By Terry Lynn Pellegrini
From the crossroads I run
Bare feet striking hard packed dirt,
Jarred bones, ragged breath, arteries pumping.
I crash through the waist high weeds at the roadside heedless of the stinging of the nettles, the thorns stabbing my legs.
Fetid breath upon my heels, bone white canines dripping.
Watching me with eyes made luminescent by the moonlight.
Terror. They are terror.
I race, away, away, I must escape. No rest, not yet, never again.
They pursue, closer, ever closer.
Their growls and barks echoing in my ears, competing with the sound of my frantic
heart, ragged breath, anguished sobs.
A sound, unexpected, sharp, then the pain.
I feel her scourge upon my back, punishment deserved, punishment meted.
The blood excites them, spurs them on.
Down on all fours, then up.
Begging the Gods to aid me, to release me from my torture, from my lies.
A sound of gold changing hands, of delight echoing through the trees.
No aid for the accused, no quarter for the wicked.
They are nearer now, the pack, these Hounds of Hell.
Racing forward, snarling, hunger evident. Their prize. My reward.
A deal gone bad, betrayal, murder, no regrets, evil embraced.
Still I race, legs moving, long past numb.
Head pounding, lungs bursting, my sweat dripping into bloodshot eyes.
I feel them. Nips at my heels, salty saliva flung into wounds by dripping muzzles.
A misstep, a stumble. I fall, finished.
I will run no more. Cannot. I am done.
They are upon me, tearing, gnashing, ripping, feasting.
With my last breath I hear Her laugh.
Justice has been served.