A teen is kidnapped and dumped in the wilderness, forced to run from those who hunt him.
Sixteen-year-old Reid thinks life is back to normal. His sister Lucy pulls herself together and cuts him free from a year of foster care. She promises to take care of him, that her new boss and her new life are what they both needed to start again. Until Reid is taken in the middle of the night, dumped in a wild stretch of forest far from home with no idea why he is there. Lost and afraid, he learns to run from the hunters who prowl the darkness, their only pleasure chasing down kids like him. And killing them.
Where is there exactly? He has no way of finding out, not from where he is standing. In his struggle to be upright he got turned around and hasn’t a clue which way the voices went when they left him. And why kidnap him only to dump him in the woods? None of it makes sense. But Reid doesn’t care about any of that right now. All he cares about is going home.
At least there is a path. He can see it winding through the trees. Reid tries to scan further ahead and spots an upgrade. He remembers being carried like he was descending and a wave of relief, his first since this started, washes through him. His lips twist into a grin. Idiots. They totally gave it away. Now he knows where to go.
He gathers himself for another moment before trying to walk. It’s surprisingly easy considering what he’s gone through. His feet have recovered enough he can feel the roughness of the path through his sneakers. Reid is grateful his captors didn’t do any permanent damage. A broken bone or two would have made what he is trying much harder, if not impossible. But he is in relatively good shape, a natural athlete, and figures with enough time and rest he’ll find his way out.
After a few staggered steps, he gets his stride back and heads down the path. The moon is behind him, lighting his way, casting his shadow forward and to the left. He knows that means he is traveling in a certain direction, can hear his father telling him about it, but can’t concentrate on it and lets it be. Not like it matters much, anyway. He has no intention of needing that information. The path should take him where he needs to go.
Reid stumbles over a large root dividing the path and takes a sudden fall to the left. His hand instinctively reaches out for support and finds the bark of a tree. It saves him from falling, the hand that caught it sliding over the coarse coating of moss and loose wood. As it does, he feels a change in the contact. Something soft protrudes from the trunk. He turns to look, eyes settling on the moonlit gaze of a boy.
It takes Reid a moment to register and another to process. The kid is as tall as he is, but looks a lot younger. His eyes are wide open, staring, glaring. There is something wrong with the front of his shirt. Reid takes in the blank stare, fingers still traveling over the boy’s clothing until they come to rest on the large, dark patch over the kid’s stomach. Wetness resides there. Reid pulls his hand back and looks. The liquid is black in the moonlight but has a distinctive aroma. Coppery. And now that he is paying attention, he notices another smell. A heavy and angry scent that makes his nose constrict, his stomach flutter, his mind shriek in fear even as he looks down and notices the boy’s sneakers are a good foot off the ground.
The kid smells like road kill, like some squashed skunk or car-flattened raccoon left too long in the sun. Reid backs away in a hurry, slips on something slimy underfoot, stumbles and falls, not noticing the impact, eyes locked on the gaping wound in the boy’s stomach. Someone is screaming into the darkness. When he realizes it’s him, Reid shuts down. His own belly lurches, tries to expel something, anything, but only bile comes up. Reid hastily wipes his fingers on the ground, desperate to get the boy’s blood off of him. It seems very important for some reason.
The kid is pinned to the tree trunk with what looks like big metal spikes. He dangles there, a sick and twisted art project, thought up by a madman.