The Runaway follows a mysterious character as they escape the depths of a dark, industrial tunnel. Who is the unnamed ‘He’ that the protagonist is obsessed with, and just what exactly are they running from? Questions will be answered, and new ones will form, as the story hurtles to a shocking conclusion.
The short story is available in full in my recently released Something in the Cellar collection, which you can purchase here. Remember, you don’t need a Kindle to read: just download the software for your computer or phone from this link.
I sweated as I picked up the pace. I knew He was behind me, somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where exactly. I didn’t have the time to look, or to think about looking. I just ran, the metallic stench of the steel working its way into my nostrils as I approached what looked like the exit. Light was peering in at the end of the corridor.
I remembered what it was like to see light.
Real light, not the artificial stuff He shone on me.
He told me I was there for a reason. He told me I’d be better than the rest if I just believed in Him, and what He was doing. I believed Him, but deep down, I just wanted to go back to watching TV.
Had I ever watched TV? I wasn’t sure.
The light grew brighter as I got closer. My feet kicked water up. I liked the feeling of water between my toes. It felt cold, as it worked its way underneath my toenails. It reminded me of the beach, playing ball on the edge of the water with…
Who was I with? Had I ever been to the beach?
My stomach began to tickle as the light grew ever closer. I tried to look behind me, but everything was blurry, and dark. My legs tangled around each other when I turned back, and I collapsed onto my hands.
I heard something behind me. It was a voice, calling my name. What was my name?
I turned around again. He was in the distance now, in his white coat, like a blot on the dark landscape. He was still far away. My breathing increased. I struggled back to my feet, and collapsed at the first attempt, murky water splashing up against my lips. Don’t lose your cool now. I took a deep breath, right in to my belly, like mum had… no, wait, mum hadn’t told me that. I took a deep breath, and pushed myself back to my feet, my legs wobbling like a toddler as I rose.
Then, I carried on running.
When the light hit me, it wasn’t exactly what I had expected.
He’d told me about the light before. He’d told me that it was a bad place, and that nobody out there wanted me, but I wasn’t sure about this. I’d seen Him go into the light many times, and He was older and slower than me.
The light felt warm on my skin, and at first, it was all around me. Even the darkness behind had gone. But, the more I staggered into it, the more I started to see. There was another warm light above, like his light, but much greater and stronger. There were little things dotted in the distance, moving around. I wanted to reach out and touch one, but they were too far away.
I think they were called cars. I think I’d been in one once. Or maybe not. I wasn’t sure.
I heard something make a noise somewhere behind me, and stumbled forward. He was still following me. How had I been so stupid? I walked on, a little faster now. The ground felt much softer here. It was like the picture of the garden He’d shown me once. I curled my toes around it, and rubbed the dampness from my feet.
Things looked clearer as I walked down the hill. The ground changed, back to the roughness of inside, and it was flatter now. I looked up, back to where I’d come from: He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I jumped up and down on the ground and let a noise creep out from my raw throat. It was all so beautiful. I just wanted to run around and play, like I had done on the park that afternoon. That was a nice day. I just couldn’t work out when it was. It seemed like I’d been in that place forever.
I collapsed to my knees and rubbed my palms against the ground in front of me. It felt warm, and smelt like the walls of the place I’d come from. It wasn’t like the soft ground from before. I wanted to be back on that soft ground. I wanted to stay on that soft ground forever.
My body shook, and I jumped backwards towards the side of the ground. Something had made a noise. I looked round and saw one of those cars, flying past me.
And another. I felt dizzy. I wanted to get back onto the nice ground and away from-
Why wouldn’t it just stop? I wrapped my hands around my ears and squeezed my eyes together.
I don’t know how long I’d sat like this, but I was brought back to my senses when I felt something touch my shoulder. I jolted again, but I could hear something. I stopped squeezing my eyes, and looked up, being sure to keep my hands on my ears in case the bad noise came back.
Everything looked a little bit blurry, like before, but there was someone stood over me. It wasn’t Him. He was holding something in his hands, and looking down at me. His mouth was moving, but I couldn’t work out what he was saying.
Maybe it was my brother.
Did I even have a brother?
‘You can’t stay here,’ I heard him say. I took a hard swallow, and moved my hands from my ears.
‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘Now come on, and cover yourself up. You’ll freeze out here.’
He reached over to me with the thing in his hands. My stomach tightened. I wanted him to get away. I flinched, and he backed off again.
‘It’s okay. Just put this over yourself. I’m not going to hurt you, I swear.’
The man didn’t seem like the sort of person He had told me about. He was showing his teeth, and his voice sounded soft. He held the blanket out to me. I froze for a few moments. I didn’t know what to do, or how to react, and then I remembered what He’d told me. About being nice to people. About how I’d have to fend for myself one day. I gulped again, then reached out for the blanket, my hands trembling.
‘That’s it. Now wrap yourself up, and when you’re ready, come over for a coffee.’
My mouth watered at the thought of coffee as he walked back to his car. I didn’t like cars, so I wasn’t so sure about going near it, but coffee was nice.
Had I ever tried coffee?
Congratulations to Gareth Park, Vance Gatlin, Stephanie Gonzaga and Alexandra Davidoff, who all won free copies of Something in the Cellar in the recent giveaway. Enjoy it, and leave a review if you do! If not, then keep it between you and me, yeah?