By Starlight

Starlight glimmers on a soft raggedy lump by the riverbank; water crackles against the pebbles. A soft moan breaks the silence and the lump shudders and stirs. Little by little, the lump awakens, piercing the quiet night with groans and whimpers. With much effort, the lump flips itself over and a pale face gazes upwards. 

“Help me,” the tiny voice whispers; the lips quiver in pain and agony. 

It moves its fingers and sandy pebbles stick to the tattered skin. The figure looks up at the starry sky and fixes its gaze on one star, any star, praying for help. Thunder rolls in the distance and a harsh wind rustles through the trees by the riverbank. 

The figure gasps and, struggling, sits itself upright; a sharp pain in its side. The grimy figure places its dainty hand on the sore spot and through the starlight sees the thick liquid shimmering on her palm, the stench of blood scrapes her nostrils. 

She squirms and wobbles to her feet. 

She must get away.

Lightning strikes; it evokes the flash of the muzzle. The thunder reverberates with the sound of two gunshots an instant apart from one another.  

Her devil came for her, stood at the foot of the bed and fired. She fired too; the sight of her bullet in his forehead engraved in her memory forever. At first, Laura thought he’d missed, but as she fled down the stairs and out the back door, the searing pain in her flank told her otherwise. Didn’t matter, she ran deeper and deeper into the woods. He wasn’t the only enemy and the further she ran, the better. The others would come for her too. Soon, her gait became unsteady, she stumbled, and the woods closed in on her; everything faded to black.  

Laura staggers into the river wading and following the current. She remembers her history teachers telling how escaped slaves would use the water to throw dogs off their scent. She also recalls a vague song about the stars being guides. Pain and thirst addles Laura’s brain, but she keeps going, hoping to find refuge soon. 

Up ahead a cabin appears as the moon rises in the sky. Out of breath and fainting, Laura reaches the cabin door. She musters what remains of her strength and knocks. A young bearded man opens the door. Laura’s eyes roll back into her head and the world disappears around her.



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