“Run!” Rick shouted, tearing the soft flesh of his throat, pushing the sound to be heard. He saw his friends turn to look at him. “Run!” he shouted again his voice already ruined. He held both his arms out as though he would scoop them up and started to follow his own advice. He grabbed Mary’s hand as he ran. She stumbled. He dragged her. She pushed herself into a run and would have fallen forward but he held on risking damage to her shoulder.
She found her balance, “Help Martha!” Mary shouted and wiggled her hand out of Rick’s grasp. Martha had tripped over rocks on the dirt path; blood coated her leg from the knee down. Rick pulled her to her feet, wrapped his arm around her small waist and for a moment lifted her off the ground. As soon as her feet hit the ground she darted past him, like a deer from a hunter and Rick found himself at the back of the pack imagining wolves nipping at his heels, wishing the men chasing them were as harmless as wolves.
“There, into the brush,” Rick shouted with the last of his voice. The three left the path together and plunged into tall dry grasses. Rick took the lead and ploughed ahead, reducing his speed only slightly, finding space between closely spaced evergreens. He ran straight toward a mound of rocks at the base of a hill, jumped, dived, straight into the rock and disappeared. Martha and Mary followed into the cave the rocks concealed, into complete darkness and complete silence. No one needed to be told to maintain the silence. At first the panicked breathing of three humans filled the hollow in which they were packed with little room for movement. Movement was not needed, movement could revel their location; they rested on each other and controlled their breathing, taking long silent draws of the wet cold air. Their eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness until they could see each other and the sliver of light from the top of the pile of rocks seemed bright.
Martha risked a whisper into Rick’s ear, “did they follow?” Rick put two of his fingers over her mouth and waited. No one moved. No one spoke. In the silent darkness they waited.
A full hour passed before Rick allowed a harsh whisper to pass through his shredded throat, “are you okay?”
Martha felt the sticky blood on her knee, already starting to dry, “I’m good,” she said.
“Mary?” asked Rick, using his voice instead of the whisper to lessen the pain in his throat.
Mary rubbed her shoulder, “My shoulders still attached, if that’s what you mean,” she said with a mock harshness. And then added, “Thank you for the encouragement, I couldn’t move.” She let her fear out with a crazed laughter that spread until all three could pass as asylum escapees. They relaxed at last, overjoyed with each breath an unearned gift.
“What now?” Mary looked at the shadow in the darkness that was Rick.
“I know a place, deep in the forest, they will not go that far into the forest even if they figure we have gone there,” Rick said avoiding the obvious flaw in his plan.
“But we will be surrounded by the forest,” Martha added, exposing the flaw.
“It can’t be helped,” Rick said with the conviction he felt.
“We are too far in now,” Mary said, remembering the hundred yards of trees they had squeezed through.
“You’ve heard of a place deep inside the forest?” Martha asked, understanding they had no choice.
“I’ve been there,” Rick said in a voice that could only be heard because of their closeness in the cave. Martha and Mary both let their mouths open and their eyes went wide with disbelief but their expressions were lost to the darkness. Rick began a slow, snake like, slither out the crack at the top of the cave entrance. He pushed aside a few stones and flattened dry grass making the exit of Mary and Martha easier.