She ran down the hill, her skirt flying behind her like a little white flag strung up from her legs. It flapped in the wind and snapped the air, telling the world, if anyone had been there to see, that she was laying down her arms, casting away her shield. She had had enough.
She felt the wind whisk by on either side of her face, leaving invisible, nail-thin scratches she would feel long after she stopped running. But at the moment the wind felt fine. It meant she was finally moving, finally putting distance between herself and the dark woods she could feel creeping along beside and behind her, trying to snatch her back into their snares.
She ran and ran. She had been running since morning, but was not yet tired, not yet halted by the stones jagging into her feet, the burning muscle in her thighs, the rasping wheezing in her lungs. All that did not matter now. All that would go away soon. Right now it was time to run, as fast, as hard, as far as she could, father…farther…farther…farther…
…away from the woods.
The ground was leveling now, the hill having reached its end before she had. As the ground straightened itself under her feet, the sun shone directly in her eyes, its brightness blocking out almost completely the vast field of dry grass and shrub before her.
This is good, she thought. This is where I gain my ground and make my time. The sun will block out any view that distracts me. I have only to keep going straight, straight ahead. The wood behind.
The minutes sped quickly, and soon hours had passed. Still she ran, steadily, not daring to think of from where her strength came, for there was no thought of strength or endurance in her mind. All was empty, as empty as the wild, green-brown expanse before her. Nothing but clear wind passed through her brain as it made its way up from her lungs. There was no thought of hope to infuse emotion in her steps, no thought of failure to stumble her in her way.
She had been running all day and now it was nearing night. The light changed. The sun moved lower, now almost directly in front of her, now seemingly at her feet. The air shifted to be crisper, sharper, as though it were rushing to bring darkness to her as the sun neared the horizon in a sliver of golden light.
The night is coming. The night is coming. The night is coming.
With empty mind and feeling-less body, that omen was all she heard, all she could see, all she felt with each pounding step. The night is coming, but there was no meaning beyond the fact. She ran on.
The night did come, with pitch-black blackness. Her heart kept pumping, her veins kept running blood, her breath kept in-and-outing from her lungs. The silence grew. Each sense was now gone, each sight invisible.
The night was here.
The woods lay behind.
She was running.