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The Chase of a Lamb
I thought it was a safe house. But what house made of brick and mortar could possibly withstand his attack? I hunch down in the pitchy blackness – hunted. My muscles tense, already feeling his breath on my neck, but it’s just a draft.
We were all drinking Fanta Limón from wineglasses when the end came. It was in this house, if I remember correctly. The war began, and everything changed. I couldn’t even finish my drink. Though we’d all known about him before, he was just an enemy for other countries to fight; we never dreamed he’d invade our own. And yet – this is my reality.
In the years we’ve been hunted, escaping ever more narrowly, Time has started to take hold – another one of his effects. There was never any Time here before, but now the tulips on the table, once so bright, gasp for life. Cadavers of flies pile up on the windowsills like soldiers in a mass grave, and the sky is gray more often than it’s blue. I swear I saw a leaf changing color the other day. It broke my heart.
Winter is coming. Our temperaments can’t survive in the cold. But what is this ‘our’? Who is this ‘we’? How do I know if there’s anyone left? Perhaps I’m the last one guarding our once-beautiful country. Or perhaps the rest are all still alive, and I’ll be the first to die. I can’t decide which is worse, and there’s no time for thinking.
The wind rustles the branches of the trees, and they whisper like ghosts of happier times. The cellophane flowers have all been trampled under his loafer-clad feet. We always went barefoot.
Wait – what noise was that? I shift my position, and the floorboard creaks again. My breathing comes in shallow gasps. The wall won’t give way at my back, even though I think it powerfully. Oh how I’ve weakened. I unfurl my wings with bated breath instead; I’ll draw a window and fly out of it.
But I can smell him – coffee and cigarettes, twitchy fingers ink-stained and bruised from too much typing, the hollow eyes with no spark, the stubble coating his cheek where the razor missed a spot, and hairline receding to show skin pasty from too much fluorescent lighting. There’s a pen behind his ear, a mockery of my purple crayon, and his shirt below the arms is wet with sweat. The tie seems to choke him, and those bloodshot eyes…
I force open my own eyes, squinted shut. When did that happen? I’m losing my mind. The smell is stronger now, too; time to go. I take my crayon and draw an open window. Work your magic, crayon. Let me escape.
The window exists – now one foot out, now the other, contort without hitting the frame, and I’m out, but for the edge of my white dress, glowing softly in the moonlight, caught on a splinter that I don’t remember drawing. I chance to look up, back into the house from whence I came, and … it’s him.
It’s him; he’s there, in front of me, not two feet away, with his pants so neatly pressed, arms reaching out for me, ready to sink his perfectly straight teeth into my freckled neck. I jump backwards, and my dress tears. I’ve fallen, and my crayon is lost on the ground somewhere, but I can’t help it because I’ve got to get away – far, far away.
My wings catch the air, and I’m flying, but it’s not right – nothing’s right at all. The air is thick, like liquid plastic, and I can’t plow through it like this; I’m not strong enough. I tumble to the ground again.
I’m glowing now, lighting up like a beacon with my fear. He’s a street behind me, maybe two. But here’s the forest now, much darker than suburbia. We never used to go into it before, but before has gone, and now it’s now.
I enter. It’s dark, terribly dark, and I’ve finally been petrified into a state of darkness myself. The carpet of leaves is thick underfoot, but soggy and already decomposing, and I whisper an apology as I step on the dead bodies. Ever so often, a glimmer of watery moonlight filters down between the latticework of naked branches.
I can hear him now. How did he get so fast? I start to run, but there’s a stream. I can’t swim, and there’s no turning back because he’s there, coming after me, baring his teeth in a fake smile, following, following, and I can’t run anymore because my legs have given out, and there’s nothing more to do.
His coffee-breath is upon me now, and I feel the stubble on his cheek as he leans in, caressing my face with his calloused hands. As he forces a pill between my lips, I sigh.
Somewhere in the night, a man cries out for lost youth and the death of imagination at the ink-stained hands of adulthood.