I had no choice but to run. I was thirteen, not esteemed for my speed or athleticism and being hounded to the point of extinction by three shadowy figures. I kept my head down and my legs moving. The darkness wrapping itself around me in the same uncomfortable way Joe did.
I was out of breath, exhausted, yet somehow moving as fast as evolutionary law would permit. I tripped on a branch, half hidden in a heap of leaves, cutting my leg. The hunters accelerated, their shift in gears taking them ever closer to me. I struggled to find my footing in the long grass, unable to see more than a yard in front of me, when I fell.
They figured I was dead. Maybe they peered into the bottomless pit, saw nothing, heard nothing, got scared, turned on their heels and deserted their helpless prey. That or they didn’t care and went home, job done.
The next thing I recall was a foul stench sweeping over my bruised body. It was cold. I clambered onto my knees, stumbling slightly before I caught my balance in the sticky mire. My right arm was throbbing as I reached into the pocket of my sodden jeans, pulling out my mobile. I illuminated my surroundings enough to see that I was in trouble. The hole was deep and caked in gooey mud; climbing out looked impossible.
There was something waiting for me, in the darkness.
“Poo-yah-foo-yah!” it whispered, in a voice like the wind. I can’t remember being scared. The last time that happened was when a gang of kids on the bus took my phone and beat me. All because I was sitting by myself, a little black girl with my hair straightened, listening to music. They thought, “She looks innocent, she looks like a victim.” Now I usually carry a knife, because these days everyone’s a challenger.
I didn’t believe in things all dark and dangerous. Nights had never been graced by vampires and witches. I figured it must be an injured animal so I waited quietly, listening.
“Poo-yah-foo-yah!” it repeated. My eyes explored the bottom of the pit for the first time. It stretched far beyond the hole I had fallen down, its vastness unknown; just lots of dark places where something could hide.
I quickly changed direction with the phone. It didn’t look very scary as it squatted there, small and barely noticeable, with spaghetti arms and a large belly hanging only inches off the ground.
Its colour was a grimy green, with pointy ears, decaying teeth and a sneer where a smile should have been. Its breathing was more of a wheeze and it was sad-looking, held prisoner by rusty chains nailed deep into the mud behind. I kept my distance as the light started to annoy the creature. It disappeared into the darkness. I arched forward, spotlighting the creature for a second time.
“Stop that, you annoying jobbernowl.” it snapped, surprising me.
I just stared as it tugged and pulled at its chains, soon giving up, no doubt like the countless times before.
“Why were you running?” it asked. I opened my mouth but no words came out. “Well?” said the creature, gawking at me. “Don’t tell me my first guest in over two hundred years cannot speak.”
The light from my phone searched for an escape route.
“There’s no way out,” he said calmly, “I’m afraid we’re teetotaciously banjaxed.”
Tea, what? I stared the creature down.
“Why are you down here, chained up like that?” I asked.
“Why were you running, causing such a conbobberation?” he replied.
“You’re weird.” I concluded.
“No, I’m Hush,” he said, “and I can help you escape.”
“I doubt that,” I told him, staring into his big eyes, “Two hundred years? You should be dead.”
Hush sunk slowly into his chains, refusing to speak another word. I was equally stubborn and after several fruitless attempts exploring the cave it dawned on me to actually call someone. I plumped for my best friend Tracy because my mother was ‘entertaining’ and wanted me out of the house. No signal. I tried several times but my reach was limited and I was getting more and more tired.
Dare I fall asleep?