Zaida stopped running at the edge of the forest. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Slowly, the beating ceased. The air filled with the whisper of leaves in the breeze, the crack of a falling coconut, the wings of a bird soaring through the dazzling sky. She smelt the ocean thundering under an incoming tide. She sprinted into the sunlight like a frightened gazelle, and then jumped over a low dune and onto the beach. Fine grains of glistening sand enticed her forward, silky beneath her toes, sinking to cover her ankles. She had escaped.
Waves pounded gently in the distance, then slithered into the shore, rippling enticingly. Sand darkened as the water crept closer to sniff her heels. She was surrounded by nothing but the expanse of the virgin ocean before her eyes and the exuberant foliage covering her back.
Unconsciously, she began to scratch the palm of her left hand, at the base of her thumb. She felt it burn. Just a twitch she told herself. It will go away. An allergic reaction, a retrograde instinct. Nothing to fear.
It didn’t abate. The irritation was driving her crazy as noon approached and heat began to beat relentlessly. She knew what it was, the chip they embedded to make life easy. It was biting through her skin, pulsating madly in a painful search for life. Sweat dripped into her eyes. Her legs began to pound along the beach in a futile attempt at regaining composure. The waves lapped closer, determinedly sucking sand into gurgling whirlpools.
She spotted a sparkle in the distance. She held her hands over her eyes and stared. A dirty green bottle bounced helplessly, ebbing and flowing with the tide. The pulse throbbed at the base of her finger, desperately attempting to connect. She strode into the water and grabbed the slippery glass. She pulled the cork with a swift jerk. Empty.
Her hand bleeped, the chip still bubbling beneath her skin, fighting to breakthrough. She screeched in pain. Desperately she cracked the bottle off a rock. A shard of glass fell to the ground. She grabbed the sharp edge, dug it into her skin, poked, scratched deep as she cut herself free. Blood gushed down her fingers, staining the sand as it dripped, sticky between her toes. She sliced the bug out and watched it blink. A pulsating light the size of a grain of rice was threatening her survival. Zaida jammed it into the broken bottle, stuffed the cork into the splintered neck, and threw it out to sea as far as she could reach. The dark green shadow soared, glinted, crashed into a wave with a satisfying smacking sound.
She waited for the tide to turn and take it away. That chip contained everything she once needed to survive. She walked tenderly along the shoreline, blood congealing on her wounds, her final message bobbing off into eternity.
Dedicated to education and being a father, E. F. S. Byrne has finally found more time to devote to his writing and is currently working on everything from very short flash stories to full-length novels. Regular micro flash blog posts and links to over thirty published stories can be found at efsbyrne.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @efsbyrne
Photo credit Eric Muhr