The Samaritan by D.J. Pitsiladis
Location: Angkor Wat
Item: Running Shoes
Origin: Meteor Site
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By D.J. Pitsiladis
Gary jerked himself upright and muttered an apology to his sour faced neighbor. The man muttered something in Cambodian before he turned his attention back to the window. The American received similar reactions since his arrival in Bangkok, Thailand, the day before, and he thought about how it differed from the pro-tourism ads he saw while planning the pilgrimage. As he popped open the third energy drink of the long bus trip, Gary promised himself, “Next time I take the window seat with all the fresh air.”
A bright flash lit up the sky seconds before the bus shuddered and began to roll on its side. Gary bounced off his neighbor’s body before he hit the floor and smacked his head against one of the benches. Pain blossomed behind his eyes from the impact before everything went black. He didn’t know how long he was unconscious for, but when a hand pushed on his shoulder and a girl’s voice said, “Wake up,” he tried to open his eyes. They remained shut until he felt another nudge, “Please wake up.” The American’s eyes fluttered open to find a young Thai girl’s tear streaked face as it broke into a relieved smile. Nausea washed over him like a wave and he laid his head back down until the girl whimpered and pushed his shoulder again. “Please, mister, you need to wake up.”
Gary sat up and winced when he touched the top of his head. “Probably have a concussion,” he thought as another wave of nausea hit. The girl, meanwhile, placed her hands on his shoulders to help steady him while he checked their surroundings. “Are there any others alive?” he asked. She lowered her gaze and shook her head with a sniffle. He swore under his breath, but then grabbed the side of the bench above him and pulled himself to his feet.
While he waited for his balance to steady, Gary checked out the girl for injuries. She wore a stained yellow t-shirt and tan slacks with dark patches of blood, but no obvious signs of injury. What really caught his attention were her clean running shoes. He looked around at the other passengers and saw a considerable amount of blood and debris mixed in with pale bodies. With all of that, he didn’t know how she managed to keep them so clean. He meant to ask her about it when a noise from the outside grabbed his attention.
With careful steps, they made their way to the shattered front window and peeked outside. Two of the temple complex’s five towers stood tall over a large pile of rubble while toppled trees burned around it. They stepped from the vehicle and stared in amazement. “How are we not dead?” Gary asked in disbelief. Men yelled for help off in the distance, and he took a look at the girl and made a decision. “Stay here,” he said. “Help will be here soon.” She opened her mouth to protest, maybe even beg him to stay until it did, but he worried that people might die if he did.
Military helicopters appeared within seconds and began to circle the fiery crater. Gary wondered about what crashed there, but thought, “There’ll be plenty of time to find out after the injured are safe.” Three armored personnel vehicles sped past the temple entrance and he jumped back to get out of their way. He didn’t see the girl behind him until she bounced off his back and fell to the ground hard. When she finally got her feet back under her, the girl headed for the temple with her left arm clutched tight against her chest. Gary watched in disbelief as the military vehicles swerved to drive around her.
Once inside the outer walls, two monks saw them and yelled for help from a nearby pile of rubble. Gary managed to free one of the men from the rocky trap, and let girl drag him out of the way while he turned his attention to the second monk. It took a little longer to free the second holy man, but when he did, neither the girl nor the other monk were anywhere to be found. When he didn’t find them, he checked the man’s leg and knew at first sight it was shattered and needed more care than he was able to offer. When the girl finally walked around the corner, he asked, “What happened to the other guy?”
The girl looked around at the piles of debris and said, “He went to help more of his people.” She met Gary’s gaze and pointed at the monk on the ground, “What about him?” The expression on her face looked weird, but he let it go given the stressful situation.
“He’s not going anywhere,” Gary replied. “His leg is badly shattered and we don’t have any way to move him.” She turned her full attention on the man and went to his side. The way she stared at the man looked more like hunger than concern, but, as much as his instincts told him to stay, he needed to go find more survivors. “Can you stay here with him?” She nodded and he jogged around the opposite corner. He didn’t get far before his gut told him to go back. When he rounded the corner again, the scene he found terrified him.
The girl sat astride the monk’s chest with her knees on each arm, her left hand clamped tight over his mouth, and some kind of flat red disk against his forehead. He realized when she pulled it away that the device was actually her hand.
“I can explain,” she said in a raspy voice. Gary stared in horror as her once young and beautiful face shriveled into an opaque nightmare. She took a tentative step toward him and added, “Then again, I don’t think you’ll understand the explanation any more than you can understand my hunger.” The girl took another step toward him, “My kind needs blood for sustenance, but I spared you to help me find safety.” His gaze lowered to the shriveled dead man behind her and realized not everyone on the bus died from the crash. It proved enough to break his paralysis and he darted behind the pile of stones and headed for the soldiers.
Gary saw the bridge that led to the army, but didn’t see the girl until she slammed into his back and sent him to the ground hard. Before he regained his breath, she rolled him over and sat on his chest with her knees firmly on his arms. “All of that running made me hungry, and you look kind of tasty.” He opened his mouth to shout for help, but her hand clamped over it as she laughed like a snake. “Don’t worry. I’m sure those soldiers will be happy to help. After all…” The girl’s image shifted back to the teenage girl and she said, “How can anyone resist a young girl in distress?” He closed his eyes as her other hand rested on his forehead and she began to feed.
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