He knew he was making too much noise. The pounding of his feet, the rustling of bushes as he sped by, the squelching of the sodden earth and his panting breath seemed magnified by a thousand to his ears. He couldn’t risk slowing down though.
Christ, his chest was on fire. He was trying to take in deep gasps of air but his lungs only seemed to be working at a quarter capacity. His sprint eased to a sudden, agonising lope when cramp squeezed his calf muscles and refused to let go. Shit! This was all he needed. He limped on, wincing at the spasm in his leg, able to draw in a little more breath now he had slowed down. He didn’t know where he was going. He could be running in circles for all he knew. He hoped not. His life literally depended on it.
As the moon crept out from behind a cloud his path was illuminated and he spotted a thick fallen tree which would shield him from view while he caught his breath and thought about his next move. Next move. What a fucking joke. He was in the middle of nowhere, barely dressed, freezing cold and fighting for his life. What could his next move possibly be? Maybe he could turn back and have a quiet chat with the psychopaths who were trying to kill him. Perhaps he could talk some sense into them, tell them they had the wrong guy. Oh yeah, he was sure they’d listen to him, probably even apologise when they realised he wasn’t who they were after. A burst of laughter escaped his dry throat and quickly turned into a sob. Fuck! He wanted to shout it out loud, to vent his anger to the dark and silent forest he was in. He knew he couldn’t. The only thing it would do would be to alert his pursuers.
Slumping to the ground he worked his calf muscle hard with his cold, stiff fingers, trying to ease the ache of the cramp. His socks were drenched and he knew it wasn’t all from the mud. He was positive the soles of his feet would be bleeding but that was the least of his worries. Taking in deliberate deep breaths he managed to calm his breathing down although there was nothing he could do to stop the shaking of his limbs or the thundering of his heart. To his right some twigs cracked. He held his breath, concentrating on the area he thought the noise had come from. He didn’t hear it again. Surely he had run far enough. They wouldn’t know where he was now.
Resting his head against the rough bark of the log he squeezed his eyes tightly closed to stop the inevitable tears escaping. The sound of Matt screaming still reverberated through his skull. Fuck! He should have stayed and helped him, should have gone back for him. He shouldn’t have been such a pussy and ran off into the night. He didn’t even know if Matt was still alive. Or Jason. He hadn’t seen if they’d caught Jason. Hopefully he’d managed to get away. Maybe he was running through the forest right now trying to find his way out. Poor Matt though. Poor, eyeless Matt. He selfishly wished he had run before he’d seen them take his eyes, before he’d heard him scream like a wild animal being slaughtered. But he hadn’t. Fucking sick pieces of shit. They’d been waiting. The bastards. He should have done something. What, he didn’t know, but he should have helped Matt somehow. Instead he’d run like a fucking pansy and now he had no idea where he was or what was happening to his friends.
Banging his head on the rough wood he let out a low moan. He didn’t know what he should do, whether he should run or stay put. He felt like he’d been running for hours but he knew it was probably only mere minutes in reality. Was he far enough away that they wouldn’t find him? He hoped to god he was. He didn’t want to die. His mum would be devastated. She went to pieces when he landed himself in prison a few years ago for theft. If he died he didn’t know how she would cope. If his body was never found she wouldn’t be able to go on. He wanted his mum now. He smiled a sad smile as he imagined her squaring up to the psycho’s, telling them to leave her son alone. She wouldn’t be scared, not when it involved protecting her boy.
He needed to man up. Willing himself to calm down he tried to think. He didn’t know which way the road was but if he could just find somewhere to hide he could wait it out until the morning, then he was sure he’d be able to find his way. There was the small shack that doubled as the reception but he couldn’t hide there. He was quite certain that would be one of the first places they’d look. He could climb a tree! If he could climb up he could stay there all night, they would never find him there.
The cracking of twigs came again from his right and he snapped his head round to look, willing his eyes to see into the darkness but he saw nothing, for the night was black. He was disorientated and terrified. He knew the noise could have a perfectly innocent explanation. He also knew it might not have come from where he thought it did. His eyes were wide open as though the more he opened them, the more he would develop the ability of night vision. A rustling from his left and he turned in that direction, his breath beginning to speed up as his eyes saw black shadows darting around, playing tricks on him. Poor Matt would never have that problem again. He was imagining things. There was no-one there. They couldn’t possibly find him here. If he couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of his face then they wouldn’t be able to either. But still, he felt like he was being watched. Closing his eyes to the terror of uncertainty his other senses took over as his ears heard the soft footsteps approaching, the low breathing nearing him.
Opening his eyes, he screamed.