‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

In the Darkness


A blaring car horn cleaved the night in two and set me jumping out of my own skin. I was half-walking-half-running along the pavement, clinging to the side of the forest in the hope that I would hear or see something. If I still had no sign of Simeon by the time I reached the playing field, I would go back in.

Was that Tim and Rina? I had to assume it was, because it was our car that was driving past on the far side of the road. I waved out, but it had passed before I could even properly raise my hand up.

I looked back up the verge, into the black mouth of the forest.

I had to go back in and find Simeon.

I could do that, couldn’t I?

There was no doubt that I was not a fighter. I had scarcely even punched a person in my time as a Dreamer—not even a year yet. Killing was surely out of the question. If I had a gun, then I reckoned I would do it, if the situation was dire enough, but with my own bare hands?

If I could get my hands on a gun though...

I deliberated. I was too much of a logical person to just sprint back up the verge on a whim. But reason contradicted itself; I had to save Simeon, but I also had to save myself.

I liked to think I was a selfless person though, because Simeon eventually won out. Charging back into the grappling claws of the forest was like re-entering a nightmare. The glittering world of cars and streetlamps and city lights was swallowed up and dispersed into oblivion as the forest took over. Darkness surrounded me, pushing in, suffocating me. Monsters hung around every corner. Bullets shot from every branch.

I had always been such a logical person, but becoming a Dreamer proved that I also had a serious imagination. And now it seemed that that imagination was bursting out in full force, an imprisoned beast ready to break free. I was paranoid, I was delirious, I was confused, I was insane. I could have screamed, but I dared not break the silence for fear of attracting unwanted attention.

I ran, keeping the dull glow of the road always to my right, knowing that it was the only sign left to guide me out of the nightmareland and back to reality. I sprinted faster than I had ever gone in my life, tripping often, crashing right into a tree, stumbling over a root and going down face-first, a sharp twig shoved deep into my hand. I ripped it out before I could even consider my medical training (rule number one: if something is stuck in a person’s skin, do not take it out) and I could feel the blood, hot and sticky on my palm. I brushed my hair out of my eyes at one point, knowing that I was smearing the blood right across my face too.

Again I fell, landing awkwardly as I crashed sideways into a tree, disorientated and confused.

And then I heard the gunshots again.

I was so far into the depths of delirium by this point that my initial reaction was a positive one; gunshots meant that the Dream-Snatcher, and therefore hopefully Simeon, was near.

And then I remembered:

Gunshots meant guns. And guns meant death.

All the fear came swarming back.

My insides gave way at that point, and I collapsed into a tree, falling forward and trying to scrabble back to my feet. But it was no use. I was out of breath completely. I had to make it out, or I was going to die in this nightmare.


I didn’t hear any gunshots, which meant the Dream-Snatcher hadn’t spotted me yet. I held my breath for as long as I dared, but eventually had to yield to the pain rising in my chest and take a deep, agonising gasp of oxygen before I passed out completely.

‘You know, you’re crap at hiding.’

It took a moment too long to register that the voice belonged to Simeon.

‘Sim?’ A torch beam swerved like a searchlight across my face, reminding me far too much of one of the few raids I had been on and I had to avoid the swarming searchlights, scurrying between them like some kind of vampire hiding from the sun’s rays.

I blinked several times, holding a shaky hand up to shield my eyes.

‘What the hell are you doing down there?’ he asked, almost smirking.

‘Where did you go?’ I asked.

‘I was running,’ he said simply. ‘And then you weren’t there anymore.’

‘I made it out to the road,’ I said, as though that alone was some great achievement.

He glanced all around him. ‘Which way is the exit?’

Only then did I realise that I had run further away from the road than I’d intended. I was completely disorientated.

‘Uh...’ I trailed off, turning my head as I got to my feet. Everything was spinning a little too fast for my liking.

Only then did I get a proper look at Simeon.

The right hand side of his face was slicked in mud and there were leaves in his hair. Initially, it almost seemed funny, but then I saw also the ripped clothes, the scratches that laced his bare arms, the deep gash on his shoulder that was bleeding down the side of his t-shirt.

‘What happened to you?’ I asked. Despite the number of times my normally perfect doctor’s instincts had left me tonight, they all came flooding back, and I rushed forward to look at his wound. Whatever had caused it had ripped right through his shirt, and then went on to rip through several layers of his skin. The cut was deep and bloody, and faint smudges of dirt and mud had mingled with the blood seeping out of the bits that hadn’t already clotted.

‘I, uh, got in a fight with a tree,’ he said, sounding characteristically upbeat. I couldn’t help but laugh.

‘And you lost?’

‘No, I won in the end,’ he insisted. ‘It just wouldn’t go down without a bit of a fight first.’

A shout, somewhere in the distance, but not so far away, brought us both back to reality.

‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ I said.

Once again, we ran.

What else was there to do? We had no weapons. We could not fight. I had no idea how to get back to the road from here—we could vaguely follow the sound of the cars, but I doubted I would be able to hear them over my ragged breaths and both our heavy footsteps.

We could have run for a few minutes, or for hours, but then I could hear footsteps coming from the left and a loud shout—I couldn’t tell how close they were, and at the same time, I didn’t waste time to stop and find out, but then I saw light up ahead.

Grass. Before I knew what was going on, I fell out of the grip of the scrubby woodland and into the open expanse of the sports field that pretty much backed onto downtown.

I should have been ecstatic. But continuous footsteps from somewhere behind meant that we had been sighted, and we were going to be pursued. At least in the woods we’d had places to hide and a better shot at losing our enemy.

Simeon turned to see that I had fallen behind again.

‘Run!’ he screamed at me, whipping back round and clumsily continuing on across the field.

‘Get down to the road!’ I shouted towards him, sprinting right as well as forward. Three lines of cars rushed past us to the right, and all the colours of their blinding lights began to blur together, and I was almost lost in the myriad of dancing sparks.

I made it down the grass verge, Simeon just ahead of me, and our feet pounded the pavement. Running like this would certainly attract attention, but there was no time to worry about that now.

We sprinted downhill, along the side of the road, all the while pursued potentially—I couldn’t even turn to see if there was anyone still there for fear of losing my balance and collapsing into the pathway of a car—and then we reached the flyover, not hesitating to flee across the bridge as the ground either side of it fell away down a steep hill, plummeting into an equally busy road below, the lights from the cars down there just as vibrant and blinding as the ones up here.

Just peering over the edge as the snake-like road beneath us wound its way into the city made me feel dizzy. We weren’t even all that high up, but I had never been comfortable with bridges. Well, ‘never’ was a bit of an exaggeration. It was only in the last year or so that my fear had really developed.

As scared as I was of the Dream-Snatchers, fearing these heights were not going to go away. The flyover wasn’t too bad—it was big enough that I could turn the other way and pretend I was on firm ground; I didn’t even have to look over the side if I didn’t want to, but Simeon still noticed my hesitation.

‘Hurry up!’ he urged. Taking a deep breath, I picked up my pace once again and charged along the flyover, over the road beneath, following the busy road as it began to descend back to ground level. Tall, skyscraper buildings closed in around us, and within moments Simeon and I were engulfed by the city.

As soon as the flyover returned to ground level, further into the maze of towers, we were able to get off the main road and dive into a small, side alley in between two tall buildings. Panting desperately, I sunk down against a wall, holding my hair up off my forehead, gasping for breath.

‘Have we lost him?’ I suddenly realised I hadn’t heard any gunshots since we left the woods.

Simeon turned in each direction, checking the coast was clear.

‘‘Lost’ might be a bit of an optimistic word,’ he said. ‘I saw him hesitate when we ran out of the woods; I have a horrible feeling he has another plan.’

‘We need to call the others,’ I said, still breathless. ‘I’ll let them know where we are.’

I found Tim’s number and called it; it was picked up after barely two rings.

‘Hello?’ said the other voice eagerly. Thankfully, it was Rina on the other end. I really wasn’t in the mood for Tim right now. ‘Where the hell are you?’

I glanced around. ‘In an alley,’ I said. ‘Somewhere. Where—‘

‘I thought you were going to call a bit sooner!’ Rina’s voice was fierce, but she sounded more fearful than angry. ‘Are you both alright?’

I looked at Simeon’s cut which badly needed attention, and the countless scratches that laced my body. None of them were bad on their own, but smeared in dirt, I was growing increasingly paranoid about the risk of infection.

‘Yeah,’ I said, deciding on the simpler angle. ‘Can you come and meet us? We’re on the left just as the flyover gets back to ground level—there’s an alley in between two black-ish buildings.’ I peered out of the alley to try and think of a better way to describe our location, but our surroundings were all uniform and grey. There were no significant landmarks to describe.

‘Okay,’ Rina said, and I could hear her muffled voice as she relayed instructions to Tim. ‘We’ll be there soon.’

‘We’ll wait at the end of the alley,’ I replied.