Replaced/The Man in the WoodsMature

The rain fell from the dark sky onto the tops of the trees, splattering against the leaves and continuing on to to run down the the dark pillars of bark and wood, finally hitting the earth to soak into the soil and saturate the ground. The weak morning light was already almost completely shut out by massive dark grey clouds and the overhead branches made it almost impossible to see down on the forest floor.

A tall, thick man was breaking through the forest, sprinting forward, dodging between trunks and crashing through small branches, arms up to shield his face, not worrying about tripping or falling, only focused on getting the fuck away from whatever he was running from. He was wearing filthy worn out jeans and a soaking maroon college sweatshirt which the hood of was covering his face. A brown leather shoulder bag hung from his right shoulder and it swung back and forth as he moved. He was running as fast as he could, and he was starting to tire. His breath was coming faster now, his heart pumping harder, his ears throbbing. His thighs were burning and his neck and chest were on fire. But even as every part of his body was desperately trying to tell him to stop running he knew there was no way he could, not after he had evaded them for so long. He couldn’t hear them behind him anymore, but he knew they were there. They always were. And to stop now, to let them catch up meant certain and absolute death.

All of a sudden, the man broke free from the trees, snapping a web of thin branches to get out. His heavy boots were no longer wading through pools of dead leaves and underbrush but crunching on sharp tan gravel. The gravel continued about twenty feet out, and then abruptly ended in a sharp cliff. The man skidded to a halt, throwing gravel up into the air. He walked swiftly but cautiously to the edge and after checking behind him peered over. Nothing could be seen, a grey fog obscured the space beneath the cliff. It could have been a gigantic canyon or a short crevasse, there was no way to tell. There was a distinct noise of rushing water but was it at the bottom of the cliff? Was it deep enough for a dive that could ensure his survival? The man stared down into the opaque abyss, contemplating his options. The few he had could all easily end in a messy death. 

He cocked his head, listening intently. And then he heard heavy footsteps, the sound of two people crashing through the thick forest. Then, the man made a decision.

A moment later, two men burst from the tree line. Both of them wore plain clothes that were stained with mud and soaked with rain. Both carried nine millimeter Glock semiautomatic handguns, and were brandishing them with a sort of air that described a mastery of this specific weapon. An air that described they knew exactly what they were doing.

They ran up to the cliff edge and looked over. “You think he went over?” asked one of the men, in a raspy voice that was like the gravel they were standing on.

“Yeah,” said the other, in a similar raspy tone, “I mean, where the fuck else could’ve he gone?”

“After all that time I don’t even get the satisfaction of putting a bullet in him? That’s it?”

“Wait. Listen.” The silence brought the noise of rushing water into focus, what the man was trying to hear but also unintentionally made another soft noise audible, the rustling of someone moving through the forest, unsuccessfully trying to be quiet. A glint exploded in the eyes of the men, and then a smile grew simultaneously on both of their faces.

“Leo?” one called out, and suddenly his voice was all charm, “come on out, we’re not going to hurt you,” he winked at the other man, showing he had every intention of hurting Leo.

A laugh exploded from the forest, surprising the men and making them both raise their handguns. 

“You think we’re Leo?” the voice was fluid, slipping into the men’s ears like water, “No” -the laugh stopped- “We work for Rain.”

“Oh,” said one of the men on the gravel, relaxing, they both lowered their guns “have you come to help us?”

“No,” said the man in the forest, and as he said it gunshots rang out, numerous bullets shooting out of the forest and slicing through the men, cutting them down, and as the lifeless bodies fell over the edge to land in the water with a sizable splash it said, to the dead men, “We’re replacing you.”

The End

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