Feet pounded the road below. Arms pumped. Sweat streamed. Gasps for air.
The world was blurring: buildings, houses, roads, grass, manhole covers, cars, doors… all becoming a mishmash, a mosaic of barely seen images, sights, sounds he did not have time to notice.
And yet the shouting never seemed to cease. Imagined or otherwise.
A weary arm broke rhythm momentarily to brush beads of sweat from tired eyes, eyes that were drooping ever so slightly.. tiredness, sleeplessness, fatigue, call it what you will… was taking its toll on a body that was protesting unheard.
He did not have time.
He shot around the next bend in the road and dived into a ditch, a cover… imagined protection of some kind.. any kind. It had been 3 days now, and the running and dodging seemed ever more irrational by the minute. Anyone and everyone.. people he barely knew, people he didn’t, faceless people from the shadows; they were all against him. No matter where he turned, it seemed a new enemy had cropped up.
How long could he keep it up, really?
It was a matter of time. At some point he would have to stop to recover. He would doubtless be caught within minutes, turned over to the shady Powers-That-Be, and that would be it. He had no idea what was in store for him: all he knew was he did not want it to be in store for him.
His head, which had been steadily tilting backwards, hit the wall behind him. Momentarily, it seemed as though that was all the pillowing that was needed… all the comfort he could ever want was in leaning against that wall and dropping off into a comforting netherworld of dreams. Shoulders relaxed, arms un-stiffened ever so slightly.. it seemed the toll of ceaseless pursuit was finally being paid.
Just as suddenly, his neck snapped back, body tensed… and within microseconds he was on his feet, staring wildly about himself. Something had struck a nerve, a deep-seated nerve ever on the alert for something out of the ordinary. He inched around the cover and risked the quick glance.
He collapsed back against the support he had propelled away from minutes earlier. His hands were shaking from the adrenaline rush, the crash of which was starting to take effect now.
But the shouting had never ceased. He could still hear it, sense it.. feel it drilling into his brain with its unremitting echo…
Imagined or otherwise.
“Subject appears to suffer from disturbed sleep patterns, as per corroborated observations since initial sedation. Phase 3 to be commenced shortly.” — Journal entry, Patient #H4359874
Part 4 of a serialized story: The Man Who Was