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Short Story Winner – Runaway

April 24, 2012
By

Runaway

by Amber Barnett

The woman breathed deeply as she stepped outside, shivering as the moist air curled around her tongue. It swirled down her throat, and tasted like adrenaline. The moonlight caught in her sandy hair shimmered as chilled tremors shook her body.

She cringed a little as the low wooden groan of the door followed her exit. She was cradling a small satchel with a pair of soft boots slung over her arms at the shoelaces, making the creaky frame difficult to maneuver.

Satisfied with the eventual click of the latch behind her, she tiptoed across the rotting porch, and padded her way to the dusty street on her bare alabaster feet. She then quietly lay down her things, and scanned the landscape before her. Searching.

A fog had descended upon the sleeping street during the night, giving everything a muted quality. It was the kind of fog you could taste, the kind that sat heavy and dense within the mouth. The sticky summer heat would burn it off in a few hours, but for now, the world remained wrapped in a cloud.

Before her, tired houses emerged from the mist. It was a slow life lived in this town, had been ever since the Depression. Folks probably wouldn’t be up for another few hours. She felt relatively safe.

Suddenly, a figure appeared at the end of the street. Barely discernible in the low light, a young dark-skinned man had risen from the shrubbery lining the curb. His movements were stiff from sitting so long, but a broad grin was splashed across his face.

“Thank the lord, you made it,” he sighed as he approached, and embraced her warmly.

“He passed out on the couch a while ago,” she whispered, and looked down at her feet.“Had a little too much whisky, for the fifth night in a row.”

“He’ll be furious when he realizes you’re gone.”

“I guess I can understand that,” she muttered, “I just wish he’d understand that this will make me happier, to be with-”

His hand choked the rest of the sentence.

“Ssh!” He was looking around wildly. A dog not far down the street had begun barking.

He muttered unprintable damnations of the Clark’s mutt. The both of them had frozen, every fine fibre of their bodies praying for the dog to lose interest.

A porch light two doors down suddenly shattered the pre-dawn darkness. His hand on her mouth went rigid, his dark brown pupils contracting as the offending beams of light hit the iris. Faint laugh lines around her own eyes deepened with strain.

There was the slam of a screen door, and a rail-thin man in an undershirt stepped onto the porch, armed with a shotgun. His skin was still shining red from yesterday’s work in the sun, and the face was unattractively scrunched at the eyes.

The pink eyelids abruptly widened, exposing lines of white skin usually hidden in folds from the sun.

“Sonofa-! They’re making a run for it!” he trumpeted.

Lights were popping on in every one of the houses now, and shouts could be heard from disturbed man and wife alike.

The young man took her face in his hands, the light brown of his hands contrasting with her creamy skin. “We have to go!” he choked.

She seemed unable to move for the longest moment. Eyes wide, she grabbed his arm and began to careen the two of them towards the shrubbery. He kept on looking back, and was constantly stumbling.

They were almost there, when suddenly, he slammed his arms around her. Multiple shots rang out behind them, and there was the sickening thud of impacted flesh. His embrace went limp, and he crumpled to the ground behind her.

“No, no! Don’t shoot! What have you done!” she wailed.

Sleepy-eyed men were catching up, surrounding her. She shrieked at them, screaming as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“What have you done!”

The young woman dropped the ground, cradling him in her arms like an infant, red streaming between her fingers.

“What have you done! My son!”

The woman knelt before her bastard child, weeping.



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