The snow was thigh deep and Dillon was sleepy and tired. The icy wind slashed at his face through the thick scarf and goggles he wore. His hooded parka was warm despite the heavy coating of ice that sheathed it.
He turned his head to look up at the Amazonian woman who held his gloved hand in hers. She wore no parka or hat or goggles and she seemed impervious to the arctic winds. Her shoulder length black hair was now pure white, so crusted with ice it was. An eye patch covered her right eye. Her face was that of a classic beauty, proud with high cheekbones. She was so strong and Dillon loved her more than anything else he had loved in his young life.
“I’m tired,” Dillon whimpered. She bent down and whispered to him, told him he only had to be strong a little longer and soon they would be with friends who would look after them and help them escape their pursuers. But it was hard to be strong. Dillon had forced himself to be strong for so long. He remembered his father, a big, powerful man with a bristling beard and a booming laugh, one that had shaken Dillon with awe that such a huge sound could come from someone human. His father had disappeared when their enemies had destroyed their island home and that was when Dillon had learned to be strong. But he couldn’t be strong any longer. He and the woman at his side had been on a horrendous odyssey covering the entire world, pursued by hateful foes that slew in silence and mist.
They trudged through the knee-high snow and ice. The woman looked back over her shoulder every few minutes. She couldn’t let the boy know just how exhausted she truly was. It would be dangerous for him to know how desperate their situation had become. But it would all be over soon. She would have kept her promise to her husband, a man she loved more than life itself.
Dillon stumbled and fell to his hands and knees. His feet and hands were numbed, even through the thick mittens and boots he wore. He couldn’t go on. He was too tired, too cold. He just didn’t care anymore. He cried, hating himself for the weakness he displayed in front of the woman. He wasn’t supposed to be weak. His father had always told Dillon that he was a special boy who would grow up to be a special man. But right now he didn’t feel special at all. He felt like a crybaby. A weak, useless crybaby who would never, never grow up to do all the special things his father had said he would do.
“Dillon! Get up!” The woman’s voice was a scream, not of fear, but a harpy’s war cry. Dillon looked over his shoulder and felt his bladder go, his ski pants soaking with urine as he watched death coming and coming damn fast.
Four tall men, all in baggy black clothes. No snow touched them. They would not allow it to touch them. They had skin the gray of cold, dead ashes. They did not appear to run but they came swiftly over the snow, leaving no track. Black baseball caps sat atop their hairless heads and they carried large leather satchels that greatly resembled bowling ball bags.
With a burst of fear-induced adrenaline the woman snatched Dillon up and swung him onto her back.
“Hold on!” And she took off like a greyhound, all fatigue gone.
Oh, how she could run! The world became a blur to Dillon as he wrapped his legs around her waist and his arms around her throat, listening to her labored breathing as she ran flat out, not allowing the four gray men to gain any ground, but not losing them either. Dillon hung on with all his might, too scared to do anything. Why did these strange men want him dead? Why had his peaceful and happy life, once upon a time spent on an idyllic island paradise with a palace like Aladdin’s, been turned into a constant, unending nightmare of pursuit and fear?
The woman was tiring. She could no longer maintain the pace she had set. But that was fine with her. She had known this would be her final sprint; that she would blow herself out once the adrenaline rush wore off. But her goal was in sight.
Ahead of them, a shining silver bridge that seemed woven from gossamer strands as delicate as any spider’s web spanned a deep gorge. The bridge was actually singing as the arctic winds blew through it, and to Dillon the song sounded like one of hope. Stamped on the arch of the bridge’s entrance was a symbol: a golden circle surrounding a phoenix holding a sword in one claw and a shield in the other.
The symbol of Shamballah, the City Eternal.
The four men would be on them before they could reach the bridge. But the woman knew that Dillon could make it. Once he set foot on the bridge, he would be safe.
She swung Dillon from her back, set him firmly on his feet, and her long arm thrust out to point at the bridge. “Listen! Go to the bridge! Cross it and stay on the other side!”
“Aren’t you coming with me?” Dillon asked wildly.
The gray men glided closer, their free hands opening the zippers of their satchels, even as their faces split into ugly grins of red gums and jagged, overlapping teeth.
“No! You have to go! Don’t be afraid. There are people on the other side, friends of mine who will love you and care for you just as much as I do. Now go and do as I say! Go!”
She thrust Dillon away and he stumbled toward the bridge. The woman ripped her coat open, pulled out a .44 Magnum revolver, and fired the last two shots she had been saving for herself and Dillon. Two of the gray men fell, their skulls shattered by the heavy slugs. Inky, foul smelling blood spilled onto the snow.
Dillon reached the bridge and gasped as his feet touched the silver construction. He felt a wave of pure warmth radiate through his body, driving out the bone-numbing cold. He ran across and didn’t stop until he had reached the other side. He fell to his knees, gasping and coughing. Still bone tired but now deliciously warm. He looked over his shoulder.
The woman threw away the empty gun and she faced her enemies with nothing but her bare hands. She leaped like a tigress to fight her last, lonely battle at the top of the world. Her last words drifted on the howling winds. “I love you, Dillon!”
The battle was savage and swift. Sharp objects in the hands of the gray men flashed silver, then red. Blood spurted.
Dillon watched, horrified. And only one word burst from his throat in a howl of anguish.
…..BUT WHAT HAPPENED THEN?