Finally I reached the trees, but I couldn’t slow down yet. There was no way I could outrun those dogs. I needed to find a place to hide. My senses zoomed in on every detail: the sudden drop in temperature, the dappled light, the twigs snapping under my feet, the gnarled rough bark on the trees, the faint scent of eucalyptus. I glanced up—that was where I needed to go. I would hide in the trees.
I ran wildly, directionless, searching for a tree I could climb. The dogs were still barking. Tune them out, Lucy. Don’t listen. There! I spotted a boulder about the size of a small SUV next to a baobab tree with a long low-enough-to-grab branch that was sticking straight out. I did a quick mental analysis: no thorns, good leaf coverage, sturdy-looking upper branches, and a clear climbing path to the canopy. An instant later I scrambled up the rock and leaped, catching the low branch in both hands. Easy does it; it’s just like the uneven bars. I swung out, pushed myself up onto the branch, and started climbing. Gasping for breath, I climbed as high as I could until I reached the dense foliage about fifteen feet from the ground.
Eyes closed, I leaned my back against the tree trunk and braced my hands on the thick branch between my legs. I could hear Helena and Dawit calling for me, and when I glanced down, there was Markos standing directly under my tree while the two dogs sniffed the ground around him. Don’t look up; please, don’t look up. I held my breath and squeezed myself into the smallest, tightest ball I could.
And that’s when I realized I wasn’t alone.