We cannot go back to get it. There is no time.
That thing chasing us is getting closer now we’ve stopped.
I watched him pass over the hill and still he hasn’t come back. I look up at the sky, it is close on the evening, and the clouds are a deep shade of red above the crest. The trees below are blackening into shadow shapes.
The houses are empty. I long for the safety they used to provide.
I can feel the thing getting closer; it’s a feeling in my heart. My palms are sweaty, and my heart is racing with urgency. Red light reflects off the black bitumen as we start walking. I want to run, but the hill remains empty. How long can we wait for him? We have to go.
Self-check. There is still the feeling something inside me is missing. I don’t mean a missing arm or a leg but a piece of myself. It is like it was always there and I look for it now, and I can’t find it. I can’t remember what this piece is. I only know it’s gone when I try and talk to the others. I can see it in their faces. When I try and find what it could be, my mind goes back to that place where they found me. The thing I think I saw long before but the memory of that too is gone, hidden away for the protection of my sanity.
He never came back. We sit in the cold dark outside of town, huddled against each other for warmth. Can we go now? The question sits on my tongue. The feeling pushing through me into my feet is so strong I’m sure they can feel it too. We all stay like that for a while, nobody saying anything. He was the leader.
“Why did you have to drop it?” The question stung. I never meant to. I feel like they hate me now.
Some of them fall asleep. The two younger are huddled together and whispering. I stand up and quietly move away from the group. I have one more look at the hill that is now lit palely by the moon and start walking up the road.
Parked on the side of the road is an empty car. I try the door, and it opens. I slide inside and sit there, trying to get warm. I doze for a bit. My eyes open again on a soft pink horizon and the sound of birds chirruping. I feel the presence of the thing also, only this time stronger. The thing is coming.
A soft voice is calling to me inside my head, gently calling me to come back. It seems so familiar to me. I get out of the car, and as soon as my feet find the bitumen, I start walking—Im tired and nearly trip on nothing but air. I stumble and stagger towards the grassy side of the road and back again. “Where are you going?” it calls.
The voice is me. I’m sure of it. I start to jog and nearly trip again.
“There is nothing out there. You can keep running, but I will always be here, looking for you.”
The thing is right. There is nowhere to go. I stagger to a stop and fall to my knees. The part that is me pulls at me from the back of my body. The thing’s presence is like a wall behind. The feeling is of so much nothingness. A tear rolls down my cheek.
I want to be whole. The desolation is so vast my mind becomes like a tiny spec. I wait for the thing to absorb me as it has absorbed most everybody else.
I wake up on an empty shore. The sun is rising brightly over the calm waves. I feel all myself again, and the desolation is gone. I look around and have no idea where I am.