‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Paranoid Nights


‘Run!’ Simeon yelled, shoving me down one of the tunnels before I knew what was going on. I crashed clumsily into a wall in my confusion and fear, only just managing to get my hands out in time, and then I was sprinting down the tunnel after the other men, slower than them as always, my soft shoes hardly suitable for this kind of situation.

I could hear feet on the subway steps, echoing through the tunnel, breaking into a run. I knew the Dream-Snatcher was behind me. I knew he was coming closer. I knew he was going to catch up.

I sprinted round a corner and slipped, falling face-first to the floor, screaming an echoic shriek as I did so, just managing to put out my left arm, which took most of the force of the crash as I hit the ground.

‘Tim!’ I cried, calling out the first name that came to mind. I tried to haul myself up but my arm was aching from an awkward fall and I was so shaky that I just collapsed back down on myself. I could hear footsteps coming both from in front of me and behind me, and Tim was hauling me up roughly by my arms. It hurt and I cried out—I could already feel bruise-like pain shooting right through my left wrist and all the way to my shoulder, and I fell into him, but then he was pushing me forward, and I could hear a shout from behind. I was too delirious to make out what the Dream-Snatcher was saying, but Tim, still with his hand round my elbow, pulled me on relentlessly, shoving me a little ahead of him.

The first shot came before I quite expected it. Well, one could never be quite ready for the sound of guns; not even in a world like this. It was short and sharp, tearing the night in two, and I fully expected pain to stab me in the back, or for Tim to cry out a long shriek of agony, but nothing came.

There was another gunshot. It seemed even closer than the previous one. Frantic and terrified, I sprinted round the nearest corner, not knowing and not caring where Simeon and Jake were as long as they were safe, and as long as Tim and I could get away. I almost tripped and fell again over a loose tile in the floor, regaining my balance only by slamming into the wall, and I heard Tim grunt as he crashed into me.

Pulling me round a corner, he practically threw me through a doorway, and suddenly we were in a room, and Simeon and Jake were there too, and they were both crying out at us, but I could scarcely make out what they were saying.

‘Where is he?’ Simeon demanded viciously. Only now did I notice that we’d entered a room with at least five old pipes running down the length of the wall. With age, two of them had come loose, and Jake seemed to be wrenching it away from the wall. Tim, without missing a beat, rushed to help him. They were made of steel; they were hefty and strong; the best weapons we had. Incredibly, Simeon had already ripped a section off of one of the pipes, and was swinging it around dangerously like a sword, standing just a few inches back from the doorway. He was a predator. He was always ready.

The Dream-Snatcher charged through at that moment, skidding round the corner and through the doorway, his gun flailing wildly, but Simeon was ready like always. Before I could even comprehend what was going on, he had swung the rod like a true warrior, and with a sickening metallic clunk it hit the Dream-Snatcher in the side of the face as he rounded the doorway. The man collapsed backwards, stunned and knocked senseless by the hefty blow, falling into the wall on the other side of the tunnel, his head smacking back against the old, jagged tiles as his body slid down the wall and crashed to the floor.

Silence followed. After the raging calamity of repeated gunfire, the sudden quiet was all the more disturbing. I could still hear the ringing in my ears, and I couldn’t shake the notion that, any moment, I was going to feel a bullet rip through my flesh.

Blood began to drip from the back of the man’s head and Simeon looked at the steel rod in his hands like he couldn’t quite comprehend what he’d just done. The man wasn’t dead...surely he couldn’t be dead...but he was so still.

I had never quite managed to kill before. I just couldn’t do it. If it really came to it, then I’d always told myself that I would, but a situation like that had never yet existed. I could only pray that the time never came about.

‘Move,’ Simeon said, his voice little more than a whisper. His hands were shaking so much that he almost dropped the pipe, but snatched it back at the last moment before it hit the floor. Jake and Tim both had similar weapons, but the hands that were holding them swung limp and useless by their sides. I staggered back, the world spinning slowly around me, and made to move out of the room like Simeon had instructed. I cradled my sore left arm, which was aching painfully right down its entire length. The joint connecting it to my shoulder felt like it had practically been severed; if I lifted my arm too high or moved it too quickly, agonising pains shot through the muscle.

The Dream-Snatcher’s blood was spattered across Simeon’s face, and when he moved, I could see him limping ever so slightly. Jake, although initially seeming unhurt, was rubbing his right cheek and neck, as though he had done something to it. I had only lost sight of them for a few minutes back there, but it seemed that both of them had sustained injuries in mine and Tim’s absence.

Tim held out an arm and guided me through the doorway into another small room, which in turn led to another tunnel. Simeon led the way and we all walked, silent, dazed and fearful, until we seemed to be far enough away from the Dream-Snatcher.

We reached a small room which was lined with tiles and had two lights that were just about working embedded into the ceiling. There were three chairs in the corner; one of which was virtually smashed to pieces, and another of which also looked worryingly fragile, ready to collapse if the slightest weight was placed on top of it.

Simeon practically fell against the wall, sliding down the smooth tiles to rest in a sitting position on the floor. This indicated to the rest of us that this was where we were staying for the night.

If the situation was just a little better, I would have protested. I couldn’t stay in here all night! But we were fugitives, and we were being hunted, and if we were found, we were worse than dead, so for now, this was all we had. I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to where we were now, and finding a way out of the labyrinthine underground was looking rather unlikely, but I didn’t quite care enough about that to mention it. Instead, I just sank down against the wall wordlessly, much the same as Simeon had done. Spotting the one good chair, Tim dragged it over to us and fell down heavily on top of it, and Jake stood in the corner, his back resting against a plain bit of wall where the tiles had fallen off.

‘Fuck this,’ Tim breathed into the silence.

‘Fuck this,’ Simeon echoed.

We all fell quiet again.

‘Did we bring any food?’ Jake asked, eventually sitting down on the ground like Simeon and I.

I shook my head, the movement feeling laborious. ‘No. I don’t think we brought anything.’ I looked around, willing for someone to disagree with me, but no one said anything. Why had we decided to leave everything but the tracker in the car boot?

I noticed that Simeon was still holding his steel rod, clasping it so tightly that it seemed his fingers were welded to its shiny surface. Following my line of sight, he looked down at his own hand, balanced on his thigh, and dropped the rod. Even though it had only been a few inches off of the ground, it still clattered against the tiles with a loud clang and rolled away towards the bottom of Tim’s chair.

All I could hear was breathing. Even though everyone had got their breath back now after all the running, they were all still taking in long gasps of air from the shock.

‘We really don’t have anything?’ I asked, wondering wildly if anyone had a sandwich or two in their pockets that they’d forgotten about.

‘No!’ Simeon snapped irritably, his voice harsh and loud in the quiet room. I was shocked into silence; he’d never lost his temper at me before.

‘Sorry,’ he mumbled, not quite meeting my eyes. I didn’t say anything back.

‘Does anyone know what the time is?’ Tim asked.

Conveniently, Jake, being Jake, had got a watch from God-knew-where.

‘It’s just gone eleven,’ he announced.

‘I reckon we should stay here until morning,’ Tim said.

‘I agree,’ Jake said. ‘We all need to sleep. We can take turns on the lookout perhaps—I’ll do the first watch, if you like.’

‘You’re too nice, Jake,’ Simeon said, breathing out one long plume of air as he spoke. ‘Lose your temper once in a while, man. Stop making the rest of us look so bad.’

Jake looked uncertain; he didn’t seem to quite know how serious Simeon was being. In fairness, I had no better idea.

After that, no one spoke again. Tim got up about ten minutes later to turn off the lights so we could sleep but, once we realised that this left us in almost complete darkness, he turned them back on again. The one on the far side of the room kept flickering as though it was trying to warm itself up, but couldn’t quite gather enough energy to do so. Eventually, it just gave up, and sparked out altogether, leaving us in only half the amount of light we had initially come into.

Simeon was the first to fall asleep. His head lulled back against the wall and he began snoring softly, his mouth slightly open. Tim joined us on the floor at that moment, realising that the wall gave more support than the creaky back of the wooden chair, and came and sat next to me. Not long later, he, too, fell asleep.

That left just me and Jake. I looked over at him where he sat on the other side of Simeon, and he caught my eye.

‘Sleep,’ he ordered quietly. ‘I’ll stay on lookout. Just don’t expect me to drive tomorrow.’

I managed a half-smile, more to be friendly than because it was all that funny, and then rested my head back against the wall.

It was all wrong. I never slept with my head back, and everything was at the wrong angle. I tried closing my eyes but, as tired as I was, they just wouldn’t quite make that transition from waking to sleeping. I wanted nothing more than to escape this cruel world for a few hours and enter into a better place, but it was simply impossible. I tried turning to the side so that I was facing Simeon, my left side resting against the wall, but that hurt my sore arm. I turned to the right and tried the same thing again, curling my legs up to my chest, but after a little while it began to make my other arm uncomfortable. I attempted sprawling out flat on the floor, but it felt wrong lying like that—the old tiles were so grimy and disgusting, and they were too hard to ever get properly comfortable on. Begrudgingly, I returned to my original position, tilting my head back against the wall, and trying to will myself to go to sleep. I was so tired, but it just wouldn’t seem to come.

I was almost asleep when I heard a tapping sound that jolted me awake again. My eyes were wide and staring before I realised that it was probably just a typical night noise; there was nothing there. I was only being paranoid.

Ten minutes later, when my erratic heart had just about returned to its normal pulse rate, another noise made me leap out of my skin.

It was only Jake, shuffling his foot. I almost laughed at my irrational fear, glancing over at him. Initially, I couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep until he turned his head to face me, pulling an apologetic face.

‘Get some sleep,’ he whispered quietly, trying not to wake the other two. I wanted to reply with a sarcastic ‘well, what do you think I’m trying to do?’ but I said nothing and just about managed a half-smile.

As I put my head back against the wall and closed my eyes again, too tired to care about anything, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a sign of things to come. Our journey had been good so far. Too good. It was only a matter of time before it came crashing down. We were in a perilous position, and it would only be too easy for it to all fall apart in the blink of an eye.

Or maybe the falling apart had already happened, and this was it now. This was the life of a fugitive.