They’d had a lot of freedom …

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

Second day of this week’s challenge! The story starts here.
They’d had a lot of freedom back then

‘Not in here.’ The frustration in his pursuer’s voice rang clear.

‘You sure? Aren’t too many other places he could’ve gone.’ Scepticism and anger here.

‘Look for your bloody self.’ A pause in which he imagined an arm being waved into the furniture-less room. ‘Nowhere to hide a mouse, let alone one of them.’

‘Let’s go, then. He’s getting away somewhere, has to be.’ The voice faded, the owner presumably heading off down the passageway.

‘Do we care?’ The mutter was loud enough for him to hear. Yes, they cared. For good reason.

If the questioner received an out loud answer, the speaker was too far away for him to hear.

Silence. He breathed out into the darkness, unaware until now that he’d been holding his breath. And in the silence –

The strangled sound of someone trying to quiet their own breathing made him whip around.

‘Who’s there?’ he whispered, lifting the hand which held the penknife.

‘Please … I haven’t a weapon, I have nothing, I …’

He eased at the terror in the girl’s voice. It wasn’t fake, and if she’d been here to kill him, she would’ve done it by now.

‘How did you find this place?’ he asked, releasing anger into his tone.

‘The thread.’ It spewed out of her, fast, getting in her explanations while she could. ‘I saw the thread and wondered.’ She stopped, went on. ‘It reminded me of a book I once read, about spies from, well … you know … then.’ She paused again.

Yes. Then. Was she one of those like him? They’d had had a lot of freedom back then. Now, they were hunted. In the darkness, he sensed her shift. He stiffened.

‘Stay where you are. Let me get a light. Don’t move.’

frightened girl in dark place

The glowing candle stub showed a kid of about ten, thin, huge dark eyes, wearing jeans as worn out as his own, a stained hoodie. A backpack lay on the floorboards beside her. It looked pretty empty.

‘Go on,’ he said.

She ploughed on. ‘I was desperate, I needed somewhere, and I hoped … and it was … and I knew the owner, you, would come back and I hoped again … that, as you’re hiding too, you might help me.’

He let the words drift into the surrounding dark.

‘Help you?’ He held the candle closer to her pale face. ‘First things first. What are you?’ He already knew the answer. Her face gave it away.

(Here’s the next instalment.)

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