Don’t look back; it’ll slow you down – just run.
The city had become the worst of urban jungles. Hunters ruled unchecked as Jeremiah Tully, running for his life, could testify.
He fled down yet another street and saw a small crowd ahead gathered around a figure standing on an upturned crate. He came to a halt, unsure which way to turn. Raising his head, the man brushed his wild, bushy hair back from his unshaven face and began to speak.
‘Brothers and sisters,’ he intoned, arms raised high.’ Join me in my cause to rid this place of impurity. Let us drive out the iniquitous and send them back to their holes and dens.’
A poster hung on some nearby railings. Black letters on a white background blazed a message of hate:
Free the city of impurity; drive out the lower races. Unite in a glorious cause to restore our freedom!
That the speaker was demon-possessed Jeremiah didn’t doubt. Nonetheless, the crowd surrounding him hung on his every word.
The sound of running feet echoed along the pavement behind Jeremiah. A quick glance round showed a group of youths racing towards him.
Blind panic threatened to overwhelm him until he spotted a fire escape, attached to the side of an abandoned warehouse. He hauled himself up, hand over hand, feet slipping and sliding on the wet steps. At the top he paused, hunched over as he struggled to get his breath. Damp hair hung in rats’ tails over his face and his heart hammered against his ribs.
‘There he is!’
His pursuers were still after him. With a sound of despair he fled.
Coils of wire, broken packing cases and old pipes lay strewn across the flat, waterlogged roof. He wove his way between the rubbish until forced to halt at the parapet on the opposite side. A pair of rusty metal bars clung to the brickwork; the rest of the ladder had fallen away. Some fifty metres below, the ground seemed to rush upwards. He lurched back, fighting off an onslaught of vertigo. No use calling for help. Even if he’d been able to, no one would answer.
Metal clanged, wood snapped and boxes flew, as the pursuers kicked their way through the litter. One of them yelled, ‘Come on, we’ve got him.’
Jeremiah looked over at the adjacent building and tried to gauge the distance – maybe ten metres.
His pursuers were gaining on him. He snatched up a piece of pipe and hurled it at the nearest. It caught him across the midriff and he went down, taking two others along for the ride. Their tangled bodies forced the rest to pull up.
‘You stupid sod, what d’you wanna do that for?’ one of them snarled, as he struggled to free himself.
A second glance at the other warehouse told Jeremiah he had no option. He backed up a little and then raced forward. When his feet hit the edge of the roof, he pushed off into space. He overshot the ledge of the next building and landed hard. Winded, he curled into a foetal position.
A string of curses drifted from across the way and he forced himself to look up. Gathered at the periphery of the roof he’d just leapt from, the gang continued to rant and threaten, but didn’t dare follow.
Ever since he’d left The Crack o’ Dawn pub they’d chased him through the dark, narrow streets determined to bring him down. His pursuers were Wannabees, members of a fraternity dedicated to the destruction of those who were different; and he was that all right. Not only did his ancestry include membership of the last of the magical races, the once nomadic tribes of Elwyns, but he’d compounded his felony by being half-human as well. Not that the Wannabes were aware of that. All they saw was an Elwyn, with pale skin, silver eyes and slender-than-usual build.
Jeremiah shrugged off his leather backpack, took out a bulky pouch, opened it and stared at the gleaming contents.
Thank God it remained undamaged.
Ignoring the stream of abuse, he replaced the pouch in the bag and ran off into the darkness.