The Girl with the Red Hair

She was quick or I was slow, either way I struggled to keep her in sight. I'd catch a flash of her red hair, a glimpse of her flying rags then she'd be gone again. Each time I saw her she was further away from me, out of shouting distance even if I'd had the breath for it. I tried all the same, lifting my voice against the wind and the screaming birds, hearing my own pathetic croaks.

I tried to mark where I'd seen her last, clambering over old furniture to get a better view. It wasn't until I'd passed the same battered car-seat for the third time that I realized I was going in circles.

Enough, I thought. Time for a break. Got to think what to do. I wasn't sure though that I could think things through. My head was pounding. I felt dizzy and sick. I just wanted to close my eyes, wake up again somewhere else, somewhere warm and dry. For a lack of anything better I sat down on the car seat. It squelched under me, cold water immediately soaking into my jeans and I stood up again in a hurry, swearing.

Lucky that I did. A hand that had been about to close around my leg snatched instead at empty air. I gaped at it, stumbled backward as the ground I'd been standing on erupted; cans, bottles, sacks and bags, plastic containers, old clothes and rotten food tumbled and shuddered, fell. A hatch pushed them up from beneath, raining them down. The hand was attached to a filthy arm, sinewy and strong under the grime to force aside that weight of garbage. A woman appeared, hair a tangle, her face wizened, clothed in the strangest assortment of rags I'd ever seen. Not my redhead, much older, and not as friendly either. She squinted at me in disgust and fury, none of the lines on her face suggesting she ever smiled. And she had a knife.

"Shoes!" she said. "Give em here."

The End

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