by E. Sparkweed
He was stumbling ahead, every step slipping on the wet ground, leaves gliding under his feet. His clothes were wet and hanging in shreds off his sharp frame, sweat and blood on his forehead, dripping into his eyes. Though he blinked, the stinging and pain would never go away; he’d seen too much. For four days he had been running though the forest: four cold, wet, long days. He was used to hunger, but the strength he was using now, getting up after falling, again, was nearly his last. He knew this. It had been two days since he heard the barking dogs, but he was not safe yet. The stream to his right ran cold and clear, and because of it he was still alive. On the second day he came across it in the woods and it saved him, twice. It quenched his mad thirst, life streamed back into his body with every gulp he swallowed. Then, as he heard the dogs closer and closer, he waded into the quick waters, up to his waist in its icy flow, and walked in it until he could no longer endure the cold. He crawled up on the opposite bank and lay motionless for a few breaths, a terrible cramp growing in his legs, not feeling his feet at all, cold as ice to the bone. The stream saved his life, and then nearly took it. He knew he would surely freeze to death unless he could somehow get warm. He forced himself to get up, on legs throbbing with pain, and feet which seemed no longer a part of him. He started walking, or hobbling, whilst manically rubbing his stiff limbs until they stopped throbbing and started buzzing instead, and a sensation of fire and ice awoke in his toes. They were a blossoming reddish colour, but any colour was better than the blue and yellowish white they had been. He kept moving.
On the third day he found a small wild apple tree and on it, a couple of brown, shrunken, sour crab apples. He managed to eat them, horrible as they were, and although they made his tummy ache, he was temporarily cheered. But then the following night was terrible, the coldest one yet. He had no way of making a fire, and he couldn’t risk one anyway. It was too cold to rest; he had to keep moving, but had barely a faint glimmer of energy left in his body. Somehow he was able to keep going, still following the stream which snaked along on his righthand side, going east, only his instinct guiding him away from the camp and the pursuing guards. He could barely keep upright now, was on his hands and knees at times, crawling. But still moving, still following the stream, still going east.