Before we start, I want to make something perfectly clear. It was dark. It wasn't cold, and sometimes it was warm, and it was always dark. We had hidden underground for months, but we had the right supplements, and we had each other.
And it was always dark.
I was, in theory, just in line. Back-ish of the pack, just making sure everyone got out fine, no one had their foot caught in something, and that no one panicked.
Ralph--he person at the real back--was technically the one who was making sure we had no stragglers. But really, that was more a case of looking imposing. Put the big guy with good ears at the very back. Dark as this place is, there's always something likely to eat you. Or at least spook someone.
I wasn't a great pick for back-back. I was short, first off. And my default strategy relied upon not looking imposing. I was barely five feet if I measured myself right after I woke up, and thin enough that the breezes running through these tunnels should blow me away. I hadn't eaten a lot, and it runs in my family to look like we weigh less than we do. Everything just sort of distributes.
So I had the hard job. Because, again technically speaking, I didn't have a job. And, as I said, my default strategy relied on people assuming I wasn't anything much. So I couldn't even spread any rumors to make it easier. I just had to be on alert all the freakin' time because no one else but the second-in-command appeared to be able to think both I am the most important person in certain circumstances, and I can take orders. I didn't understand that, really; the most important person, second-to-second, was (comparably) low on the chain of command. A person who's looking at the board as a whole needs to be able to rely on that.
So when the first screams came, it was a relief. I got to use some emergency adrenaline. Your body doesn't give it to you after too long of anticipation, but screams always set it off for me.
The world went from a bundle held together by force of will to liquid serenity.
I spun and pushed Ralph up. I jerked an idiot's foot out of a crack--it was barely even wedged, she was just shoving it further in going from that angle. I got to the back, where rocks were falling, and made sure I was the furthest back. I was. Spun again.
The word cracked through the air like a starting shot. My world was still slowed from information overdrive, and everyone else seemed to be going even slower. I had to stay at the back, which meant I just picked the slowest two up. The next didn't want to be at the back, nor the next, and so we dominoed straight through to the opening, where this breeze was coming from, where he led us. Everyone seemed to stop on just the other side of the entrance, but the others still dominoing kept up enough of a push to get everyone out. By the time I got there I was snarling; it wasn't bad enough everyone was trying to kill us, it had to be ourselves killing us just because we were so dang stupid--
The sunlight touched my face.