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AS HE RAN the blood covering the man’s body stiffened with coagulation. The smell of it, like dirty pennies, overpowered the pine scent of the forest around him. He staggered forward, thankful to still be alive but in tremendous pain from his still healing injuries, which burned as though held to a flame.
He clambered up a rise, slipping on the thick mat of pine needles and moist leaf litter. He had survived the impossible already, but if he were caught by his pursuers, life would not be worth living. Not for a very long time.
So he ran on despite the pain.
After topping the crest, he slid down the other side, searching for some means of escape, but saw only tree trunks, rising up to the clear blue sky above.
Suddenly, his breath returned in full. He paused, feeling better in the brief reprieve, but still unable to turn his head or inspect the wounds he’d received. The burning had faded, but was quickly being replaced by an intense itch.
A distant explosion urged him back to his feet. The battle continued without him, but it would end soon, and they would come for him.
Running down the hill, he wove through the trees until coming to a path worn into the forest floor. He followed it, pushing his way through the overgrowth.
Minutes later, a wall of white in the distance gave him hope. Upon reaching the white fence, he smiled. Beyond the fence lay a lawn of bright green grass in need of a cut and a large house with a garage nearly as big. He waited for as long as he dared, watching and listening. Detecting no life, he moved around the fence and approached the side of the house.
The driveway was empty.
He headed for the front of the home. A swing attached to the ceiling of the long farmer’s porch swayed in the summer breeze. Nothing else stirred. Looking across the street, he saw the home’s mailbox popped open and packed with mail.
No one had been home in a while. On vacation, the man thought, and then eyed the large four-car garage. He found the side door unlocked and entered. The first two spots were empty, but a tarp covered something in the third. He rushed to it, his pulse quickening. The tarp slid free easily as he pulled it, revealing a perfectly polished, black 1957 Pontiac Star Chief, its chrome sparkling in the blue light cast from the garage’s overhead fluorescents. It wouldn’t be fast, but no one would suspect the vehicle was a getaway car, either.
He opened the door and slid, awkwardly, into the driver’s seat. Wondering for a moment if he would have to search the house for the keys, he looked down at the ignition and found them hanging there, complete with rabbit’s foot.
It was turning out to be his lucky day after all.
He turned the key and the old engine roared to life. Smiling, he reached up and hit the garage-door button attached to the sun visor. The door rumbled open, filling the garage with daylight. He put the car in gear, rolled out into the driveway, and pushed the garage-door button once again.
He glanced in the rearview mirror, watching as the door closed completely. He wanted to leave no obvious trace of his being here. He looked out the driver’s side window, searching the pavement for drops of blood, but his wounds had long since stopped bleeding and his clothes had dried. Unfortunately, there was not time to change from the rancid clothes, but he would find something on the road before long, when he was free of his enemies.
Not remembering if he’d closed the side door to the garage, he adjusted the rearview mirror, but moved it too far, catching the side of his face in its view. He leaned in close to inspect the bloody marks on his face and grinned as he found no wound marring the surface.
As he leaned back, an awkward pressure pushed against his back, like a clump of clothing or a wrapped-up towel had fallen between him and the seat. As he turned to look, the rearview mirror caught his attention once again. Not only could he see his face, but a second rising up behind him.
Had the man’s baritone scream not been contained by the thick metal and glass of the classic car, anyone who heard it might have mistaken the cry for that of a local moose. As it was, no one heard the man, or saw him, again.
Copyright © 2011 by Jeremy Robinson