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Her arms, a shield blocking the snowflakes that pierced her skin like shards of glass. Running was indeed her only option. The Guardians weren’t kind to runners; she couldn’t turn back now.

After trudging through knee-high snow for an hour, she reached a wall of ice. If it had a top, it was hidden somewhere beyond the sky; vast and curved like a giant arc, it spanned the entire village. This was the how, her only way out. Freedom had never seemed so far away.

Now, for the first time, pain engulfed her mind more than freedom. Agony. She felt it. Everywhere. Her frostbitten toes. The pulsating headache. And now her ice cold fingers scraped the wall as she patted the icy barricade for something to grab.

Snow crunched beneath her feet when she lifted onto her toes and quickly wedged her fingers into a groove. Time wasn’t in her favor. It wouldn’t take long for them to find out she was gone, and tracking footprints in the untouched snow was easy pickings for experienced hunters.

Her breathing was heavier, her heart pounded faster. Despite having a crippling fear of heights that made her stomach twist, she climbed seven times her height.

Her belly made it difficult to hug the wall closely. And her hands trembled—too weak to hold herself up, too afraid to let go.  

She was stuck, feeling a sense of dread creep up on her like darkness after sunset.

The silence was interrupted by the crunch of footsteps. The sounds of defeat. Of loss.

“No, please.” She quivered, still hanging onto the wall. It was never about if they’d find her, only when.

“There’s nowhere to go,” said a booming voice from behind.

She couldn’t breathe. Tears poured down her face, freezing against her skin.

Her body trembled. Slowly she turned her head around to spot a man.

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