In the Trees (Part II)

I glanced over my shoulder to get a sense of who I was running from. About one-hundred yards back were two dark figures, sprinting side by side. Their faces illuminated in an orange glow as they crossed below a streetlight.
They were teenagers and they were coming fast. One was in a black sweatshirt, the other in a red coat. They shouted at me as we ran.
“You’re fucking dead, faggot!”
I tilted my head down as I gasped for air, my lungs burning in the cold wind.
“Keep running you pussy!”
Their voices were growing louder. The patter of their steps echoed closer and closer. My feet trampled across the snowy grass and onto a patch of wet asphalt. The woods were across the street and down a shallow snowy hill, about one-hundred feet away.
The clap of my boots on the road ended just as theirs began.
“You’re fucking dead!”
I hopped over the curb and onto the grass. The hill was steep and, rather than risk a face plant, I curled my leg behind me the way I was taught in little league. My hip hit the ground and I slid. Cutting my heel back into the snow just at the bottom of the hill I sprang back to my feet and bolted into the woods.
The first twenty or so feet were clear… then the path ended in a tangled web of black and grey.
Thick, menacing pricker bushes waited, ready to tear the down feathers from my puffy jacket. Thin, sharp branches everywhere, set to stab at my eyes; exposed roots poised to kick my feet from under me; unbreakable vines waiting to tangle me in their web.
I had nowhere to turn. There was no easy way out. There was no break in the maze.
“You just dug your own grave, you little fuck!”
The forrest was suffocating. I felt claustrophobic. It was as if the vines were constricting around my lungs. I should have never separated from the pack.
I kept running.
I could barely see where I was going but my feet kept churning. They sloshed in the suctioning black mud of wetlands. They slid on the faulty foundation of dead leaves. I knew I couldn’t stop. If they caught me they’d kill me and leave me out here. I’d be dead like the leaves, worms and bugs picking at my sides as the cold ground gave way to Spring.
Ahead, through the branches, was the glow of street lights. I fought to reach them as nature’s fingers reached for me, trying to keep me in. Vines stretched for my legs; roots grabbed my ankles; branches slapped at my face; thorns, like sharpened fingernails, tore at my flesh.
“Don’t get stuck, bitch!”
They were still behind me, but I’d moved through the trees quicker than they had. Now was my chance to escape. I broke from the forrest and out onto the sidewalk.
My legs turned like wheels, finally free from Mother Nature’s chains. I sprinted across the street and into the yard of the yellow house on the corner. There was still no sound of my pursuers shoes on the street. I swung my foot onto the chain link fence and hopped into the back yard, losing my right glove as the wire netting pinched my finger.
I was charging across the yard when they finally emerged onto the street.
“You’re done now, you little prick!”
I knocked over a pair of plastic lawn chairs as I ran, hoping to trip one of my hunters up in the path I left. I scaled the fence at the other end of the yard, twisting down into the next lawn.
I could hear my boots tearing at the snow. I could hear the rattle of the fence behind me the men chasing me traversed it. The world was silent outside of our chase. And then the barking started.
A motion-detecting light from the back of the house flicked on as a German Shepard shot out from a little wooden dog house. Already at the midway point of the yard I kept running, although I felt like falling to my knees and giving up. Tears began to drip down my face. My vision blurred in their stream.
I imagined the dog closing in on me. I could picture it lunging. I could almost feel its teeth biting my calf. I opened them just in time to avoid running into the fence.
I felt the cold aluminum on my exposed hand as I grabbed it. Pushing down with my palms I dove head first into the next yard, pulling my legs and feet away from the jaws of the dog.
My chest hit the ground and snow slid down the front of my jacket. The impact flattened my lungs. I laid there on the ground in the snow gasping for air, tears fell from my eyes, disappearing into the thick white snow.
I flipped onto my side and looked back into the yard as the German Shepard sunk its teeth into the arm of the red coat. The man who was chasing me stopped using his legs to run and began using them to try and kick at the dog. He was pinned up against the fence on the far side of the yard, screaming for his life.
His friend stood motionless behind the fence. The predators had become the prey.
I jumped to my feet and dashed toward the front yard of the house, my breathing still shallow.
My feet clapped against the pavement and by the time I reached home my breath was gone again. But my cousins were back.
“Where were you?” asked Tommy.
“How’d you guys get away,” I stammered, fighting for breath.
“What were you, hiding?,” laughed David. Then they all started laughing. “I knew those guys,” he said. “They were just messing with us.”


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