Skeletal trees and ice cracked mud give me away. Ragged breaths pull frigid air into screaming lungs. All I can hope for is more speed.
I try not to think of the bare concrete room. Of D-Lock rings in the walls. Grey chains and bloodstains. A smile warped by insanity.
Calloused trunks slip from the darkness and rush at me. I sidestep branches. They look like claws with too many knuckles. I lift my legs like an infantryman to avoid gnarled roots. One wrong foot and I’m gone.
A scream from the darkness. A flash of hope. Maybe he’s fallen. No. Don’t think. Don’t dream. Dreams are stagnant. Action provides.
Stone bites into my heel and I go down. Merciless ground collides with emaciated flesh and my breath rushes away. The air is cold and I hate it but I want it back. I want to suck it in so it can fill me like a balloon and relieve me of pushing my deadweight body to its feet. I want to leave my mind. Slip into a small closet of subconscious where cobwebs hang and lock the door and forget where I am.
‘Action.’ I rasp. A vile sound spat from a dry mouth but it’s strong. I need it. I sound like my dad.
I scrabble from the cold, lunar surface of this haunted place. A fingernail bends backward and snaps and I use the pain and the flood of adrenaline. I pant and gasp and fear that the sounds will give me away.
Trees are thinning. I see light through the branches. I break the treeline and my feet slap against tarmac. Beams of light. I turn. Headlights sear my retinas. I cover my eyes. I yearn for the darkness of the forest. Screeching brakes.
‘Well, hello there.’ Laughter. I know that laughter so well.
I’m not going back. I can’t go back.