May ran through the park, her laces whipping at the backs of her calves, threatening to tear through her tights and let in even more cold. She should know the way, she always knows where she is, but something is off tonight. She has no sense of place, no spatial awareness. She keeps tripping, stumbling, but not quite falling.

No time to stop no time for laces keep running reach the lion reach the lion, she mentally chanted in time with her rasping knife-breaths, reach the lion.

Her thighs began to burn, she could feel her knees swelling from old injuries and the tired, pounding footfalls that have been the motif of the evening. Her trainers, lacking arch support, were ruining her feet. She could feel bones grating which should never meet. She chanced a glance behind to see if she was still being pursued but of course you fucking are, May! Why look? Why fucking look? Never ever fucking look! Why’s it weird, where am I now?

May stumbled again, lost to her thoughts, her twisted inner-loathing swamping everything except the last ember of survival. Sweat despite cold. Dropping. Shit slow. Pain. Knees. Feet. Every step sounds like a bellyflop, a thwap of agony arcing up through her skeleton, jiggling her eyes and thoughts, shaking the devils loose. Her scream started somewhere in her hips, scorching every blood vessel on its way past until it broke free through her bared teeth, a sanguine horror-wail, audible for miles.

She stopped and dropped to her knees, blinking at the greyscale spots which were now her universe. She took deep, gulping breaths to clear her vision and her mind, No point just running, I need to reach the lion. I need a direction.

May glanced upwards. The park canopy would normally be a hideous obstruction, but this winter is going on forever. The bare branches needle the sky, pointed reminders yet usefully not hiding the stars, I’ve been running north – shit. She looked around her to get park-bearings, but even with her eyes cleared it’s still coated in a blanket of fuckwhat and nothing makes any sense. Shit it, May – just run east. The lion is somewhere towards the north-east, you’re probably north enough.

She knew her pursuer had closed the gap, this is fucked, I’m fucked, reach the lion, reach the lion. May ran. Possessed, unstoppable. No trips, stumbles or falls. Running. Go, go, go. Privet shaped like elephant. Close.

She rounded the topiary and scuffed to a halt in a small gravel square.

The plinth stood empty.

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