Cat Versus Mouse

Aaron had been swimming for  one hour and forty-seven minutes and his tired limbs made an applaudable attempt to drag him down to the murky depths. He was several hundred meters out from the shoreline, and in the deepening shadows he couldn't see his stalker, but knew that the Patchwork was there watching him with sensitive robotic eyes.

It had seemed hopeless but now a fluttering shred of hope appeared in the form of a culvert yawning before Aaron, jutting out from the concrete base of an ancient and decaying factory. The culvert looked more than wide enough for Aaron to fit inside, and the concrete platform that the culvert protruded from was built out into the water so that Aaron only had to close his distance to the shore by half.

The cloying scent of rot invaded Aaron's nose as he climbed inside the rough metal opening, mixing with the thick stench of the ocean water that now came to his shoulders as he crawled on hands and knees through the wide pipe. After a few dozen meters Aaron came to a place where the pipe had split open, spilling the toxic ocean water and flooding the basement of the factory. Aaron followed the water out, and landed with a soggy splash in the chest high pool. He waded towards the room's only exit, a submarine style hatchway complete with crank wheel in the center, and as he came to the hallway beyond Aaron heard the metal grating above his head creak. Aaron froze, listening intently over the cacophonous spill of water behind him. The only light available was what filtered down through the metal grate floor above Aaron's head, and that light was already second-handed through dirty windows set high in the factory above.

Aaron began to move ahead again but stopped instantly; shadows overhead shifted split seconds before automatic gunfire erupted with a crackling flash from the floor above. Aaron dove into the water and swam for his life as hollow point rounds tore through the metal grate and sliced the filthy water. Trails of turbulence arced around Aaron as he made his way further down the hallway. Aaron passed several doorways but they were all sealed shut, his lungs burned for air but he didn't surface. He couldn't see, but the shadow above followed his progress slowly, allowing him to gain distance, sure of the kill to come.

Aaron came to a metal staircase. The hallway ended with it, end of the road. With no other choice, Aaron came up to the surface with a gasp that seared his throat, and mounted the stairs. The steps flexed under the weight of each step, their metal weakened with age. When Aaron reached the top of the stairs he cast a look behind him. A strong wall supported with iron girders separated Aaron from the room with the killer, and he thanked the universe for small blessings before a tremendous blow assaulted that very wall and shook the building to its foundations. Not far along the wall there stood a doorway, the door itself hung broken and askew from its hinges and stepping through was the Patchwork. Aaron broke into a roadie run, hunching low and running as fast as he could. He zig zagged behind debris and conveyor belts as the Patchwork took aim and fired in tight, controlled bursts. Aaron grunted as he took a bullet in the ribs, blood blossoming through the nickel sized hole in his jacket. He stumbled from the impact and took cover at the back wall, a pile of useless machine parts blocking his line of sight to his adversary.

Again, fate dangled a prize for Aaron and he scrambled on hands and knees along the back wall to a jagged hole that lead outside. The patchwork rounded the pile of machine parts in time to see Aaron's legs squirm through the hole. Outside, Aaron ran. His lungs were ragged for want of oxygen as he crossed the muddy ground of the factory yard and passed the posts that once held the chain link fence on the perimeter. Two blocks further, through deserted alleys and trash strewn roadways, Aaron burst onto Chapman Street, sending an imperceptible surge through the crowd of people there. Chapman street. Second largest center for the lower middle class night life, hundreds if not thousands of people cruised between bars and clubs and music filled the street. Even the Patchwork, close at hand and arriving only seconds after Aaron slipped into the crowd, could not track him so easily in the drunken throng.

The End

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