Run! Come on, run! You know you can do it.
I gulped deep lungfuls of air. My brain was on hyperdrive; I was racing for my life. My one goal was to escape. Nothing else mattered.
My arms being scratched to ribbons by a briar I'd run through? No biggie.
My bare feet hitting every sharp rock, rough root, pointed stick? Not a problem.
My lungs aching for air? I could deal.
As long as I could put as much distance as possible between me and the Erasers.
Yeah, Erasers. Mutants: half-men, half-wolves, usually armed, always bloodthirsty. Right now they were after me.
See? That snaps everything into perspective.
Run. You're faster than they are. You can outrun anyone.
I'd never been this far from the School before. I was totally lost. Still, my arms pumped by my sides, my feet crashed through the underbrush, my eyes scanned ahead anxiously through the half-light. I could outrun them. I could find a clearing with enough space for me to-
Oh, no. Oh, no. The unearthly baying of bloodhounds on the scent wailed through the trees, and I felt sick. I could outrun men-all of us could, even Angel, and she's only six. But none of us could outrun a big dog.
Dogs, dogs, go away, let me live another day.
They were getting closer. Dim light filtered in through the woods in front of me-a clearing? Please, please ... a clearing could save me. I burst through the trees, chest heaving, a thin sheen of cold sweat on my skin.
I skidded to a halt, my arms waving, my feet backpedaling in the rocky dirt.
It wasn't a clearing. In front of me was a cliff, a sheer face of rock that dropped to an unseeable floor hundreds of feet below.
In back of me were woods filled with drooling bloodhounds and psycho Erasers with guns.
Both options stank.
The dogs were yelping excitedly-they'd found their prey: moi.
I looked over the deadly drop.
There was no choice, really. If you were me, you'd have done the same thing.
I closed my eyes, held out my arms ... and let myself fall over the edge of the cliff.
The Erasers screamed angrily, the dogs barked hysterically, and then all I could hear was the sound of air rushing past me.
It was so dang peaceful, for a second. I smiled.
Then, taking a deep breath, I unfurled my wings as hard and fast as I could.
Thirteen feet across, pale tan with white streaks and some freckly looking brown spots, they caught the air, and I was suddenly yanked upward, hard, as if a parachute had just opened. Yow!
Note to self: No sudden unfurling.
Wincing, I pushed downward with all my strength, then pulled my wings up, then pushed downward again.
Oh, my god, I was flying-just like I'd always dreamed.
The cliff floor, draped in shadow, receded beneath me. I laughed and surged upward, feeling the pull of my muscles, the air whistling through my secondary feathers, the breeze drying the sweat on my face.
I soared up past the cliff edge, past the startled hounds and the furious Erasers.
One of them, hairy-faced, fangs dripping, raised his gun. A red dot of light appeared on my torn nightgown. Not today, you jerk, I thought, veering sharply west so the sun would be in his hate-crazed eyes.
I'm not going to die today.
Excerpted from MAXIMUM RIDE by James Patterson Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson. Excerpted by permission.
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