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Davey’s hand shook as he pulled his knife.
‘This is going in your gut if you come anywhere near me,’ he spat, hoping his voice sounded stronger than he felt.
His legs were trembling.
His heart seemed as though it was on the verge of bursting out of his chest.
He felt sicker than he’d ever felt in his life.
‘You’re worth the risk, boy meat,’ Old Jimmy smiled, flicking his long grey hair out of his eyes.
While he held Davey’s gaze, the Grim with the tree branch ran in.
Davey dodged the wild swing, but the backhand blow slammed into his shoulder, jarring his entire body.
He thanked the gods that it wasn’t his knife arm, or else he’d have dropped it as his hand began to spasm.
Davey swung with the knife, hitting only air.
He lost his balance on the wet leaves, and fell to a crouched position.
While he was there, he grabbed a heavy rock from among the leaves.
His aim was true; the rock hit one of the Grims full in the face.
He howled in pain and fell over, hands clasped to the bloody dent in his forehead.
But already the others had drawn closer.
One of the other Grims darted in, half of a house brick in his hand.
It hit Davey full in the face, knocking out shards of his teeth in a bloody paste.
He groaned at the pain, but worse was the realisation that he was already on the wrong end of this confrontation.
He thrust the knife forward, disappointed when it missed its intended target of his enemy’s belly.
But when he brought it back in a backhand strike, it hit something.
The Grim cried out and slunk back, his arm cleaved to the bone by Davey’s sharp blade.
Blood pattered onto the multi-coloured piles of leaves beneath their feet.
While Davey had him hurt, he darted in and thrust the blade into his gut.
It sunk in all the way up to the hilt.
He twisted it hard to the left.
Something inside the Grim lurched in a sickening manner.
Warm blood spilled out over his hand, repulsing him with its feel.
While Davey gloated, his peripheral vision picked up something flying towards his head.
He was too late to react.
Something hard wrapped around the back of his head.
The newly sharpened edges of his teeth clamped down on his tongue hard enough to draw blood.
His vision swam.
His legs couldn’t decide whether he was standing or falling.
He slashed wildly with the knife, making the Grims back up a little.
Tears blurred his eyes.
He blinked fast to clear them.
Upon seeing Old Jimmy up close, he suddenly felt furious at himself for being tricked so easily.
A proper look at the greasy old bastard should have made him uneasy; the man just looked like trouble.
He lunged at Old Jimmy, but a blow from one of the Grims off to the side hit him full in the belly.
His legs buckled as the air exploded out of him.
He saw stars now, his chest heaving as he desperately tried to draw breath.
Whoever had hit him moved in for another strike, but he gained the sense to roll just as the chunk of metal bar came down.
As he rolled, he lashed out with the knife, cutting a deep furrow in his attacker’s calf.
The Grim screamed and fell to his knees, hands cupped to his bleeding limb.
‘Just stop, you’re only making us mad,’ Old Jimmy said. The grin had not left his face.
Davey lashed out at his groin as he moved above him.
Old Jimmy cried out in dismay and moved back.
Ain’t no way you can fight them all off.
You need to run.
Get on your feet and run, damn it!
Make as much noise as you can.
And pray like fuck someone hears you.
He staggered to his feet, aimed a wild knife swing at Old Jimmy’s face – missing by some distance, but seeming to put the fear of the gods into the old man.
There was a gap of maybe six feet between the two Grims on the other side of the circle, and he darted for it as fast as his legs could carry him.
They went to close the gap, but he barged through just as their arms began to link.
‘Catch him,’ Old Jimmy hissed. ‘I want my boy meat.’
Davey blundered through the trees, having no idea where he was going.
He knew only that he needed to get out of the clearing.
The Grims were fast for old men.
Davey’s feet pumped the ground hard, but they were never far behind.
He didn’t dare to look back as he knew this would have slowed him down.
But he could hear their footsteps.
Could smell the sour stench of their body odour.
He began to feel like he was getting a bit of a head start on them, but he wasn’t sure how long he could keep up this pace.
It began to feel like he was wading through treacle.
His chest heaved.
When he saw the camp appear from between the trees, he began to gain hope.
He could see other Grims there.
He shouted to them, but his cries were lost beneath another ripple of explosions and cheers.
If it wasn’t for those fucking explosions they’d have heard me, he mourned.
Just as he began to gain ground on the Grims, he misplaced his foot and tripped over a root.
He fell forwards, landing hard on the top of his head.
The world did a somersault and he knew he had to get back to his feet and keep on running, but his legs just wouldn’t let him.
The combination of the running and the beating he’d taken had fucked his co-ordination.
He cried out at the unfairness of it all.
The head start he’d pumped his legs so hard for disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Old Jimmy and his four remaining cronies were upon him before he had time to even curse let alone stand up.
Their booted feet sunk into his head and abdomen, knocking out what little fight he had left in him.
Old Jimmy grabbed him by the back of the neck in a vicelike grip and shoved him down onto his belly.
Wet mud soaked into his shirt.
Small stones stabbed into his frail flesh.
But none of this mattered when the cold blade touched his neck, right above his pounding jugular.
The pungent scent of Old Jimmy’s breath hit his nostrils like a bony fist.
‘By, sonny, a chase like that sure does get the blood pumping,’ he hissed.
Davey tried to lash out with his knife, but a boot stomped down hard on his wrist, pinning it to the floor.
White hot pain flared in his hand, making him let go of the knife.
He heard Billy’s wheezing laugh above him: ‘Not so fucking cocky now, huh, Joker?’
Davey tried to turn, but he was pinned, helpless, to the floor.
‘I told you we’d welcome you with open arms,’ Billy chuckled away.
The others joined in.
‘So… let’s get welcoming, lads,’ Old Jimmy laughed.
‘We gonna eat him now?’ asked the Grim who’d had the metal bar.
‘I wanna do the other thing,’ Billy grinned.
‘Yeah, me too,’ said the other Grim.
Old Jimmy giggled, an ominous yet curiously childlike sound. ‘I think I’ll do both.’
‘Billy too,’ Billy wheezed.
‘Hey, there’s plenty of time for all of us to… welcome… him,’ Old Jimmy laughed, and cut Davey’s belt with one hard thrust of his knife.
When Davey felt his trousers being pulled down past his thighs, he fought harder than he ever had in his life.
But it wasn’t enough.
Next chapter is here