Sighing, I lifted the toddler from my shoulders and passed her to one of the men. He looked at me as if I was absurd. I stripped my equipment and wound several lengths of rope around my waist. I took three steps back and dragged in three deep breaths.
I let my instincts take over as that strange part of my brain assessed the distance, trajectory, speed and wind strength, giving my body the formula to perform my next movements. I dashed forward and pushed off from the crest of the hill.
I flew through the air, but at the very last moment the wind picked up and I slammed into the branch I’d been aiming to land on. It pushed the air out of my lungs and I clung to the slippery wood as I fought to regain it.
When I could breathe properly again, I hauled myself up to sit across the limb.
I tied one end of the longest length of rope to the trunk of the tree before tying the other end loosely onto the other ropes still encircling my waist. I climbed around the tree, holding tightly to the branches until I reached the other side.
Once again, I slid into the tactical part of my brain, analyzing all of the factors before leaping to the ground on the other side of the raging waters. I unwound the rope from its place at my waist and tied it around the base of a large gnarled tree stump.
I looped my legs over it let it take my weight. I pulled myself along; testing the strength of the rope to make sure it would hold the others as they took their turns.
It held and I reached the tree safely. I tied two long lengths of rope to the tree trunk and, with the loose ends in hand, leaped to the bank with the others again. Nicole, Nike and I took hold of one rope; Sarah, Matt and Mouse grabbed the other, creating two bridges for the men to drag themselves to safety.
Each man in turn tied a child to his stomach and shuffled along, gripping the rope with their hands and crossed ankles. As they crawled to the other side the water levels rose higher and higher. What had earlier waited far below the rope line was now within easy reach if one were to simply stretch a hand out. The falling rain was melting the snow and ice of the mountains, sending it searching for the easiest route to the bottom of the hill.
Nike and I waved for the Nicole, Matt, Mouse and Sarah to cross. The other girls were exhausted and were beginning to show it, and although Matt was strong, he wouldn’t be able to jump the distance.
When everyone else reached the tree, Nike and I took the leap. I landed exactly where I’d been aiming for earlier. Ignoring the second rope, we took another jump to land on the other bank.
Running my gaze over the cars again, I counted fewer than before. One was missing. Matt had already noticed and was pulling open one of the car doors.
“They’re gone,” he said as I reached his side. “The drivers left.”
“At least we have the cars.”
“I guess so,” he muttered.