Players

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium
Inspired by a one word prompt from the Imaginarium House.

Submitted: August 08, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 08, 2017

A A A

A A A


Players.

Okay! So you know the rules of the game then.”

We nod. It’s not that hard to remember. There are a group of us that are chased, another that are chasing. We are wearing red sweat tops and those chasing us are wearing green; the winners are the ones that make it out first from the forest.

How big is it? How far do we have to run? We’ve got no water bottles but then neither have the chasers. Presumably that means it’s not too far from one side to the other. It looks pretty dense in there though, perhaps easy to get lost. We could use the sun as some kind of navigation guide but it probably won’t be visible for long. Not once we get deep into the trees anyway. It’s going to be a case of relying on our instincts. But it’ll be fine. If any of us get lost the others will soon find us; it’s only a game, after all.

We all check that our laces are tied, then shake out our arms, stretch our legs. We’re limbering up as this is going to be a real cross-country challenge. Roots and brambles are going to be waiting to trip us, not to mention the branches that will poke out towards us at all heights.

This is your last chance to pull out now. If any of you are not prepared to play the game right to the end, go now!” We all stay, but one of the chasers turns and walks away. A girl, no more than sixteen, obviously does not like the look of the deep, dark woods. Fair enough then; one less on their side!

Okay, then. You’re all happy to take part. Please say so aloud!” He films us all agreeing! Strange, but fair enough. There are a couple of cameras in view so I guess this race will make it to the internet at some time in the future.

Right, runners! You’ve got 60 seconds head start. Make sure you use it well!”

And we’re off. There aren’t very many of us, maybe ten in total. There were seven followers, chasers, whatever you like to call them. One has gone, two are filming, so we only have four to evade. If we split up it should be a pretty easy task to reach the far edge first.

We all seem to get off to a good start, spreading out amongst the trees, heading further out into the forest. You stay quite near to me, while some peel off to our left and others to our right. A bramble stretches across the path, almost trips the two of us. It does snag my shoe lace but I pull it free and carry on.

I’m going to have to slow down a bit. The branches are snagging my hair, scratching my face. I don’t want to win badly enough to get really scratched up and bloody. I’ll pick up my pace again when the path is a bit clearer. You are starting to pull ahead but that’s okay. I’ll catch you up again later, maybe.

I can hear footsteps approaching from behind now. Can’t let them catch me this soon, can I, so I pick up my pace. Scanning the ground, checking for branches, one foot steadily follows the other. I think I’m doing it, putting a bit more distance between myself and those that are following.

What’s that? It almost sounds like a cry, a shout of pain. It’s coming from our right. You’ve heard it too, I can just make you out ahead of me, turning towards that voice. And then there’s a whistling, whispering noise and something passes straight by me, missing my head by about an inch. What was it? An insect, a bird? It passes you too, only just, and hits a tree on your left. If you had not been moving towards your right to pass it, your head would have been directly in front of whatever that was.

I can’t quite make it out yet, but you can see it clearly. You glance behind yourself, then increase your pace. There is a frantic quality to the way you are moving now, diving, veering from side to side. And then I get near enough to see just what you have seen; an arrow, going with such force it is embedded deeply into the tree. Sap leaks from the hole.

And then there’s another one, again just missing me but hitting you. Because you are further ahead, it is lower, when it makes contact. It hits just above your knee and starts to bring you down.

I can’t breathe now. My lungs feel like they are on fire, my leg muscles are screaming as I push them on. You are falling, dropping to the ground. I reach you, just in time, take some of your weight. We’ll make for the trees, leave the path. It’s our only chance now.

Branches whip our faces, grab our clothes, but we push on at not much more than a walk.

Go!” you say. “leave me here.” The hell I will! We are in this together.

And then we come to a skidding halt. How have two of the chasers, the hunters, got ahead of us? I don’t understand how they did it, but there they are!

Two ahead, two behind. They don’t need to get any closer. Their weapons have a good long range and they are only six feet away. They cannot miss.

I hold you against me and we look at them, incomprehension must be clear on our faces. But theirs, well, there’s a cold gleefulness about them. One even licks his lips.

But why?” I ask as they notch up their arrows, pull back on those strings.

Because that is the whole point of the game.” And with that they let loose their arrows.

 

 

Inspired by the Imaginarium House One Word Prompt -- Arrow.


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