Save Yourself

 

Running across the open plains, Chris dived for cover. Shots rang out over the deserted grassland, shots meant for him. He cowered in his temporary refuge, listening to the howls of outrage growing closer and the loud clicks of reloading weapons, and knew he couldn’t remain hidden for long. Going back was no longer an option, not given what he had done; he had to go on. Taking a deep breath, he broke cover and ran. A hail of gunfire answered in response to his emergence, carving out chunks of the ground around his feet. Chris was forced to make his panic dash more erratic in order to avoid the closer shots. Leaping, sprinting, jumping; Chris soon began to tire, but he knew the consequences if he got caught. Up ahead, the vast plain seemed to spread out before him. His pursuers were still a fair distance behind him; however, he knew they were gaining on him rapidly.

 

A frenzied panic came over him. He couldn’t keep up the evasion forever. The only two options he had were fight or flee. He had no weapons, and had nothing to hand in which to distract those chasing him. He could only flee for so long; he had already been running from his pursuers for over an hour and still he ran. A jarring impact hit his right shoulder and he knew he was hit; by what, he was unsure of. However, adrenaline and sheer terror kept his mind numb to the pain that was surely spreading across his back, and on he ran. Afraid of another hit, or worse, he searched in vain for an adequate hiding place; one in which he could disappear from his would-be captors or fortify himself against them. Just as he was about to give up all hope, there it appeared. On the horizon of the bleak and desolate lowland, the flat vista opened up to a rocky outcrop, and beyond, an ever approaching tree line.

 

Bolstered by this blessed sight, Chris pressed forth, shots still ringing in his ears. The yells of the incensed gangs behind him seemed to diminish, although Chris knew they were still as angry as ever, given the events preceding the chase. The thing is, Chris hadn’t meant to do it; it had been a pure accident. But, the blade had been in his hand, and a moment of blind fury had driven him to the sudden, insane, reckless act. Just when his life could have been whole, a lifetime of happiness and bliss awaited him, had he kept his cool and his temper. But now his beloved Clara lay dead upon the cold floor of her father’s house. The killing blow that had been meant for her unpleasant and immoral father, had been dodged at the most inopportune of moments and slain the girl who had stolen his heart. Chris saw her supine, unmoving body in his mind’s eye, her elegant limbs spread out at odd angles, a dark red stain seeping on the dank flagstone floor beneath her. The only thing that kept him running from those that chased his was the memory of her last words, spoken in her last breath, a guttural whisper: Save… Yourself… My… Love…

 

He stumbled as the terrain changed underfoot, bringing out of his reverie. He now found himself traversing the rocky outcrop that had been on the not too distant horizon moments before. What worried him however, was that the tree line was still in the distance and that there seemed to be more of an aerial view of the forthcoming woodland. He clambered on until he found himself at his journeys end. The promised sanctuary that was to be his salvation turned out to be a fully grown forest, the perfect hiding place from any pursuers. However, from where he stood, on the edge at the top of a hundred foot cliff face, on that same rocky outcrop that had heralded his deliverance, there was no way to reach it. Chris turned around, his back to the forest below, facing those that had chased him all this way. At the forefront of the gang was the malevolent and depraved father. The father who had denied Chris and Clara marital bliss for so many years, the embittered old man who should have been lying moribund on his kitchen floor. Instead he was here, the evil glint that had haunted Chris for so many years, shining in his aged eyes, the bloodlust etched in the lines of the old man’s face.

 

A sudden calm washed over Chris as he stood there; the forest at his back, the fading light of the day, slowly edging its way into night, blood seeping from his injured shoulder, and the mob in front of him. His love, Clara was in another place, another time. Those that had chased him over hill and dale would settle for nothing more than his demise, he was sure of that. In the end, there was no other options left. Chris looked down at the vile and spiteful individual before him, gave a small smile, and took the only step available to him. Backwards. With a sudden lurch, Chris plummeted down the cliff, its face a blur as his vision swam with tears. The life he had known came as flashed in his mind’s eye; growing up, his parents, school, friends, achievements and regrets, and finally Clara. As the unrelenting ground came rushing to meet him, he made peace with all of these and closed his eyes, hoping fervently that the world he was leaving could find it within itself to make peace with him, just as he had made peace with it.

 

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