Full darkness approached quickly, leaving me with an uneasy feeling of being unprepared. I forced myself into action, ignoring the worry closing in on me.
The window creaked open with little resistance. I’d need to drop my packs over and squeeze out the window after them.
I pushed the lighter pack out the window first, the one with the blankets and jackets. It barely made a sound as I lowered it down, but I stopped and just listened.
Nothing but the drumming of my panicked heart.
The pack with the food was harder to manage. I lifted it onto the window ledge and slid it down the outside wall, its bulky weight landing with a much more audible thud.
My entire body tensed, muscles burning with the strain of holding myself ready as I listened. I was gripping the gun so tightly my knuckles ached.
Nothing unnatural broke the ordinary hum of the evening.
It was my time to leave the building.
I pushed myself through the window, the gun making it more awkward than last time. I slid the window shut behind me, not wanting to give anyone… anything… any indication I’d been here.
I knelt beside my packs, finally deciding to lift the heaviest onto my back, keeping the lighter one to carry on my front.
With some difficulty, I could still hold the gun in a somewhat useful position.
The darkness was complete now and I had no further excuse to delay moving on. My heart thundered in my chest, but I pushed myself forward. Around to the side of the house.
The weight of the packs weren’t slowing me down yet, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before their weight sunk into my shoulders as the straps bit at my skin.
I’d reached the back end of the house and stopped, tightening my grip on the gun. There was nothing around – no sounds, no movement. Nothing but a hopefully empty night before me.
I moved my way to the back fence as quickly as I dared, as fast as I could manage with the packs weighing me down. Shit. I’d forgotten about the fence. I’d climbed over it to get in here, and now I was stuck in the yard with everything I’d taken from the house.
I silently scaled the length of it once more, hoping for a break in it I’d missed. As I reached the back corner, I realised it was useless. I would have to get the packs over.
I shrugged them both off and after checking the safety, slipped the gun under my waistband. I struggled the heavy one over the fence first, with a final grunt it slid down the other side of the fence and landed with a thud on the ground.
The rattle of the fence reverberated through the night like a beacon to anything that might be around. I didn’t let myself think. Without even pausing, I pushed the lighter pack over the fence.
I’d pushed it out further and was rewarded with silence as it fell past the fence and landed with a quieter thud on the other side.
Fighting adrenaline, I forced myself to wait and listen. Still nothing, the only scurrying in the night my own.
I scuttled over the fence and retrieved my packs. I mapped out my journey – across this yard, over the next fence, across the road and into the park. A slightly different way through the park, to avoid the girl I’d killed, but I needed to revisit the creek.
Then I could head out of town.
It was so simple.
Adrenaline crashed through my veins, my entire body a shattered, shaking mess. The closer I got to the next fence, the more I felt like prey. I’d never known before what it was to be hunted, but now I had met so many predators it was a sickeningly familiar feeling. It was the same feeling I’d have back at the creek, a nagging intuition that I was no longer alone.
I’d checked before making any progress. Those kids – those things – and their leader had left hours ago. Looking for me in all the wrong places. Or so I hoped.
Nighttime buzzed around me. Finally I pushed my packs over the next fence and followed them, careful to make even less noise this time.
I put the packs back on and held the gun ready. It was time to cross the road now, and head into the park. If I headed in at a slight angle, I could avoid the body.
I waited for what felt like forever but could only have been minutes. I flicked the safety off and hurtled across the road, my sneakers making barely a noise on the bitumen as I ran. I took shelter behind a parked car, tucked into the curb, and waited.
The prickling on the back of my neck was on fire now.
I had no solid reason not to keep moving. Just the unshakeable feeling of being stalked. Of being preyed upon.
Steeling myself, I ducked my head and ran for the park as quickly as I could.