Kristen runs, men with knives behind her, wind hitting her damp hair and sliding down the neck of her puffa jacket.
She’s drenched in blood. Some of it is hers.
Some of it isn’t.
She needs to get away, needs to fight back, needs and wants and desires to be out of this forest, out of the rain, out of the dark and the cold and back to Brokenwood.
Kristen skids around a tree, barely being able to see with her torch glinting off the heavy rain. It’d be smart to turn it off, but she can’t. There’s too many of them, and she needs to get out.
At least they don’t have guns, but she knows first hand the kind of damage a knife can do.
“Shit!” She gasps out through gritted teeth, as she trips over a thick tree root and falls to her knees. Pain spikes up through her kneecaps, and she knows without a doubt that they’re bleeding through the thin pants she’s wearing.
“She’s down!” She hears one of the men yell from far too close. “Get her.”
They’ll stop at nothing to ensure her death.
Kristen struggles to her feet again, keeps running, but with pain arcing up through her legs, she doesn’t have a lot left to give. There’s no sense of direction anymore, for all she knows she could be running straight back to the compound.
She just runs.
But it’s not enough.
She’s sick too, just a little, and her chest is tight. She’s a fast runner, but she can’t keep this up. There’s got to be an end.
The bank comes out of nowhere, and she’s falling before she can stop herself, rolling over and over down the slippery mud. There’s no trees in the way, thankfully, but she still rolls to a halt at the bottom of the hill, heels thudding against a thick tree trunk.
Her torch takes that moment to stop working.
“Where’s the bitch gone?” One of the men calls, from high above, and she feels a shot of panic through her heart when she realises she can’t see him at all.
But reasonably… that means he probably can’t see her.
“Look around.” Another man, this one with a gruff voice, says. “She’s gotta be here somewhere. Hit her head or something. She can’t get away.”
Carefully, quietly, her body protesting, Kristen gets to her feet. She inches around the tree trunk, quietly, carefully, and notices - something.
A break in the trees? There’s not much moonlight, but she can just see something…
She stumbles a few metres across the flat ground, breath coming quicker and faster, because maybe, just maybe this is her out - and falls headfirst into a ditch.
Consciousness nearly leaves her then. Nearly.
But willpower is enough to drag her out, her body screaming out in pain, because it’s a road.
A main road, by the looks of things.
Relief hits her so suddenly, it almost feels like pain. She stumbles, drags, pulls herself across the road to the left side, and leans against a road sign. She can’t read it, because her vision’s dimming at the edges, but she can just-
“She’s on the road!” One of the men yells, from the depths of the forest. “The bitch is on the road!”
No. She can’t. They’ll kill her if they find her, they’ll-
But in the distance there’s headlights. Cutting through the gloom and the rain. There’s someone.
She drags herself to her feet again, nothing but fear and a stubborn refusal to die - here, covered in blood, by the side of the road - and starts running down the road towards the headlights.
Running isn’t quite right. It’s more like a shuffle.
It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Her muscles scream at her to stop, her breath is short sharp pants, and she can hardly see.
It’s the worst thing she’s ever felt, but she continues, two more footsteps, one, and she stops in the middle of the road, holding her arms up high.
She’s bloodied, she knows.
But she hopes it’ll be enough.
The car skids to a halt in front of her, and she can’t see the driver. It can’t be one of them. It can’t. Surely.
She forces herself to walk around to the passenger door. Hopes it’ll be enough. Hopes that she won’t die right on this road.
And she looks inside.
The passenger window slides down, immediately, despite the wind and rain.
It’s David. A friend’s friend’s friend, but she knows him, and he’s a good man, and he looks horrified . “Kristen?” He gasps, and then, to his credit, “Get in.”
And she gets in. The window slides up nearly behind her. In the distance, she can see the men running down the road towards them.
“Drive.” She gasps, throat sore and rough from screaming. “Away. To the station… Please.”
It’s all too much after that, her world dimming away at the edges, so she slumps back against the seat and abruptly passes out.
She wakes up in hospital, with Mike by her side, and she knows she’s safe.
There’ll be time for discussion, time for statements and questioning and trials, but for now, she’s safe.
She’s back in Brokenwood, with her peers. She’s home.