After a while, Sadie finally woke again. She squinted into the afternoon sun as she struggled to her feet. Sadie turned to her left and saw a bright sliver path leading out of the woods. Before she could take her first step, she heard a popping and crackling noise behind her. Sadie promptly turned around and gazed at the giant inferno consuming the forest. Sadie turned to run, but her eye caught a small pond a few yards away. Next to the pond was an old metal bucket. Without thinking, she grabbed the pail, filled it to the brim, and ran back to the fire. She threw the pail forward with all her might, but nothing came out. When she looked into the bucket, it was still full of murky pond water. A flare of ash cause Sadie to stagger backwards. Through the flames, she saw a dark figure standing in the middle of the blaze. Sadie focused her vision and saw her mother, severely burned and staring at her with lifeless eyes. Sadie screamed in horror as she was consumed by the flames, her skin being eaten alive by the fire...
Sadie shot up from her nightmare, still screaming. Her breathing became fast and labored. Her skin broke out in a cold sweat. Her whole body began to shiver with anxiety. She was too petrified to cry. The words of her stepfather replayed in her mind over and over. It should have been you. It should have been you. It should have been you...
Thud. Sadie silenced the voices in her head to focus on the noise she heard. It wasn't until now that she realized she wasn't in the forest anymore. She was in a cave. A rather large cave, in fact. Everything from the floor to the ceiling was complete rock. There was a small trickle of a waterfall splashing into a narrow creek. The walls were as high as the trees, maybe higher. There were five small crevices in one wall, each holding small tools, weapons, or any other supplies. Someone, or something, lived here.
Two more thuds. They were getting closer and closer. Sadie was still too weak to move and hide. Sadie braced herself for whatever was coming her way.
Out of a tiny hole in another wall popped a little boy, possibly seven or eight years old. He was covered with dust from head to toe. He carried a small rusty hatchet in his right hand, a limp squirrel in the left. He stared at Sadie with a look of curiosity, which she gave him in return.
"Where am I?" She cautiously asked.The boy didn't reply. He simply went to his cubby hole in the wall and put away his hatchet and squirrel.
"Dune!!!" A cry came from the cave opening. "Where's my knife? I know you took it, you little toad!"Into the cave came another boy, looking very irritated. He looked about Sadie's age, had sleek black hair tied back, and carried a bundle of vines. He was followed by a fiery red-headed boy who kept twitching his head as if he could hear the slightest sounds.
"I already told you, I don't have it." replied Dune. "You know I've been out hunting all day. To be honest, I wish I did take it. Might've helped since all I got was a measly squirrel."
"Well, Felix don't have it, so who does?'Ah-choo! Sadie disrupted their chatter with an untimely sneeze that caused the three boys to stare at her.
"Ah, I see you're finally awake." The dark-haired one replied. "It's about time too. You were out for two whole days."
"What? Two days?" Sadie was shocked.
"Yeah, that's right. My name is Bree. I see you've already met Dune. And this here's Felix."
"Well, Sadie, since you've been out for so long, I'll bet you're famished."Sadie's stomach immediately growled in agreement. The boys laughed and went about to bring her food. Sadie slowly staggered onto her feet and walked around the cavern. The rock floor was smooth and flat, a nice change for Sadie's aching feet. A cool breeze came in through the cave opening.
"Where exactly are we?"
"In a cave in the middle of the forest. That's about as accurate as you can get as far as location." replied Felix.Dune brought over a small bowl which held the most peculiar looking slices of meat, along with a cup of the creek water. Sadie showed her gratitude with a small smile, but Dune quickly turned away and left the cave without a word. Sadie took a tiny bite of the meat. It tasted like no other animal she had ever eaten, but right now, she couldn't care less.
"So where did you guys come from?" She asked.
"Another time for that," said Bree. "We all have very long stories."
"How many is all of you?"
"Oh, there's six of us all together. The other two, Kellan and Misha, are out gathering more supplies. You'll meet them later."
"That's only five of you." Sadie counted. "Who's the sixth?"
"You know who he is." Bree replied.