Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Finger Slipped (Stranger Tales No. 4)

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Dear God, or whoever you are, she prays. Don’t let me die this time.

She’s lost count of her attempts to get through this. Still, when she blinks back to consciousness and finds herself once again standing at the stop of the hill, she prays that this time, she will get to the bottom alive.

No time to think. She’s running forward before her brain has registered the crash behind her. Debris flies on either side of her: twisted panels of metal, planks of wood, boulders. Nothing hits her, and she’s grateful for that at least. Her muscles are aching and her breath is ragged already. She never comes back fully rested – that’s the cruellest thing. Always as wounded and tired as she had been the first time the plane crashed behind her. That feels like months ago.

Her abdomen pangs from where she was stabbed earlier. There’s been no time to heal, no chance for the muscles to knit together, and it is a constant and literal pain in her side. Still, she runs, because she has to – because the plane is crashing behind her, and because it’s not her will behind her legs any more. Her soles hurt when they slap the ground, stamping on stone and sand and wood. Each new surface threatens to throw her off-balance, but she never once trips. Not unless she is made to.

It’s been only a few days since she felt the other will imposed onto her, like a woollen blanket that sank into her blood. She spends hours jogging from unfamiliar place to dangerous hole, running when she’s not jogging, shooting for her life any time she stands still. She is certain she must be living in a nightmare. When she is finally allowed a minute of rest, she cannot cry because it is too much effort. But she would only wipe dirt into her eyes, anyway. Never been so filthy in her life. She worries about the long term – worries about all the dirt getting in her cuts and injuries, worries about the scars she will have, worries that when she finally gets home, she will be feral and unrecognisable. She is made to run, regardless.

A slip – but it is meant to be. Something smacks into her back and she tumbles over her head, same as every other time. It never stops being terrifying. She thuds onto her back and now she’s sliding. She blinks, closes her eyes, screams every time a pile of splintered wood or boulder or bush rushes towards her, but always she skids out of the way. It is like being on a rollercoaster in her own body: one track, high speed, someone else pulling her out of danger in the nick of time.

This is it: she comes to the platform at the edge of the ravine. Her arm jerks out and grabs onto the wooden ledge, and she swings down, shoulder nearly pulling out of its socket. The rest of the wreckage flies over her head, and then she is made to clamber up. Her tailbone is aching. Her fingers have splinters in them.

So far, so normal.

Next part.

She turns and jumps to the wooden ledge beside her. Half-destroyed shacks, hanging off the side of the ravine. What kind of idiot would build one, let alone ten, she thinks for the fortieth time.

More jogging. She sees the series of shacks waiting in a line in front of her. This, again.

I want to go home.

Instead, she turns and sees the jump. Planks of wood jutting over the cliff, a four foot leap to the next ledge, and a fifty foot drop underneath. The panic will begin again. She is not ready for it, but she has no say in the matter.

She takes a running jump, though every part of her body wishes she wouldn’t.

CRASH. The shacks start to fall apart, wooden walls tumbling like card pyramids at her presence. Ceiling caves in. Floor tilts underneath. She runs, and jumps to the next. The falling rocks won’t hit her, she knows, but still she flinches as she runs underneath them. Run, squeeze the energy from your thighs, leap, feel the judder in your shins as you land and the planks quiver underneath you, run before you can sense the pain, run before the floor gives out.

It is coming now. Sick dread fills her mouth.

Another jutting plank, a leap that is too far to be jumped. A scroll, a banner, something hangs from nowhere in the middle of the space between her and her destination. It’s a swing bar, and that’s what matters. But the next shack is positioned slightly to the right instead of dead on, and the empty doorway ahead of her is narrow, and this is the part that always goes wrong.

Wait, her mind screams, wait, wait, let me direct myself, let me aim, let me do something about this, please.

No waiting permitted. She launches herself off the plank, hands stretching for the bottom of the banner. Her shoulders jolt as her weight lands, she swings, legs ahead of her – she can see the ledge in front of her – Straight, straight, let go, that’s it

Instead, her legs jerk to the right.

Again.

Her fingers release the banner, though she prays that just once they will hold on.

She flies to the right of the doorway. Her shins collide with the fragile wooden beams that support this ridiculous shack in its ludicrous place on the cliff. She screams as she feels them break – beam and shins.

Then, she is falling, part of the debris. She tumbles into the foggy nothingness beneath. Once the fog clears, the ground rushes to meet her like an old friend. Snap. Overwhelming, excruciating, fiery agony –

A few seconds of blissful rest.

She blinks and she is at the top of the hill again.

There is a crash behind her.

Please, she begs as she starts to run. Please. Not this time. Not this time. Please…please…

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Written by G.J.

15/01/2014 at 4:14 pm

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