Hood coughed, spluttered, tried to sneeze and coughed some more. Sally filled the in-betweens with apologies.
‘What,’ he managed, ‘was that?’
‘I, uh, j-, a....’ she tried out a few more vowels and consonants until she found her voice. 'You're a stranger. You're a little bit crazy. You're being
chased by a mythical creature. And you're taking me who knows where, nowhere nice I notice.'
‘You’d rather I left you there? You’re no skinny strip but you’d have been a snack to him. Her. It.’
‘It, the sansan....smeelus-
‘Simle-us. Like a tiger but older, and deader. Usually’
‘Where'd it come from?’
‘It was unleashed.’
He shrugged. Another growl shook the street.
‘We should go,’ he said, walking into a wall the same colour as the darkness. 'That way.'
‘Who are you?’
‘Hood? I read that you quit.’
‘I did not quit, I went freelance.’
The growling stopped. Silence buzzed in their ears.
Sally’s relief was replaced by a horrific realisation. ‘It didn’t, um, eat any-’
‘Stalking, he’s stalking, go, up, up, up.’ He shooed her up some stairs that loomed out of the dusty dark.
Their - Hood's, Sally's and the sansanosmilus's - feet creaked over the uneven steps, following the wall that bent in and out of its former straighter position. They rounded corners and twists, leaping down as well as up, crossing rooms and halls between cases of stairs.
Sally collided with Hood’s hand, which he had held up to stop her while he listened for their pursuer. She tried to check her breathing, to subtly unstick her t-shirt from her back. Her heart was pounding faster than a rainstorm and her chest was tight, sucking in air in most unladylike gasps. Hood, however, was intent on their pursuer.
‘I know these old places are tall,’ she whispered, ‘but we’re going to run out of floors soon.'
‘Literally,’ he said, pulling her to a window.
‘You ready to jump?’
‘We have to jump?’ Sally did not dare to look down.
‘Where do we land?’
‘In the water.’ He lifted her satchel over her head and lowered it to the floor.
Her voice shrank, ‘And that’s safer?’
He grinned, ‘It is for now. Trust me.’ Before she had a chance to think otherwise he had taken her wrist, and jumped.
They landed with a ploosh, the thick, cold water engulfing them both. Moments later their heads burst back through the surface.
‘It’s thick,’ she said, letting some gloop between her fingers. ‘Like….like mud.’
‘And with good reason. Well, bad, for us. Come along.’
They crawled out onto the bank. Sally lay back, no longer caring for appearance. 'Don’t think I’ve done that much exercise in a long time.’
‘Ha, that was nothing.’
‘I’m a writer, “nothing” is sitting in a chair all day writing.’
The beast appeared in the window they’d just vacated. Kitten-sized, thought Sally, with the build of a large dog. It sniffed the air and sank onto its belly, head resting on its paws that rested on the sill.
[Follow the story at sallycarter.blogspot.com]
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