His mind wasn’t able to articulate precisely what danger he felt he was in from the frail, limping woman behind him, but every instinct with him urged his legs to run and run and to put as much distance between them as possible.
The heaviness in his limbs swelled, as if trying to anchor him to the spot and prevent his escape. He drove forward, the air around him now feeling like thick treacle. With every ten yards ahead he forced himself, he felt as if the incorporeal grip on him was being loosened. Each step took him closer to the large, desolate main road. From there he could break either left or right, either direction offering greater chance of assistance and human contact than the prospect of staying put.
Once, this highway had acted as the primary east-west arterial between a booming city and a series of pleasant, working class costal towns. Public transport, small automobiles and large haulage trucks had battled for position in miles of sluggish traffic, racing each other to dash past traffic lights and risking the ever vigilant and vengeful eye of speed cameras.
These same traffic lights still kept time, dancing from red, to amber, to green in an unending, unerring rhythm. These same cameras watched apathetically as he ran past them, his lung busting sprint barely registering on their internal speed trackers.
Fifty miles away in a dusty, decrepit control room, television monitors dutifully beamed out the feed from the speed cameras. As the man left the edge of the screen, the debilitated woman slowly shuffled into view behind him. Her unearthly emerald glow reporting as a dark, ill-defined haze on the monochrome monitor.
Having broken free of the camera’s eternal gaze, he ran headlong into the darkness, wind swirling around him and whipping the rain into his face. Lactic acid burned through his legs, lessening the distance covered with each stride, stumbling into the wall of darkness.
Heart thundering in his chest, he hauled his head around to looking behind him, hoping to have left the Green Woman in the distance. She tailed him, seemingly no closer or further in distance than when he had first spotted her despite having never changed her speed of movement noticeably.
With his eyes still on her, a warm bolt of pain shot upwards through his ankle as his foot landed and stuck into a crack in road. His weight went forward, knee buckling under him. Skin was torn as knee hit tarmac, hands instinctively pushed out in front, reaching into black to break his fall. He tumbled over, downwards and forwards into a stygian maw.
The fall was halted suddenly as his temple met solid, stony ground and his momentum rolled him over once more onto his back, a pang of soreness firing across his shoulders. Blood welled from his eyebrow and studs of gravel were embedded into his cheek and jaw.
For a few seconds his head was ringing. This sensation subsided and he eased open his eyes. Above him the stars seemed much closer than he had ever noticed, as if they were just metres away. He lay perfectly still, mind clear of the previous concern and fear, eyes fixed on a few twinkling dots. He watched as one of the stars hung in place and then dashed a few inches to the right, then zoomed in at his forehead!
The star splashed against skin. The droplet trickled down the bridge his nose into the corner of his mouth. The cool water was bitter and ferrous.
His eyes began to adjust to the subterranean darkness. The pale moonlight was enough to make out the craggy lip of tarmac above him, where the road had snapped and collapsed after years of disrepair. Those stars, he could now see, were blobs of water, dribbling from rusting pipes that had been shorn off and exposed during the highway’s collapse. Propped up on his elbows to a sitting position, he blinked and peered further into the cavern. He could see nothing which offered any source of either light or comfort. Flexed the ankle which had been snagged and propelled him down here, the tendons flaring aggressively to quell any heady designs he had of walking on the injured joint.
As he massaged the ankle, his other senses had become heightened to account for the lack of visibility. He gradually became aware of a quiet, irregular thudding emanating from the cavern’s depths. Each thud accompanied by a soft scrapping.
Sitting stock still in the pitch black, he realised the sounds were getting closer with each occurrence. His mouth, which had been dried from the exertion of running, was suddenly flooded with viscous bile. The arid air sparked with electricity.
Slowly, from the seemingly eternal cavern before him, the raggedy suited woman, shrouded by her wispy, caustic green cloud stepped into view.