RETRIBUTION

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Retribution comes at a cost.

The dull thud of Fletcher’s body hitting the pick-up truck is muffled by the thick layer of snow that smothers the surrounding forest.

As the brakes screech to a halt on the winding New Hampshire road, August scrambles over the slush-covered gravel towards her husband.

She doesn’t recognise the face she stares down at. The impact has smashed his skull and the angle of his broken bones tell her he’s gone.

August screams and falls to her knees.

We’re almost home. We’ve only got half a mile left to run!

‘Fletcher!’

This can’t be real! It's our first wedding anniversary tomorrow!

Her ragged breath clashes with the icy air on this freezing March evening, and to her dismay, August sees her new life implode.

Maybe he can survive this. He has to survive!

August shakes Fletcher’s shoulders and rubs his chest, but there is no breath, no life.

She should have known this new beginning was too good to be true. Mayhem always lurks in her shadow.

Further down the road, the truck that hit Fletcher sits stationary. The hum of the engine and the glow of the brake lights remind August of a wild animal stalking its prey.

She staggers to her feet and stumbles towards the truck. Her hands shake as she unzips her running belt and pulls out her phone. Her fingerprint ID is unrecognisable and her bloody fingers slip on the screen of her phone.

‘Hey!’ she calls to the truck driver. ‘Call an ambulance, my husband needs help.’

Why aren’t they getting out? Why aren’t they helping us?

August stops and looks back at Fletcher. His body that only five minutes ago was strong, lean, and athletic, is now pulverised roadkill. August vomits.

Frozen snow creaks and crunches under the weight of the truck as it turns to face August. The bright headlights blind her and she holds up her hand to cover her eyes.

The engine roars and snarls.

What are they doing?

Two birds dart from the tree above her as the truck wheel-spins and races forward.

‘Shit!’

August turns to run, but her body is weary and stiff.

As the truck tears up behind her, she bolts into the woodland and stumbles through the dense foliage before tripping on a thick clump of bracken ferns.

August whimpers and the stench of dank earth fills her nostrils.

The window of the truck purrs as it opens and the light from a torch flits through the trees.

‘I know you can hear me, August,’ a gruff voice calls from the truck.

August covers her mouth with her bloodied hands and shuts her eyes.

She knows that voice—the mayor. She can see his face—glass-eyed and red-cheeked. His crooked teeth tearing apart his steak sandwich, mayonnaise dripping down his chin.

‘Next time,’ he calls. ‘I won’t miss.’

August trembles, her body numb, her courage shattered.

He'd found her.

The End

© Michelle Upton

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