But the house closed itself around her. The ticking of the clock was loud again above the roaring in her ears and in her mind, like the drag of surf on a beach. It interfered, it made her heart want to beat faster and faster and she was light-headed, her chest heavy and heaving. There seemed to be no air, or if there was she couldn't use it, was panting, drowning under that roaring sea.
Her legs were shaky, but she felt that she had to move, had to move or else she would die. Her thoughts were sped up, disjointed, like a dismembered jigsaw: Fractured nonsense, her only clarity the need to escape.
Outside there was air, there was coolness. She wanted it.
She stepped out into the street, closing the gate behind her and began to walk. Her legs were weak at first but she forced them to carry her, past houses alien and strange. Past gardens familiar and yet different from before. They, this place, this town had ceased to be a sanctuary. What was once sweet was soured, what had seemed friendly was now forbidding and watchful.
Sounds came to her, seeming to fall into a pattern. They were removed from her, echoing; the bark of a dog, the slam of a car door, a young child's shout of pain. They rattled in her mind, clacking together in weird harmonics, the sky darker, another weight there in the heavy clouds.
The physical exertion helped her gradually overcome her panic. She had entered the park and now reached the top of the hill, feeling the last of that terrible weakness ebb as the cool breeze rubbed her cheeks and ruffled through her hair.
Alice closed her eyes.
I can face this, she thought. I won't give in. I won't let them scare me. Not any more; not when I did escape, when I did get away. He, they, won't have me again. The Alice they knew is not here.
I won't win by running.
Running I did, and it hasn't worked. I can run and run but I will be found, run again be found again.
It's time I did something of my own. He - they - act and I react. That's the way it was, but it doesn't need to be so now.
"Time to be clever," she said aloud. "Time to plan."
Let him be the one to run.