(Excerpted from Balloonheart, a forthcoming work.)
I figured I was about a mile away from my destination, and the route led me right between a few sparse copses of trees – little scatterings of brush and the odd patch of hardwoods. I was getting tired and more than just a little dehydrated, and above all my guard was down – I just was not as alert as I should have been. I shouldn't make excuses, though.
“You're gonna' want to put down that rifle, farmboy.” The voice was off to my left, coming from near a patch of brush. I heard a lot of rustling, and the sound of a lot of safeties snapping off.
I instinctively put my hands up, and let the carbine fall loose on its sling. It was hanging at my chest level, and certainly not 'down'. If someone wanted my weapon 'down,' I would have to pick it 'up' first. This posed a potential problem, and I didn't quite know how to handle it.
“I said put down that rifle, farmboy,” said the voice.
“I don't wanna' touch it,” I shouted back, keeping my hands as high as I could.
“Deke, he's got it on a sling,” called out another voice, this time from my right, “he can't drop it.”
“We ain't takin' him in 'till he drops it.”
“I can't drop it,” I called back, “I want to but I can't.”
“He can't, Deke.”
“Hang on,” called the first voice, presumably that of someone named 'Deke.' I heard brush being pulled back and out of the corner of my vision I saw a man in kind of a homemade ghillie suit rise up out of the brush and start walking toward me. He slowly crossed the fifty or so yards , and as he drew close he raised his scoped bolt-action rifle level to a high ready and slowed his approach. “You just don't even make a move, you hear me?”
“Yes sir,” I said, my nuts all the way up in my throat. I kept my arms up in the air, and in my mind I tried to go to my happy place.