‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Fragile Bonds


Before Jake had called, we’d just been driving around random backstreets of Jefferson City for the best part of an hour. I knew pretty much all of downtown off by heart now—there was the busy road with people standing around outside a bar, the road with all the restaurants, the road with the ‘stop’ sign, the road that had the building that was made almost entirely of glass...the list went on.

What did we do when we found them, though? We couldn’t return to the motel; not if the police might be there. And where were the Dream-Snatchers that had chased Simeon and Jake all the way into the city? They’d still be around somewhere—there might even be more of them arriving now that they knew there were four easy-prey Dreamers hanging around.

We arrived at the alley way after barely five minutes, taking the route that included the road with all the parked cars down one side, the road with the bar that had an unusually bright sign outside, the road that was lined with trees...all roads that I had now familiarised myself with since our aimless drive around the concrete jungle.

Simeon and Jake were ready to jump into the back of the car. Simeon swung the door open as we pulled up at the side of the road, unable to stop for long because there was a fairly constant stream of cars coming, and they both climbed in.

We all began talking at once and, as I turned round in my seat to face them, I realised that when Jake had agreed to them both being alright, he had been not far short of downright lying. Both of them looked awful.

‘What the hell happened?’ I exclaimed as Simeon reached round to pull on his seatbelt and I caught the full extent of a gory wound in his shoulder.

‘I fell,’ he said simply. ‘A lot. Wait—where are we going? The motel’s back that way!’

Tim was driving off into the centre of the city; further away from the motorway. Only now did I notice that neither Simeon nor Jake had any luggage with them whatsoever. I hadn’t considered this problem.

‘Is all the stuff still back in your room?’ I asked apprehensively.

‘What, even the laptop?’ Tim cried in outrage.

‘Yes, even the laptop,’ said Jake rather curtly. ‘Where are you going?’

‘We can’t go back,’ Tim explained, ‘not at the moment. We were spotted by a Dream-Snatcher on our way out, and she announced to the whole bloody place that we were rebels. I’d be highly surprised if none of the police have turned up yet.’

Simeon and Jake’s expressions transformed into ones of horror in an instant.

‘She saw you?’

‘Loads of people did,’ I confirmed grimly.

‘Why the hell did you leave all your luggage?’ Tim snapped in exasperation.

‘Well it’s not like we planned on running half way across the fucking city!’ Jake retorted, equally snappy, not in the mood to be messed with. I could sense the tension growing thicker around me. Jake and Tim were like two chemicals that, when put together, created an atom bomb. One moment soon, one of them was going to go too far, and they would both explode in a nuclear sized reaction.

‘We can go back in the morning,’ I insisted desperately.

‘What, after the police have raided our rooms looking for information?’ Tim challenged. ‘I bet they’ll have a party when they find your room!’ His bitterness was aimed back at Jake again.

‘They only saw us coming out though,’ I said, practically pleading, begging everyone to stick together. We couldn’t fall apart. Not now. ‘They won’t know Simeon and Jake are involved. You locked your door, didn’t you?’

‘Of course,’ Jake said. ‘The curtains are drawn too. There’s no reason they’d expect anything unusual in our room.’

‘You’d better hope they don’t,’ Tim said in a low growl.

‘Is that a threat?’ Jake leant forward, venom in his eyes. I’d never seen him act so confrontational, but he seemed ready for it now.

Tim pulled sharply into a quiet road so that he could turn around and fix Jake with a radioactive stare.

‘I think it just might be.'

‘For god’s sake guys!’ Simeon roared. ‘Pull yourselves together and stop acting like kids!’

That shut them up, at least for a moment. Desperate to stop our fragile bonds shattering even further, I clutched at anything I could grasp.

‘Please,’ I said, hoping that they would at least have a little sympathy. Tim liked me. Jake liked me. They would pity me if I asked them to. ‘We can go back in the morning. Tonight though...’ I trailed off. What were we going to do tonight?

We could sleep in the car, but the police would be looking for the car. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about being so vulnerable. The only other option was, of course, the underground. I had no idea whether Jefferson City had a decent underground system, but there would be some kind of bunker somewhere, and that was our only other option.

But after last night, I didn’t dare suggest it.

‘I need some air,’ Simeon announced, throwing the door open now that we were parked down a side road, and getting out.

That was when the police sirens began.

I couldn’t tell where they were coming from; they seemed to echo from all directions at once. But Simeon leapt back into the backseat at once.

‘Drive!’ he hissed urgently.

‘Where?’ Tim cried, suddenly frantic, fumbling to turn the engine on.

‘Just drive!’

‘Hurry up!’

‘Come on!’

We all started shouting at once, each of us just as panicked and scared. The Dream-Snatchers had been a very prominent danger tonight, but none of us had really expected to come into contact with the police as well.

Desperately, Tim began driving. He was clumsy and nearly crashed within a moment. He picked up speed as we drove down some kind of back road, but the sirens seemed to be growing closer, and he did a sharp turn and drove away again, instead joining a main road and pelting on through the fast lane. Still the sirens seemed to resound all around us, screaming their unrelenting presence. It wasn’t like we could outrun them.

Blue flashing lights lit up the sky, half-blinding me, and the sirens reached the climax of their symphony. Suddenly, Tim lurched off to the left, down a smaller road, flying at full speed through the quiet street, and then into another, and another. We seemed to be in business district...no, shopping district...no, there was a park...I couldn’t even tell. Every time I closed my eyes I could see nothing but the blue flashing, ever-present behind us, and when I opened my eyes the glare was even stronger.

‘Faster!’ I shrieked. ‘They’re following us.’

We ended up down some kind of labyrinth of backstreets, speeding round corners and practically crashing on multiple occasions, running over the edges of pavements and blowing anything in our way into oblivion.

For a moment, it almost seemed that we had lost them.

And then we reached a dead end.

There was no time to turn around and drive back out. They were getting louder, coming closer.

There was an alley off to the left.

‘Everyone out!’ Simeon screamed, throwing the door open and leaping out. Without hesitation, we all copied, jumping out of the car. I leaned back in at the last moment, hastily grabbing the phone from the dashboard, before slamming the door shut and sprinting off after the others down the alleyway.

Once in there, we didn’t stop. Blue lights still flashed like lightning, even from down here, and until we were rid of those lights, we were not rid of the police officers.

‘GO!’ Simeon was screaming, and the faster I ran, the further I plunged myself into delirium. I was confused and disorientated, just following Jake, who was following Tim, all of us half-blind. I staggered on relentlessly, skidding round corners, slipping and crashing into a wall. Simeon was hoisting me back up from behind, but my leg began to ache suddenly, and I almost collapsed again. My arm still hurt from last night’s ordeal, and slamming into a wall only made it worse.

And then there were gunshots from behind.

Simeon threw me in front of him, but I knew even before I saw that it was the Dream-Snatcher from the motel. Thinking that Simeon and Jake had lost him was simply too hopeful. They had not lost him at all.

And the woman from the car park was with him too.

‘Run!’ Simeon was shouting. I staggered backwards and he shoved me on further. I tripped on every crack in the pavement, and Tim and Jake were getting further and further away, sprinting on up ahead, their long legs propelling them forward faster. I was probably condemning Simeon simply by being ahead of him, and being slower.

Another gunshot clattered down the alleyway, and before I knew what I was doing, Simeon threw me to the right. I braced myself, expecting to smack into something hard and unforgiving any moment, but as I staggered and almost lost my balance, I realised he had shoved me into another alleyway.

We were going in a different direction from Tim and Jake, but right now, I didn’t think that was important. We were just taking a diversion. The Dream-Snatchers were right behind us—I didn’t know how there had been no casualties yet—but we were trapped between them and the police, and all we could hope was to stay alive until they got bored of hunting us.

For a moment, I realised that all the guns had suddenly gone quiet. And yet, the silence was somehow even more eerie.

I collapsed unknowingly.

‘Rina!’ Simeon cried, bending over me, crouching down and lifting my head up. I clumsily pushed myself back up into a sitting position, looking around.

There was a subway entrance not twenty metres away.

Whether by luck or by plan, we had found an entrance into the Dreamers’ domain. I forced myself back to my feet and half-ran-half-stumbled towards it, practically falling down the stairs into the dim, yellow lighting that felt so ridiculously like home.

‘Where are the others?’ I asked Simeon in a low voice as he followed me down. As I moved, I realised how much my leg was hurting—it was hurting much more than my arm had done last night. Wiping at what I assumed to be sweat on my forehead, I noticed blood smeared across the back of my hand. Touching my face again, I could feel it, wet and sticky, just above my left eyebrow. Nothing was really hurting; I couldn’t tell precisely where it was coming from, but Simeon was looking at me with concern.

Only then did I get a full look at him, in the light, since we parted at the motel. He looked even worse in this lighting than he did in the car, when he had been half shrouded by shadows.

‘We should go,’ he said, glancing around, uncomfortable by being so close to the subway entrance. ‘We need to go further in, like last night.’

The mere mention of last night sent shivers up my spine, but I turned the next corner, and then the one after that, before stopping.

‘Simeon, you’re hurt,’ I said. ‘Stop.’ Reluctantly, he did as I told him, still looking around, on guard and alert.

‘We need to find the others,’ he said urgently. His eyes were fearful but, being the good man he was, he tried to bring humour into our dark situation. ‘If the Dream-Snatchers don’t destroy them, they’ll destroy each other.’

I almost managed a laugh, but the truthfulness of his statement also scared me.

‘The phone’s back at the car, isn’t it?’ he asked in despair.

‘No,’ I said, glad I had done something right. I held it up. ‘I grabbed it before we left.’

‘Call them,’ he said without hesitation.

‘What if they’re hiding?’ I asked.

We both thought about it for a moment, but what were the chances? I didn’t want to be hidden down here, separated from the others, allowing them to destroy each other whilst we waited.

I rung Jake.

With every ring of the phone, my heart seemed to increase in beats. I could barely breathe—one ring, two rings, three rings...no answer. Four rings...I began tapping my foot on the floor. Five rings...I was subconsciously chewing the inside of my mouth by this point, my eyes flickering around. Six rings, seven rings...Simeon was looking at me intently, and I could barely breathe, my heart was fit to burst—something had happened to them, they were in trouble, one of them was hurt, they had been caught—‘


‘Jake!’ I all but screamed into the receiver. ‘Where are you?’

There was a moment’s hesitation. ‘I have no goddamn idea, quite honestly. Where are you?’

‘In a subway,’ I said. ‘Somewhere.’

‘Are you still being followed?’

I thought about it. They could be hiding, but they were armed, and we weren’t. They had nothing to fear by launching themselves at us.

‘Well, I haven’t seen any Dream-Snatchers—‘

‘No, not the Dream-Snatchers,’ he said. ‘I think we’re, uh, taking care of them.’

My stomach flipped in fear. ‘What?’