She looked at me from the ground, with a silent plea in her eyes that contradicted her words. But she couldn't say much more now. Olivia clutched at her abdomen. Her legs were stained with blood and her boots dug into the recently tilled earth as she writhed in pain, panting, trying not to moan audibly. The frogs in the creek were singing; the ground was damp and there was cold in the night air.
"Go," she managed to whisper.
"I can't," I said.
"They'll get you," she said, before arching her back and biting at her lips.
My hand was shaking and I could barely hold the weight of the shotgun.
"You've...got to go!" she hissed.
"It ain't been fair," I said. I could feel the wet down my cheek. "You shouldn't have run."
She shut her eyes tightly and pushed her blonde braid into the soil. She twisted her face, pressed her nose and mouth into it and screamed as quietly as the earth would allow. The cries of the hound dogs echoed off in the distance. They were coming for us. They'd picked up on the scent of her blood I'd estimate.
She was a condemned woman, destined to die either way. I could still escape. They didn't know nothing about me helping her. It was me who knew about the medicine books in the woods.
I discovered them when I was just a kid on a squirrel hunt. They were buried under a tree in a large metal trunk. The tree had gotten rotten and fell over in a storm and there was the trunk. The lock was rusted, and I hit it with a rock to get it open. And there they were as good as new. By the dates on the inside of the books, they were put there about fifty years ago, just when science got banned. Medicine got outlawed, and I didn't know nothing about it until I started reading those books. And I got angry.
My mother died in childbirth, and so did the sister she was trying to deliver. My father died of an infected foot a year later. My brother got sick with muscular dystrophy and nobody but me knew what it was even called. The whole town thought he was possessed with a demon so they locked him up in the outhouse and burned it with him in it. I tried to run and save him, but I was too young and one of the town elders punched me out cold. When I woke up I had to shovel the ashes into a hole and bury it. They never let me mark it, but I remember exactly where it is.
And here's Olivia, suffering from an ovarian cyst that's burst I reckon. The town elders don't even know what an ovary is. I said to her I'd try to help. I practiced the surgery on a dog, performing a full hysterectomy, and the dog recovered just fine, but she watched and lost her stomach for it. I begged her and told her that if she let me try it was better than dying. She said what I was doing was the devil's work, that it ain't right to poke around in the insides of a person. And now she's begging me to shoot her, to put her out of her pain.
"I can't," I said. "I can't kill anyone." My hand was shaking violently.
"Then run!" she said again.
The cold of the night wrapped around me suddenly, licking at the sweat on my body and I shivered. The hounds got louder and louder. I could hear men's voices. And then I knew.
I bent down and dropped the gun near her hand. She looked at me with dirt on her face, but she nodded and mouthed the word "run." I turned and started to run for the cover of the trees on the side of the field. Then I heard Olivia laughing.
"Here I am!" she screamed out. "Come and get me!"
I ducked under the cover of the low-hanging leaves and into the darkness. I saw the dogs loping across the field towards her, followed by the tall men talking excitedly.
Then a shot ripped through night. The dogs balked, then barked even more furiously. The men stopped in their tracks and went silent.