A loud crash reverberates through my aching skull. Glass shatters around my feet, sharp shards slicing into my skin as I creep dizzily across the hardwood floor and down the hallway into the darkness. I clutch the sides of my head, a slick, sticky wetness soaking my fingers. The scent of metal stings my nostrils. Blood drizzles down the sides of my face, mixing with the hot tears streaming from my swollen eyes. It’s a miracle I can still move.
A shooting pain assaults my left arm, my hand hanging useless, dead weight at my side. The limp is getting worse, and the abrasions on my legs burn like I’ve been attacked by a hive full of hornets. But nothing can deter me now. I’m in too deep, and if I don’t get out now, I know I’ll never see daylight, or any light for that matter, again.
My pulse throbs, beating with such intensity; I’m convinced it’ll explode out of my neck at any second. But it proves there is still life left in me, and dammit, I’ll fight with everything I have to keep it that way.
I hobble toward the front door, cringing with each step, but before I can grasp the brass doorknob and my last shot at freedom, it swings open. A rush of cold air zips through the flimsy fabric of my t-shirt, and I crash backward into a wall, choking on the golf ball-sized lump lodged in my throat.
I squint, desperate to adjust my eyes to the blackness, so I can find an escape from the dismal fate I flat out refuse to accept. My breath expels in sharp, shallow gasps, as the footsteps get louder, angrier, and more determined to terminate the last source of evidence that can destroy everything in a blink. I’d been so careful not to be seen, but he knew I was here. And now he wants to kill me.
“Loren.” The deep, gravelly sound rumbles through me like a slow explosion, igniting every last spark of fear in my gut.
I tiptoe toward the kitchen, avoiding the creaky floorboards I’ve come to know so well in the house that I’d allowed to become my home. I also know the exact location of the butcher knife block, and my fingers twitch as they near the stainless steel blades to the left of the stovetop. My shaking hand closes around one of the handles and I pull it out of the slot, poised to slash.
I shift the weight onto my less-injured leg and raise my trembling arm, waiting to face my nemesis, praying my aim will grant me the precious seconds I need to catapult myself from this nightmare and into freedom’s waiting arms.
The skull-splitting ache in my head is enough to make me crumble to the floor, but I refuse to succumb. I’m too damned close to finally waking up from the nightmare that consumes my life. I inch forward and my heart stilts. The footsteps stop, and his breath slithers through my hair, hot against my neck. Behind me.
“Drop the knife, Loren.”
My chest tightens. The fuck I will.
Using every modicum of strength left in my body, I leap forward, the knife still secure in my hand. A bloodcurdling scream reverberates through me when my wounded foot hits the floor.
I can still feel…I’m still alive.
Move your fucking feet, Lor! Only a few more steps until—
The searing pain snaking around my leg is nothing compared to what he’ll do if I let him catch me. Every gasp for breath feels like tiny razor blades slicing at my lungs. The faint glow of moonlight peeks at me through the clouds in the dark sky, beckoning me. I’m almost there…
“You gave up your right to leave a long time ago. There is only one way out for you now.” A gloved hand closes around my throat, yanking me away from the threshold and slamming me against the wall.
My hands fly to my throat, trying in vain to pry away his beefy fingers. Beady black eyes peer at me, spitting malice. He lifts me off the floor, squeezing tighter, crushing my airway. A burning sensation shoots through my eye sockets before they droop closed and the pain finally dissipates.
And just like that, time runs out, like the last few grains of sand sliding through an hourglass.