Great Openings Contest Fiction Runner-Up: No Dawn by Dian Avila

Callouses on my fingers and feet snagged the rough bark of my perch. It was difficult to recognize Eku’s olive green skin among the leaves and shadows enveloping us. I lowered my head to mimic his pose while also positioning my face behind a clump of leaves. The words I overheard him say of me the day before still burned, “Jonry will not be ready for his survival test. He hasn’t made much progress in emotional control. It is a mistake to train a boy before his 14th birthday.”

“Lyriyah seems to be late this morning.” Eku squinted his eyes against the sliver of dawn and looked down the narrow path that led from our village. I retraced our steps in my memory from the path we took earlier imagining Lyriya ducking as we did where the branches hung low, skirting thorn bushes, stopping to pick up fallen fruit and gliding around the nearest bend any second. Each insect, bird and animal sound was augmented by our anticipation. It would take her longer as she gathered fruit. Our task had been to practice being swift and stealth.

I leaned imperceptibly into Eku and pointed with my chin at my sister’s approach.

Liriyah bent down to pick up a papaya under our tree, “The monkeys get bigger every year,” she teased loudly just as we pounced. How in the world did she see us? Eku would surely blame me. Just as our feet hit the moist forest floor, we froze, Eku and I still squatting. An intentional parrot-like screech silenced the jungle chatter surrounding us. We waited to hear if the tribal warning was giving a signal for danger or summoning a meeting.

The distress signal stabbed my ears at the same moment the dawn pierced my eyes. The three of us scrambled back up the tree as high as we dared, becoming completely hidden from below, I hoped. We waited.

The sun was no longer dodging through the tree trunks; it was now casting mosaic shadows across the forest floor through the leaves from above. My legs had become part of the

Note from Inspire Christian Writers: This piece has been reformatted for the Web.

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