‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Dancing on Thin Ice


After Jake had done his best to clean Tim’s wound, he turned to me. I had taken my top off to allow him to use it to mop up the rest of the blood, and then he used it up to tie it like a makeshift bandage around Tim’s arm. There was no way of taking the bullet out just yet; not without injuring him further, and not without risking infecting him, so we’d have to wait until we could find somewhere to stop that had a first aid kit. Although, did first aid kits contain gun wound treatments? I was doubtful.

Eventually, Tim seemed to fall asleep, his hand clamped around Rina’s, who sat there stroking his sweaty forehead with her bloody hand as he passed into a restful looking slumber.

Although my wound was shallower, and didn’t contain a bullet, it was also much dirtier, and this seemed to make Jake concerned.

‘I really need to wash this,’ he said, examining my wound with nothing but his bare hands. We had nothing else that we could use, unless a phone and a car key were going to somehow come in handy. Everything else had been left back at the car.

‘I just...want to sleep,’ I said, so exhausted that my eyes were involuntarily closing. Despite the danger I knew I was in, my mind was simply not awake enough to care anymore. It was long into the dead hours of the night, but there still seemed far to go until the morning. It was that time of night when it began to seem as if a new dawn would never come. In a way, our journey was feeling a bit like that too. We were all injured, tired, irritable, homesick, angry...it was going steadily downhill, and had been for the last couple of days. When was it going to change?

In the end though, sleep didn’t come as easily as I’d hoped. Once Jake had given up trying to clean my wounds, instead just telling me that he’d look at it when we returned to the motel in the morning, I leant back against the wall and closed my eyes. But no matter how tired I felt, I couldn’t sleep.

I wasn’t the only one. In fact, Tim was the only one who actually seemed to be resting. Rina’s concern for him had taken over her fatigue, and she sat, pale and sickly looking in the dim underground light, stroking his hand almost obsessively. Jake had managed to clean up the wound on her forehead with a little more success—it was nowhere near as big or as deep as mine—but she said that her leg was hurting, probably bruised or maybe a pulled muscle, and there was nothing he could do about that.

Jake himself couldn’t sleep either. He seemed to have the same obsessive trait as Rina—every ten minutes he’d attempt once again to clean my wound, and give up after scarcely looking at it. Then he’d go and re-do Tim’s bandage. Then he’d mop away any of Tim’s excess blood. Then he’d glance at Rina to make sure her wound wasn’t bleeding again. Then he’d wait ten or fifteen more minutes. Then he’d start again.

‘What do we do now?’ I asked, rubbing my eyes, giving up on the hopeful prospect of sleep.

‘We go back to the motel in the morning,’ Jake said. ‘Hopefully the police will have left by then.’

‘We need to find a Dreamer base,’ Rina insisted. It was true; we really needed a chance to clean up. I imagined a rough map of America in my head, trying to think about the Dreamer bases I knew were near here. After going back to the motel in the morning, we weren’t going to be travelling a huge amount tomorrow, so the only main possibilities were either Chicago or Nashville, and both were pretty large diversions. I’d heard there were small bases in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, which would be much more convenient, but we needed medical equipment, and I was doubtful as to whether they would have all the necessities.

‘We should go to Chicago,’ I decided.

‘Isn’t that a bit, you know, off route?’ Rina asked, looking shocked.

‘It’s the only option,’ I said. ‘We need to sort Tim’s arm out. And I wouldn’t mind getting all this fucking dirt out of my shoulder.’

Jake nodded in agreement. ‘He’s right,’ he told Rina. ‘We’ve got to get to a Dreamer base.’

Sometime after we all fell into silence, Tim stirred.

‘What...fuck,’ he mumbled.

‘Tim?’ Rina was squeezing his hand in an instant. As he rolled to the side, he gasped in pain, and his eyes shot open.

‘What—ah,’ he said, remembering the events that had caused his arm to be hurting. He examined my sodden t-shirt which was currently serving as his bandage. ‘What’s this?’

‘I didn’t have anything else,’ Jake admitted. ‘I just used what I could to try and stop the bleeding.’

Tim nodded, looking uncertain. ‘’Kay. Thanks.’

‘That’s alright.’

‘Wouldn’t have happened at all if we’d stayed and fought like I’d suggested,’ he said. I could see bitterness in his expression. I didn’t know what had happened to him and Jake, but I could assume that it boiled down to some kind of fight or flight situation. Inevitably, Tim would have chosen fight.

‘If we’d have stayed and fought, we’d both have ended up with bullets embedded in our skin,’ Jake said, surprisingly curt, holding his ground.

‘Who says?’ Tim retorted, his temper wearing thin. I caught Rina’s eye. Why couldn’t they just shut up for five minutes? ‘I had a weapon.’

‘You had a piece of bathroom tile!’ Jake snapped irritably. ‘And that woman had a gun. Think about it Tim, you’re not an idiot! Who would have won?’

‘I had it all worked out before you insisted on running across that courtyard!’ Tim replied, his voice rising.

‘Tim—‘ Rina began. He cut her off.

‘I knew what I was doing! And you went and ruined it. And now look at me! This arm’s gonna be useless for days.’

‘Better useless than dead!’ said Jake, his voice becoming cold and hard. ‘Maybe I won’t bother next time. Maybe I’ll let you sort out your own wound.’ It was a harsh move, but at least it shut Tim up momentarily. It was just enough time for Rina to get involved—she was so good like that.

‘Tim,’ she whispered, pushing his damp, matted hair back from his forehead. ‘How are you feeling? Do you feel alright?’

‘Got a bastard of a headache,’ he grumbled. ‘And my arm kills.’ He shot a venomous glare at Jake, who decided to ignore him this time. ‘But other than that, I’m fine. What time is it?’

We all knew that Jake had a watch, but he acted like he hadn’t heard Tim. For someone so clever, he could be a little immature.

‘Oh, is that how you’re playing it then?’ Tim demanded. ‘Just act like I don’t exist.’

‘I don’t want to start another argument,’ said Jake dully. ‘So I’m going to wait until you’ve calmed down a bit.’

‘Calmed down?’ repeated Tim incredulously. ‘Why don’t I just shoot you in the arm and then tell you to calm down? See how you like it!’

‘For God’s sake!’ I snapped, shocking everyone into silence. For some reason, they seemed to listen to me when I got angry. ‘If we want to get to Europe, we’re gonna have to actually work together for once, and stop getting at each other’s throats every five minutes. You’re not five years old anymore! You’re both intelligent people. So why don’t you just shut the fuck up, get over yourselves, and look at the bigger picture for once?’

The two of them hardly spoke again for the rest of the night.

When Jake announced it was six am, therefore a reasonable time to be up and about, we all but crawled through the underground, leaving a trail of blood and dirt in our wake, and staggered into the half-light of dawn. I rubbed at my exhausted eyes wishing that I’d tried a bit harder to go to sleep, and drifted back down endless alleyways until we reached the car.

Jake sat at the wheel and began to navigate through the city as it woke up. Eventually, after an hour in dead silence, we found the main road out of the west of the city, driving over the flyover and back down the motorway for a couple of miles until we reached the motel.

Thankfully, there was no one around. If the police had arrived last night, they had left by now. Nevertheless, Tim and Rina sat with the car as Jake and I crept quietly round to the staircase at the back of the building. My heart lurched violently when I saw police tape across Tim and Rina’s door, but they had already taken all their stuff out when they'd left to come and help us. Our room seemed untouched as I unlocked it, hopefully meaning that we had not been suspected of anything. At the end of the day, if we hadn’t been seen leaving, there wouldn’t have been anything to suspect. Everything was still where we left it inside the room, and Jake began collecting the laptop and our wash kits and our clothes as I went into the bathroom, dazed and dreamlike, to make some more futile attempts at washing the dirt off my skin. I managed to get most of it out of my wound, which was now stinging painfully at my touch and oozing fresh droplets of blood, but gave up when it came to the rest of my body and hair.

‘There’s no time for a shower, I guess,’ I said to Jake as I left the bathroom to find everything packed and ready to go.

‘’Fraid not,’ he confirmed. ‘We’ve got to go.’

‘Just leave the key on the desk,’ I suggested. ‘Don’t really want them seeing us if we can help it.’

He left the key at reception, and we trudged across the car park to the car, the bright sunlight hurting my eyes and making my head ache dully.

Most of the day was spent in silence. Jake drove because he was the least injured and because he was the only one not on the verge of falling asleep. Rina sat in the front passenger seat because she didn’t normally, and because everyone agreed that Tim and Jake shouldn’t sit too close to each other. Tim sat on the right in the back so that, if he wanted to sleep against the window, he wouldn’t have to lean against his bad arm. I took the remaining seat.

All of it was so practical—all coming from Jake of course, that I came closer to laughing than I had done in the last twenty-four hours. Despite all of that, though, a black cloud still hung over the four of us and, instead of dissipating throughout the day, it only seemed to grow thicker.

‘My water’s warm,’ Tim grumbled, spitting out a mouthful of water onto the quiet road where we sat to eat lunch.

‘I’m so hungry,’ Rina said. After being away from any Dreamers for longer than anticipated, we’d been forced to ration out our meals, leaving everyone with a permanent feeling of hunger in their stomachs.

‘I need the loo,’ I announced sometime in the middle of the afternoon. I saw Jake’s fingers tighten round the wheel in silent frustration.

‘We stopped less than an hour ago,’ he said. ‘Why didn’t you go then?’

‘’Cause I didn’t need it then. Why else do you think? But I need it now.’

‘Well we’re not stopping again,’ he snapped. ‘If you want to take charge of the driving, then you can decide when we stop.’

I didn’t want to take charge of driving, mostly because I knew it would get us all killed—I’d been drifting in and out of a restless sleep all day, never getting more than about half an hour at a time, but never being able to keep my eyes open for much longer in one go.

‘My arm is killing me,’ Tim moaned about half an hour later, waking up from a brief sleep, clutching at it and massaging it with his other hand, before crying out in pain when he accidentally touched the tender part.

‘Stop making noises like that!’ Jake snapped. ‘You’ll make me crash the car!’

‘Can’t we stop for ten minutes?’ Rina complained. ‘My legs are going to sleep.’

Jake slammed down on the brakes so hard that a car horn blared loudly behind us. He swerved onto the hard shoulder, allowing the car to slow to a halt.

‘Alright then,’ he snapped. ‘Everyone out!’

‘Jake,’ I groaned. ‘Come on.’

‘Who put you in charge anyway?’ demanded Tim. Jake chose to ignore this.

Eventually I persuaded him to take the next junction off into the woods to find a quiet road to stop in. We slowed to a halt down some small, deserted lane, and we all got out, practically staggering with fatigue. Rina picked at the last of her rations, reasoning that, as we’d be stopping with some Dreamers tonight, we’d get more food when we were there.

The Dreamers. I’d almost forgotten about tonight’s proposed stop. After all, I didn’t actually know where they were. I knew they were in Chicago, but beyond that, I had no clue.

I didn’t imagine the others would be too happy if we ended up spending another night curled up on some tiled floor below ground.
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Sorry it's such a bad place to cut the chapter - the only other option was to make it twice this length.