Her chest ached. She was desperate for air. The euphoria of the run was coursing through her. Like a drone, she drilled on and on, foot after foot, seeming like a sergeant in the military. Her head was spinning, dots were racing in her shocking blue eyes, her filthy and grimey light brown hair was falling in front of her face, and it was a nuisance to her peripheral vision.
Feet gnarled from the hard gravel, 7 year-old tattered converse doing a terrible job at protecting them, hands calloused from days of labor; it was not a pretty sight. Her ribs protruded from her now-almost-black yellow tank top, and her jeans were so worn out and faded you would think that she had brought them straight out of a dumpster and worn them for 3 and half years on end.
Which would be the truth.
She kept glancing behind her, eyes wild with emotions, swirling into their depths. But only one emotion struck those that looked at her: fear. She was truly, undeniably, unfathomably, inexplicably, irreversibly terrified to the bone.
She took turn after turn, street after street, dingy ally after dingy ally, still irrevocably frightened to her very core, until she became lost in the massive city of Manhattan. Her lungs were gasping for air, expanding so much to inhale as much oxygen as she could without bursting, but she knew that the city no longer welcomed her. After all, this Big Apple's polluted air was probably suffocating her more than the shadows.
She leaped over a garbage can and had no time to apologize to the stray tabby cat that mewled as it shot out of its safe haven.
Clarisse mentally snorted.
Ha, the irony.
She too was so far away, so distant from her own sanctuary of safety, and she too was forced to disembark it by a turn of consequences. Had she had time to lose, she would've stopped to laugh a cold, steely, manic laugh, driven mad by the current situation. But, alas, time was something she was running on shortage of.
She winced as she turned around the corner of a bookstore vaguely marked as 'Notes and Pages', but did no more than bite her thin lips so hard they drew blood. The rusty, metallic, and warm dark liquid filled her mouth, and it was probably the first drink she had had in more than three days. It was disgustingly refreshing.
She stumbled over her own feet, exhausted beyond measures. She was in desperate need for a warm bath, fresh food, and plentiful drink.
In other words, things she hadn't seen in more than 15 years. This 27 year-old once-lively lady was in an extremely shabby state.
On the run since she was 12, guilty for a crime she didn't commit, she was surprisingly pretty, if she was scrubbed well enough to reveal her tan skin from beneath the layer of dirt and scum. But what could she do? This country's judges and their laws were as clean as her fingernails. And she hadn't showered in two months, unless you can consider bathing in leaking AC outlets outside of buildings and river branches.
I should think that this settles the image.
Back to the present. She was starting to grow numb. Pain was never her friend, nor was it her enemy. Urging her to go on and sprint to no end, pain had become her ally over the harsh years. Now, she was fueled on empty gas. And ironically, she reached a dead end.
"No," she whispered in her croaky voice, cracking with the one syllabus word, as did her hardened soul, albeit staying strong her whole life, escaping her problems when she was incapable of solving them. Now, she could do neither.
She tapped the bricks, for no apparent reason. Maybe she was so close to losing it that she had imagined that she was in the Harry Potter world, or maybe she was just in such a fragile state that she was becoming desperate. Either way, it wasn't for a good cause.
She clawed at the red burnt bricks, as if to compensate for not being able to claw at her face.
She turned around so fast, she was sure that she would get whiplashed. Her eyes widened with horror, as she slid down the cracked burnt dead end.
The shadows loomed over her, chilling her bone marrow, making her shiver in the warm mid-July night. The figures laughed, echoing and bouncing on her surroundings, overwhelming her.
Clarisse was no dentist, but she figured that the only visible crooked yellow and black teeth from her pursuers were in desperate need of a checkup.
They seemed to be laughing at her, and she hit her head so damn hard on some fallen planks of hardwood, she was sure that she had a minor concussion, judging from the blood that matted her wavy hair down even more, the ringing in her pixie ears, and the focusing and unfocusing of her normally sharp eyes.
She was desperate. She was decently young. She was going to be raped. She was swimming in her own thoughts, which now seemed like a murky ocean; slow and unclear.
Clarisse started screaming for help. Her eyes still like headlights, she went down on her scraped and bloody knees and silently prayed the Lord to save her. She was never one to beg or plead, so this was definitely a first.
Please. Let me make it out alive. I promise I'll be a faithful servant.
They closed in on her, the claustrophobia increasing by the second. Her lungs were constricting like never before, from the screaming, running, and breathing. She felt as if she was inhaling acid, her head feeling heavier every moment.
If I had just stayed put, she thought bitterly.
And then, the figures spoke out her worst fear.
"No one's gonna save you, doll. 'S just you against the four of us."
The malice was evident in the cruel words that hit her like a ton of bricks, and Clarisse only felt sick.
She was going to lose her V-card, she sure felt like it. She just wished that they would get it over with.
As they crouched down to her level, she slammed her eyes shut, not daring to see what would become of her.
Just as she felt a cold breeze hit her stomach, now that her shirt was barely lifted, a sharp yell cut through the black silence.
"Hey, what do you shitheads think you're doing?" a deep male voice was heard.
The figures looked at each other, and the tallest one, apparently their leader, sent the man a sneer.
"What does it look like we're doing? Pukin' ponies? Or shittin' unicorns? This young darlin' is mine," he added a perverted wink at the end that made Clarisse want to puke her stomach acid.
The man scoffed, "Yeah, not on my ground, assholes."
"Well if you're so damn brave, come show us whatchu got!" the rapist leader smirked comfidently.
The man approached them, "Well, I shit you not," he threw in, raising his eyebrows, before landing a punch on the creeper's slimy face. With a sickening crunch, the leader's head flew back.
The others stepped out of their daze, watching the blood ooze from their unconscious leader who was draped dangerously close to Clarisse on the chipped asphalt.
"There's more where that came from!" yelled the man.
She groaned, slipping in and out of consciousness, watching the scene unfold like an old movie.
The gang scrambled away, awfully scared to see their, ahem, role model, dead beat.
The man crouched down to Clarisse, but this one she didn't mind. Despite being almost out the whole fight, she was sure that this one was on her side.
"Oh my God," he muttered softly, looking at her broken figure. Placing a hand on her fragile back and another beneath the torn skin underneath her knees, he picked her up bridal style and carried her away from the ally.
Clarisse barely had enough time to look up at her savior's face and send him a grateful gentle smile before blacking out.