Island Fire Chapter 1 (preview)
Ellie struggled to escape the stabs of pain that raced up, down, and across her body. She wasn’t aware of where she was. A curtain of mist had fallen around her, blanketing everything familiar. Male voices yelled incoherently close by as pain streaked across her back and legs. On and on went the assault.
Somewhere in the distance a woman screamed in agony. The piercing shrieks disturbed Ellie. She wanted to help the woman, but her thoughts couldn’t escape the agony that held her in its grip.
The screams grew louder. Ellie’s thoughts reacted in sympathy to the woman’s distress. Could any of this be real? No. It had to be a horrible dream. The high-pitched screeching seemed to be coming closer to Ellie, peaking in its intensity. Before she could react, the distorted shrieks abruptly ceased. Simultaneously, the mist previously clouding her vision dispersed. Ellie attempted to ask what was happening, but her throat was so raw that only a rasping sound came out.
Gradually, she became more lucid, her whimpering fading to low moans. She struggled to glance around. What was she doing lying face down in the decaying vegetation on the jungle floor with her arms shielding the back of her head?
Ellie turned her head to one side. Pain raced through the muscles of her body and down to the soles of her feet. Her body shook as it became engulfed in a fiery mass of injured nerves from neck to toe. Surging into her pain-filled world came the chilling realization that she, eighteen-year-old Ellie Griffiths, had been the screaming woman.
Was it 1907? Or was it 1903, with the blackbirder Striker catching up with her after killing her adoptive parents, Mama and Papa Jacob?
She prayed that she would get her thinking straight, so she would know what she had to contend with.
Ellie eased one arm down resting it beside her body, preparing to roll over. Her arm felt wet and sticky. She must have been lying in mud? After focusing on the stickiness she realized it was blood! Her blood? She could see it seeping out of tiny holes and lacerations in her flesh. Pain shot through her other arm and down both legs, holding her within its grasp.
As Ellie lay there trying to control the painful sensations running through her body, she began to piece together how she came to be in the jungle in such a predicament. It was obvious to her that where she lay wasn’t along Baninga Beach, her favorite place. She was on a lesser-used, jungle trail leading inland to a small waterfall and secluded mountain pool. She remembered deciding to go for a swim away from the village, probably missing a turn-off along the jungle trail, ending up out of familiar territory.
It must have been the emotional turmoil she experienced from Tari avoiding her, especially after he had asked her to marry him. Perhaps the turmoil caused her to deviate from the trail. Obviously, her sad state of mind had captured her attention so that she hadn’t heard the shouting coming from further along the trail. A colony of flying foxes hanging from the tree branches above her head created a surge of noise, which also must have helped to blot out the yelling of the approaching males. As soon as she saw the woven masks, the swags of leaves and dried grass that completely covered the warrior’s bodies, and the long switches of thorny sticks in their hands, she knew she was in trouble…………