A quick short that has been later developed into the inspiration for a book in progress...
The building was dark...
The air felt thick with dust and decay. The scent only an old, damp, derelict industrial building could produce. Diesel and chemical cleaners lingered in the giant space he found himself stood in. At the far end fluorescent roof lights illuminated 2 doors, one closed the other wide open, dark and safe, inviting him in. Where it led he had no clue. To his left the huge open space headed off into blackness. 300 metres, maybe more, to the far wall, all of it total darkness. The wall at his back felt cold but somehow reassuring, telling him at least they couldn't sneak up behind him. In the distance and out in front of him to the left of the lit up doors red LED’s blinked, 1 on each of the huge hydraulic lifts that held the train up in the air. Odd that they still held it there, clearly some fail safe system put in place by the lifts designers. The train’s familiar yellow colour odd in the flashing red light, taking on a menacing pink, flesh like tone. Almost alien and other worldly, his skin crawling at the thought, the feeling of a thousand spiders running over his body.
A muffled noise to his left caught his attention, quite near, near enough to create a fresh wave of panic. Instinctively he lowered his body towards the ground. Bending his knees and sliding his back down the wall until he was in a squatting position, his knees aching almost instantly, the creak of the joints so loud to him that he felt certain any second now they would find him. He held his breath and counted to 10.
Slowly, deliberately not rushing, 1 elephant, 2 elephant, 3 elephant, 4...
The shot deafening as it reverberated around the corrugated iron upper walls and roof, sound waves colliding and reflecting back in all directions at once so that its origin was impossible to identify. He hadn’t seen the flash of a weapon either having instinctively ducked, lowering his head a matter of inches as though it may save his life. As a result he didn’t know where it came from or what the target was. Not him that was for certain; which confused him even further as it meant someone else was being tracked. A mix of guilt, sorrow and relief washed over him. Relief that maybe they hadn’t tracked him as he thought they had and guilt and sorrow that someone else was in big trouble. Not that the gun fire meant they were found though. They thought nothing of shooting at even the slightest thing. The destructive power of weapons amusing them the way a bright coloured toy amuses a baby.
The noise closer and moving his way, slowly but surely and almost imperceivable. A scraping almost dragging sound, shuffling its way towards him, bringing with it the unknown. The fear ice cold now, a vice like bear hug squeezing his lungs so breathing was almost impossible, the thousand spiders back and joined by a million of their friends. Every part of his body was tense and tingling, his senses so heightened he heard the patter of feet across the vast room coming from somewhere near the lit up open door but saw no one. More footsteps over a hundred metres left of him, these much heavier and deliberate, confident and sure of their destination. A destination he couldn’t possibly know in the inky blackness that surrounded him.
BANG, BANG, BANG.
More shots and again the collision of sound high in the roof of this giant space. Its apex easily 30 metres above him, somewhere up there invisible to his eyes. He imagined the iron or steel beams that would criss cross and entwine to hold up the roof, fitted there decades before, easily able to carry on doing their job for many years after he was gone, a marvel of engineering from before all this madness.
At least he had seen the light from the weapon this time. Three distinct flashes from the muzzle of the weapon, mini suns in the darkness announcing the deadly projectiles they had sent out in search of flesh. Again the weapon hadn’t been pointed his way and he saw a spark away in the gloom, created by one of the bullets clipping something metal, the ricochet ringing in his ears, amplified a hundred times in the emptiness. He breathed out and looked around him again, trying to adjust his eyes to the conditions but failing almost entirely. The human eye needing some kind of ambient light, no matter how faint, and here there was none. Holding his hand up to his face and rotating it round confirmed his total blindness when he couldn’t even pick out his own thumb nail.
The dragging, scraping sound was there again. Closer than ever and still coming towards him, its slow, stealthy creep almost as terrifying as its anonymity. To be unable to move more than a few inches for fear of being shot or worse still caught was horrific but the added knowledge that something was moving ever closer made him want to scream. The volume of the slow scrape grew to more than a whisper now and the fear threatened to engulf him. A feeling was beginning to descend on him, a new level of darkness within this already black space, floating down from above like a thick impenetrable fog. A not unpleasant feeling that seemed to promise relief and an end to this nightmare, he realised was passing out through fear.He caught himself as the blanket was about to come over his eyes, blinked rapidly and forced himself to breathe long and slow. Deliberate breaths, deep as he could but quiet as possible. The feeling passed almost at once and the warmth of unconsciousness was replaced by that feeling again. The heightened senses screaming at him, telling him there was more than one hunter in the building with him; more than likely four of them. 2 pairs was the probable correct guess. Only it wasn’t a guess, he somehow knew that it was just that, 2 pairs of hunters searching for 2 separate targets. How he knew was a question he had no answer too but equally was a question that seemed unimportant. He knew and that was what mattered.He found he had slid to the floor and was laid in a semi foetal position but with his upper leg, his left, out straight, the cold of the concrete floor only now becoming apparent to him. It felt rough and exactly what it was, industrial. It had a flaky texture in places, probably painted at some time in its history the paint now giving up any role of protecting the concrete and surrendering to the inevitability of time and decay. Moving on this surface would be noisy in this position and he knew he had to move so he had to get up. Up to his feet as quietly as he could meant redistributing his weight over different muscle groups and getting out of the foetal position he still lie in. He began to move his right leg out from under his left when it grabbed him.
The scream began in his stomach. The feeling of being punched by a heavy weight boxer, strong and violent, creating a wave that seemed to move upwards. In slow motion now he felt the wave, it moved from the pit of his belly and squeeze itself up into his throat, rising all the way like an unstoppable force. A tidal waving of terror so all engulfing that he began to feel his brain fragment and separate, parts of it heading in all directions at the same time as the scream passed into his mouth and pushed onwards. As the terrible noise that was to come began to open his mouth the last coherent part of his brain knew he was dead. They would locate him the instant his vocal cords translated this fear into sound. Pinpointing him was inevitable and all he could hope for was that they would choose to shoot. Hope that they would not want to capture him but to just end his life there and then. Not mercifully as they knew nothing of this concept but more out of laziness. He had seen it before and it seemed they only took captives if ordered to do so. He could only pray no such orders had been given.His mouth opened, the dryness of his lips would not change the pitch of the raw animalistic scream that was coming. As the first note of his death began to form a hand clamped tight over his mouth and he was aware of a weight pressing down on him. A second had pinched his nose closed cutting off his air supply.
“ SHHHHHHHHHH” came the sound in his ear, loud and filling his senses but more than likely whisper quiet,
“Don’t scream. If you do we’re dead. Just relax... please”, the voice was soothing but the fear was clearly there too. A woman’s voice.
His lungs burned from lack of oxygen even though it had only been seconds since the air had been taken from him. He bucked and struggled.
“Ok, ok. Stop. I’ll take my hands away but don’t scream”, the voice in the darkness half ordered half pleaded.
She did as she had said and he had to do everything in his power not to noisily gulp for air. It may have only been seconds without air but his lungs screamed for it again, his sky high heart rate, up around the 200 beats per minute, was pulling the oxygen from his lungs and into his blood at an incredible rate. After half a minute or so of quietly gulping in air he felt his composure returning. His mind began to clear and reform, the blown apart pieces seeming to knit back, a million piece jigsaw puzzle solved and completed by unseeing hands and with it his understanding of the situation he was still in. Only now it had taken on another dimension. Still it had the space, time, opposition issues but now it had another twist. Who was this mysterious woman? She had simultaneously almost cost him, them both, their lives and saved them at the same time. Quick thinking of her to cut off his air supply and force the scream to be suppressed, then to calmly tell him what he had to do showed nerve and bravery. Obviously she, like he, was no stranger to the running and being hunted.
She still lay half on top of him, her weight hardly noticeable really other than the obvious feeling of contact with another. He took a breath as if to speak but she instantly put her finger to his lips, the international shhhhhh sign. He stopped mid breath and froze to the spot as footsteps could suddenly be heard very close by and to his right this time.
Shit, what was to his right? He hadn’t looked that way, thinking he had entered the building in the far corner and expecting just a wall to be there. His mind had automatically placed a wall on his right as he had walked in, populating his virtual image of the building with things he thought should be there and perhaps not what was actually there. The sort of thing that would get him killed, not paying attention to his surroundings. Or had he perhaps ended up facing in a different direction during the last few minute’s activities? He had no idea was the answer to this question and could only lie as still as possible as the footsteps grew louder in his ears. So close now that not only could he hear them but he could feel their vibrations through the floor. Less than 20 metres from them was his guess. They stopped suddenly and were replaced by breathing. Strong, composed breathing, relaxed and certainly not fearful, like his own. Seconds seem to tick by slower than he had ever experienced. As if someone was playing the cruellest of jokes and had chosen this exact moment in time to slow down the world for him. He seemed to be able to have complete and complex thoughts. Questions and answers came to him in what seemed like micro seconds but were, in reality normal time. It was just that the owner of the footsteps he had heard was incredibly patient. Stood somewhere in the darkness, invisible to him, waiting for him to betray his position. Waiting for that one half cough or sniffle. Even too deep a breath could give him away. Calm relaxed breathing would be best in this situation, all but impossible in reality.
The footsteps started again and he dared a glance up, realising at once that he had spun slightly and the owner of the footsteps he had heard to his right were actually between him and the lit up door away in the distance. He could see the shadowy outline as the footsteps started again, marching calmly and deliberately towards the hydraulic lifts and the train. He breathed out slowly, unaware until, this moment he had been holding his breath. He heard the woman do the same. An all but inaudible sigh as she too stopped holding her breath. Aware of her again now all his senses were firing again and he felt her move slightly and half slide, half roll off of him. He could no longer feel her weight against him and now only had a vague awareness of where she was in relation to him. Although he had just met her, if met was the right term for their encounter, he felt a hint of panic at being alone again and reached out in the direction he sensed she was in. All he felt was cold concrete under his palm as he slid it gently from side to side trying to locate her, whoever she was. She wasn’t there though and the disappointment was hard to control. It had been at least a month since he had seen anyone else; over 3 months since he’d actually spoke to someone. The sighting of people last month had been from a rooftop with high powered binoculars and he craved company more than most things.
Again the totality of the gun shots enveloped him and after the total silence it hammered against his senses and felt like a kick in the face. Quickly though the sensation passed and the silence returned, a vast emptiness devoid of any sounds other than the distant footsteps. Again he had caught sight of the muzzle flash and the two miniature suns, burning hot in oranges and reds, had betrayed the location of at least one of the hunters. Not that it mattered if it betrayed them he had no way to go on the offensive. No way to turn this one against them, without weapons it was all but impossible to do anything but hide, cower like a scared and weak animal, here in the darkness, hoping not to be found. But what then? Would they give up and think he had escaped, think they both had escaped? He tried to convince himself that it was likely they would believe that but he knew deep down that if he stayed where he was they would find him, eventually.
The hand grabbed him again but this time he felt no fear, no urge to scream or escape. If anything he felt a sort of relief in not being alone again. He knew she had hardly moved but the actual physical contact of another meant much more than the feeling he wasn’t alone. While she was touching him, holding his arm, he knew for a fact he wasn’t alone. She wasn’t just holding him though she was tugging at him, trying to get him moving. But moving where? It was madness to move far. Even if they could keep totally silent where could they go? There were 4 hunters here, at least, and although it was pitch black it was only a matter of time before they got close enough to find him, to find them. But her tugging was more frantic now and he relented. Spun himself round on the floor and as quietly as possible got into a crawling position, ready to follow her. She moved her hand down his arm and grabbed his hand, the feeling of skin on skin intense after so long without company. A tingle ran through him, not of desire as such but of something akin to companionship, one of humanities greatest feelings, taken for granted for so long by so many. But not by those alive now.
She pulled at his hand wanting him to follow, but follow where? She was heading towards the train he realised, taking them both slowly and carefully towards the hydraulic lifts and the red lights. He stopped moving pulling her arm in a way that indicated stop. He so wanted to be able to tell her no. To explain it was a bad move but he didn’t dare speak. It was too dangerous, too stupid to utter a word when the hunters could be anywhere, were everywhere. She wasn’t having it though and pulled at him again, harder this time, her strength surprising him, he felt the muscles around his shoulder stretch as he tried to remain stationary. He relented and followed again in a crawl, his knees sore against the constant hardness of the concrete. His free hand supporting his bent over body as they edged forward, slowly towards this unknown woman’s stupid destination.
He heard the footsteps coming towards them again. They both heard them and almost as one stopped, frozen with fear like a rabbit caught in the headlights, unsure in that split second what to do to save its own life. He flattened himself out against the floor and felt her do the same. As small a profile as they could manage, instinctively done with no real conscious thought given, amazing him once again how the human instinct for survival was so strong. The footsteps grew louder but were slower than before and more methodical, as though their owner was now searching a specific area and not just walking. Had they been heard? His heart rate sky rocketed again and he could hear its rhythmical beating loud in his ear drums. Bum bum bum bum, so loud he could not believe he was the only person hearing it. He’d lost track of the footsteps now due to the heart beat in his ears so when his bodies receptors told his brain a foot had collided with his right thigh it was a complete surprise.
The hunter tripped over him and was obviously just as surprised as he was. He felt its weight come over him and had a sensation of something falling due to the sudden change in air pressure around him. A dull thud announced the hunters landing spot and as he spun onto his side he saw the familiar green glow. The terror that green glow had always inflicted upon him was stronger than ever right now and he knew he had to get up and away into the darkness before it could draw its knife. He had seen the damage it could do and it terrified him. He must run, get up and go, run as though his life depended on it, which it surely did. But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead he spun up into a crouch and launched himself where he thought the figure had fallen, hoping he had guessed correctly. Landing on it with a heavy thump he immediately grabbed out for it, trying to establish exactly how the two of them were entwined. He felt the hardness of what could only be the armoured chest plate the hunter wore and quickly slid his hands upwards, sheer animal instinct guiding him now. His hands felt the familiar shape of a neck and he grabbed it hard, his hands only just wrapped around the front half of the muscular solid neck and as he began to squeeze the blows began.
A sharp pain indicated he had taken a blow to the left side. It surprised him; the power of the short sharp blow caught him out and winded him slightly, the air escaping his lips as a kind of sigh. The next blow came from his right and glanced off his cheek bone, the metal gloved hand of the hunter scraping down his skin and almost certainly taking a good chunk of it with it. He wriggled up on top of the downed figure so he was straddled, slightly sideways across its body, one knee dug in above the groin the other on the cold floor. Squeezing as hard as he could now the next blow caught him full in the hip, a vicious blow that he felt right through into his bones, glad it had hit him there and not somewhere soft and more vulnerable he tried to put the pain to the back of his mind. Instinct was totally in control now and he succumbed to it totally, no longer functioning as a human being capable of reason and deliberation, but as an animal wanting to survive, capable of anything. His hands squeezed harder and he knew right then it wasn’t going to be enough, couldn’t cut the oxygen supply, he didn’t have the strength to compress the hunters massively muscular neck quickly enough to stop the blows. As if on cue another one hit him, this time a right hand swing that hit him in the left eye. Something cracked as it landed, the metal glove again digging into his skin causing additional damage that wasn’t really going to be necessary if the blows didn’t stop. The strength of the hunter’s blows was astounding and his head was swimming from the last blow when he felt another left clip his right ear and sail on by, the air whistling as it went. It was now or never, if he was to survive he needed to do something and quick. The fight must now be audible to the other hunters who would be closing in any second.
The blow stopped and just as he was thinking it was working his world was flipped, thrown about its axis. The hunter roared and threw him up and to one side with a hip flick and a swipe of its arm. A simple manoeuvre really, as if it had been toying with him and had now become bored. He completed at least one 360 rotation before landed with a hard thud, almost face first, impossible to cushion a landing when you can’t see the floor coming towards you. In that instant the pain came, all of it at once, warning him of possible problems he may be about to face. He assessed the information instantly as it drove into his brain, every receptor at once trying its best to tell him its message, a 6 lane super highway of brutal knowledge, newly opened and full as if were rush hour. Left eye half closed and stinging at every blink, right cheek sticky with something, probably blood. His left side tender from another of the almighty blows, his hip feeling dead to him, as though it belonged to someone else, someone at least 90 years old judging by the lack of movement he had from it and worst of the pains, the huge great truck on his motorway of agony was his neck. Obviously it had taken most of the impact of his fall. Flesh meeting stone, as one sided a contest as you could ever see. Dylan blinked his eyes in an attempt to fights he sharp pains which fizzed and popped. Fireworks sent from somewhere just above his collar bone exploding behind his retinas, white shadows in the blackness of his vision. As consciousness ebbed and wavered the darkness was suddenly full of that green glow. The hunters mask reflecting against its face, terrifying and almost ethereal at the same time. The sight that normally meant it was close enough to see you in the darkness meaning much more than that this time, he watched as the glow rose to full height betraying the hunters height. Easily 6 and a half feet tall it towered over him as he struggled to move, tried to get his feet and legs under his body so he could move, escape, do something...