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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
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What in the world did he think he was doing?

There was no reason for it. No reason at all. He should be a hundred yards away by now, leaving Alex and Andrea to their fates. No, he should be a thousand miles away, in a perfectly innocuous stretch of woodland on a perfectly innocuous senior trip. But he was blinded by anger and frustration and pain and who knows else, trading blows for no good reason, the motive behind the scuffle forgotten...

It was a mistake, really, thinking that he could weather the fury of a much bigger student with a much more robust weapon. He'd stepped forward instinctively, trying to reduce the arc of his swing, trying to rob the branch of its deadly momentum, and been rewarded for all his skills and reflexes with what? A bloody arm and a broken weapon.

"Hey, asshole!"

It was a perfect opportunity, just what he needed. If his thoughts ever chanced upon the subject, there were two rules that he thought to obey had he ever gotten into a real altercation. Number one was fight dirty, and number two was run like a madman. The thought came swirling through the heady stew of light and sound and adrenaline that ensnared his mind, blocking out all rational thought. And for the first time, he acted not to dissuade or to beat off his attacker, but to wound and tear in earnest. He made his move uncoiling like a spring, exploding forward with an almighty lunge from his legs, the only portion of his wiry little frame he could be proud of. But Alex knew what he was doing, too.

For a moment, the world spun, and then stopped, brutally, harshly, showing him the forest canopy far above. The shock of it pounded through him, unhindered by such underrated cushions as body fat. All strength left him, and his grip on the sharp glass was pitifully weak, surrendering it without much resistance. Adrenaline left his body with his breath, and his ribcage, previously slathered in molten lead, felt small and weak as it heaved. Any moment now, he'd see that branch coming down like a world-shattering meteor.

Where the intact bottle had gone, he neither knew nor cared. He rolled to the side, heaving himself onto unwilling legs, and stared dizzily through the trees. Alex might have been saying something, or might not. Its importance was nil. Nick was listening to his brain now, and every synapse was screaming the same command, "RUN!" There would be no restitution, no apologies or even continued hostility. He stumbled unsteadily forward then broke into a run, giving Alex a wide berth and kicking of a tree to send him in the right direction, towards his bag, which he grabbed with a hand coated in a slimy film of grime and thin, oily blood.

And then he got the hell out of Dodge.

((Nick Reid continued in The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons))



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Waking Up is Hard to do · The Woods: Inland