It started with a shout. “There she is, get her!”
The footsteps were pounding. Something inside me grew. Unease. Panic. Before I knew it, my feet were running.
I was on a cobblestone street. “My ankles,” I moaned. “If we get through this, we definitely have to work on making you stronger.” I thanked the universe I happened to be wearing my sneakers. I didn’t dare look behind me.
The pounding footsteps came closer. I glanced at the buildings above me. Would they find a way to cut me off? I ducked to the left down an alleyway. “Oh crap.” A dumpster blocked any way out.
A door, there, just to the side. Painted green, like mold. I tried the knob. It released and I stumbled inside.
I had to raise my hand to cover my eyes. I’d happened upon a store. The Gap. All white and bright and filled with clean pressed shirts and tan khakis under fluorescent lights. I stumbled forward. I could see another street. More cobblestones. I darted for the door. As I ran out, I heard more shouts. I looked to my right. There were three of them there, all dressed in black, carrying short guns. I ran to the left, towards the docks and the water.
This place, it was unfamiliar to me. I was running in circles now, darting down alleyways, in through stores, and out their back doors. And then, out another back door, a tangle of seats. Rows upon rows of people sitting eagerly watching a stage. But I knew I wasn’t safe. I ran down an aisle. Then across a row of mostly empty seats.
I had to stop and climb over a few seats, so as not to disturb those few already seated. They grumbled at me as I climbed over the seats in front of them. And then running, again. Towards a metal gate on top of a three-foot tall brick wall.
I jumped, and slipped. Back to solid ground. Jumped again, but this time, there was searing pain in my calf. I climbed over while watching the nearest one grin at me. I glanced down briefly and caught sight of the dart, but the world started spinning so I put my head up and started running again.
There. Another store. Maybe I could hide inside. I just felt so sleepy.
I pulled open the door. The long-haired man behind the counter mumbled something unintelligible to me. I smiled. Then I think I hit the floor.
I woke to complete darkness. Immediately my breath hitched in my throat. Was I in a coffin? Had they caught me? I tentatively stretched my arms out around me. Air. I let out a soft sigh of relief.
I could hear footsteps. But they weren’t as frantic. They were calculated. Measured. Checking everything. I held my breath. I succumbed again to sleep.
When I woke, I thought I was in the same place. Then I heard a soft voice next to me. “Hey, you’re awake. I was beginning to wonder if it’d ever happen.”
I couldn’t see him. Or anything. “Where am I?”
“Remember that store you walked in earlier?”
“You’re in a small room beneath it. Well, really beneath the register.”
“How’d I get here?”
“I brought you in. After I saw you’d been drugged. That’s not cool, man. The government is too up-in-your-face these days.”
“How’d they not find me?”
“They don’t often see what’s right under their noses.”
“What do they want from me anyway?”
“Dunno. They didn’t say. They were convinced you were here. But they couldn’t find you.”
“What if they come back?”
“Oh, dudette. I expect they’re watching this place right now. I just wanted to tell you I’ve gotta leave. Gotta go home and make it look like I don’t know nothin’. But I’ll be back in the morning. And somehow I’ll smuggle some food and water for you. So just you hang tight and get some rest okay?”
“Here. I brought you a blanket.”
“See you in the morning.”
“What’s your name?”
“My friends call me Froggy.”
“Thanks, Froggy. I’m Alyssa.”
“Nice to meet you Alyssa.”
I closed my eyes. Focused on my breathing. Heard Froggy’s footsteps upstairs, collecting things, putting things away. Or at least that’s what I imagined him doing.
I felt the tug of darkness pull on my conscious. I shifted trying to fight it off. I wanted to sneak up and look for my adversaries. My arms felt heavy. I was convinced I was somehow lifting more than just my flesh and bones. I couldn’t even turn over before the darkness took me for the night.