The following story was writing as a prompt by CC over at Honesty. You should go check out her blog. Go on, I’ll still be here when you get back. No need to rush. The prompt was “Caught in the rain”. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and thank you for reading. And now, story time…
Twisted roots beneath Roberto’s feet threatened to trip him with every stride as his feet carried his aching body through the fog. A stitch in his side had slowed his pace considerably as he fled. The burning pain radiated outward every time his foot struck the damp ground.
The heavy rain had soaked him to the bone. He’d long since striped off most of his damp clothing to reduce the weight he was carrying. The cold water pelted his bare skin as he made his way across the unfamiliar terrain. He grabbed his side and pushed through a bramble bush. Thorns tore across his fragile skin. Blood bloomed through the wounds, only to be washed away immediately by the relentless rain.
He crawled over a fallen tree and collapsed to the ground. He tucked himself behind the log and pressed his back into the rough bark. The pain in his side had become too unbearable to continue. He needed to rest. He wasn’t sure he even had the energy to stand any longer. He prayed the ache in his side would subside quickly. He had no idea how far ahead he was, but he knew every second he remained behind the log put his pursuer that much closer.
The sound of an approaching dog ripped through the fog. He cringed and forced himself back to his feet. The dog’s angry growl made his heart thump increasingly harder against his ribs. Every beat shot a bolt of agony through his side. He clenched his teeth and took off deeper into the forest, in spite of the fire growing in his chest. Sprinting had become the only option, even with the unrelenting pain.
Visibility shrank to almost nothing over the course of the few minutes he’d stopped to rest. The rain began to subside, but the fog thickened and solidified as he dodged his way through the seemingly endless swatch of forest. His only thought was finding the highway. Finding that Heaven sent stretch of road would almost surely put an end to the chase. He wasn’t sure he was even running in the correct direction, but he refused to let hope die. The fog had him so disoriented he only knew which way was down because his feet were in contact with the ground.
Thick tree trunks jumped from the fog to attack him with their heavy branches. They smacked, swatted, and scratched, anything to slow him down. He came dangerously close to smashing headfirst into more than one tree during his brief journey into the unknown. The growing stitch joined the trees in the quest to slow him down, forcing him into a shambling sort of limp as he pressed further into the trees. The necessity to sprint remained, but the capability vanished.
The incessant bark of the dog was joined by the rhythmic beat of galloping hooves. Terror gripped his mind as the sounds sank in. Even with the severe stitch digging in to make a permanent home, he managed to pick up his pace. The desire to find the highway faded as quickly as it had come. He focused only on moving as quickly as his tattered body would carry him. He no longer cared what direction he was traveling. His only goal became to keep the barking dog in the distance.
In his haste, he also gave up what little caution he’d been forcing upon himself. His left slipped beneath a gnarled root and stuck tight in the thick mud. His momentum carried him forward. The snapping of his tibia brought a sudden, unexpected end to his escape attempt.
He stared wide eyed into the fog, trying not to scream, and waited for the inevitable. He bit his tongue to hold the pain inside. The bitter taste of his own blood filled his mouth. Through watering eyes he watched the growling dog materialize from within the thick fog. Beyond the dog was the dark silhouette of a horse and its rider. The horse huffed and the rider dismounted, still obscured by the fog.
The snarling dog, a mud caked German shepherd, placed its muzzle inches from Roberto’s face, daring him to make a move. Foaming saliva dripped from its rippling lower lip. He considered going for the knife tucked into his shorts, but thought twice when the dog snapped its sharp teeth together. An unholy growl forced its way through the mangy thing’s clenched teeth.
A lightning bolt of pain shot up Roberto’s leg. He howled in agony. The dog joined him and howled into the all encompassing fog, lifting its head high in a subconscious salute to its bloodline.
Something cinched tight around the ankle of his broken leg. He twisted his head to see what was happening. The rider headed back to the horse, a rope trailing behind, the end of which looped around Roberto’s ankle.
“No! Please don’t do this! I never did anything to you!”
The rider hesitated a few steps shy of the horse. His head twisted to the side. “That so?”
“Seems to me y’er trespassin’.”
“This is a state park, for Christ’s sake!”
The rider shrugged and climbed into the saddle. “Christ ain’t got nothin’ to do with this. Let’s go, Rufus.”
The growling shepherd backed away and trotted off into the fog. The horse followed, dragging the injured man behind at a slow, but steady pace. Roberto barely even noticed the roots, mud, and rocks eating his back raw. The fire in his leg drowned out everything else.
The taut rope pulled at his ankle and sent sharp, blinding pain coursing through his body. He lost consciousness, relieving him from his ordeal momentarily. The same pain pulled him back to consciousness as the ground went on scratching and bloodying his back, unnoticed. The cycle of alternating consciousness went on for nearly two hours as the horse plodded through the dense forest, back to the rider’s camp.
Warmth embraced Roberto’s entire body, bringing consciousness with it. His eyes fluttered open to flames dancing beneath him. He yanked his head back and smashed it against the wooden beam he was bound to. Black spots danced in his vision, intermingling with the orange flames.
He twisted his head to the right. Sweat dripped from the tip of his nose into the flames below. Amongst the fading gray dots the rider sat atop a large tree stump.
“Well, look who decided to wake up, Rufus.”
Roberto’s reply was a grimace as the flames licking eagerly at his exposed belly. The smoke in his eyes he could deal with. The heat above the fire, though, was unbearable. Even worse was the bubbling lava coursing through his veins.
“What? No more piss ‘n vinegar? I’m hurt.”
“I never did anything to you!”
“I reckon y’er right.”
“Then why are you doing this?”
“A man’s got to eat, ain’t he?” The rider pulled the serrated knife from his boot and stood up. He approached the man tied to the spit above the roaring fire. Using the sharp knife, he sawed a chunk of meat from Roberto’s thigh. Blood dripped into the fire, squelching it momentarily. The rider held it between two grubby fingers in front of Roberto’s eyes for a moment before popping the raw, bloody morsel into his own mouth.