Chapter 5: Standing Alone Part 1
AS THE SOUND GROWS louder, my chest pain increases with every second, causing my breaths to catch in my throat. Saliva dries on my tongue, and what-if thoughts begin to haunt me again like a restless ghost. What is that? Are those creatures near here? Where is Ryu? What if he’s in danger? Stop! Stay in the moment. To break the endless cycle of what-ifs, I exhale a breath and calm myself. I already have two problems, and I don’t need to add to it with more chest pains. Now is not a good time for a panic attack.
Shrugging off the thoughts of worry but staying alert, I zigzag between the cars, moving with quick steps. The smell of gasoline and smoke fills my nostrils, but I don’t relent; if I don’t hurry and find Ryu, my anxiety tells me I may not see him again. Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. The sounds from before are louder, reverberating throughout the area, and it’s obvious whatever is approaching is coming at us fast.
“Think Lena, think!”
I duck between the cars and scurry along as quickly as I can, moving like a mouse. Damn it! I don’t know which direction I’m going. What should I do? Okay...calm down. First, I need to find Ryu. With this car pile-up, we won’t be driving away from here anytime soon. If need be, I may have to abandon my car. Angry at my thoughts, I clench my hands into fists, but between the stack of vehicles and a missing Ryu, I only have one real choice: I need to move forward.
Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. The noise that causes my anxiety to spike has returned. And the whiff of burning metal and gasoline entering my nostrils doesn’t help ease the tension I feel. However, I can’t let fear hold me back, even if the thoughts in my head want me to stay frozen.
I exhale, then gather the little courage I have to lift my body to view the road. Even though I’m shield by crashed cars, I don’t know if the enemy can find me. Before, we never determined if the goo creatures could see or hear. Knowing my luck, they’ll be able to do both.
As I roam my eyes around, including looking through broken window glass on the cars, I call out to Ryu, softly.
“Ryu...” I groan and repeat his name. After a few minutes of no response, I say, “This is pointless; he’ll never hear me.”
After letting out an exhausted sigh, I inhale and exhale, preparing to make my next move. I grip the handle of my sword and secure my bag’s strap around my body. Slowly, I lift myself from the ground and sweep my eyes around the area. So far, the scene is the same until, through the some broken car glass, I make out some pinkish-moving goo. They are here. Damn it! I have to move fast.
Anxiety creeps its way into my thoughts and form, causing the chest pain and what-if thoughts to return. If I could, I would sink into one of these cars and hold my breath, praying that the creatures don’t find me; however, if I fail now, then I’ll never find Ryu or my friends.
What if Ryu has abandoned me?
What if something has already happened to Lyla?
The tension builds inside my body as my breaths become labored. I curl my hands into fists, clenching as hard as I can so I can focus on the pain in my palm instead of my chest. What if I die here or get taken by those things? I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be alone.
Sinking further into despair, I squeeze the handle of my sword, clutching it against my chest like a precious gem. If Ryu has abandoned me, then my sword is the only thing that can help me. Fighting back the tears, I fall to the ground as my legs buckle beneath me.
More anxiety-fueled thoughts enter my mind, like a plague with no cure. Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. The sounds are getting closer. Calm down, Lena. Breathe. Once the pain in my chest begins to go down, I slowly lift and scan my eyes around the area again; however, this time, the goo-creatures are nowhere in sight.
This may be my only chance to escape. If I go back to the car, I’ll be stuck here, unless I try the highway… but what if Ryu is right? Damn it!
I look around again, and the green of the forest surrounding the road catches my eyes. It’s not the best idea, but if I can hide in the sea of trees, I can at least try to use my phone and call Lyla. I guess Ryu is going to proceed without me. I sigh. It’s not like we were friends or anything. I guess it was dumb to ask him out, but at least I won’t see him again. This will be better for me, anyway; hopefully, my anxiety will go down without Ryu’s hotness distracting me.
Again, I let out a sign and then lift myself from the ground. After sweeping my gaze around me, I decide to make my escape.
“All right; this is my chance.” I clench my bag and sword and quickly head to the forest, sprinting past stalled, enflamed cars. I’m almost surprised the vehicles haven’t blown up yet.
Near the edge of the asphalt, I turn my head and stare once more at the cars, hoping that Ryu will appear, but he doesn’t. In the end, he and I were just strangers, most likely never to know each other outside of the walls of the university. For a second, my mind remembers the daydream I had, of Ryu’s digits and lips on my body, calming me as his own.
Reality is so cruel, more than any killer could be. With that final thought, I focus back on the darkness in front of me and ease my way into the forest, wondering how I’ll reach the university.
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