captive. The walls had been the same wooden color as the ones back in the cabin I'd left behind, and my captor had been nowhere in sight.

Until he walked through the door carrying a squirrel carcass.

I sat now in front of a small fire created by the hooded guy, who used rocks and water to make sure the wood of the house didn't actually catch fire, too. I still found it dangerous, that we were building the fire without any real bricks to separate it from everything else, but it was too windy outside to have one there. And my captor needed to eat.

The dead carcass of the squirrel began to char as it roasted over the fire. I wondered how he'd even managed to find a squirrel. All of the animals left in the snow had slowly died off, just like the human race had. It was odd how often I forgot about the other creatures that inhabited the earth with us. As we died, they did, too. This left us with even less food, and caused even more of us to die. I knew there were some animals that normally survived in such cold whether who had started to roam southward, as the poles got ever colder. That was the only way that any of us had continued to live.

I hoped that he was planning to share his food with me, but I had doubts. He'd been trying to kill me this entire time, so what would be the point in helping me now? I still didn't understand why I wasn't dead yet. It bothered me. I felt as though I was on a path towards something I wouldn't be happy about. I just wanted to get back to the cabin with Asten and the others, so we could escape and try to find a way to live in this difficult world. We could go back to the rest of the society, Mace could rest and be okay, and we could forget that we'd ever come to the Equator in the first place.

After a couple more minutes, my captor, pulled the roasted squirrel out of the fire and onto a stone instead. He began to tear a piece off and immediately shoved it in his mouth. I could feel my stomach rumbling. I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten.

He apparently had heard my body's cry for food. He looked up at me, a piece of torn squirrel in his hands, and then beckoned me over. "Come here," he said. My hands were still zip-tied, which made getting up difficult, but I was still able to. Once I was standing, I hesitated. I just assumed he was going to give me food, but what if he didn't? What if instead this was how I was going to die?

I had to stop constantly worrying about dying. It made living more difficult. I was too hungry to care anymore.

I walked towards where he was, avoiding the still flickering flame and stood above him and his stone of squirrel. He picked up the squirrel, and I looked down at the gray rock left behind. He wasn't paying attention. He was focused on tearing off another piece, and had left this perfect rock lying on the ground right next to me, where if I'd had my hands free, I'd be able to hit him in the head and escape. Then I realized I didn't need my hands.

Preparing myself for the pain of impact, I slammed my foot into the rock, somehow managing to launch it a couple feet off the ground. I was shocked as it hit the side of his head. My eyes grew wide as he dropped the squirrel and feel to the ground, the black material growing blacker as blood seeped from his wound.

This was my chance to leave.

I ran towards the door, which was still open in order to let out the smoke. The chilly wind from outside brushed through my clothes as I stared out into the snow. There was a knife on the ground, and I quickly knelt down to use it to slit the zip-ties. It took a couple tries, but I finally did it. I stood back up when I was done. My bag was right next to the door. I leaned to pick it up, and then stopped.

I couldn't just leave.

I had to know who my captor was. If I didn't find out, they could just rejoin our group and go after me again whenever they got the chance. I didn't want to take the risk of not knowing who wanted me dead.

I turned and faced the unconscious body on the ground. Like always, all I could see were the eyes of my captor, which barely did anything to give away who he might be. I moved closer to the figure, and knelt down. The mask had eye openings that I could use to pull off the entire head mask.

I grabbed the material, and began pulling up. Just as some of his skin began to show underneath the black, the body reanimated itself, and suddenly I was back on the ground, trapped by the same person who'd been my captor this entire time. I hadn't even been fortunate enough to see his face. I still didn't know a thing about him, and I was right back where I'd started.

"That was a bad idea. Even if you did escape, it wouldn't take long for us to find you again," the boy said, confidently.

I didn't understand what he meant. "Why?"

"Have you already forgotten the trackers you and all of your friends still have in you?" the boy asked, and I could imagine a smirk beneath his mask. I felt my heart sink in my chest. The trackers. I'd forgotten all about them. I could feel the rising horror inside me as I realized more and more what this meant.

"I guess all of your friends aren't safe after all."

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