The noise was from the helicopters were deafening. She could feel their vibrations in her bones and it set her teeth clacking. The spot lights swept the desecrated island landscape. She swallowed hard and tasted tin. She made it to the other side of the hillside just as a large drone scanned the area she had just been scrambling over.
She took a few precious moments to rest, her eyes squeezed shut and her hands pressed firmly over her ears. Her heart thumped. Her eyes watered. She could only see the terrified face of the old woman who was dragged from her home by the hulking figures in black for harboring outsiders, for harboring the woman on the mountainside. She slid down the rocky slope with ragged determination, her palms catching every rough edge, scraped and bleeding.
She tumbled down into a ravine, and lay still, grateful for the deep shadow and prickled plants obscuring her prostrate form. She just needed a moment to get her bearings. She needed a moment to figure out if the other side of the island was being raided, too. The island she loved suddenly was a trap, closing in all around her. She hoped reinforcements were coming.
A different vibration rattled through her, then. A deep thunderclap rolled across the sky, rivaling even the machine gun fire. She threw up a desperate prayer through cracked lips that the thunderbirds found her people where they were and brought their lightning to strike their enemies from the skies. A few fat raindrops fell and soothed her skin. She knew she had to get to the sea.
When the first gusts of sea salt air hit her raw flesh she winced and an incredulous laugh gurgled up and out of her throat. She thought her ordeal through the dark ridges of the island would never end. The sky was choked with black smoke and roaring machines. The sea was roiling, it looked like lava, black in the starless night, and orange from the reflection of the flames engulfing people’s homes.
If she wasn’t going to make it off this island alive, she at least wanted to touch the sea one last time. She ran awkwardly over the soft sand to the water line. A hulking submarine crested above the smaller waves, emblazoned with the Thunderbird. She had the insane thought that if she could just get to it, she would be safe.
She hastily tore away her disheveled clothing. The turbulent air felt like sharp pin pricks to her beaten body. Lightning now cracked the sky as thunder shook the coast. She stumbled into the sea as tears ran down her face. The hulking figures in black were swarming from the town toward the beach now, catching up with the few who escaped the villages on the horizon. Her chest tightened as the waves took her, she knew this was her only choice for a dignified death. She stretched onto her back and let the waves do with her as they would. This was not the worst death. She was with her thunderbirds, they criss crossed the sky. Death is renewal for life, she remembered her great-grandmother saying, and the thunderbirds offer both.
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