Flash Fiction: A Retreat of One

A Retreat of One

by Ethan Gibney

There’s a crack, and a spot in the dirt nearby pops up, a little cloud of brown dust. She shifts right, dives for the nearest tree. The forest isn’t dense here, but the few trees offer at least a little security, and hopefully slow down the men with the shining new guns.

The next crack knocks a lump of wood off of the tree, and she shifts again.

She stops, just long enough to check her surroundings. She should already have reached the fence. But either the map, or her sense of direction is wrong.

Another crack, the slightest shake against her leg, as the bullet rips through denim. She praises whoever’s listening that it hit a fold instead of her leg, and runs again.

They say to zig-zag, but do you have any idea how hard that is in real life, with actual gunmen following you?

A glint, right on the horizon. A little bit of silver, caught by the floodlights behind her.

The fence.

Hope bursts in her chest, overtaking the fear and confusion. She gains her second (well, third...fourth, maybe) wind, and every part of her rushes into motion.

But the forest stops. Two, maybe three hundred yards short of the border fence.  Open ground with not so much as a butterfly for cover.

No matter. Run.

As she passes the tree line, a circle of light glides along the ground, seeking her. She can’t even hear the helicopter over the thumping of blood in her ears.

She keeps running. Behind her is death. Ahead could be death, or could be freedom.

She just has to reach the fence.

More lights appear, ahead of her now, on the other side of the fence. Headlights.

She can hear more shouting as the men with guns pass the treeline.

More bullets, raking the ground around her.

She reaches the fence, jumping at the last second to gain an extra few inches.

The wire cuts at her hands as she pulls. This is not material meant for climbing.

But she makes it. She reaches the top of the fence and swings over.

The men chasing her don’t dare fire, wouldn’t dare send a bullet over the border.

Below, her few allies reach out to help her down.

But while the men chasing her might not dare fire, a single one would dare.

She actually hears the bullet. Amid the shouting and the helicopters, and the men firing into the air to intimidate, or let off their frustration, she hears the bullet.

She even, although perhaps it is only fantasy, hears the sound it makes hitting her skin, and cracking her rib.

And then she’s falling.

But even as she falls, she thinks “I don’t care. I made it over.”

© 2017, Ethan Gibney

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