Short Story: Running Scared
The sweat is burning my eyes so badly that I can barely see. As soon as I wipe the sweat from my forehead, more immediately forms and runs into my eyes. My bare feet are hurting. I think my left foot is bleeding. Pine needles stick to my left foot and I assume blood provides the glue. The moon is nonexistent and the fog further obscures my blurred vision through my burning eyes. I am not sure which direction I’m running. I just run as fast as possible. Tree limbs smack me in the face. I fall down several times. My survival instinct keeps me going. I can still see the dim light behind me, so I continue running. I am in decent shape, but nothing really prepares you for what happened minutes earlier. My head throbs from my exertion. My face is cut and bleeding from the tree limbs I run into. I cut my right hand on my last fall. It is throbbing and stinging from the sweat seeping into the wound. None of this pain matters. What I witnessed earlier was much worse. My energy is draining and the adrenaline seems to be wearing off. I look back again and no longer see the light from the house. I stand next to a tree and listen for any sounds. All I hear is my breathing. I feel my heart pumping in my chest and throbbing in my temples. I try to slow my breathing and heart rate. The night feels alarmingly still. It seems like the dense humid air has absorbed all sound. I faintly hear distant running water. I crouch motionless and ponder what to do. I imagine it is now close to 4am. The sun will rise soon and I will be easy to spot. I am unfamiliar with these woods and don't know which way to go for help. I hold my breath and listen as fiercely as I can. I still can’t hear anything, but the sound of the running water. My mind is racing to the horrid event that took place less than an hour ago. I decide to sit down and inspect my bleeding foot. The night is so dark that I can’t really see at all, but I feel along my foot. It's caked with a combination of dry and wet blood, but most of the blood seems to have bonded with the pine needles. I contemplate what to do. My cotton t-shirt is soaked with sweat. I listen and still don't hear anything besides the running water. I decide to walk towards the running water. I figure that water typically leads to civilization or, hopefully, help. I walk in the general direction of the water. I keep walking towards the sound of the running water. I finally find a creek. I kneel down and cup my hands. I splash water on my face. The water is cold, sobering, and refreshing. I splash some of the water over my head to cool off. The cool water hits the back of my neck, causing my body to tremble with a single chill. My throat is dry, my mouth is parched. I don't know if the water is safe to drink, but I drink it anyway. My thirst is quenched for the time being. Now that I’m done cooling myself and thirsting on the water, I wonder what to do next. Daylight is approaching. I'm in unfamiliar territory. I decide to follow the flow of the creek. I carefully walk alongside the creek. There are many rocks and roots that anger my bare feet. I see the sun starting to break over the horizon. According to the sunlight’s direction, I’m heading south, along the creek. The sunlight appears to be rising faster than it should. I hear a truck engine in the distance. What I thought was the sun is actually a large number of floodlights that are mounted to the top of a pickup truck. I can now see the dirt road on the other side of the creek that the truck is following. I’m unsure if the truck has spotted me. I drop to the ground. As motionlessly as possible, I crawl away from the creek and the truck. I regret not ditching the sweaty white cotton t-shirt. White is too easy to see at night. I crawl along pine needles. The truck is getting closer. There are lots of lights on top of the truck. Someone in the truck is scanning the woods with a spotlight. The arc of the spotlight is getting closer to me. I crawl under the branches of a tree and stop there. I’m panicking. In desperation, I decide to pick up pine needles and try to cover myself with them. I focus on building a wall of needles on the side of me that faces the oncoming light. The arc of the light is getting closer. It seems to pass right over my location. The truck slows down. The spotlight stops scanning and seems to focus on an area a few feet in front of me. I remain motionless and hold my breath. I’m unsure if I put enough pine needles on me to hide the white t-shirt or my bare legs and arms. The truck is now so close that I can hear music playing and people speaking. I can faintly make out AC/DC’s Back in Black playing. I can smell the exhaust from the truck. I don’t move. I don’t breath. The truck is now stopped. I hear a door open. I close my eyes. I try to flatten my body and become one with the ground and pine needles.