The smash of glass brought me back to the present and with no time to turn to check the source of the noise, I was upon the fence, blinking away the tears, my face expressionless, numb to the emotion. I looked left as I slowed, my shoulder hitting hard against the wood, pain forced through the ache I already felt as the wood stayed firm, not creaking as I slammed hard against it. I ran to the neighbour’s boundary, the fence only half the size and made from wire mesh. I was over without slowing, the only thought to choose my left shoulder to take the pain instead of my right.
I’d expected the fall, expected the agony, but did my best to roll as I landed. Shocked at my grace, I was on my feet in one swift move, the momentum still with me as I headed towards the next line, a bushy barrier I wasn’t prepared to find out what lay beneath. The garden’s rear fence was just as tall as the last, but my excitement grew as I spotted a wooden structure only half as high in the corner, the kind used to store bikes or other garden things in and at the base was a neatly stacked collection of pots and wooden boxes I hoped would make the perfect set of steps.
As I ran, I had time to think this one through. Not enough time to do anything but give a yes or a no. I committed, buoying myself up, taking comfort in the graceful forward roll I’d just accomplished only seconds before. I plotted the line. My right foot would go for the larger box and I would push up as hard as I could, landing my left on top of the roof, then hoping I hadn’t lost my school-aged skill at athletics, I’d Fosbury Flop over the next fence, not caring to think about the landing.
The time to plan was over too soon. I’d committed, any more thinking would just have added corrosive doubt. I had it all planned out in less than a second, now was the time to follow through with as much confidence as I could muster. I took a great breath of air, filling my lungs in more than just a symbolic act, I adjusted my stride so my next footfall would be on the wooden box, hoping it wouldn’t collapse under my weight.
It took the weight of my body and the right trainer. Didn’t buckle with the extra weight of the lace of my borrowed left shoe. Didn’t crush as I pushed off taking my body with it, but my left foot went only as high as the lace under my right would stretch, which was about the height of my lower leg less than I needed to get on top of the box. Instead, my left shin smacked against the roof of the container, the momentum carrying my knee down the sandpaper-like roof before my right foot raised. Skin scraped away as I came to a halt, but I was able to stop my nose cracking to the wooden roof as my torso fell forward.
I paused, took stock, relaxed the grip around the gun. I tensed at the sound of dogs barking, the noise picking up, getting closer. With air sucking through my teeth, I stood, took a single glance back, saw torch beams scouring the garden I’d already left and let myself flop over the tall fence, bracing myself for whatever came next.
Thorns. A blackberry bush, or something with spines I’d never paid enough attention to, but my shoulders were thankful for the jabbing of the spines, much better than being crushed hard under my weight for the second time in a row. I rolled off, landing on my knees with my breath still intact, I ran as hard as I could along the fence in the darkness, lunging forward every other step to keep my balance on the uneven ground, veering off into the fields when I heard the first hint of the smell humans knew instinctively to avoid.
The only feature on the horizon, apart from the rolling hills, was a tree and that’s where I headed, not looking back. It wouldn’t change what I had to do. I had to run. It was my only choice.
At the tree, a great wide species that must have been there for years. Like me, it was alone in the wild, its branches bare and gnarled and sloped heavy to one side. Fighting against my breath, I let the solid trunk take my weight, leaning with its trunk between me and whatever was chasing. With my breath slowing I gripped the gun and peered around the bark, listening to the dogs getting louder in the distance. Fear gripped hold and I turned, running, new sounds coming all the time. There was the sound of an engine, more than one. I looked to the sky, looked for blinking lights on the horizon, then looked down to the ground as I felt myself stumble onto tarmac. A road.
I turned as the engine noise grew, as did the sounds of dogs and smaller, whining notes. I imagined motorbikes chasing after the dogs they’d let loose, turned again to see two headlights bright and coming towards me. I was standing in the middle of a road, fixed to the spot, unable to move, the lights so close I could see the young driver, his face pale white, his eyes disbelieving as they locked together with mine.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.