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Chapter Twenty

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Kita trudged through the desert with her head down and her jacket open. She slept in the open last night and saw the breathtaking band of stars that made up the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time. It left her in awe.

The heat of the day rose off the dry lakebed creating shimmering horizons. The sound of a helicopter above made her turn and flip it off. It wasn't the first time they'd come looking. They can retrieve the body.

Kita kept walking. The mountains never seemed to get any closer. She didn't think they were that far away. The helicopter continued to circle. What the slag do they want? I can't die in peace? I have to have some slagging Air Force helicopter circling me like a buzzard. Let the real birds peck at my carcass. I bet Kimmy sent it just to remind me that I belong to her. Well, she can't have me. No one owns me. If I can't live free, I'll die. That gives me an idea.

Using the heel of her boot, Kita scrapped LIVE FREE OR DIE into the salt of the lakebed. It looks big enough they should be able to read it from the air. Let Kimmy put that in her pipe and smoke it.

***

Kita spent another night out under the stars. Now, she was hungry. Doesn't matter. I'll die of thirst first. The mountains appeared bigger today. I must be getting close. I don't want to die on the salt flats. The mountains seem a much more romantic place.

As the day wore on, Kita rested more often. She was hot and stripped off her jacket to put over her head to block the sun. I've stopped sweating. That's not a good sign. Spots formed in her eyes as the mirages on the horizon became vivid. She tried to enjoy the hallucinations until her dad appeared.

"Daddy?" Kita whispered.

Her father stood only a few feet in front of her. Kita walked to him, but he moved back. She walked faster, but she got no closer.

"Daddy!" Kita screamed. She dropped her jacket and broke into a run chasing after him. "Don't leave me again!"

Tears fell down her face as she ran until she could run no more and collapsed to her knees. "Daddy! Don't go," Kita wailed. "Don't leave me. I don't want to be alone. Daddy...Please," she whimpered.

Kita flopped on her side and tasted the salty dirt on her lips. She sobbed past the point of having any tears left. Rolling onto her back, she stared up into the sky. Slowly, a gray haze crept into her vision. The haze swallowed her sight to pinholes. Something dark blocked the light and Kita slipped into blackness.

***

The light was bright. Kita tried to move her arms to shield her eyes, but they refused to move. She squinted instead. Medical equipment surrounded her. A soft beeping came from a machine to her right. An IV tree next to the bed held three bags connected to her arm. Under the thin sheet, she wore a set of hospital pajamas. She occupied a corner of a large two-story room. The rest of the room was empty. She was alone.

Kimmy couldn't let me die. How sweet of her. Now I get to be a prisoner instead. I wonder if there's a way to kill myself in here. First, I have to lift my arms.

Kita concentrated on moving her sunburned arms. She succeeded in wiggling her fingers. That led to balling her fists and rolling them around. Moving her elbows was painful. They loosened after opening and closing them a dozen times. She rotated her shoulders and then worked at moving her entire arms. Pain radiated away from her shoulder, down her arm and across her back. What did I do? How long have I been out? Or, am I just suffering from dehydration?

Satisfied she could move her arms pushed herself to a sitting position and twisted her torso. She was stiff, and muscles in her back complained, but nothing sharp just ached. Ok, I can move. Now, what can I do to kill myself? There were cords and sheets, but those would require standing, and she didn't think she could tie them high enough. The IV held promise. It would be slow, but no one had come to check on her yet.

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