THE BALLOON PT 2

Radiohead — Ful Stop

I hear something from above. It wakes me up. I have no idea what time it is, but I was so exhausted that I’ve probably been sleeping for hours, shit. I feel that cold grip in your chest when you know something really fuckin bad is about to go down. It really sounds like footsteps.

I’m not breathing. My whole body is seized with fear. Get up. GET UP. I shout the words in my head but trying to connect them to my feet and arms is so hard, I take a sharp breath and – I’m sitting up, fumbling for my bag nearby. Had I unpacked? Don’t know. No time. Need to get the fuck out.

I blink and strain my eyes to try and see something. There are some shadows discernible in the shadows. The fire next to me is out so that’s no use. I hear what has to be footsteps above and the low murmur of whispered voices; Arturians almost definitely. Shit. FUCK. How could I have been so fuckin stupid?? Mags would be furious if this is how I went, Mr Everton would have been right all along, I can just see his face now when he hears the news. No, can’t give him the satisfaction. I put my arm through the loop of my bag and hang it over one shoulder, it must have been a miracle as the contents don’t make a noise when I stand up and it swings round behind me. I crouch down low and start to slowly pick my way through my campsite making sure I have everything; my matches are on the floor next to where I slept – I palm them and slip them into the waistband of my trousers. Next to them is Mags’ secret weapon as she’d say, that small stick with a (now slightly blunt) razor tied round the end.

THUD DUDUDUDUDUDU

FUCK! I left the flashlight upright, glass end on the floor and handle in the air so’s I could easily grab it through the night if I needed it, and my left foot just sent it flying. It makes an awful sound when it connects with the ground and a drumroll as it rolls along in front of me. The footsteps above stop. The murmur above stops. My breathing stops.

Adrenalin takes over and I find myself heading for the tunnels down. I can hear a low whisper of the Arturians above as they are planning how to catch me, they probably think I’m just a rat or a dog or some other small meal. I dread to think how much faster they’d be moving if they knew there was man-flesh waiting for them down below.

It must be my lucky day or something because as I get close to the tunnels down I feel something cold and hard underneath my feet – the flashlight! – I bend down and pick it up, fumbling for the slider, my thumb finds it and pushes upwards. Two not-quite semi-circles of light appear in front of me, I’ve cracked the glass, but it sure as hell beats the light I’d get off a match. The way down is a couple of metres in front of me when I hear a scream of ‘OV’R HEEEEERE’ from one of the Arturians who starts blindly sprinting in the direction of the light. I hear his scrawny limbs scratch across the floor, I can hear his raspy breaths as he runs towards me, I can almost feel the spittle fly from his lips. Again adrenalin kicks in – fight or flight Mr Everton always used to say, and flight is always the better option – and I turn on my heels and start to run. The light in front of me catches glimpses of rubble and debris, some reflecting back, but I don’t see the stairs before I reach the top of them and it’s too late to stop, my feet are no longer on the floor and I’m falling forwards, I can’t stop myself, I flail my arms and fall, my chin connects with a metal grill and I feel it press into my flesh and I bite down on my tongue, I taste blood, but it’s not over, I’m running for my life and my body doesn’t stop taking me all the way down this metal staircase my arms crunching into the ground into the walls the corners taking chunks out of my shin and thigh and hip and head and cheek and the side of my skull connects with something and I lose consciousness.

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