Lightning zigzagged across the sky and a minute later thunder exploded. She pulled her coat closer around her, pulling the hood back over her auburn curls. She stopped at the curb, looking al four directions before crossing. The road was leaf covered, but deserted of all human life except for her. She tried to hurry; the decaying leaves and rain made the road slippery. She slowed her pace.
Eyes appeared in the darkness in an endless stare. Lightning flashed. It crouched deeper with the nearly leafless brush.
Thunder rumbled. She jumped, quickening her pace. The storm clouds advanced, blocking out the moon and stars. Only the circular spots of the streetlights remained.
Drop by drop the rain began to fall. With each drop on the street, the sidewalk and even the leaves that lay upon them, they became his. Each drop, each step, each breath brought her closer to what could be her last. Motionless, he watched, waiting for his moment. His breath ran quick and silent; his hunger growled.
She stopped as if she had heard. A gust of wind made the street lamps sway. The circular spots flashed around like spotlights. The beam fell on her, reflecting off her eyes life a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. She shook her head, breaking the spell and continued forward.
Lightning flashed and he became visible for an instant. His hair clung to his face, almost completely covering it, except for two small slits where his eyes peered through. His face was scarred from endless battles; one of which took the right half of his nose. A small twig brushed across it and a fresh river of blood flowed down his face, pasting the thick mats of hair to his face. He licked his lips. They tasted of blood. Memory flickered. A well-bred young man in uniform waving good-bye to a couple that left impressions of love. His stomach reminded him of his hunger. He refocused his attention on her.
She huddled within her coat, trying to ward off the cold. The wind blew back her hood. Her face was flushed. Quickly she pulled it back over her head, trying to tie it in place with the strings. Her fingers were cold and stiff. The wind billowed it out. She fought the material and the wind. Stopping she pulled the strings tight and tied them in a knot, only her face remained exposed. She looked like a child--young, eager to experience the world.
The sky flashed white; thunder rumbled. She passed him. The veil began to part, allowing the memories to trickle forth. His parents. His sister. Their pride in his joining the service. His plane crashing deep within enemy territory. His capture. His cell had about an inch of water in the dry season, as much as two feet in the wet. The smells--mold growing, floating, covering everything. Human waste. Rotting flesh--decaying spirits. The insects disgusted, repulsed him until his hunger over ruled his squeamishness. He’d crush them between his fingers and mix them with a plant, another P.O.W told him was safe and his own spit, afraid to use the stagnate water. But thirst negated that restriction.
She reached the corner. He slowly slid backward, following her through the brush. He easily kept up with her, waiting until she crossed the street and started up the sidewalk before crossing himself. She splashed through a puddle. She laughed and jumped through again. He stared, confused by her simple joy. Thunder cracked over head; she jumped and continued.
The trees loomed over his head, bring back the memories of the guards, their drunken breath and the pain. He tried to push it away, to absorb himself in the hunt. The shame wouldn’t leave. Anger welled and he screamed.
She stopped and listened, slowly turning to find the source. She couldn’t see him, but instinct told her this didn’t feel right. She started walking faster, slipping and sliding on the leaves. She lost her footing and fell on one knee. Quickly she got back up.
He heard her sobs, her labored breathing. It reminded him. His chest felt constricted. His teeth hurt. The rain washed the blood down his face, preventing it from clotting. It ran into his mouth; he gagged.
Lightning struck; thunder boomed over head. A dog barked in the distance. The sound echoed in his mind--reverberating backward to the place not even the best psychiatrist could reach. The place where laughter intertwined with pleas for help, squeaking doors, screams of agony and lust.
She heard him coming and ran from the sidewalk down the center of the street. Quickly glancing over her shoulder, she saw him as a moving shadow that the swinging street light outlined against the bushes. She stumbled, not quite falling. Involuntarily she whimpered, but kept moving.
Lightning lit the horizon. She saw a house ahead on the left. A faint beacon shone from deep inside. She ran to it, banging on the door, screaming for help. He leaped up the stairs and spun her around. She struck at him. He easily blocked her. Lightning flashed, illuminating his face. She screamed, but the thunder drowned her out. The door creaked. Her face changed to that of the well-bred young man. He gasped for breath--the pressure on his back, the laughter, the pain...the door closed.