The night hung heavy and humid as the moon slips behind a cloud. The darkness wrapped around her, and she shivered as even the moon abandons her plight. Gasps of her breath- the only sound to be heard. She squatted down and lay down the blanket wrapped bundle in the knoll of a tree; covering it with leaves and branches. Scanning the empty Cimmerian blackness all around her, she strained her eyes looking for him, before running along the lane and across the field to safety.
Sounds of the engine ripped the silence apart, as she turned to her companion, utterly startled and alert.
‘We can’t outrun them. We need to hide,’ she whispered sharply, her determined gaze on his face. She didn’t need to see him as his familiar features had imprinted on her brain. Only his eyes shone now, as they gazed back at her; the fear clear for her to see.
She knew he thought he had failed her.
‘There is a house not far from here,’ he breathed. “I’ll distract them, and you make a run for it and then we meet up,’ he grasped her shoulders and pulled her close, ’We will get through this,’ he said, his voice low and determined. She nodded, as the knots in her stomach slightly loosened at the sound of hope.
He pulled her in once more and pressed his lips on hers. He could feel her trying to pry loose from his grasp as the voices seem to get closer. ‘I love you,’ she whispered her eyes darting around the sound of voices drifting toward them.
‘You say that as if you are leaving me,’ his bottom lip between his teeth showing his worry.
Her cheeks went hot against his sweat beaded skin at the implication. ’You must survive this. Pleaseunderstand,’ her trembling voice implored him.
‘No! Together- You promised,’ tears burn his eyes his grip loosened as she parted; ready to disappear into the night.
‘Listen-’ she continued, trying to distract them from the untimely emotional conversation, ‘You hide while I distract them. We’ll meet up on the far side of the wood, near the house, got it?,’ she watched him as he wrestled with the conflicting emotions. He sighed, gripping her hand tightly and close to his lips, as if those very few seconds could rewind time to a happier moment.
‘- Ben, we have to lead them away. This is the best plan,’ she gazed into his liquid gold eyes. She could see the warring emotions behind them.
‘Okay,’ he mumbled out. ‘I’ll see you there,’ her body slumped with relief at his reluctant decision.
Taking his face in her hands she kissed him gently, feeling his hands wrap around her hips. ‘You have to survive this. Do you understand me Ben?,’ her eyes search his until he gives a slight nod.
‘We all will,’ his voice full of conviction. Lifting his eyes to her face he crashes his lips to her mouth and somehow, he knows this is the last time. ‘Sorry,’ he whispers against her mouth.
‘You have nothing to be sorry for,’ she brushes his blond hair out of his eyes before kissing him softly. Always amazed at how this beautiful boy always sought her out when he could be friends with anyone. Filling her life with joy and sunshine and later he had been all her firsts as she had been his. Somehow, she had always known she couldn’t keep him. That he didn’t belong to her. The barking of dogs dragged her from her thoughts. Her need to protect and save him pulsing through her again.
‘Now go,’ he watched her run along the lane before disappearing through the hedge.
She glanced back at him one last time before she resumed her escape in the thick, velvet night. The deafening roars got nearer and the spotlight arced through the darkness, settling on her form for all to see. Vicious Shouts and barks rose into the air around her. This was the plan- let them see her, let them almost taste the victory. Closer. Just a bit more…
She ran. Through the tall grass. Faster. Faster.
Her lungs burning in her chest. Her only thought to lead them away.
The sound of the guns shot and feckless laughter of the men echoing through the air was the last thing she heard, as the darkness of the night and eternity snatch the air from her lungs and the life from her body.
His hair suddenly stood on end. Dreading the worst, he turn to see her fall, ‘NOOO!,’ his shouting alerting them to his location. His eyes locked with the dark clad figure holding for a split second. The Synod.
‘I WANT HIM ALIVE,’ the shout rang out as the roar of the vehicles converged on Ben. He knows he can’t outrun them but he’d damn well tries. He must survive. He’s got to survive. For her.
A shot echoed.
The last thing he heard as crushing pain took the air from his lungs.
It felt like forever as the world faded past him and the wind whistles past his body before it bounced against the earth. Rolling on, his limbs a tangled mess. Consciousness, now thankfully ripped away from him, a darkness replaced the sensation of damp earth and wet leaves as he came to abrupt stop. Sounds of dogs barking in their frenzied hunt filled his surroundings which was interrupted by the distinct sound of the click of a gun loading.
‘James, where are you going?’ the boy stopped his hand hovering over the door handle.
‘Farmer Edge said we could shoot rabbits on his land,’ James turned to his mother, a smile on his face. ‘I will bring one back for supper,’
‘Hmm, stay out of trouble young man because if I have PC Summer around again you will be grounded do you hear?,’ She warned.
‘Yes mum, no trouble. I promise,’ finally turning the handle he pushed the door open to find his friends.
‘What took you so long?!,’ they exclaimed impatiently.
‘Well, you know my mum Oliver, she fusses,’ James huffed.
‘Yeah, bad luck on that mate,’ his other friend chuckled as they headed down the lane toward the field and woods.
‘Yeah, thanks Steve your compassion is killing me,’ James grumbled.
Gathering up the dead rabbits and putting there guns back in their cases empty of cartridges, they started the treck home the sun long set and the light of the moon lighting the way.
‘Mum will be pleased,’ He said pleased with himself, ‘she loves a bit of rabbit,’ Oliver observed as he carried his brace of rabbits swinging gently by his side.
‘Yep my dad loves mum’s pies and he’ll stop moaning about the supermarket bill and how I need a job not more education,’ James moaned as he slung the strap of the gun bag over his shoulder. Reaching the wood they stopped as the sound of barking and trucks rented the air.
‘Here!,’ Steve whispered as he pulled them behind a tree using the undergrowth to shield them from view. They watched as a girl ran across the clearing leading to the lane. They watched as a single shot rang out and she dropped to the ground.
A single anguished shout filled the air, as the boys, still hidden, watched as the young man turned watch her fall and take few steps toward her, only to stop. In a blink of an eye, he leapt into the air and vanished leaving a large wolf in his place.
James placed his hand over Oliver’s mouth as a gasp left his lips. Another shot rang out as the wolf ran seemingly toward the boys. Jerking with a yelp as a bullet found its mark. Changing course, it crashed past the boys and tumbled into the wood.
Climbing to their feet the boys, still in utter shock, they followed the sound of the animal as it crashed through the bushes. They stopped as it tumbled down the bank toward the small stream at the bottom. Momentarily silence hung in the air only to be shattered again by booted feet as two men and a dog ran past the boys new hiding place.
Steven being the tallest could just make out the outline of the men as they scrambled down the bank and splashed into the stream. The cocking of a gun echoing through the trees.
‘Its dead. Job done,’ a gravely voice declared followed by splashing as they climbed back up the bank and strolled past the boys hiding spot.
The three boys crept from there hiding place. The night now quiet again. Fear fills all of their eyes as they gaze at each other.
‘It fell down there,’ Steve pointed, finger shaking from fear.
‘You want to go down don’t you James?’ Oliver peered down the slope. The only sign something fell down is the broken leaves and small branches.
‘Well yeah they shot a wolf!.’ James breathed animatedly, ‘When did you last see a wolf around here?’ James blinked at the other boys in total disbelief at their total luck and his friends utter lack of curiosity. ‘We would be famous!,’ he added pointing in the beast’s direction. As he could see their resolve wavering.
‘We would be dead,’ Steve answered his voice solemn.
‘What?---No! those men have gone now!,’ James argued back still keeping his voice down.
‘I didn’t mean them ! I meant the bloody wolf!,’ Steve replied in concern.
‘I agree with James, we can’t just leave it. What if it isn’t dead?,’ Ollie looked at Steve.
‘Then my argument still stands!,’ Steve stated agitatedly, ’have you gone totally mad James? He looked at his friend in disbelief.
The three of them looked at each other.
‘Well, I am going down you two pansies can do whatever,’ James announced before slowly climbing down.
‘I ain’t no pansy James Sullivan,’ Oliver announced his voice laced with indignation at such an insult. Following behind eliciting an annoyed huff from Steve as he too climbed down the bank.