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Every time the truck hits a bump, my head smacks the top of the barrel. My legs have fallen asleep. Needle-like prickles travel from my feet to my thighs. I am freezing, and my teeth chatter. It's like I'm being whipped around on the Wipeout ride at the Boardwalk, only without the strobing lights, musical accompaniment, or a seat belt. It's so dark I can't even see my hands, and my brain is fuzzy from the thrashing and the depleted oxygen supply. I can't tell how long we've been driving, but thankfully, the truck finally jerks to a stop. Doors slam in the front, and something creaks in the back.

"Where do these old barrels go?" says a gravelly voiced man.

"They're defects," says another man, whose voice has the high, squeaky tone of a dolphin. "Get the forklift and throw 'em into the recycling behind the barn. The boss likes to show what a good guy he is by recycling. How great he is to the earth." The men laugh.

The 'boss' wants people to think he cares about the earth? I am so angry that my hair sparks orange-red. This 'boss' must be the mysterious man from the engine room on the yacht.

There are mechanical sounds, and then something lifts the barrel I'm in. It's rattling against the other barrels. Then it tumbles and hits the ground hard, my shoulder jamming against the side. My teeth bang together, and my stomach burns like a jellyfish sting. Finally, it comes to a halt. I am trying to catch my breath and allow my hair to calm down. After a few minutes of silence, I decide it's safe to get out. I push against the lid. It's on really tight. If I have to force it open, I know it'll make noise, but it can't be helped. I have to risk it.

I push with all my strength. The lid flies off and makes a horrible banging sound, metal on metal. The barrel rolls some more, and I fall out onto a pile of scrap metal. The air smells like metal and grass, manure, and faintly of the ocean. Though I don't know where I am, it can't be too far from the water.

"Did you hear something?" squeaks the man with the high-pitched voice.

"Yeah. What was that?"

"Get the flashlight out of the truck." Humans have terrible night vision. Thankfully.

I know I only have moments before the men return. I can either crawl back into the barrel to hide or make a break for it. My body can barely unfold itself. I ignore the strain in my muscles and stand, picking my way quickly over the pile. There's a gigantic barn on one side of a meadow, and an oak tree on the other. Black and white cows lie about the knoll. They see me and start lowing. I don't speak Cow, and truthfully I don't even know if it's an official language. I think they only know one word—moo, which means everything—but I'm grateful for the noise. Their eyes follow me as I make a run for the tree. I'm hiding behind the enormous trunk when a flashlight beam glances over the spot where I was only moments before. A fat raccoon races over the pile, dislodging debris.

"It was only a raccoon," says the gravelly voiced man.

I silently thank the raccoon.

"You're welcome," says the raccoon. Wait, I speak Raccoon?

"Did you see something over there?" The flashlight beam sweeps in my direction. My heart is pounding, and my hair throws off some orange sparks.


"By that tree. I thought I saw embers just now. Like from a fire."

I stand against the trunk, the gnarled wood pressed against my face, holding my breath and willing my hair to settle. I clasp it in my hands to hide as much of the sparking as I can. The flashlight beam shines on the matted, dying grass next to the tree.

"Must've been a reflection."

"Yeah. Let's get back to the barn fast, or there won't be no more whiskey."

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