Vanquished (The Hidden Planet 2) - Page 23

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“That’s it,” he says, looking over at me. “Nice and easy.”

Nice and easy.

I remember learning to ride a bicycle and my father saying those same words to me.

“Nice and easy, darling,” he said. “You’ve got this.”

I remember my first day at Martian Modern Dance class.

“Nice and easy,” Dad told me. “You can do this.”

I remember the first time I had to give a speech.

“Nice and easy. It’s all you.”

Now, it’s not my father saying those words to me. It’s Ezra, but the feeling is the same. I feel like he believes in me, so I can do this. I feel like he trusts me to handle it, so I can. I feel like no matter what happens, he’s with me, so everything is going to be okay.

I think everything is going to be all right.

My foot finds the ledge and I pull myself onto it. I grab onto the upper-part of the rock and cling to it as my other foot comes up. Now I’m not on land at all. I’m on the rock, and if I look down, I can see into the water.

It goes down, down, down. It goes so far that I imagine reaching the bottom must not even be possible. You probably die before you reach the bottom. You probably get eaten by one of the weird fish swimming around down there.

They look hungry and I don’t like that.

“Come on,” Ezra says. “Eyes up, buttercup.”

He’s scooting along and I join him in the process. Slowly, we move our feet and hands as we inch along the rock. After a few minutes, Ezra lets me know he’s going to jump to the next rock. It’s more of a large step for him than a jump. For me, it’ll definitely be a jump.

When it’s my turn, I eye the space between the rocks warily.

“Don’t look down,” Ezra reminds me. The ledge at the edge of the rock is thicker and wider than it was before, so I have space to stand and turn my body for the jump. I take a deep breath and count to five. Then I just do it. I take the leap. I go.

My feet hit the ledge and my hands scramble to find something to cling on, but there’s nothing. I start to slip, to fall, but then I feel Ezra’s hands wrap around my waist and pull me up.

“There you go,” he says. “I’ve got you. You’re okay.”

“I’m okay,” I repeat, as if I don’t quite believe it, and to be honest, I don’t. “But that was close.”

“You’re okay,” he says once more. Then we keep moving. We repeat the process of carefully walking along the huge boulders, jumping to the next, and then walking again. We do this over and over and over. By the time we’re almost across the water, I’m hungry, sweaty, and completely out of breath.

And then we reach the shore.

We land on the beach and I instantly want to sit down, but Ezra guides me toward the trees.

“Back into the jungle for us,” he says. He looks around warily. “We don’t want to be out here for too long.”

“Why not?” I ask, wondering what kind of predator is lurking, waiting for beach-goers. He just shakes his head, though, and leads me back into the jungle, back to our quest. My legs hurt and I’m tired, but I don’t complain as we get back into the shade and keep moving. There’s something comfortable about this area, about moving through this place with Ezra, but once we’re beneath the protection of the trees, he tells me what he’s worried about.

“Someone was watching us,” he says.

“Someone?”

Stremon.

It had to be.

He had to have found me.


Tags: Sophie Stern The Hidden Planet Science Fiction
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