I felt the dark around me, like a thick fog. I couldn't seem to escape it. I ran blindly, afraid if I stopped running my living nightmares would catch up with me. I could hear their labored breathing all around me. Their feet pounded on the pavement and echoed of the rough stone walls.
They were behind me for now, but I knew their strategy. They would break off and follow different paths through the maze that somebody dared call a city until they had me surrounded.
Then they would take me.
I knew they would kill me as surely as I knew I was breathing now. But it wouldn't be a swift death. I knew too much. They wanted what I had, what was in my mind. They would make sure they got that first.
I raced around a corner and saw one of them cross the street in front of me. He looked straight at me. I shivered, feeling goosebumps raise on my arms. His was a look that came straight from hell.
This one had been young. He was probably new. He didn't recognize me. I shied away from him, rushing down a familiar alley, one that would take me out of the city. It would be safer for me now to face the creatures that lived outside the city than to spend another moment fighting the darker creatures that lived in the city. The creatures that had once been human, that had the minds of humans, that strategized like humans, but that I was sure were not human any longer. They couldn't be.
"Stop!" A voice cried. The voice was demanding, but it wasn't hard like the voices I was used to.
I spun around, facing the intruder. He was just a phantom in the shadows. His dark silhouette was barely visible against the stone structure.
"Who are you?" I demanded.
"You don't need to know."
"Why are you here? Everybody knows the city isn't safe." I tried to keep my voice firm, but I was panting so heavily the words came out in broken gasps.
"Why are you here?" The man said calmly.
"That's my business."
"And you are mine."
I froze. "What?"
"You are my business. That's why I'm here. I came for you."
I gaped at him. For me? Nobody came for me. Nobody even knew I existed, except the ex-humans that pursued me.
The sound of heavy footsteps broke through my thoughts and pounded in my ears.
"Come on." The stranger said. "Let's go."
I stood in indecision just long enough to hear the shouts of recognition, then sprinted after the stranger. I would take my chances with him.
He waited for me at the end of the alley. As soon as he saw me again he took off. I followed closely. He raced down the back alleys, toward the north entrance. I knew this city like the back of my hand. We could not get out that way.
"Where are you going?" I panted, "We'll be trapped if you go that way."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Of course I'm sure! There's nothing there but guards and more guards. Do you want to die?"
"I'm not going to die."
"Who are you?" I demanded. It was a trap, following him. I was running willingly into a trap. I knew it now. My mind told me to run the other way, but my body wouldn't listen. I had to follow him. There was no turning back. It was like I had made an unconscious choice and could not turn from that, no matter the outcome.
Suddenly, the man was gone. I stopped short, glancing wildly around. He had been in front of me two seconds ago. He couldn't have just disappeared.
I knew where I was. There was no where to hide even a small leaf in this part of the city, let alone a man. I took two steps forward. Maybe he had slipped into a new hole in the ground.
Suddenly he was in front of me again, inches from my face, appearing literally out of thin air.
My heart stopped. I stared into his cold eyes, fear freezing the blood in my veins. What have you done? I thought, What fate have you brought on yourself by following this man? My mind screamed the words, but the rest of me didn't move. The man was, as I had originally suspected, a phantom. He was one of the creatures that had created the horror I was now living in. His kind had turned my once beautiful city into the crumbling heap that existed now.
"What do you want?" I whispered, knowing it was futile to run.
"I told you," He said. "You."