Chasing and running, its all he had left. Run, stop, pass out, leaning on what passed for trees in this cursed place, wake a moment later and run again. These fleeting moments of rest were the only thing keeping him from certain death the claws and teeth of those who pursued him. They cackled as he ran, his pounding feet drowning out their cries as he put distance between them. Pounding feet could not silence his thudding heart, or the pants and gasps as he struggled to draw breath. This cursed forest, twisted trees a reflection of its denizens. Crooked and drooping branches bent towards the ground and the sky at the same time. The rules of reality didn’t apply here, he’d discovered, stones and roots that looked far away suddenly rushed at you, tripping and tangling feet. Short slopes and dead creek beds fell way into chasms of unfathomable depths, he’d lost Derek to one of those. Derek’s howl as he plummeted haunted him, but still Rick ran. Grabbing handfuls of rotting fruit from thorny, stunted bushes as he raced past. Bright flashes lit up the horizon in the distance, fluttering, shadows looming closer, then moving farther, he couldn’t tell distance anymore. The disco party lived on but only when the sun shone and it would never shine its light here again. There was only running, the chase, the hunt. Ragged gasps as he rounded the hill, felt like he’d been climbing it forever. The hilltop, a flat, stony plateau, was a perfect vantage point to look back and find his pursuers. Shading his eyes from the dark that shone overhead, peering into the fog, trying to make them out, catch the briefest glimpse. The impenetrable gloom confounded him, his eyes drawn to a plinth towering over the surrounding marsh and forest, leaning at an impossible angle, he felt it leering at him as if it was alive. From where he stood, it towered at least two kilometres away. He thrust his hand up to touch it. Slimy rock greeted his fingertips, scabs and small cuts covered his bleeding hands. The blood soaked into the algae, the rock drinking his pain, it leaned father down. Grasping and scrabbling at this impossibility, fingers reach for a hold, sliding, scraping, sharp edges scratching deeper into skin. The rock drank deeply, savouring, it slumbered for so long, and now here was a morsel to slake a deep thirst. With a rock crushing groan it bent deeper, wanting nothing more than to drink. Rick wiggling and wedging his fingers into mouth shaped hold, the rock grinding down upon the tops of his fingers. With the last of the strength in his arms, Rick hauled his emaciated figure up, onto a narrow ledge, the edge taking its due, a long thin slice of skin from the side of his rib cage. Blood shone wetly in the green light. His shirt, already torn, a slash from an encounter with an impossible slithering beast. It claw, ragged and rotten, had ripped deep, the slash a nasty, green, pus seeping wound, with red, swollen edges. He knew it was bad, but nothing could be done about it now. If only he could rest, escape, be free only for a moment. The algae encrusted, black plinth leaned back, it’s prey captured, and at least for the moment, its hunger was slaked. Rick knew nothing of the desires of the rock as he lay there, delirious with pain, strange poison in his blood, and nerves wracked by sleeplessness. He fell into a dark slumber, tossing and nearly throwing himself from the rocky ledge, but the plinth wouldn’t let him go so easy as that, not to such an insubstantial force as gravity. It drew Rick closer, the grinding sounds unnoticed as he fitfully spasmed in his raving hysteria.
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