This is just the middle of a story. I don't know if there even is any other parts.
| They ran, the three of them. They ran stumbling now, their breaths coming out in gasps, but they still ran on. Through the forest, draped in thick curtains of fog, they raced. Any other time they would have never entered the forest, but this was no ordinary scenario. They were stories about this forest, but they were forgotten in the moment. The fog made obstacles jump out of nowhere, a tree suddenly appearing in their path, a rock, not there before, suddenly tripping a foot. The fog was both comforting and unwanted. The fog made fantasies of safety have less opposition, but it also made the fear more tangible. With no evidence to support it, how could you harbor wishes of safety?
And so she ran. One of three. She couldn’t stop. She couldn’t wait. She ran in terror, and her terror kept her going. Without it she would have collapsed long ago. She clutched the youngest to her chest, protecting him as much as she could from the branches as they whipped the three with no mercy. She put on a face as she ran, a face of calm and assurance. If she cried, she would upset the youngest, but she would also never regain herself. She could fear herself beginning to crack as she ran. She ran as much for the darkness behind her as she did the darkness in front of her. She was stuck between two dark places, and she saw no way out but through.
The youngest was afraid as well. He was afraid because of the speed at which they were going, and the roughness through which they went. He was afraid because of the thorns scratching his arms and the branches hitting his face. He was afraid because he knew she was afraid, and because she was holding him so tight that he could hardly breathe.
The eldest was not afraid. But like her, he pretended. He pretended to be afraid because he knew that she expected him to be afraid. And so he ran with them until they could run no more, and they stopped. He was tired, yes, but she was carrying the youngest of the three. She collapsed. Sitting in the swirling fog atop a rock, comforting the youngest, she looked at the eldest.
Do you think they’re gone? She asked.
The noises of pursuit had long since faded, but fear had kept them going. The eldest thought about what she wanted to hear for a minute.
I don’t know. He said. I haven’t heard them for a long time.
I hope we lost him. The monster. She said, and then burst into tears. For once, she did this not out of fear. She cried for the monster, then. Cried because of what he was, and because of what she thought he had been.
We lost him. The eldest replied. In the darkness, the others’ couldn’t see his smile. We’re safe. You should get some sleep. I’ll keep first watch.
She nodded and laid down, still holding the youngest. The eldest’s hand strayed to his jacket pocket, but he would wait. He would delay. It would be better that way, and so he sat down near them, watching them drift off to sleep, his hand staying in his pocket.
He would wait. Just for a little bit more.