Issue #13


It was a picturesque blue day in June, where Hugh could be found. He was perched high up in a leafy oak tree. Rabid dogs tore around the base of the trunk, spitting and snarling. A breath of short exasperation puffed out into the air. The men who had trod behind these beasts were far off in the distance, pin pricks to the squinted eye.
Apart from stealing one fleeting glimpse of these four stony faces, Hugh had never set eyes on his pursuers before. After whipping around, his chest now heaved deeply from his unexpected sprint. The three canines lurched around his feet, saliva flicking from their open jaws. The men clearly had not vouched to running. They had trodden, slowly, not a panic-stricken leap through the air as Hugh's had been but a calculated clop of feet, moving in time with each other.
Hugh scanned the ground below him. His heart raced like a hummingbird's and tension oozed through his muscles. The clock on his wrist showed 4:4. A thin wavy crack ran through the last digit. He swore aloud. A new birthday present, already marked. He examined the other trees that grew close to him, his eyes lingering on a nearby target that was almost at his height. The one supporting him was barren of twigs, and the only object that could be thrown was clamped on his wrist with a crack down its face. He wobbled slightly, a breeze toppling his balance. Aiming straight on, the watch was released from its owner and launched through the air. A split second's distraction caught the eyes of the crazed canines, the swivelling digits reached their target and shattered.
Hugh's stomach fell, twice as far as he did. Pelting through the trees, twigs slapped his cheeks, blood speckling a trail behind him. His pursuers raced in a battle with his pounding pulse. Barks snapped through the air, and ruffled leaves blocked his vision, as if outraged to have been disturbed. The stamina Hugh had built up over the previous months surged through his calves, they dug into the ground below him and sprung him on.
Dozens of trees flew past him, whilst the dogs’ cries grew quieter. He turned back and double took as a singeing pain seized his leg and forced him nearly to a halt. Pain welling up in his eyes, he hopped once, twice, fell. His attackers leapt mercilessly onto his torso when a sharp whistle pierced the wooded silence. Scanning the trees desperately, Hugh found no one in sight. His legs sprang him to polarity and he began again a restless sprint of fear.
It was with surprise that he found himself recognising houses and he realised he was now on the outskirts of his crescent street. It followed a curve round past his neighbours, past a lone cyclist pedalling slowly through the sunshine.
Relief flooded his chest as his front door presented itself. Giving himself a chance to finally breathe, he slowed as he came within its reach. Condensation steamed the metallic handle, his clammy hands slipping to let himself in. The door swung back and what was behind it could never have been anticipated in all Hugh's wildest dreams.

Maria Vegro