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Read a recap of the previous chapter here
The first bullet just missed her.
She heard the whine as it passed her even through the dried blood encrusted in her ears.
Deborah heard the second shot and felt a blazing pain in her right arm.
‘Shit,’ she hissed.
Though she knew she should be running, she couldn’t help but turn and see when the next shot was coming.
She had a feeling it was going to be the last one the guard needed.
What she saw next amazed her.
The horrific apparition that she’d taken to be a figment of her imagination was running up behind the guard.
Next thing she knew, the nightmarish figure was running a blade across the guard’s throat.
The guard began to twitch until the figure launched them headfirst off the tower.
As their body splattered on the ground below, the figure’s red-raw hand shooed Deborah away.
Deborah didn’t need a second chance; she made for the trees as fast as she could.
The cover of the trees came just in time; she was badly winded and in need of a rest.
She moved a few trees in, to avoid being a sitting duck.
Leaning her back against one of the trees, she began to take in agonised breaths.
She tasted blood with every frantic inhalation.
It felt as though a shard of bone was poking into her lungs, making even breathing an ordeal.
Even the simplest things were agony for her now.
She kept on through the trees, moving slowly, knife drawn, for she had no idea what to expect in the wilderness outside Serenity’s walls.
She’d spent the last decade of her life within its confines.
The thought of leaving it all behind simultaneously exhilarated and terrified her.
The woods were eerie, full of dark skeletal shapes which were very light on leaves.
Things moved among the gnarled trunks, but she couldn’t get a good look at them.
She hadn’t thought to bring a torch and the idea now struck her as being blindingly obvious.
She felt woefully unprepared.
Utterly out of her depth.
You coped with him.
You can deal with just about anything, she thought, a grim smile on her lips.
The woods seemed to go on for a while, just trunk after trunk as far as the eye could see.
Out here it was dark, as she slowly left Serenity’s lights behind.
At least she knew she was headed in the right direction if she was moving away from the lights.
More than once she debated going back, but she’d rather die out here trying to find a new life than return to the old days of misery, humiliation and pain.
Grimly, she pressed on.
As she walked, she felt something small and hard against her leg.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her Zippo lighter. The quote engraved into it suddenly seemed appropriate: ‘I have come as a light into the world, that who believes in Me should not abide in darkness.’
Something was definitely following her through the woods; she could hear ragged breathing and little shuffling footsteps behind her.
She lit the lighter and looked over her shoulder, seeing a pale shape duck back behind a tree trunk.
The short glimpse she’d had of it was enough to further terrify her.
The knife trembled in her hand. Her throat was suddenly desert dry.
Please don’t come for me now, she thought.
Not while I’m tired and scared and senseless from the beating.
Another noise from her right made her flick the lighter on again.
A second pale creature was in the trees ahead of her.
It too ducked out of sight, seeming to fear the light.
She kept plodding on, using Serenity’s distant lights to align herself.
She began to wish she’d not come out here as these creeping pale things were making her skin crawl.
When she lit the lighter again she saw that they’d crept in a bit closer.
The flames drove them back a little, though they were definitely getting bolder.
She let the flame extinguish, fixed her eyes on the nearest creature’s location and waited.
Its breathing was a ragged wheeze.
It sounded like it was making excited little sounds.
The whole situation made her skin crawl.
It was definitely coming closer.
She held off another few seconds then flicked the lighter.
The light made the creature let out a hideous squeal.
She saw it clearly and promptly wished she hadn’t.
It was pale, roughly the size and shape of a toddler.
It was covered in fine white hairs which stood on end.
Its eyes were glazed over like thick cataracts had formed.
Its mouth was full of sharp, yellowing teeth.
Though it looked like a human child, it walked on four legs like a dog.
It didn’t like the light – shoving its gnarled stumps over its eyes when the lighter flared up.
It would have been pitiful were it not so grotesque.
When she extinguished the lighter she heard more of them moving this time.
She felt too scared and exhausted to get into a fight, but knew that it was going to happen eventually.
The noises that came from around her in the gloom chilled her blood and made her wonder what she’d done to deserve getting into this.
All I wanted was a fresh start, she mourned.
And this is what I get.
Pursued through the woods by these freakish devil children.
She lit the torch again, spun three-sixty to see if any were bold enough to approach.
They weren’t far enough away – they could never be far enough away – but they weren’t that close to her.
They hissed again and covered their eyes when the torch flared up.
Again they began their pursuit when darkness returned.
The next time she lit it they were closer and she felt certain that one of them was actually licking its lips as it looked at her.
It distressed her more than she liked to admit and she almost sobbed at the realisation that these horrendous fucking things were planning on having her for dinner.
Their courage – or perhaps their hunger – seemed to be making their pursuit more desperate.
She could feel their hands clutching at her now, pulling at her clothes and skin, trying to ensnare her.
They retreated when she clicked on the lighter but it was eerie as shit.
They weren’t making as much of an effort to hide as they had at first, as though their increasing numbers were giving them extra valour.
Again they came in closer and she was now aware of how little gas she had left in the lighter.
The forest still stretched as far as the eye could see.
She couldn’t make it all that way with no fuel.
She’d decided not to carry a lit torch as her arms were exhausted from the beating Simon had given her.
Her flesh was torn from where their little claws had clutched at her.
Her hair was pulled loose in clumps.
She lashed out, backhanding one of them hard in the face.
She heard a sickly cry as it fell away.
More hands grabbed for her, tearing her skin in dozens of places.
She fumbled the lighter, almost dropped it.
One of their misshapen claws whacked at her hands, trying to remove the lighter from it.
She cried out as she realised its intent.
Another hand shot in, whacking the back of her wrist.
She threw back her other arm.
Her blows felt woefully ineffectual.
Get the lighter lit.
She cried out in agony as tiny teeth sunk into her calf.
She kicked out with her free leg.
Still tried to fumble the lighter with her other hand.
Another hand came in and slapped at the lighter.
This time it fell from her grasp and into the mass of leaves on the floor.
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