“On the Run” Extended Short Story

Anonymous Student

 My leg seizes as I sprint through the curtains of green vines, nearly tripping over a log that is unfortunately placed. I steady myself and begin to run once again only to trip over yet another log almost as large as I am. A grunt escapes my lips as I collide with the muddy grass that coats my face. Spitting out the grass that made its way into my mouth, my arms push me off of the ground and I begin to sprint yet again. The sounds of stomping behind me are getting louder, so I speed up. A small burning sensation floods my entire right leg, and when I look down, it comes to my realization that somewhere along the way, I managed to acquire a fairly large gash across my knee. My face warps into one of disgust before returning my gaze to the forest in front of me. The sun is streaming through the leaves, blinding me when I dash between the vacant spaces with a lack of trees. My long, brown hair wisps across my face as my head swivels over my shoulder to address my surroundings. As I do, I become far too aware of the cracking of branches beneath my feet. 

Once it goes unusually quiet behind me, and my ears aren’t vibrating with angry stomps, I retreat behind a large tree that shades me from the extremely bright sun. Sweat beads across my face as I rest my hands on my knees, chest heaving. I slide down the bark covered in moss and extend my very red coated leg out from underneath me. I slide over the piece of ripped cargo pant to reveal the cut that is without a doubt going to scar. Taking in a sharp breath when my hand accidentally touches the flesh, I grab the navy-blue bandana that is wrapped around my neck and wrap it tightly around the affected area – attempting to slow down the bleeding. I grimace as pain shoots down my entire leg, but let out a sigh of relief once the task is completed.

My hand searches my pocket for a few moments before retrieving the photo. The delicate film protecting it is now damaged beyond repair, and it comes to my realization that I will not have either of them by my side for much longer. I kiss the photo, holding it to my lips a few moments before my head leans backwards onto the tree for support as I calm my breaths and my eyes flutter with exhaustion. Suddenly, a pair of large, dirty hands startles me as one covers my mouth and the other brutally grips my shoulder that pulls me into a tight grasp. I go limp, accepting defeat, and my eyes begin to swell with tears as I realize I’ve been caught. 

Three Months Prior

Dad and I are home alone, as we always are. Fear floods every inch of my body as I crouch frozen with my hands over my mouth and tears streaming down my face while I remain in my designated hiding spot. If I remember any specific sound from before my ears involuntarily began to tune out any and all noise, it would be the chimes of keys that clank together at the hip of the attacker who is currently dragging my dad by his arms. I peek my head from the hidden door behind our couch where my father ordered me to stay and take a moment to soak in my childhood home, with its pale yellow walls coated with photographs and sleek wooden floors with a few subtle scratches from our childhood being ransacked. My fathers eyes are exploding with worry as he is dragged from our home, legs flailing. Our eyes connected for a brief second before he was taken out through the door frame. Just for a moment I feel a sharp pain in my ears, and I am met with the sentence I have been dreading to hear ever since the attacks first began. My eyesight goes blurry and I fall backwards onto the carpet. 

Where is the girl?” 

I am awoken with the only light visible being the moonlight streaming through the window. I have a few moments of bliss before I realize my boyfriend, Luke, is on his knees at my side shaking my shoulders. “We have to go. We have to go,.” hHe says, a slight panic in his voice as he wipes her hands on her pants and stands up. I glance around the room, still attempting to piece together all of the pieces of the puzzle as to what happened here. The antique lamp Mom was exhilarated to buy last year is now in shattered pieces amongst the floor. Dads bookshelf that he built three summers ago, once he learned to accept my mothers book addiction, lies broken into small wooden pieces next to the front door. As if a dam just broke apart in my brain, I am brutally reminded of the latest occurrences. Over the past few years, there have been countless attacks in our country. Rebels have been attempting to overrun the government – and lately? They have been succeeding. They burst into families’ homes, destroy their livelihood and take what they believe to be theirs. They want to scare people into following them. The worst part? They cause all of this pain and suffering over my family.

“You are something special to them, Lola. You are your fathers child and they want nothing more than to make him suffer by hurting you. But I promise I will never let anything happen to you. Not as long as I am alive.” My mother’s vacant voice echoes in my brain, reminding me of times that were much simpler than they are now. I vaguely remember last year, on my sixteenth birthday of all days, overhearing a fight between my Mom and Dad while they were in the kitchen and I was very silently lying on the couch in the next room over. 

I told you, Noah. You have to go. You do not even understand how badly I wish things could just go back to normal. But that is just not how the cards have been dealt. They are very much aware that you are here,” Mom had stated.

“And what? Let them win? Just hand over my life as if it is nothing? Our life?” Dad rebutled. 

“What happens when your daughter winds up dead because of some old family rivalry, hmm? You can’t  just let this play out as if lives are not on the line!” 

“Do not undermine my worries for Lolas safety. You know that is the only thing I care about.” 

“Then act like it.” Mom had slammed the dish towel onto the kitchen counter and stomped up the stairs and into their room, slamming the door behind her for good measure. Mom passed away a few months after that argument due to a heart attack. It was entirely unpredictable, which made it so much worse. I miss her a ton right now. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I flinch before easing up once I realize it’s Luke. 

“I was already on my way, and once I got here, everything looked like,” Luke began, gesturing around the room. “Well, this.”

They didn’t find me,” I say as my bottom lip begins to quiver as I drop my head into my hands, distraught over this evening’s events. Luke’s arms embrace me and I melt into him and begin to sob. His hands stroke the top of my head and he whispers soft apologies as if they do anything. He lets me cry for a few minutes before softly beginning to speak again.

 “Let’s go, we need to leave before they decide to come back for round two. Gather anything 100% necessary and then we are out of here.” He says, forcing the fakest smile that I have ever seen in my seventeen years on this planet across his face. I stand up and sprint upstairs and grab a duffle bag from my closet, stuffing any and all clothes that may fit. I turn to walk out of my door before taking a second glance at my dresser and seeing my favorite photo of all time resting on the top of it. I pick up the picture frame and look at the two favorite men in my life captured in one little piece of paper; my father and Luke. I drop my duffle bag and turn the frame over to take the photo out of its home. Shoving it into my pocket and picking my bag back up, I sprint down the stairs and walk out the door with Luke. 

The air is thick with emotion as we travel into the woods. Neither of us has spoken since we left the house, and I think I prefer it that way. I don’t think that there are words that can fill this vacant space. Silence works the best. We have been walking for maybe three hours at this point – just attempting to get as far away from the place they found my father as possible. Somewhere along the way I began to get slightly more talkative and began to start a conversation with Luke.

“I suppose this was inevitable, huh?” I say, eyes never leaving the grass I am walking across. He lets the statement linger in the air for a moment longer than I wish he had but eventually he finds his voice and responds. 

“I am confident that he is going to be alright. They must want something. All we have to do is figure out what that something is so we can get him back,.” hHe says with a shrug of his shoulders as if that is a simple task. 

“Yeah, they do want something,” I begin. He turns his head towards me, intrigued in the lead I may have. “That something is me.” I finish with a tight lipped smile, knowing I just admitted what we were both thinking but didn’t necessarily want to say. Luke shakes his head in disapproval before stopping dead in his tracks. I continue walking before I realize how far I managed to get away from him, so I stop as well to turn and look at him. We just stand there. He looks at me and I look right back at him. No words are spoken. Something beneath my skin is shrieking and I feel the piercing feeling of tears begging to be released from behind my eyes. His arms extend into the air, and my legs, as if they have a mind of their own, walk me over to his chest and I wrap my arms around his torso. For what feels like the millionth time today, I begin to sob. I cry cry cry until my head begins to ache and my jaw tingles from being so tense. 

“Thank you,.” I say, looking up into Luke’s eyes. His brow furrows as he tries to process my appreciation. 

“Thank you for running with me without even a second thought. You do not understand how much that means to me,.” I add. A sad smile is casted across his face before he places a soft kiss on my forehead and he holds me extra tight. 

“What if we set up camp here? I can gather some wood up and use some of the matches I brought to start a fire. I don’t know about you, but all this walking is starting to hurt my feet. And it has finally stopped raining,” hHe says with a happier smile, trying to lighten the mood. I return the smile with a nod before setting my bag down and begin watching Luke venture a little further into the woods to gather some wood. Only a few moments in, I am immediately plagued with my own thoughts. A small voice in my head is reminding me how much danger I am putting Luke in by just being in his presence. He deserves so much more than to be collateral damage in my family’s problem. Biting my lip, I contemplate my options. Once again, my eyes begin to swell with tears as I come to a decision. I quickly pick my bag back up before I can think too long about it and change my mind. I glance at Luke’s back in the distance  and quietly admit how much I love him into the air before sprinting in the opposite direction. 

The faint smell of rain floods my lungs when I am awoken by small droplets of water gently coating my clothing, creating a dalmatian effect. My mouth is dry while I feel around my surroundings, and it takes almost no time at all to be alarmed at the fact that there is a giant stone digging into my spine. Wrapping my fingers around the smooth stone, I remove it from the ground and inspect it. After realizing it brings me no use, I chuck it into the army of trees to my left, splashing in a small puddle that is reflecting the scene above it. It seems as if overnight the rain began again but is starting to slow down. The sun even appears to be preparing to make an appearance this morning. If I were not so depressed right about now, I might have even smiled at this. 

I use the support of a nearby tree to pull myself up and take in my surroundings. For the most part, the area I am in now looks practically identical to the area I left Luke in last night. But then again, I am in the middle of the woods, I don’t expect to be able to tell the difference. I decided to pick up my duffle bag with my clothes inside to change my shirt that got doused in mud while I was asleep. I hum a soft melody to bring me comfort, one that my mother used to hum to me before I went to bed as a young girl. I create a whole song inside of my head, with different instruments and beats in the background. Life may be truly awful on the outside, but I can control what happens inside. I hear a faint drum that accompanies my song, and even a faint whistle. I hear the strum of guitar strings and I hear the chime of what sounds like keys clanking together. I hear the deep sound of.. 

I stop. My eyes that got lost in my song shoot open. The chime of keys clanking.

If I remember any specific sound from before my ears involuntarily began to tune out any and all noise, it would be the chimes of keys that clank together at the hip of the attacker who is currently dragging my dad by his arms. 

My stomach churns. I feel as if I am going to be sick, but I do not care. I run. I run faster than I have ever ran in my entire life. I run until my lungs are consuming themselves and I run until my heart feels like it may beat right out of my chest. I do not even make an attempt to look behind me. They’re there, and I know that for a fact. The grass is slippery beneath my feet and the sun has finally risen into the sky, shining down onto the earth. My breaths are short and sharp and I am tempted to stop running to tend to the cramp in my side more times than one but I refuse to stop. I refuse to give up. So I ran. 

My leg slows me down by nearly causing me to topple over a log, but I keep moving forward. There is no time to be scared, I keep reminding myself.  I steady myself and begin to run once again only to trip over yet another log almost as large as I am. A grunt escapes my lips as I collide with the muddy grass that coats my face. Spitting out the grass that made its way into my mouth, my arms push me off of the ground and I begin to sprint yet again. My breaths become even faster as I hear the Rebels chase me through the woods, I am beginning to panic. There is no time to be scared. My leg is burning. Why is my leg burning? Taking a quick glance, I notice a very large cut slicing through my cargo pants and revealing the irritated and mangled skin on my knee. My face tightens, but I continue on regardless of the pain. Somehow I feel like it may be making me a bit faster.

After speeding up, the angry stomps of my enemies have faded away and it feels safe to slow down. I am not entirely sure how long I have been running for, but it is enough to have me gasping for air as I slide down the rough bark that lines the length of a tree. My hand wipes my brow before returning my gaze to the injury I gave myself while on the run. I wince as I brush past it, but untie the bandana from my neck and apply it to the wound to stop a little bit of the bleeding. I drown myself in self pity, which I honestly believe is acceptable all things considered. I take a deep breath before reaching for my most prized possession that resides within my pocket. My heart begins to break before I even look at the photo, but once I do, a scream is itching to be released from my throat. It takes every ounce of my being not to, clearly I do not want to give away where I am currently hiding. I can hardly see the photo of Dad and Luke with the blur coming from my tears, so instead I give them a kiss, wishing they were both here with me now. My head rests upon the tree trunk as I take a few breaths. Before I know it, I am being grasped by arms way stronger than mine. I don’t even fight back, I know it’s too late. I just watch the photo flutter to the ground as I am taken away.