The Runner

By Scott Rinehart All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

Manhunt

The runner had just made it to the foothills of Mt. Purgatory by the time Andromalius and his legions had arrived. Zaernos, the right hand of Andromalius and sometimes fool, approached the Count after ensuring the men were in their places.
"Everyone is posted My Lord. Do you wish for them to commence searching? I hope so. I thought it was great that time you quoted Tommy Lee Jones." Zaernos told him.
"Zaernos, do you want to stand guard in the latrines again? I think they're about chest deep again." Andromalius said shooting him an annoyed look. "Unleash the Hellhounds."
Zaernos nearly tripped over his feet rushing off to comply with his orders. Andromalius stood looking up the mountain, hoping deep in his maggot infested heart that this runner would lead him on a grand chase, especially to Earth. He hadn't had a chance to see U.S. Marshals yet.

Andromalius couldn't see the runner, and looking back down from the foothills the runner couldn't see him, but the runner could see the legions surrounding the mountain and hear the Hellhounds and knew he'd better move a bit faster.

An uphill sprint is not easy, but finding the roadway again helped a little. As we all know however, a little is never enough, and he could hear the Hellhounds gaining on him. Closer, closer, and closer still they came, and he decided to get off of the road. Up a lightly worn path he climbed with the hounds still gaining, until to his horror he found one waiting on a boulder for him.

The devilish dog lunged for him from the rock, but he grabbed a nearby dead branch and brought it up through the creature's throat, and left it hoisted there until it died. Hearing the others on the trail right behind him he flung their dead friend at them and resumed running. The dead dog hitting the others caused a chain reaction of dogs falling downhill. This slowed the others down but not for long.

The path leveled out a good stretch and he was able to pick up some speed, but the Hellhounds were on him again. Heart rising up into his throat he ran as fast as he physically could, but then he saw it ahead, a break in the path. As he neared he could see it as a crevice, and he tried pouring on more speed. The dogs were in his shadow as he made the leap across the gap, discovering as he did that it was a chasm instead.

The dogs were not as fortunate. Not prepared for the jump the first of them ran straight into the chasm, falling to their deaths, the next wave stopped on the edge but were pushed in by the ones behind them that couldn't stop in time. He however made it across, but did not stop running. As soon as the dogs regained themselves they got running starts and jumped across, regaining his trail.

The runner wound his way up through tight crevices in the mountain's side. Tight enough hopefully to keep the Hellhounds out and off of his back. One spot he barely squeezed through he knew they wouldn't, and minutes later he found a spot underneath a boulder to hide and rest.

As he rested he dreamed of making his escape, and leaving Hell behind. No more working at the Census Bureau counting and recounting the endless populace of the combined Underworld. No more Capitol Building that looked like a nuked out piece of Greek architecture. Good thing his girlfriend had been able to get him onto a road detail. They would probably skin her alive for helping him, whatever her name was.

Only important people in Hell are known by their names, and seeing as he couldn't remember his own, his sins while living couldn't have been that serious. So what if he killed not one but two families with his drunk driving. He didn't care then, and now that he had already been to Hell and was escaping, there was no reason to start.

Awaking with a start and suddenly realizing he drifted off to sleep he got up to get moving again. Staying in the rocks to conceal his movements he continued upwards, but he could hear the men of the legion searching for him now. It wouldn't be long until they found him, damn it.

It took less time than he thought, as a demon legionnaire called Abnegazar snatched him up from between two rocks.

"I'm going to get promoted for gutting you and bringing back your skull, little piggy. Sit still now, this is going to hurt a lot." Abnegazar spoke.

But Abnegazar hadn't counted on Zosin, a brother legionnaire also out for a promotion for being the one to catch the runner. Zosin impaled Abnegazar upon his poleaxe, and gave a twist for good measure. The runner seeing this as his only chance pushed Abnegazar's dying body further onto the weapon, giving him time to run while Zosin pulled the weapon free.

He ran up a slight slope now, exposed to the sight of anyone looking, small explosions from sniper fire erupted next to him as he ascended. This had been a bad idea, surely he was going to die, and worse be brought back to serve in Hell again.

The runner began to think that all was lost until he saw it up ahead. Purgatory Falls, the immense waterfall that descended the mountain with its source being in The Garden of Eden. Without stopping he ran behind the cascading falls, and immediately began to clamber upwards through the deluge.

The climbing was difficult and he dared not let go, and all sounds of pursuit were muffled by the roar of the water, but if it was hard for him to climb here he imagined it to be worse for legionnaires wearing armor and carrying weaponry. If the falls could keep them off of his back until he reached the top, and providing he could hold on that long, this would be a straight run to his freedom.

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