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Monday, 7 February 2011


They stand in a loose circle atop some rubble, warming their hands over a small fire. There are six of them, all dressed in the ragged remains of what were once expensive suits. A couple of them even have ties knotted about their necks. All of them are armed, guns slung over their shoulders, trailing ammunition. One of them has a crude spear made out of a stick with a piece of shrapnel tied to the end.

As soon as I see the spear, I know that they're trouble. It's a weapon that couldn't possibly harm a who is it meant for? What could you possibly be hunting in the middle of a ruined city?

Before I can duck back around the corner one of them spots me, and they all turn to look. Time freezes, and we stand there staring at each other, everyone waiting for someone to make the first move. I'm speechless, paralysed. How can I have been so careless?

Then one of the men raises his gun.

Adrenaline shoots through me like liquid lightning, and I'm running before I even have the chance to think about it. I plunge back around the corner, slipping and stumbling on the uneven ground. Without stopping I struggle out of the straps of the backpack and let it fall. I can't run properly with it on, and maybe if they see that I've dropped something they won't come after me. I sprint down the street, spot an open door and charge inside.

In the corridor of the house I pause for a moment, heart thundering. I draw the gun, hands shaking. The weapon feels heavy with energy, like a tightly-wound spring. I glance back down the street and watch as the six men come skidding around the corner in pursuit. They ignore my discarded pack. One of them points towards the open door where I'm hiding. I don't see anymore, because by then I'm running again. Clambering over toppled furniture, bouncing off the narrow walls of the corridor as I head for the back of the house.

I can hear their shouts behind me as I jump up onto the kitchen counter and slither out through an empty window frame. I pound across the garden, throw the gun over the wall at the back and follow, feet scrabbling for purchase on the bricks. I land heavily, snatch up the gun and run on down a narrow path. I find myself back on the street suddenly, and it's a street I vaguely recognise. I don't stop. I don't let up running until I'm at least a mile away.

At last, I spot a hiding place at the mouth of an alleyway, dive into it, turn and wait, crouching there with nothing but the thunder of my heart for company, the gun gripped white-knuckle tight in my hand.

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