Run. That’s all Eleanor could do right now. She ran until her legs began to scream in anguishing pain, until her arms prickled with hurt, until her mind begged her to stop. Slow down. Breathe.
Collapsing beneath a few thorn-covered bushes, Eleanor listened to her wheezing breaths and watched her chest go up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Her lungs clawed for more oxygen, the valuable air that surrounded her. All Eleanor ever did was use up that valuable air. That and run.
Her legs, tingling with a burning pain as if they were alight, looked like stubby sausages in the pounding sun. Bright pink, Barbie like, stubby sausages. Yuck. She tried to tuck them underneath her but it hurt to move. It hurt to do anything. It hurt to talk, it hurt to nod, it hurt to claw for air. To breathe for goodness sake!
Lashes of red were slung over Eleanor’s legs; strips of bright sunburn. The searing sun had been relentless, ever burning. It had been callous, almost inhospitable today. Just what Eleanor didn’t need. Running in such, such ghastly heat was horrific.
It always is, running in such stunning warmth. The rays, golden and piping-hot, like fresh tea. Scarring your skin until it was raw and peeling in a rather disturbing manner. White flakes, white curls of your own skin dropping to the ground.
Slowly, it slows your muscles down, like a red-hot laser. Scorching through the layers of thin tissue. Down to where your muscles pump fast, and shoot at them until they separate. Until they can’t pump anymore and you have to lay down.
Her breathing began to collapse, tired and worn-down. Her shoes, brown leather, were already feeling the non-stop beats of the floor. Of Eleanor’s legs lifting and slamming down, against the earth. Dusty or green. Dependant on where she ran.
Where she was right now, it was dusty. Great clouds of dust rose, mixed in with specks of dry mud, swirling around her head. She breathed it in, tunnelling deep into her nostrils, filtering in through her ears. Swirling into the gaps of her eyes, until she felt vertigo and had to stop. She never wanted to stop, but she had to.
Stopping meant they could catch up. Any minute they could come roaring round the corners, stamping up great storm clouds that spiralled around their heads. Backed up by the neighing of the valiant horses, surged on by the yells of the chasing men, they would not stop. Not for anything. Unless one of them died. Or chopped off their arm.
But Eleanor was sure they weren’t stupid enough to die or chop off their arm, they were smart and knew everyone. Thankfully, the dry surroundings where she lay choking silently, were like a ghost town. Desolate, nothing but the azure sky, the lemon sun and the dust-coated ground.
Her lungs began to stop the fight for oxygen, content with the amount it had grabbed, and were slowly sorting themselves out. A slow, tight smile slid onto her face. A mask, protecting her inner feelings, a simple way of trying to re-assure herself everything would be alright. Smiling meant she was happy. So if she smiled, surely that would make her happy. Right?
A lone piece of paper, the edges scarred with fire, the colour brown and dull. It was crumpled in a messy heap and rolled, like a cartwheeling tumbleweed, along the ground. Bending forwards and ignoring the sea of pain that washed up her insides and arms, she picked up the object. It felt light and hot, but when she un-crumpled it, the paper become heavy and scalding.
Eleanor dropped it, heart racing, acid burning in her raw throat. No. No. It can’t be. Picking herself up, she had no time to think about the hurt that was raging through her. They were after her still. They hadn’t stopped. She turned and began running again.
The burnt paper was left, light and hot again, with creases staining the page. On the surface, blurred but still visible, was a picture of a girl. A girl branded with WITCH in faded scarlet letters. A girl that was Eleanor.